#47 A Brave New World

From Newsletter 47
My First Term As Administrator
By Catherine Shackell

It was lovely if somewhat daunting to receive so many kind and welcoming messages from you all when I started as Administrator in September. I say daunting, because the adjective ‘brave’ seemed to appear slightly too frequently for comfort…

Anyway, I appear to have survived my first term relatively unscathed although I have to confess that after getting married, moving house and starting a new job all in the space of 4 months I’m very much looking forward to a quiet Christmas!
My first term has been a whirl of events, emails, enrolment forms and an alarmingly steep technological learning curve (RSS, html, php includes, MySql mean anything to any of you?!)

A new group was born in Spennymoor. Our Composers & Arrangers have returned with renewed vigour. The Baroque Ensemble spurred on by their fabulous concert in September now meet weekly. We had our first opportunity to play Swing Band music. And we have inadvertently produced a very listenable CD of our Mozart Concert with Anthony Sargent. (I say inadvertently because we didn’t especially set out to make a CD).

We’ve also had more than our fair share of technical gremlins this term, with various email providers sporadically deciding that our mailouts are actually spam. Oh, how foolish I was to think that digging a hole in the road, pulling up the driveway and drilling through the wall to install the new Cobwebs phone-line would be the end of the little technological critters.

My apologies to those of you have been affected by the over zealous spam filters, and my thanks for your patience. We are posting copies of all our mailouts on the official Cobwebs blog and you will be also able to access events information via our website, so if you think you might have missed something you will be able to check there – but also please do let me know if our messages aren’t reaching you.

As those of you who’ve been reading our blog will know, Cobwebs has been expanding its international networks too this term. We seem to be generating increasing interest in the US. So much so that Andy was awarded a scholarship to visit America in November to see how community orchestras do things on the other side of the pond.

We’ve also been getting noticed slightly closer to home. The Cobweb Orchestra has won an EPIC Award for Innovation as well as coming runner up in the Creativity category, so we’ll be going to the House of Lords to collect our prize in January – well, maybe not all of us… How big is it? Would we even fit in, I wonder?

How many orchestras can fit all that into just a few weeks? Thank you to everyone who puts so much time and effort into helping us deliver such a fantastic array of opportunities for everyone – we wouldn’t be able to do any of it without you.

Posted by Catherine Shackell in Events, General, Newsletters, Website & Technologies

#47 The 2011 Programme

From Newsletter 47
By Andy Jackson

… well, the first few months of it, anyway.

What I really hope, (because it’s what we set out to do), is that wherever you live in the North, whatever your musical preferences are and whatever instrument you play to whatever standard, you’ll find something in here that interests you.
That’s why we have Dvorak in York, Handel in Morpeth and Sibelius in Dalston. Then there are concerts in Gateshead and Newcastle featuring Mozart and Poulenc. And, just before Easter, the Sedbergh Residential.

These weekend events give players a chance to travel throughout the region to fulfil musical aspirations and meet like-minded folk, but the bedrock of our programme is, of course, the 8 weekly local rehearsal groups, each of which has its own character depending on where it is, who turns up and who conducts it. The groups are completely autonomous, but players from them have expressed an interest in getting to know repertoire which is studied and/or performed at our weekend events, so we’re trying a couple of different ideas in the New Year.

Firstly, all groups will be have a chance at some point to play the same work: Elgar’s hugely popular “Enigma” variations, and once we’ve assessed how it’s going, we’ll think about putting it into a concert and hope that representatives from all the groups can take part in the performance with the confidence of having had the opportunity of getting to know the work over an extended period.

The second piece of programming which should make it easier for players from all the groups to come together for the same event is that each group is going to be preparing a different Beethoven symphony. Then on Monday 25th April, (yes, that’s Easter Monday 2011), we’re going to play all 9 of them in Middlesbrough Town Hall, starting at 11am and polishing off one an hour until we round off the evening with the “Choral”, unless we collapse from exhaustion first.

I hope everyone will make an effort to be in Middlesbrough for this historic occasion, and bring lots of well-wishers to join in, or to listen and socialise in the gaps between the symphonies. Even though each of the symphonies will have been prepared, there is no way that they can be rehearsed in any detail immediately prior to playing them, so the day will consist of a series of informal presentations rather than polished performances.

