‘An orchestra with a long history and a strong ethos…’
“For me and for everyone at OSJ, the music comes first: beautiful music created by a group of outstanding musicians who bring their palpable joy at playing together to every performance. It’s wonderful that, after more than half a century, we continue to present a busy year-round programme of concerts, both orchestral and choral, at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, at Dorchester Abbey and at Wigmore Hall in London, as well as other venues. We also continue to commission new work and to explore new musical horizons.
But that’s not all. I have always thought that it was just as important to take our music-making beyond the concert hall. I believe deeply that an orchestra is a powerful force in the world, and that this power is diluted, if not wasted, if all we do – the sum of our achievement – is to give traditional, conventional performances in concert halls. There is a much bigger contribution that has to be made.
Music has an extraordinary power and an extraordinary reach. It can cross boundaries of comprehension, ability, race, gender, age and beyond. It can make inroads where words can’t and build bridges where none seemed possible.
Music touches and enriches lives, and we see this over and over again, particularly in the work that we do as part of our Connections programme. A corner-stone of this programme is our acclaimed Music for Autism work, which we have been doing for over twenty years. We do more than sixty of these events every year in special educational needs schools around Oxford and nationally.
In the last two or three years, our Connections work has also taken off in exciting new directions. With fresh impetus from our Associate Conductor, Cayenna Ponchione-Bailey, and Composer-in-Residence, Toby Young, we have undertaken a series of bold, ambitious projects that seek to build creative musical collaborations and partnerships with diverse groups and communities. We have worked with young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds in two different projects and with the fledgling, Kabul-based Afghan Women’s Orchestra. During the months of lockdown, we launched a new initiative to take live music, safely, to patients and staff in NHS hospitals. And we continue to seek opportunities to broaden the scope of this work.
Classical music is often thought of as elitist, limiting access to the privileged few and putting up considerable barriers to participation, both to potential players and audience members. This is not – and never has been – OSJ’s way. Through our wide-ranging Connections work and through our Young Artists Scheme, we strive to break down barriers to participation by opening doors, sowing seeds and creating opportunities, often where none seemed conceivable.
Ultimately, our aim is to bring orchestral music of the highest quality to a wide range of different audiences, especially to those who don’t have easy access to it. The best needs to be there for all.”