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Dawn of a new era as High Peak Orchestra appoints esteemed Maestro

Matthew Corrigan

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High Peak OrchestraNorth West Co-operative OrchestraWhaley BridgeBuxton Festival Fringe

The High Peak Orchestra performing at the Buxton Festival Fringe

For more than fifty years the High Peak Orchestra (HPO) has been a popular fixture on the classical music scene. Formed in its present guise in 1978 (the orchestra was originally established as the North West Co-operative Orchestra three years previously), the HPO has delighted concert goers ever since, with regular performances three times a year. July 8 saw the Whaley Bridge-based musicians entertain a packed St John's church at the Buxton Festival Fringe, with a programme that included Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1 and the Overture from Humperdinck's Hansel und Gretel.

HPO

Last year saw their venerable conductor, Andrew Hodkinson, hand over the baton after a seventeen year reign. The maestro, who led the orchestra through fifty concerts, will be missed, his expertise and self-deprecating humour having become something of a mainstay. He recalls a memorable encounter during a particularly stressful rehearsal, when a gentleman standing in the doorway remarked in a strong German accent that he could only hear one trumpet.

“Don't just stand there,” he snapped. “Get your trumpet out and join in because you've missed three important entries already.”

The man disappeared, returning ten minutes later with his instrument. He played beautifully throughout what remained of the rehearsal. Andrew became further irritated a little later, when it became clear he knew none of the concert arrangements. Assuming the 'trumpeter' was joking, he asked him to stop the 'pseudo German accent', at which point the man told him he had nothing to do with the orchestra and had merely been passing by when the music had caught his attention. Furthermore, he was indeed a German, Markus Froembling, working as a locum vet in the area. Notwithstanding the mistake, Markus ended up playing in the concert and later became good friends with Andrew.

Stepping down from the role did not however mean he would be leaving the orchestra entirely. A Royal College of Music trained viola player, he still rehearses and performs regularly with his colleagues.

Following an extensive period of auditions, the replacement conductor was selected earlier this year, and the HPI was delighted to confirm they would be led by David Chatwin.

HPO

As principal bassoonist for the renowned BBC Philharmonic Orchestra between 1972 and 2016, David worked alongside many of the greatest musicians of our time. In 1978 he joined the staff at Manchester's prestigious RNCM, and is still involved in tuition there today. Having conducted many other amateur orchestras in the region, David's appointment ensures the HPO is in very safe hands indeed.

The Buxton concert marked the end of the summer season for the HPO, with members taking a two month break from rehearsals. Once their holidays are over, the players will turn their attentions to the Christmas Concert, which this year will be held at Chapel-en-le-Frith Methodist Church on Saturday December 2nd.

At the moment, they would very much like to bolster the strings section. Concert-standard musicians who might be interested are requested to contact them via the website:  http://highpeakorchestra.org.uk/