Two poems in celebration of the orchestra

The orchestra began as “Newbury College Late Starters’ Orchestra” and used to meet on Wednesdays. Margaret the oboist wrote this, and says it was originally a song, which several people sang at one of the end-of-term soirées back then!


Our Orchestra

On Wednesday nights we go to College, all the way to Purley.

We rush our tea, don’t watch TV, ‘cos Patsy likes us early.

We get out all the instruments and set the chairs around.

We then tune up, oh! what a din, but vital for the sound.

Patsy puts her arm up and we know we must get ready.

She tells us what she wants to do, and gives the beat quite steady.

So now we’re off and on our way to making lovely music.

We start at our appointed place, and try hard not to lose it.

We observe all the expressions in the music, if we fancy,

From Rallentando, Poco Rit, to Crescendo and Andante.

And if we miss a beat or two, then Patsy does not mind.

Her patience is a virtue when we get so far behind.

We’re the Late Starters’ Orchestra, we’re giving it a go.

We try to play our music just as good as any pro.

We’re the Late Starters’ Orchestra, and for two hours every week,

We think we’re in the Albert Hall, it really is a treat.

Just like the famous Orchestra, the London Symphony,

We share the same initials, but not quite the expertise.

But if we practice hard enough, we’ll get there I will bet.

‘Cos Patsy’s motto every week is, “You can’t do that, YET!”



Bassoonist David Craig produced this “ode”, featuring lots of orchestra traditions, such as practising scales, or learning a rhythm by clapping it.

At the end-of-term soirée, besides the orchestra playing through the pieces for that term, there are usually some solos or small groups, from people who want to try something extra. The Infinitely Variable Wind Ensemble, is, or was, one of those groups – never exactly the same group of players each term, hence the name.


Ode to Da Capo (in the style of Ogden Nash)
(or the musings of an incompetent but enthusiastic aspirant musician)

Quite honestly, I would rather endure a jolly good slapping

Than start the term with very confused clapping.

And just when you think you’re safe because that fails

Patsy says “Get out your chromatic scales”!

But the music begins to take shape underpinned by the note of the cello

While the trombone adds a melodious bellow

And the strings are musically flowing

After some advice on their bowing.

We have to be reminded that louder doesn’t mean faster

Or it could lead to disaster.

The clarinets and saxophones sometimes come up with a squeak

Instead of the pure note they seek

While the lone bassoonist finds the triumph of successfully hitting the final note turns to despair

When the sonorous boom turns out to be just a feeble puff of air.

As the time grows gradually nearer for the soirée

I begin to woirree

Wondering whether any skills are still lingering

After my attempts at complicated fingering.

I’m uncomfortably aware that several of my notes are “accidental”

Though not in the accepted musical sense: part of the problem is mental.

I know that once I’ve made my first mistake I panic and the chances are bleak

Of playing triple time bars “strong, less strong, weak”.

I ask why I give myself extra opportunities to stumble

As I play my part in the Infinitely Variable Wind Ensumble

Not to mention that my looming duet enhances my chances of being a buffoon

Or perhaps the Florence Foster Jenkins of the bassoon.

And so I am as jumpy as a cat on

Hot bricks as Patsy raises her baton,

But — and wonders will never cease —

I AM following her first rule for ensembles and playing the same piece!

Can her wand produce a performance that is magic

Rather than tragic?

Hopefully she can inspire us to produce music that with stardust is spangled

Rather than sounding like cats being strangled.

Perhaps after all we can take our bow with dignity

While Patsy beams at the audience with her usual cheerful benignity.