The Portobello Orchestra began in 1973 as an evening class at Kensington Adult Education Institute. Founding Conductor Rachel Fleetcroft was followed by Richard Gonski (appointed in 1985), Philip Mackenzie (1995) Anthony Weeden (2001) Matthew Rogers (2013) William Church (2015) and Sam Jones (2016). In June 2000 the orchestra became an independent registered charity and since then has managed its affairs through a committee elected by the members.
Once a year we have an away weekend when playing and socialising are pleasantly combined (Mozart and Haydn during the day and Brahms and Lizst in the evening). The event usually begins at 10.00 on Saturday, and continues until 16.00 on Sunday. We play a wide variety of music, sometimes linked by a common theme. The weekend is a good opportunity to develop sight reading skills and for the more adventurous to play a concerto movement. On Saturday evening there are impromptu chamber music groups. For many years the venue was Headley Park near Aldershot in Hampshire. In 2016 we went to Latimer Place, in beautiful surroundings near Amersham, with the advantage of an Underground station just a short taxi ride away.
Portobello Orchestra is a not-for-profit organisation (Reg.
Charity no.1081212). It is run by a committee elected annually by its
members. There is an Annual General Meeting with discussion on current issues to which all are encouraged
to contribute. The orchestra belongs to Making Music, the umbrella
organization for amateur music societies. Documents describing the orchestra's policies and organisation can be downloaded from the list below.
A constantly evolving repertoire is chosen to extend the orchestra’s musical experience and give enjoyment to players and audiences. We perform classical symphonies and concertos as well as romantic and modern music. We have also premièred works by modern composers. Thanks to a grant from Kensington & Chelsea Arts Council, we were able to commission a new work for the orchestra. Matthew King, professor of composition at the Guildhall School of Music wrote the appropriately entitled Portobellissima! which received its first performance at our Christmas concert on 15th December 2007. More recently we have premiered new works by our former leader Mikhel Kerem and orchestra member Gareth Weston. To see a complete list of past concerts click on the link above.
Portobello Orchestra is keen to develop its audiences and has played concerts in Belgium, Norway, Germany and France (see our photo gallery for pictures of foreign tours). In June 2007 we performed Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor along with a programme of English music by Parry, Vaughan Williams and Gordon Jacob at a Fete de Villages in Maillebois, north of Chartres. We had a very successful long weekend in Köln in 2009, where we played a joint concert with the Antoiterkirche Orchestra. They made a reciprocal visit to London in 2010. We were told that in Köln if an event happens twice it becomes a tradition. In 2011 we visited Skye and gave a concert with singer/songwriter Anna MacDonald.
Our concerts provide a platform for young soloists at the outset of their careers. Our current leader, George Mattar has played Beethoven's second romance for violin and orchestra and Mozart's 4th violin concerto. Previous leaders Mihkel Kerem and Madeleine Easton have played violin concertos by Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Paganini, Bruch and Brahms. Other recent soloists include Tim Posner (Elgar's cello concerto) Artur Pereira (Beethoven's 4th piano concerto), Iain Gibbs (Beethoven's violin concerto) and Juliana Myslov (Gliere's harp concerto).
From time to time we give concerts jointly with local charities and have raised money for the Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre for Disabled Young Riders, the Kensington Housing Trust, the 240 Homeless Project, Sixty Plus and the St Clements’ and St James’ Community Project. We’ve also raised money for the Mathieson Music School in Calcutta and, in July 2007, for the Music School in Sarajevo which works with war traumatised children. In December 2014 we gave a concert in association with the charity Awards for Young Musicians (AYM). The programme included a performance of Gliere's harp concerto, with AYM-supported young artist Juliana Myslov as the soloist.
Portobello Orchestra finances its own operations out of income from termly players’ subscriptions and ticket sales at concerts. One-off grants are occasionally raised from trusts, for example from Bridge House Trust. Kensington and Chelsea Arts Council gave a grant to purchase a set of timpani, and we are grateful to the Kensington and Chelsea Foundation for a grant towards the cost of hiring the orchestral parts for the Gliere harp concerto in December 2014.