On line String Quartet Course

Hi, I hope this email will find you and your music ensemble.My name is Tamaki Higashi, and I am the violinist of the Villiers Quartet, the resident ensemble of JDP music building and St Hilda’s College at University of Oxford. In this pandemic, just the same way with many musicians in this country, we are affected for lack of any live performances. And we decided to create our own VQ Discovery: Beethoven Edition – online string quartet course on Beethoven quartets. Is it specially tailored for amateur musicians who would be missing playing together regularly for orchestra and chamber music.
It is a three months course in October, November and January( to have a Christmas break!), and we will uncover the same repertoire all together – Op18/1, Op59/3 and Op135. I will be grateful if you could pass the message to your members. The course will be run on Zooms. The course members will get the parts/music of the Villiers Quartet and will get practice audio track upon registration. OP18/1 course will run during October 12-28. The course fee is £125/1 month or £300/3 months.Anybody who is interested, simply can sign up at our website: www.villiersquartet/com/VQDiscovery

I will be so grateful if you can pass this information to the members of your group. Alternatively, anybody can contact me directly as I am the contact window for this project. 
Thanks and all the best wishes.

Received today by email and published for the interest of all!


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Covid fun

Our friends and colleagues Geoff Bassoon and David Horn came up with the idea of a virtual performance during lockdown, and came up with a short video. Unfortunately I can’t download the video, but those interested should be able to follow this link:


It is only viable for the next couple of weeks…

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AGM Music Director’s Report

Looking back three terms, September 2019 seems like a lifetime ago. Our first project this academic year was to work with the community choir towards another successful Christmas concert at Revelation St Marys. I think this a wonderful event which will continue to grow and improve if members are happy to continue the partnership. The Sound of Music Medley was a very special highlight and it is fantastic to be able to raise so much money for charity while working with the choir. This is what community music-making is all about in every respect in my opinion.  We will of course have to wait and see what next term brings but the venue has already been booked (pre covid) for a repeat event on 7th December 2020. We will have to watch this space with tightly crossed fingers.

During the Spring term I enjoyed (and I hope the players did too!) working towards another repertoire of dances with the Kachaturian being my own personal favourite. I felt the growing of confidence and ensemble within the orchestra as we tackled these pieces. As we are all far too well aware, the concert did not take place. When we are able to meet again we will revisit these pieces and give them the performance they deserve.

The bizarre and challenging nature of the last 6 months has cemented in my own mind the importance of making music as an ensemble. I have missed it enormously! While we must wait to restart safely, I have no doubt that we will be back with gusto when allowed to do so. There may well be people who have restarted instruments as a result of lockdown who will be looking for a group to join too. In September I will send out some more music to keep you busy if you would like to begin work on these and get a head start for when we are able to rehearse again.

I cannot wait to return, rehearse, perform and enjoy music together again. Until then I hope you all stay safe and are finding time to keep playing.


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AGM Chairman’s Report

For the last few years I have been happy to report what a successful year we had, and this year started well enough – but 2020 has proved to be something very different! I do hope that everyone has managed to avoid the Coronavirus, and if not that they had a mild version, and that other ills have stayed away!

Our Autumn term started happily, and culminated in a very successful Christmas concert in partnership with the Ashford Community Choir. Gill will probably comment on our performance, but I think we all enjoyed performing and the audience certainly seemed very appreciative. Together we raised over £1,000 for the Woodchurch Driving Group of Riding for the Disabled.

The New Year started with nothing worse than windy rehearsal evenings with the wind sounding the church bells and rattling the doors, but insidiously Coronavirus crept in and we had to cancel our concert and rehearsals from March 16th, and have not met again since.

We have been very fortunate in some ways though. Our lovely rehearsal venue’s management has been understanding and supportive from the beginning, and has not charged us since we stopped meeting, and has promised that we can return when safe to do so. Many thanks to Libby Varley and the Church of St Mary the Virgin.

We have had a couple of attempts at doing virtual performances, but this is not to everyone’s taste, and I think the message comes through that what we enjoy is meeting and making live music together.

Your committee met by Zoom and considered our options for an AGM. Plainly for safety’s sake and to abide by the Government’s guidelines we cannot meet together in person. We decided to recommend that we send out Finance, Chair and Music Director’s report by email (post if that is a problem for anyone), and that we ask our members to re-appoint the current committee (who are willing to continue) to run the Sinfonia until such time as we can safely call a General Meeting. This is an exceptional arrangement only because of the pandemic. If anyone has any concern or objection to this, please let any of the committee know.