I suppose some purists might think of this event as a bit of a gimmick, (and we’re aware that it might bring us some publicity), but there is an element of serious musicological engagement here too: participants will have the chance to experience from the inside Beethoven’s development from talented youngster to mature genius.

No apologies for dwelling on this event: it’s a huge undertaking and we need as many players as possible to come along to help us bring it off. We’ll need to play in relay teams, I suspect, though anyone who fancies playing all nine won’t be discouraged from having a go.

Start training now.

Posted by Catherine Shackell in Events, Newsletters

#47 Behind The Scenes: The Sedbergh Residential

From Newsletter 47
By Liz Carlile

So what goes on behind the scenes – behind my scalded cat imitation (I wish it were something more calm and lovely…)?

Well, here are a few of the things;
Talk to Andy about the programme
Talk to Margy (at Sedbergh) about accommodation
Talk to Sheila about publicity and coffee breaks
Talk to Ruth about numbers of players and parts
Talk to nervous people coming to Sedbergh for the first time to give them confidence
Talk to people who’ve been many times and ask them to complete a form
Talk to people who might be coming but haven’t told me yet and ask them to complete a form
And what might make me into the calm and lovely something-or –other?
Everyone’s form sent back at least a fortnight before the residentional and all cheques sent at least a week before.
It used to be easy to do things ‘in your head’ but we are a big organisation now and we have to be more formal.

So I look forward to receiving your forms and cheques and seeing you at Sedbergh – calm and quiet.
And just in case you wondered… I like doing it!

Posted by Catherine Shackell in Events, General, Newsletters

#47 Cobweb Orchestra Instrument Bank

From Newsletter 47
By Andrew Forsyth

This is one of the happier banking stories of recent years and involves the growing bank of instruments that the Orchestra has acquired over recent years and that are available, completely free of charge, lien or interest, to our widening community of players.
Our wish is that these should be available to anyone who fancies trying a new instrument or wants to re-kindle lost skills in that inimitable Cobweb fashion and so please do make use of the service and ask to borrow anything of interest.
One very important key in the operation of the instrument bank is that, when you have finished with an instrument – for whatever reason – please do send it back into the system so that others may use this brilliant facility. Some instruments like the oboe, horns and double-bass are in constant demand and so regular turnover is very important to us. It probably won’t take too long to determine an instrument is going to work for you and if you ought to be finding one of your own and, at that stage, consider sending it back “home”.
Andrew Forsyth is custodian of this huge body of instruments, but keeping track of them is not easy, particularly when they are passed from one player to another without a trip “home” first.
So, having now acquainted you all with the existence, scope and purpose of the Instrument Bank, the other purpose of this little ditty is to announce an International Instrument Amnesty from midnight tonight (whenever you read this)! If you are currently nurturing one of our instruments, either telephone Andrew on 015396 23644 or e-mail him at and let him know which instrument you have and perhaps even your plans for your future life together. Is the partnership harmonious or would you like to arrange a trial separation and return said instrument back to sender?
Return of instruments has proved to be pretty easy – someone in your rehearsal group is bound to be meeting another group’s member who will meet Andrew before long and so it can be passed back like this. Don’t waste precious time or fuel on making a dedicated trip to Cumbria unless you are also in the market to buy one of Andrew’s many trees, in which case he’ll be extra-pleased to see you.

Posted by Catherine Shackell in Events, General, Newsletters

#47 GROUP DATES Spring 2011

Here are the dates & details for each of our regular groups. Generally we follow school term dates which do vary between across the region so if your local group isn’t meeting one week feel free to pay a visit to another group which is.

