Solway Sinfonia Newsletter 2017


The Solway Sinfonia is an amateur orchestra based in Dumfries & Galloway in south-west Scotland. Its members are drawn from the south of Scotland and north of England. Although it is an amateur orchestra, many of its members have made their careers in music. The orchestra puts on two major concerts per year as well as one or two smaller ones.

Solway Sinfonia




Newsletter October 2017

20 years at The SS HELM


Picking highlights from twenty years’ programmes is not easy; each of them has been instructive,

enriching, and fun, for all of us, I hope.

Our activities are based, of course, on the shaky premise that an amateur group is able to perform on

four or five rehearsals, masterpieces written for professional orchestras which rehearsed almost daily. I

have always believed, however, that in Music, if a thing’s worth doing it’s worth doing badly – or rather,

as well as one possibly can! Does a professional player derive any more satisfaction from practice or

performance than an amateur? Not necessarily, I’m sure. So it has been a huge pleasure, and endlessly

rewarding, to tackle not only well-known Viennese symphonies but also adventurous works such as the

first symphonies of Neilson and Kalinnikov, Walton’s Henry V Suite, and Janacek’s Lachian Dances –

not all played magnificently, perhaps, but always with enthusiasm and respect, and above all with the

love implicit in the term Amateur.

For me, concertos have perhaps represented our most exciting and gratifying challenges. Professional

soloists lift us up, and require the best of which we are capable. Our first two, Murray McLachlan, who

played Mozart and Gershwin in 2003, and Leland Chen, Beethoven in 2004, have not only become

personal friends but genuine admirers of the orchestra. Each has returned to us several times, and their most recent performances with us

have been among the most memorable of all: Leland’s Sibelius, last year, and Murray’s ‘family Beethoven’ this March.

Other highlights: in 2010 Les Neish terrified us in concert with the tempo he set for Vaughan Williams’ tuba concerto finale, then brought

the audience cheering to its feet with an extraordinary solo encore – harmonies and speech through a tuba! I can’t forget the wonderful

performance of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante given by Zara Benyounes and Sarah Roberts in 2012 – to be repeated next Spring. And it

will become obvious why we have booked two of our recent soloists, Kirsten Jenson, who played the Dvorak cello concerto ravishingly in

2014, and Freya Jacklin, with her superb Berlioz Nuits d’Été in 2015, to return to us in November, with Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations

and Elgar’s Sea Pictures. We’ll be thrilled, and we’ll do our best not to let them down! That we continue to flourish after 20 years is due in

no small part to the sterling work of Nick Riley and his energetic Committee, and to the generous support of our Sponsors and Patrons.

Without our ‘Angels’ the orchestra would not have survived, and I’m eternally grateful for their support.

20th anniversary Leader’s Letter

Funny how things happen isn’t it? In 1982 I met a bloke on a train from Hull (where I was at Uni)

to Birmingham (going back to see my family in Stourbridge). We chatted for the whole journey and

then said goodbye. Next thing, he turned up on the post grad course I was on in Bath and we became

friends; John Doherty became manager at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre, Caerlaverock. Having

visited the reserve several times, Steve and I decided to move from the Midlands and take up residence

in a beautiful but run-down cottage by the Solway Firth. Steve worked for the Trust and I got a job

teaching violin.

I wrote the Caerlaverock Suite in 1997, inspired by the sights and sounds of the nature reserve, and

pulled an orchestra together mostly from players I knew from the Galloway Chamber Orchestra based

in Newton Stewart, which had been run by Dave Montgomery.

As luck would have it, I was asked to play in a concert in Gatehouse of Fleet where I met a certain

gentleman by the name of Geoff Keating and knew he was just the chap to pull the music together ...

and the rest is history!

Highlights ... ? Every concert we’ve done! It’s such a privilege to be part of the orchestra; as a classroom

music teacher, playing with the Solway Sinfonia keeps me sane and exercises the little grey cells. I don’t have a lot of time to practise, but

a concert looming makes me motivated to brush the dust off the fiddle and get cracking. Some of our performances are a bit ‘seat of the

pants’ but we generally feel fairly proud of ourselves by the end and wish we could do it all over again.

A huge thanks to the committee for all they do, and especially to Geoff for his patience, understanding and enthusiasm.

Sarah Berker, Leader, by some twist of fate, of the Solway Sinfonia.