We also considered how we could keep a little of the spirit of the club going, and had a few suggestions:

  • Strings could meet in groups of no more than six out of doors while the weather holds, wind/brass may be able to meet out of doors.
  • There may come a time when we can resume limited rehearsals with strings and percussion, and Gill may assist with parts where wind could join later.
  • We should encourage members to try to remain in contact through our news letters – and thanks to Doreen for collating and producing these.
  • We will publish our repertoire for when we do resume business to give people a chance to practice it in advance

Our committee currently consists of:

Roger Pinnock (Chair).   Rogerpinnock@btinternet.com

Gill Booker (Conductor and Music Director)

Doreen Titmuss (Secretary).     Doreentitmuss@hotmail.co.uk

Annette Dove (Treasurer)

Carole Collins-Biggs (Librarian)

Stephanie Batchelor

and I am grateful to them all for running the Sinfonia over the year.

A happy note since last year’s AGM – as most of you will know already, Lise and Neil were delivered of baby Arthur on July 19th – he is now a year old! Congratulations to them both!

Finally, Susan Elkin has offered to stand as a candidate for Trustee position for Making Music, and the committee were very happy to support her.

With best wishes to you all


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In view of the continuing restrictions on meetings (and the weather) it will unfortunately not be possible to hold an Annual General Meeting this evening. We plan to email reports to all members, and outline a proposed way forward – just as soon as the last report is received! We will hold a meeting as soon as we can, but this is out of our control at present. meanwhile, keep well and stay safe.

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As you are all aware, we had to postpone our AGM due to the Covid 19 pandemic, and we have set a provisional date of  24th August to meet, recognising that this would need to be Covid secure. However, the news today is that the release of lock down has been put on partial hold, so we may need to consider holding a virtual meeting!

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Important Message for Ashford Sinfonia

Dear Sinfonia member

Your committee have been giving considerable thought as to how to proceed safely with regard to the risk of passing on Coronavirus (Covid 19) amongst the orchestra and its friends and families.

As of this moment, our conductor is self isolating with a respiratory tract infection – not necessarily Coronavirus – but nonetheless feels it is not worth the risk of passing anything on. Therefore our rehearsal for Monday 16 March has regretfully to be cancelled.

Looking further forward, the pandemic looks to be getting worse rather than better for a while, and bearing in mind our age range and possible underlying maladies, it has been decided that we should suspend activities, including our forthcoming concert. Even if we were to run the concert, it is likely that we would not be at full strength, and our audience would likely be very diminished. The hard work we have already put in will be used at a subsequent event, and Gill has kindly offered to email through some additional pieces for us to practice at home.

We would like to emphasise that this does not mean that we are winding up – as soon as it is deemed safe to do so, we will return to full activity.

We wish you all the best, and hope you can keep clear of this bug – and if not that it is mild and over quickly!

Kind regards

Roger Pinnock

Chairman, on behalf of the committee

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When the night wind howls in the chimney cowls…

Last Monday’s rehearsal was on one of the more spectacularly violent weather events of recent times. With the wind howling through the church doors, it was necessary to shut and bolt the outer doors, but the sound of the church bell ringing gently was truly spooky. Whether it was simply the wind blowing across the bell mouth, the bell being rocked until it touched its clapper or the resident ghost, we shall never know!

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Christmas Concert Report


And so finally the evening arrived. Much carting of tympani and percussion, much to-ing and fro-ing of musicians, choir members and audience, and finally everyone was seated and ready to go. There is always a bit of a buzz as Christmas approaches, and the evening of 9th December 2019 at St Mary the Virgin Church, Ashford, was no different. An audience of around 150 had gathered, many of whom were family and friends of the Ashford Community Choir, Ashford Sinfonia or Woodchurch Driving Group of Riding for the Disabled.

The music started with three songs from the choir – Be Our Guest, Why We Sing and A Million Dreams. We then moved on to the ET Flying Theme and the James Bond Theme by the orchestra before moving into three carols sung by the audience and the choir accompanied by the orchestra, and sandwiched between the classic Singing in the Rain and a Christmas Medley written by the orchestra’s conductor Gill Booker.

Following the interval for tea and biscuits, served by the RDA helpers, the choir sang Santa Lucia, Thank you for being a Friend and The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.  By now everyone was well warmed to the task of making music, and those who thought they heard voices during the orchestra’s Sound of Music Selection were not mistaken – the choir couldn’t help but sing along behind the stage! A rousing round of applause (whistles even!) then lead us into the final three carols.

All in all a very successful evening, and all thanks go to the members of Ashford Community Choir and their conductor and musical director Karen Hill, and to all our orchestra members and our very own conductor and director Gill Booker. To crown it all, we later learnt that the event had raised £1,037 for the Woodchurch Driving Group!

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Christmas concert

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