Thursdays, 7.15—9.15pm – WEEKLY
St. Patrick’s Church Hall, Consett DH8 5LB
For more information contact Andy Jackson / 01388 602 436

First Session: Thursday 6th January 2011
Half Term: Thursday 24th February
Last Session: Thursday 14th April

Mondays 7.30—9.30pm – WEEKLY
Dalston Victory Hall, Dalston, Carlisle CA5 7QB
For more information contact Peter Wood / 01228 562 341

First Session: Monday 10th January 2011
Half Term: Monday 21st February
Last Session: Monday 4th April

Wednesdays 1—3pm – WEEKLY
The Sage Gateshead
For more information contact Andy Jackson / 01388 602 436

First Session: Wednesday 12th January 2011
Half Term: Wednesday 23rd February
Last Session: Wednesday 6th April

Tuesdays, 7.30—9.30pm – WEEKLY
St James Community Centre, Well Way, Morpeth, Northumberland NE61 1BN
For more information contact Lizelle Kirby

First Session: Tuesday 11th January 2011
Half Term: Tuesday 22nd February
Last Session: Tuesday 29th March

Wednesdays 8—10pm – WEEKLY
St Paul’s Community Centre, Spennymoor DL16 7LR
For more information contact Greg Pullen / 01388 811 005

First Session: Wednesday 2nd February 2011
Last Session: Wednesday 13th April

Why not join Greg & the Spennymoor group for their Half Term Special on Wednesday 23rd February.

Tuesdays, 7.30—9.30pm – WEEKLY
Tebay Methodist Church Hall, Tebay, Pentrith CA10 3XG
For more information contact Noel Bertram / 07711 537 131

First Session: Tuesday 11th January 2011
Half Term: Tuesday 22nd February
Last Session: Tuesday 29th March

Mondays, 7.15—9.15 – FORTNIGHTLY
Please note the new earlier start time.
Middlesbrough Town Hall – Crypt, Middlesbrough TS1 1EL
For more information contact Clare Carr (nee Barker) / 07870 403 486

Mondays 17th & 31st January 2011
Mondays 14th & 28th February
Mondays 14th & 28th March

Thursdays, 7.30—9.30pm – WEEKLY
New Earswick Methodist Church Hall, New Earswick, York YO32 4AQ
For more information contact Catherine Shackell / 01937 831 163

First Session: Thursday 13th January 2011
Half Term: Thursday 24th February
Last Session: Thursday 7th April

Posted by Catherine Shackell in Events, General, Group: Consett, Group: Morpeth, Group: Sage Gateshead, Group: Spennymoor, Group: Teesside, Group: York, Groups, Newsletters

#47 EVENTS DIARY Jan-Apr 2011 and beyond…

from Newsletter 47


Saturday 15th & Sunday 16th January
Ensembles Weekend
Arranged by players for players
Ensembles Timetable 15-16 Jan 2011

Monday, 31st January
EPIC Award ceremony in the House of Lords
Details and exact happenings TBC


Saturday 5th February
SAGE DAY: American Music Day
Time: 1:30 – 7pm
Venue: Northern Rock Hall, The Sage Gateshead

Saturday 12th February
Concert with Venera Bojkova’s piano pupils
Time: 2 – 6pm
Venue: Gateshead Old Town Hall

Saturday 19th February
New World Symphony Study Day
Time: morning & afternoon TBC
Venue: Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, Uni of York

Saturday 26th February
Handel’s Water Music Study Day
Time: 11am – 4pm
Venue: St. James Community Centre, Morpeth

MARCH 2011

Saturday, 5th March
Sibelius 3rd Symphony Study Day
Time: 11:00 – 4:00
Venue: Dalston Victory Hall, Dalston

Saturday 19th March
Poulenc’s Gloria rehearsal for concert on 26th
Time: TBC
Venue: St. Mary’s RC Cathedral, Newcastle

Saturday, 26th March – N.B. Date change
Concert: Poulenc’s ‘Gloria’ with the Silver Breves
Time: TBC
Venue: St. Mary’s RC Cathedral, Newcastle

APRIL 2011
4pm Friday 8th – 4pm Sunday 10th April
Sedbergh 2011 Pre Booking Form
For more information & to book your place contact Liz Carlile

Easter Monday, 25th April
All Beethoven (Symphonies) In A Day
Time: Start playing at 11am – One an hour until we finish
Venue: Middlesbrough Town Hall

MAY 2011

Saturday, 7th May
SAGE DAY: Watch this space for more details…
Time: TBC
Venue: The Sage Gateshead