Cathy Tyler: Editor Ken Smyth: Design & Printing

Steering the ship

Chairman’s 20th Anniversary Tune up

What fun we’ve had for the last 20 years! And to think this

orchestra, now the stuff of local folklore, was galvanised all these

years ago purely to play Sarah’s piece, with no longer term future

intended. Many of us had spent decades wishing there was a

Dumfries based orchestra, and at last we had one. We simply

couldn’t let it stop!

I struggle to identify individual highlights over the years. The

highlight for me is the orchestra. It still gives me shivers of

anticipation as I take my trusty flute out of its case and warm up

before a rehearsal, hearing the surrounding honking and scraping

as we square up to some of the most challenging pieces in the

orchestral repertoire. And then there’s the buzz of the concerts

themselves as we aim to share the enjoyment of our new pieces

with our audiences. Geoff, our maestro and trainer, sets us high

expectations which, like little puppies, we delight in trying to


A source of pride over the years has been the stream of young

players who have dipped in and played among the ranks during their time at school. Many have gone on to pursue

musical careers and it’s a pleasure to have contributed to the development of their musical journey and aspiration. As you

may know we’re taking this one stage further in the current season by opening the doors to 20 young players in our first

“Young Person’s Day”, in which fine, enthusiastic young players are to join us one Sunday to play through some orchestral

classics. It’s a most fitting contribution to the 20th year celebrations of the orchestra’s existence. I also like to highlight our

extremely supportive and loyal corps of Patrons and Sponsors who, with the administrative support of Robert Thurlow,

help keep our financial chin up. Thanks to you all.

Hope you enjoy the rest of our 20th Anniversary year and look forward with us to the next 20 years!


Easterbrook Hall, Dumfries

Solway Sinfonia

Tickets £15, students £7.50,

accompanied schoolchildren - free

Available from

Midsteeple Box Office: 01387 253383

or at the door

Conductor: Geoffrey Keating

Leader: Sarah Berker


Anniversary Concert

7.30pm Sunday

26th November 2017

Shostakovich – Festive Overture

Tchaikovsky – Rococo Variations (Kirsten Jenson – cello)

Poulenc – Les Biches

Elgar -Sea Pictures (Freya Jacklin – mezzo soprano)

Saint-Saens – Danse Macabre (Jane Hainey -Violin)

Scottish Charity SC043150

Freya Jacklin, Mezzo Soprano

Freya has just completed her studies on the MPerf course at Guildhall School of Music and

Drama, under Theresa Goble, where she achieved a Distinction. She regularly performs with

BBC Singers, London Voices, RSVP, Philharmonia Voices, Hanover Band and a cappella

group Bellaphonics. Career highlights include solos with Birmingham Opera Company in

Stockhausen’s Mittwoch aus Licht directed by Graham Vick, film soundtracks (including

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Hacksaw Ridge, Spectre, The Hobbit and

Hunger Games series) and she has performed solo twice at the Wigmore Hall as part of the

Voiceworks contemporary music series.

Opera credits include Amastris in Handel’s Xerxes, Dido and Sorceress in Purcell’s Dido

and Aeneas, The Mother in Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors, Julia Bertram in

Jonathan Dove’s Mansfield Park, Annina and Flora in Verdi’s La Traviata, Cherubino in

Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, and she originated the role of Stephanie in Evariste, performed

at Somerset House and the Tete-a-Tete festival 2015.

Recent Opera Credits include Marc Antonio in Hasse’s Marc Antonio e Cleopatra, Pitti-

Sing in The Mikado, Edith in Pirates of Penzance, Hebe in HMS Pinafore and 2nd Lady/2nd

Boy in Mozart’s the Magic Flute. She is delighted to be back with Solway Sinfonia for her

first performance of Sea Pictures!

Kirsten Jenson, Cello

A famous musicologist once wrote that, to read all about a composer’s life is to study all

of the things they have failed to accomplish. I’m sure there is a lot of truth behind this,

but my journey learning Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations began with a very fat book

that went through Tchaikovsky’s life, from his birth to his mysterious death. I stayed

up far too late for far too many consecutive nights reading it, and I can honestly say

that it brought another dimension to my enjoyment of the concerto. In the mixture of

elegance and romanticism in the Rococo, I see the distinguished gentleman who liked

to be outwardly well presented, alongside hints at the underlying emotional turmoil he

endured trying to hide his homosexuality from the general public.

