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Possibilities for 2020

Dear friends of Cambridgeshire Holiday Orchestra

Holiday Orchestra is watching and waiting for an opportunity for us all
to make music together once again. There are, of course, many problems.
This year’s summer course in late August cannot go ahead so we are
looking at possibilities for distance participation. We would like to
organise a ‘virtual orchestra’, where one piece of music is chosen,
parts for all instruments and various levels of difficulty can be
downloaded, parents of individual children can send us a recording
(with or without video) of them playing their part, and we will put it
together to make an orchestra. This requires considerable time,
expertise and sophisticated equipment, which we might not be able to

Failing this, we could go for the simpler alternative of just asking
parents and carers to help children in various categories to make
recordings of their solo playing of any music they really love, with
video if possible, to send them to us and we will make a
‘presentation’of these solo offerings. This of course loses the
‘togetherness’ that is at the heart of Holiday Orchestra, but music
must go on, and combining individual performances to create a group
offering may be the next best thing in these difficult circumstances.
We will let you know in good time which way Holiday Orchestra is

Then, in hopes that schools will be running, that we won’t be in the
middle of a second peak, and that the fear of being told to
self-isolate in the event of possible contact will not be too acute, we
are thinking of the possibility of a single ‘orchestra day’ in the
October half-term holiday. Also we really hope to be able to run
something like a normal Christmas Course, sadly probably without
choirs. Both of these possible events require large numbers of people
being together indoors, which may still be impossible. However, even an
outdoor ‘percussion day’ would be an enjoyable release of musical

We will return to full strength one day, and even if your children are
taking a bit of a musical break, there will be a place for all of us at
Holiday Orchestra next year. Our message of ‘Make Music, Make Friends’
will not be lost.

With very best wishes,

Lydia Hill, Chairman of Cambridgeshire Holiday Orchestra Association

Summer 2020

To all friends of Holiday Orchestra:
As you can imagine, it is impossible for us to run or plan a Holiday Orchestra course under the current regulations for the control of the COVID 19 epidemic. We have hopes for some kind of musical get-together in late summer for our children and young people but of course that will depend on many things. If anything musical does become possible we will let you all know as soon as we can be reasonably sure.
Meanwhile, I hope you are all managing to make some music in your lives; mankind has never flourished without music. Holiday Orchestra will be back before long, and with renewed energy!

Wishing you all well,
Lydia Hill, Chairman.

Easter 2020 cancellation

Dear Parents and Carers, members of Cambridgeshire Holiday Orchestra,

We are very sorry to have to say that following the developments of the
Covid-19 virus outbreak we feel we have no alternative but to cancel this
Easter’s Course. We see no possibility of keeping everyone safe, so we must
join the huge number of organisations in temporarily shutting down. Apart
from direct concern for Holiday Orchestra staff, children and their
families there is also our responsibility to delay spread within the
population so that the NHS will be able to look after more people overall.

As far as we know, this is the first time that Holiday Orchestra has had to
cancel a course in its 67 year history and we have every intention of
coming back as soon as possible. We will have to watch forecasts when
planning for the Summer and will keep you all informed via email and the

Many of you have already booked places for this Easter Course and you will
be contacted by email concerning repayment of fees. The Committee have
agreed that all tutors who had already been booked for this course should
be paid in full.

This is a difficult time and maybe represents a new normality. However, the
importance of music is greater than ever in sustaining the human spirit, so
make as much music as you can and come back to Holiday Orchestra at the
first opportunity.

Look after yourselves,

Lydia Hill (Chairman), David Minchin (Course Director) and Russell Keable
(Music Director)

Bookings open for Easter 2020

Hello to all Holiday Orchestra people.

Our Easter Course is now fully organised and we have lots of exciting
things to offer. As always at Easter we cater more for the younger
children – the older ones are supposed to be working for their exams
(!) – so the course runs from 9.30am to 1.20pm. We shall be at The
Perse School’s Performing Arts Centre from Monday 6th April to
Thursday 9th April, in very pleasant surroundings and usually with
plenty of parking. Our Course Director is the ever-popular David
Minchin and he has gathered a brilliant team of tutors. On Wednesday
8th April at 1.30pm the djembe drumming sections will be presenting
their work to parents and carers and on Thursday 9th April the main
presentations will be in the afternoon.

As always we have our core activities of string groups, bands and choirs
plus many other things of note. We are delighted that our folk-dancing
specialists, after last year’s first-time great success, have agreed to
come back and do it all again – such fun, such good exercise and so good
for the sense of rhythm. Recorders will be taught in two ways: the usual
two groups of experienced players and also a new group for absolute
beginners. This is necessarily a small group! Please bring a named
descant recorder, although we have a few we can lend. Our taster
instrument this time is the viola – the butt of many an orchestral joke,
which only shows how important it is. More mellow than the violin,
easier to carry than the ‘cello, not usually required to do the scary
stuff like the violins, and always welcome in an orchestra, the viola is
an instrument to be proud of. Come and try it and fall in love.