Sunday, 8th May
Concert: Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto with Evgenia Startseva
Time: 2pm – 10pm
Exact timetable TBC
Venue: Hall 2, The Sage Gateshead

Saturday 14th May
Ravenstonedale Proms

Saturday 21st / Sunday 22nd May
Ensembles Weekend
Arranged by players for players

Saturday, 28th May
Concert in York
Time: TBC
Venue: The Mount School, York

21st-28th August 2011
Tuscany 2011 brochure
Il Grande Prato August 2011 Booking Form
For more information & to book your place contact Andrew Forsyth

Posted by Catherine Shackell in Events, Newsletters

#47 LISTEN TO THIS Concerts Spring 2011

from Newsletter 47
The Cobweb Orchestra Concerts Diary

Here are some concerts you might like to attend to support the orchestra.  Those marked * are open to all players, the others are kindly organized by pre-formed groups to help keep the Cobwebs coffers healthy.  Times given are the start times of the performances.  Players, please see event details for rehearsal schedules.

Saturday, 12th February 2011
Venera Bojkova’s piano pupils in concert with The Cobweb Orchestra *
Time: TBC
Venue: Gateshead Old Town Hall

Saturday, 12th March 2011
Cobwebs Baroque Ensemble
Time: TBC
Venue: Elvet Methodist Church, Durham City

Saturday, 26th March 2011 NB This is not the same date as previously advertised
The Cobweb Orchestra and the ‘Silver Breves’ perform Poulenc’s ‘Gloria’ *
Time: TBC
Venue: St. Mary’s RC Cathedral, Newcastle

Monday, 25th April 2011 (Yes, that really is Easter Monday)
All Beethoven (symphonies) In A Day*
Start Time: 11am, playing one an hour until we finish
Venue: Middlesbrough Town Hall

Sunday, 8th May 2011
Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto with Evgenia Startseva*
Time: TBC
Venue: Hall 2, The Sage Gateshead

Saturday, 14th May 2011
Ravenstonedale Proms*
Time: TBC
Venue: TBC

Saturday, 28th May 2011
The Cobweb Orchestra* & The Cobwebs Baroque Ensemble
Time: TBC
Venue: The Mount School, York

Posted by Catherine Shackell in Events, Newsletters

#46 … and au revoir from me

from newsletter 46

liz portrait
Dear All
I’m saying only ‘Au revoir’ because although I’m handing over the main part of the administrative work for Cobwebs to Catherine, I’m going to keep doing the two home residentials,  Ridley Hall in the Autumn and Sedbergh in the Spring.  Catherine even has a formal name for me – Residentials co-ordinator.  So I shall still be emailing you and keeping in touch with you.
Alan, my husband, has always said that I only have one speech, and that’s ‘Thank you’.  And it has never been more appropriate than now.  For the last four years I have been Cobwebs’ administrator, and I have enjoyed (almost) every minute of it.  It hasn’t been setting up the systems we use, or counting the money, or recording the forms that came back (some never do), nor even playing music (because that has been hard and frustrating for most of the four years) that makes thank you appropriate.  It has been your support and friendship.  I am famous in my family for having the last word, so here it is;  The Last Word – Thank you!
Liz Carlile
(Who can mostly now, almost miraculously, play again.)

Posted by Catherine Shackell in General, Newsletters

#46 Coming Up This Term (Autumn 2010)

