Andy Jackson

Not-the-Cobweb News No.3

Dear all
This should be my last NTCN for a while as Sue will be back from her travels next week and will, no doubt, keep you up-to-date in the normal way.
It’s been good being directly in touch with so many of you over the last little while, and many thanks for all your thoughts and comments (still almost nothing negative, so we’re probably doing most things right)
One of the words that keeps cropping up in communications is “friendly”. It seems that it’s something that Cobwebs does well – making people feel welcome and valued. This appears to be the case at weekly meetings and at study days and across all sections of the orchestra. Even audience members use the word to describe our concerts, though this could be that they can’t think of any words to describe the music we play, or the way we play it, so decide to comment on the ambience instead.
Regardless of the reasons, it makes me very happy to be in charge of a friendly organisation and hope that it will always be the case.
On another topic, I thought that before I sign off, I’d mention a new initiative which a small group of us have been working on for the last few months: Under the working title of “The Underground Orchestra”, we’re exploring interesting performance opportunities in unusual venues such as mines, quarries, bunkers, tunnels, etc. and devising programmes, including new compositions, which might work well in a subterranean setting.
If anybody has any thoughts about places, repertoire, of anything else that might become part of the project, please get in touch.
One last thing. Cobwebs hasn’t created any opportunities for new conductors recently. In the past, we have given people the chance to get up in front of the Guinea Pig Orchestra, or the massed forces of a residential weekend and try to impose order. A few years ago, we even ran a course for conductors.
Are there any players out there who would like to try their hand with a baton? As a one off, or to spend more time developing your skills? Again, let me know.
I’ll look forward to seeing lots of you at forthcoming events such as the Sedbergh residential weekend and the Easter Monday BIG PLAY in Middlesbrough.
Until then , best wishes.

Posted by Andy Jackson in General

Not-the-Cobweb News No.2

Dear all
Well, I suppose I should have guessed that Cobwebs would be full of crossword/sudoku lovers who enjoy nothing more than curling up with a sheet of figures and trying to work out what they mean.
Thanks for all your comments about my foray into statistics in the last Not-the CN. I’m glad that you seemed to enjoy the information and speculation. My theory that “the larger the pool of players, the less commitment by individuals” was confirmed by one letter in particular. Dermot attends two groups, and thinks of them differently.
“I feel a strong call of duty as the only viola in the Morpeth group: not only do I have to turn up, but I have to get my part right. At the Sage, I turn up except when I really can’t, but I’m less alert…….. because there are three or four others playing.”
The last few weeks have been breathless – there has been a Cobweb event (sometimes 2) on every weekend in 2014, and here we are more than 1/10th of the way through the year before we can take stock.
As so many of you seem to enjoy the crunched numbers, here they are.
Weekend events 2014 so far:
No of events.8
Total number of participants: 365
Average attendance: 45.6
Total number of different players who took part: 195
So, we know that our weekend programme so far this year has been a success in terms of people turning up, and therefore is financially viable. It also seems that, at 23.4% the ratio of average attendance to the pool of players is lower than for most of our weekday sessions. This may reflect the geographical spread of activities and/or that people don’t feel as committed to one-off events as they do to a weekly group.
That’s the quantities. For the qualities of Cobweb events, I rely on what you tell me. I know from comments and e-mails that many people really enjoyed this Winters’ activities. However, I don’t know if everyone enjoyed themselves, or if anyone had reservations about any of the events, or thought that some aspects could have been better/different.
Statistics don’t really tell us that, so if you have any thoughts about our programme, please collar me when you see me, or drop me a line.
I intend enjoying the (rare) weekend without a Cobweb event to attend and hope that you do too.
There will soon be lots of news to follow about events in March.

