Rutland Sinfonia, founded 1976

The Rutland Sinfonia gave its first concert (of music by Weber, Elgar and Schumann) in January 1976, having been formed the previous year by Barry Collett. The seventy players were made up of the leading instrumentalists from Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire, and of course Rutland itself, which became the centre of operations.

The orchestra quickly established an excellent reputation for the quality of its performances, and the wide and unusual range of repertoire. Many distinguished soloists made frequent appearances, and the orchestra was invited to play at various prestigious events; twice at the Malvern Festival, in Hereford, in Nottinghamshire and Buckinghamshire, where thousands of pounds were raised for charities, and an Elgar Birthday Concert in Worcester Cathedral. Under Barry Collett’s baton the orchestra performed music from Purcell to world premieres of new works; little known Symphonies by Franz Schmidt, Chausson, Kurt Weill, Bantock, Weber, Rimsky-Korsakov; major choral works by Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Dvorak, Elgar, Mendelssohn, Brahms and Schubert; major orchestral works by Saint-Saens, Dvorak, Haydn, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Rimsky-Korsakov, Frank Bridge, Poulenc, Delius and Bliss; complete operas by Purcell, Humperdinck, Kurt Weill and Betty Roe; the complete orchestral music of Elgar; the first English performance of Rachmaninoff’s early Scherzo, and much, much more.

The Rutland Sinfonia was also the first non-professional orchestra to make commercial CDs, and its recordings of Elgar’s Powick Asylum Music and First World War pieces, all of which Barry Collett had rescued from oblivion, were world premiere recordings and sold and were broadcast world-wide. Another delightful CD consisted of premiere recordings of James Turner’s “How David Made an Orchestra” and Trevor Hold’s “Sark Folksong” Suite.

After conducting all the orchestra’s concerts for twenty-five years, Barry Collett retired. He was succeeded by the then principal cellist, Graham Stevenson, who completed one year before stepping down. Barry Collett then did the twenty-seventh season before Peter Wadl was appointed as Musical Director. Three years later the present Musical Director, Paul Hilliam, with associate conductor David Calow, were appointed. Now in its thirty sixth season, there have inevitably been many changes in the orchestra personnel, although several still remain from the very early years. But the friendliness and the commitment to fine music making persists, and England’s smallest county can be proud of possessing such an accomplished musical organisation.