As you know, we depend very much on Parent Helpers to keep our
child/adult ratios straight, to help with the registers and to help deal
with any problems that may arise. We have a wonderful team of people who
come back willingly time after time and have become very much part of
Holiday Orchestra. However, we would like to encourage new people to
give it a try. No musical knowledge is needed but we always try to
accommodate people’s preferences for particular sections. We also have
tea, coffee and biscuits…..

On a sterner note, at our last course one of the presentations was
seriously disrupted by a noisy toddler running about. This is not really
fair on the children who have worked so hard and behaved so well all
week. If you have a small child who might become bored, please sit at
the back of the auditorium and make a swift exit with the child if
things become difficult. Thank you.

Looking forward to another happy time of music-making, we hope to see
you there.

Lydia Hill, Chairman of Cambridgeshire Holiday Orchestra.

Bookings now open for Christmas 2019

Hello to everyone supportive of Cambridgeshire Holiday Orchestra.

We are very happy to present the programme for our Christmas course which is as full of good things as a Christmas stocking! We have not one but two maestros (maestri?) to inspire us – Russell Keable, our wonderful Music Director will be running the course, while Finan Jones, who was so popular last year, will be conducting the Orchestra and tutoring the bands.

Meanwhile, every space around the West Road Concert Hall will be filled with Holiday Orchestra activity. Stu Hanna will bring us more folk music and some ukuleles, Stephanie Reeve will be directing a saxophone choir and we also plan to offer taster sessions on the French horn. The horn is arguably the hardest of the brass instruments to play but in return it makes a sound of ethereal beauty and purity. As always, there will be three string groups, three bands, two choirs, percussion games, gamelan, recorders and the Christmas orchestra. The orchestra is planning to play Stravinsky’s thrilling Firebird Suite and our very own commission Hogmanay by Kelvin Towse, combining orchestra and choir. We shall be needing some adult singers!

A few housekeeping points. Firstly, the general register, for signing in and out of the building, is of vital importance for tracing every child, for instance in the event of a fire. Even if you are only going out for half an hour, please sign out and then sign in again. Otherwise a firefighter might risk their life looking for a child within a burning building when in fact that child is safe elsewhere. Secondly, food mess on the floor is sometimes a problem for the West Road cleaner. Please do ask your child to be careful. Thirdly, although folk music in different parts of the world uses any and every instrument, we have to say that Holiday Orchestra folk sessions cannot include brass instruments nor saxophones.

The course is spread on both sides of New Year – 30th and 31st December plus 2nd and 3rd January. There can’t be a better way of starting 2020, so do come and join us at West Road for our Christmas Course 2019/2020.

Lydia Hill
Chairman, Cambridgeshire Holiday Orchestra

Please sign up, or just browse the course schedule, at:

Christmas 2019 bookings opening soon…

Holiday Orchestra is looking forward to Christmas! Booking for our festive course, plus details of all we shall be offering, will appear here and be sent to all our members close to the half-term week. Not long now!Lydia Hill

(Some parts of the website are password-protected just for the CHOA team whilst the website is updated in preparation for the next bookings.)

Bookings now open for Summer 2019

Hello Everyone

Now that the days are long and the sun is warm, our thoughts turn to Holiday Orchestra’s Summer Course! We will be back at West Road Concert Hall where we have rooms for 9 different sections at any one time. We shall pack those spaces with exciting musical experiences to give everyone the chance to ‘make music, make friends’ and broaden their musical horizons. Holiday Orchestra makes real music and is also real fun at every level. For this, we depend on good behaviour, even from very excited children, and usually we have no problems. Please help us to keep our ‘light touch’ approach and understand that we have to act ‘in loco parentis’. Many thanks.

Our Course Director will be Russell Keable who will conduct both the orchestras. He has engaged a brilliant team of tutors including newcomer Stu Hanna. Stu is a well-known professional folk musician who is willing to share some of his immense knowledge of folk music with us. There will be a Folk Group for children with Grade 4 and upwards on any suitable instrument and also a ‘Folk For Fun’ session for all-comers.

Our core activities of string groups, bands, choirs and orchestras are supplemented and complemented by many other forms of music. Jazz, djembe drumming, gamelan, recorders, ukuleles and music games are all there, together with taster sessions for the double bass – an instrument of boundless fascination. As for music theory, Kirsty Body will once again be helping people get to grips with that all-important Grade 5.

Altogether we are sure that everyone can have a really good course, full of personal musical achievements through the magic of making music together. We look forward to seeing you at West Road, from Tuesday 27th to Saturday 31st August.


Lydia Hill, Chairman of Cambridgeshire Holiday Orchestra


After a sunny Springtime course at Easter, Holiday Orchestra is now making plans for the Summer course, August 27th – 31st. Full information will appear here and also be emailed to all members soon after the Whitsun half-term.