Posted by Andy Jackson in General

Not-the-Cobweb News No.1

Dear all
Sue’s off cycling in South East Asia for a few weeks, so I’m going to try to keep everyone informed of what the Cobweb Orchestra is up to until she gets back.
There was a great turnout for Anthony Sargent’s study day on Bach’s 4th orchestral Suite last Saturday at Sage Gateshead. Huge thanks to Anthony for having the idea and for his dedication to Cobwebs – this was his tenth annual project with us.
Many thanks also to the members of the Composers and Arrangers Group, who had “Cobwebbed” the music so that it could be played by an orchestra which included instruments Bach probably never dreamed of such as the clarinet and concertina. The whole process had been administered by Andrew Cottrell, who organises the C&A group and beaten into musical shape by composer and Morpeth group leader Lizelle Kirby.
Flowers and bottles were appropriately presented to those who had worked so hard behind the scenes to make it such a successful event.
Another bunch of people who quietly continued their work on Saturday was the Leaders’ Group. We meet as regularly as possible (2 or 3 times a year) to let each other know how our groups are getting on and to share our thoughts on topics such as “How can we provide repertoire for a group containing beginner saxophones and professional standard violinists?”, “What is the potential for starting new Cobweb groups in different areas?” and “How big does your pool of players have to be to have a viable number for a weekly group?” (It turns out that there is no simple or single answer to this – see below)
On Saturday, we also made progress on the programme for the BIG PLAY at Middlesbrough Town Hall on Easter Monday. The theme this year is “4ths” (as it’s our 4th BIG PLAY). Inventive (and sometimes tenuous) interpretation of the theme has given us a play list including Beethoven, Mahler, Boyce, Faure, Haydn, Mozart, Berlioz, Dittersdorf, Holst, and, as the grand finale “4x4x4” (four 4th movements of 4th symphonies)
Most of the preparation for this event takes place in the weekly groups, but everyone is welcome, so please get the date in this years’ diary: 21st April.
Did you know that we keep wonderfully accurate statistics on all Cobweb events? Great for me because statistics appeal to the same bit of my brain that enjoys crosswords, chess and sudoku. I know that many people are content to go through life rarely troubling their prefrontal cortex, but I’ve always taken a nerdy interest in things that need to be puzzled over, so I’ve been looking at the figures for group attendance. It turns out that a couple of weeks ago, we had our highest ever total of weekly attendees: 233, and for 2014 so far we are averaging 27.1 players per week across our 8 groups (up from 25.59 last term).
Lesley (clarinet, Consett) thinks it’s the January New Year’s resolution effect (“I will get out more”). The figures don’t particularly tell us about the whys, but they do answer the question about how big the pool of players needs to be to produce orchestras of 20 to 34 players – it’s between 30 and 160. This means that in groups with a smaller pool, players are turning out around 80% of the time, whereas the groups with large pools may only attract just over 20% on any one week.
It seems that there is more commitment to regular attendance when your part is unlikely to be covered by someone else, but less commitment when any one of several other players might be there to take your seat. It looks as though these stats might be revealing something about human nature in addition to giving us some useful information to help run the orchestra more efficiently.
Thanks for reading, (if you’ve made it to the end, that is, and sorry for boring you if averages and percentages are not your thing).
See you all soon

Posted by Andy Jackson in General

Cobweb Consett group emissive no.4

Dear all
This term started with a bump as some of you were still on holiday or didn’t realise that we were starting before most schools went back.
However, we still turned out in strength with a perfectly formed orchestra for Schubert’s 4th symphony, which sounded good straight away. I’m sure it will become even more stylish over the next few weeks.
Also on the agenda are some folk dances by Liadov and Smetana’s “Bartered Bride” overture amongst many other delights such as….
You may have noticed from Catherine’s various postings that we’re going to have a go at Beethoven’s “Choral” Symphony in Middlesbrough Town Hall on 9th October. I’d like to run it on some Thursday evenings leading up to that date and would be grateful if you could all download your own parts so that we can build up a useable set.
Here’s the link:,_Op.125_(Beethoven,_Ludwig_van)
It would be even better if you could print off two parts in case you have a desk partner who doesn’t get this letter AND e-mail me to let me know what you’ve downloaded so that I can keep a list and know what extra parts I might need to make up the set.
I’m also attaching a folder of parts for “Non, je ne regrette rien”. If everyone prints off an appropriate part, we can run it on Thursday. And there’s even a vocal part in case there’s anyone out there who fancies themselves as a chantuese. Don’t be shy, it would be great to have it sung.
I know I’m not alone in finding the acoustic in St. Patrick’s Church Hall loud, boomy and difficult to work with, but Sarah (trumpet) has come up with a possible solution which is simple and elegant and just might work: If everybody brought a towel and put it on the floor or draped it somewhere, over a radiator, for instance, it could make it much easier for us to hear each other.
Worth a go, I reckon.
The charity bag collection, which regularly raises money for Cobwebs, is this week. So please fill up plastic bags with used but still useful clothes and leave them at St. Pat’s on Thursday evening.
Sorry this letter has so many bits to it. Just one more:
Because there are so many of you on my Consett maillist, I have to split it into two so that can deal with it. This may mean that some of you are on both parts of the list and get this twice. If that’s the case, please let me know so that I can rationalise.
Also, if you’d rather not get these occasional notes, tell me to take you off the list. On the other hand, there may be people, especially if they’ve started attending recently, who would like to receive them but don’t. If you know anyone in this category, please inform.
Hope to see you all soon (with downloaded parts and towels)

Posted by Andy Jackson in General, Group: Consett

More winners

My husband John has randomly drawn this months numbers as follows;
1st No 39 Terry Mullett £22.00
2nd No 11 Keith Bennett £12.00
3rd No 27 Toby Lipman £8.00
Thanks for your continued support and if you are not a member yet please see the attachments and join as soon as you can. Remember half of your donation goes to orchestra funds, which we all will benefit from.
You have to be in it to win it!!
Jea Ord

Posted by Andy Jackson in General


I thought people would like to see this e-mail from Rachel, who has played viola with us for the last couple of years.
Hi Andy,
Unfortunately I have had to move back down to the Southeast as I was unsuccessful in finding a job in the Northeast!
Thank you for welcoming me to your orchestra, I really enjoyed playing with you (when I could), such a lovely group of people!
Thanks again

Posted by Andy Jackson in General

A message from Julie

Just to let everyone know, I’ve had a number of offers of an oboe from the amazing members of the wonderful organisation that is Cobwebs!
Thanks to everyone who replied.

Posted by Andy Jackson in General