Every course that we run has three string ensembles, three wind bands, two choirs, and a number of other activities such as recorders, music games, jazz, percussion and gamelan. We are constantly introducing new activities to keep Holiday Orchestra “fresh” – watch this space!




At the Summer and Christmas courses we have a full-scale symphony orchestra for players of Grade 6 and above. Music is from the classical repertoire and results are outstanding. At the Summer courses we also have a Lower Orchestra for players of Grade 4+, where the music is somewhat lighter but children have the experience of playing with all orchestral parts. The Easter courses, being largely for the younger children, have no orchestra.




We usually run three string ensembles: Training Strings (players up to Grade 2 standard), Intermediate Strings (Grade 2 and above), and Upper Strings (Grade 4 and above).

Wind bands

Hogmanay 2011 206 (640x428)

Wind Band

We run three wind bands: a Training Band (players of at least Grade 1 standard), Intermediate Band (Grade 3 and above) and Upper Band (Grade 5 and above).


Hogmanay 2011 107 (640x320)

10+ Choir

We usually run two choirs, one for ages 7 years and older, and another for 10 years and older. In the Summer there is also a 9+ choir. No prior experience is necessary.  Occasionally we run a chamber choir for older, more advanced, children.




Usually two recorder groups are timetabled, with some expertise needed but no grade requirements. Children bring whatever varieties of recorder they possess and the tutors work with that to teach attractive music in several parts.


Gamelan, Christmas 2011At Summer and Christmas courses, when Holiday Orchestra is held at West Road Concert Hall, we are fortunate to have use of the music faculty’s gamelan instruments.


Hogmanay 2011 250 (640x428)We run two jazz workshops of differing levels taught by jazz musicians, for almost any instruments. Improvisation is encouraged for those who want to try it. Christmas and Summer but not yet at Easter.


Hogmanay 2011 230 (640x428)Players with percussion experience can play with one of the bands. We also often run sessions such as “Percussion Games” or “Junk percussion” which are open to players with no prior experience. Hogmanay 2011 274

Music Games

We usually offer “Music Games” sessions for which no prior experience is required. These sessions are especially suited to younger children.

Djembe Drumming


Djembe Drumming

African drumming (drums provided) features exciting but precise rhythms. The drums are of different pitches and the overall effect is complex and surprising.


Folk Music

Folk Music

At recent courses we ran folk sessions of two varieties that were very popular. One required Grade 4+ on a suitable instrument while the other, ‘Folk For Fun’ was for all-comers. we hope to have more of this in the future.


Ukuleles are increasingly popular, both with children and also with adults. We have brought them into the Holiday Orchestra timetable with, whenever possible, a beginners’ group and a more advanced group. We provide instruments but children may often bring their own. No written music is used: the children learn the chords and the rhythms, sing the songs, and have a lot of fun.

Prime Brass

For the past several years we have held a `Prime Brass Workshop’ as part of the Summer Course. Members of Cambridge’s number one brass ensemble tutor our more advanced players, not just to play glorious music but also to get to know their instruments better and to learn some new techniques. The standard required is Grade on any brass instrument.

Taster Sessions

As the opportunity arises, Holiday Orchestra provides `Taster’ sessions on some of the less conventional instruments. possible subjects are double basses, trombones, bassoons and piano accordions. These sessions are intended for children who already play a different instrument and so read music competently. They can then concentrate on mastering the new instruments. A grade standard is always required.


Music theory! Grade 5 theory is needed before a player can progress to Grade 6 practical, in the ABRSM system. To be honest, Grade 5 theory is also very useful in the understanding and performance of music, but it is not an easy exam. However, Kirsty Body takes children through the four main topics and manages to make it fun and illuminating for them. We don’t promise an instant Pass but people do find this course very useful.