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