I have fond memories of playing the Dvorak Cello Concerto with the Solway Sinfonia a

few years ago, and I feel very honoured to have been invited back to perform the Rococo

Variations for their 20th Anniversary celebrations. I will be playing on an English Tony

Padday cello that I got the year it was made, in 1999. I was the first cellist to ever own it,

and in a way, we have grown into each other. It is my other half.

Jane Hainey,Violin

It is an amazing coincidence that last October my husband (Wilson) and I moved to Gatehouse

of Fleet and became neighbours with Geoff Keating who was my Head of Music at school in


Wilson and I left the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in Glasgow after 30 years or so, having

enjoyed a diverse, exciting and often challenging career. Our intention is to live “The Good Life”

whilst still being involved in music when we can.

I was asked to play the violin solo for “Danse Macabre” for the Solway Sinfonia’s 20th anniversary

concert. It is a piece which I first heard at school and will now look forward to performing it with

Geoff conducting. Its first performance in 1874 was not well received but I loved it on first hearing!

The scordatura (where the violin is “mistuned”) caught my attention straight away as it was such a

bizarre sound and the imagination of Saint-Saens’ depiction of the Tone Poem totally engaged me.

The opening, where the harp plucks 12 Ds to sound the Midnight Bell at Halloween; “Death” (the

violin solo) appearing to call the dead from their graves; the skeletons dancing around, their bones

being rattled on the xylophone; the col legno (using the wood not hair of the bow) of the cellos

adding to the madness as the music becomes more and more frenzied. Suddenly the cockerel crows on the oboe as dawn breaks and

the skeletons clank back into their boxes. I hope you enjoy the Solway Sinfonia’s performance of this macabre piece and their 20th

anniversary concert.

Patron’s Piece: Agnes Riley

As part of the 20th Anniversary celebrations of the Solway

Sinfonia, we asked for a contribution from one of the orchestra’s

longest supporting Patrons: Agnes Riley. By sheer coincidence

she is Nick Riley’s Mum....just keeping an eye on him all these

years! Editor.

It is a thrill to be asked to write this little piece for the

Solway Sinfonia Newsletter.

I have always enjoyed the Solway Sinfonia. Their

programmes always appeal, and I also love to hear how they

are now welcoming young aspiring musicians to join their

ranks – great stuff.

As perhaps some of your readers may know I became a

pupil of Arthur Riley, a very great teacher, when I was

16/17. I studied with him for many years, then we married

and had a very musical family, Nick being the flautist for

the Sinfonia – a consummate musician, like his dad.

Why else do I love the Solway Sinfonia? Geoff of course.

His knowledge of music and communication with orchestra

and public is a delight. Thank you Geoff, and Sarah Berker,

and all of you friendly folk. Here’s to you. We look forward

to many more years from you.

Dates for your Diary

26 November 2017, Easterbrook Hall, 7.30pm


• Shostakovich: Festive Overture

• Elgar: Sea Pictures, soloist Freya Jacklin

• Saint-Saens: Danse Macabre, soloist Jane Hainey

• Tchaikovsky: Rococo Variations, soloist Kirsten Jenson

• Poulenc: Les Biches

Tickets: 01387 253383

18 March 2018, Gatehouse Parish Church, 7.30pm


• Schubert: Rosamunde Overture

• Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante, soloists Emily Holland

(violin), Sarah Roberts (viola)

• Faure: Masques et Bergamasques

• Dvorak: Czech Suite

Message from the Editor

Welcome to the Special 20th Anniversary Edition of

the Solway Sinfonia Newsletter. Our contributors take

up the theme:

• Sarah, Orchestra Leader: “How it all happened”

• Geoff’s “Remarkable moments of 20 years at the


• Agnes Riley (longest standing Patron) and Nick Riley

(son and Chairman) reminisce over 20 years and turn a

thought to the next 20.

• Our three 20th Anniversary Gala Concert soloists

share their pride in performing on 26 November.

Level: Moderato

MUSIDOKU - The Musical Sudoku

The rules are simple: just complete the empty boxes in the grid so that every row, every

column and every 3 x 3 box contains one of each of the following musical symbols:





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The solution can be found on the Patrons and Sponsors

f ppage of the Sinfonia website.




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