from newsletter 46

full orchestra

Two new things are happening in the coming months, one involving ‘cellist, composer and conductor Greg Pullen and the other with Director of the Sage Gateshead, Anthony Sargent.
Many Cobweb players will know Greg for his virtuosity on the ‘cello and may have played some of his popular pieces such as “Sir Bob and Sir Ted” or “Beethoven comes to tea”, but few will have been conducted by him… yet.
In September, Greg is starting up a regular weekly group in Spennymoor, Co. Durham, so if you know anyone who lives near the Spennyopolis conurbation, who would like to play in an orchestra and who is free on Wednesday evenings, tell them about it.
Establishing this group (our eighth) means that if you have the time and energy (and enjoy travelling), you can be part of a Cobweb Orchestra every weekday night of the week: Dalston or Middlesbrough on Mondays.  Morpeth (note the change from Newbiggin) or Tebay on Tuesdays. Wednesday is Spennymoor.  York or Consett on Thursdays. Then there’s always the Sage, Gateshead on Wednesday afternoons for people who prefer making music during the daylight hours.
Of course, that still leaves the weekends to fill up with opportunities to bow and blow. Here are some details:
Anthony Sargent has been conducting Cobwebs for many years now and we all benefit from his musical insights, sense of style and attention to detail. This year he will be delving into Mozart’s Requiem again and conducting it in a concert at Bishop Auckland Town Hall on Sunday 14th November along with symphony no. 39 in Eb also by Mozart.
Of course, Cobwebs had been conducted by Anthony before and we’ve played at Bishop Auckland before. What’s new about this event is that we’re going to try and link together activities over two weekends to give more continuity and to aim at a more coherent final performance. Players often say “That performance could have been even better if we’d had longer to rehearse it”. So, we’ll be rehearsing the symphony in Gateshead Old Town Hall on Saturday 6th November and the Requiem on Saturday 13th November as well as both pieces on the day of the concert.
We hope that most players will be able to attend all three days so that they can get as much as possible out of the experience of being directed by someone as thorough and inspiring as Anthony. Three days over two weekends sounds expensive, but there’ll be reductions for people who sign up to the whole timetable.
Other weekends throughout the Autumn are also crowded out with Cobweb events covering the whole of our extensive geographical range and a huge swathe of repertoire from Schumman’s “Spring” symphony with Chris Griffiths to Light Orchestral Music with Peter Crompton, and English Baroque Music with Peter Wood to a melange of Haydn’s “Nicknamed” symphonies with Catherine Shackell. We’re also playing Beethoven’s 9th symphony with soloists and chorus at Middlesbrough Town Hall.
Then, as usual, as Christmas approaches we’ll have the traditional “Do it yourself” residential at Ridley Hall and for the first time this year a Guinea Pig Orchestra musical party to which all are invited (you don’t have to be a guinea pig).
Details of all these delights are in the diary which accompanies this newsletter, and you’ll be sent regular reminders and enrolment forms by Catherine as the term progresses.
By Andy Jackson

Posted by Catherine Shackell in General, Newsletters

#46 Hello from me….

from Newsletter 46
Catherine Shackell
Dear Cobwebbers,
As many of you know, Liz is retiring after many years dedicated work as administrator for Cobwebs, and I shall be taking over the role in September (well, the 29th August at the Hand-Over Party in Dipton to be precise). Some of you already know me as Catherine Holbrook, but I thought I’d go and do something nice and confusing, like get married and change my name, and am now Catherine Shackell.  So now everyone’s equally muddled; Andy’s asked me to tell you a little bit about myself so here goes:
Cobwebs has changed so much since I first trudged through the door of Cobwebs with my bassoon on my back 14 years ago. There was just the one group, in Annfield Plain, and a handful of study days scattered throughout the year. 4 years after that my musical studies brought me down to York, but I managed to stay in touch with Cobwebs through composing and arranging for the group of which I had grown so fond. When I eventually emerged from University as a professional musician I found that Cobwebs had grown somewhat and was on the brink of going independent. I was delighted when in 2008 Andy asked me to set up a group in York. The York group has been running for two and a half years now, we have played some fantastic music and eaten a healthy variety of cake and biscuits.  As I prepare to take on my new role of administrator for the orchestra there are 7 regular groups with a new group ready and waiting to start in Spennymoor, and multiple events running most weekends. I can’t help but wonder what’s in store for us in the next few years…  One thing’s for sure though, with Cobwebs it won’t be boring!
I know Andy and Liz have planned a great term of events for the Autumn and I’m very much looking forward to preparing for them with you all. You’ll be hearing from me again in a few weeks with more information about each of the events as they approach, but in the meantime do have a quick squiz at the events list and get some dates in your diary.
Until next time
Catherine Shackell nee Holbrook

Posted by Catherine Shackell in General, Newsletters