A message from Jacqueline Shave, Leader and Artistic Director
I have always been drawn to remote places. In 2010 I took a year away from my musical work in London to rehearse and perform a Beethoven quartet cycle on the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides. I have set up a tiny music festival at the top of a mountain in a sparsely populated valley in Liguria in Northern Italy.
What I loved most about the concerts we gave in these isolated communities was the impact on people who weren’t used to hearing live music. They were so incredibly grateful for the experience and often felt that their lives had been enriched, indeed transformed in some cases, by the event.
During the first lockdown time I decided that in the future, rather than travel East from my home on Exmoor to work in London I wanted to go West and create music there. Obviously not all of the South West is remote and there are many people who regularly enjoy live music making but there is presently no professional orchestra specifically for the area. The Chamber Orchestra of the West seeks to change that.
We want to create and sustain relationships with the communities of Somerset, Devon and Cornwall through our live performance. We aim to bring great music to all the people of the three counties; to play in the prestige venues, the less visited corners and in the places where those marginalised for whatever reason can hear us. We are looking to develop place-based partnerships with schools, support groups, hospitals and social care settings, prisons, rehabilitation centres and refugee networks, to model our programme according to need.
As musicians we know what it is to be involved in a group, to listen, to take direction and for the focus to be not upon ourselves, but on what we can achieve together. The impact of Covid on mental health and social isolation, especially for those groups already vulnerable, is immense. Evidence has shown that chamber orchestras, made up of freelance players, offer a particularly flexible approach with wide reaching impacts.
Most of the musicians in this group have played together for years in different formations. We are not young generation artists but artists with hundreds of years’ experience between us. To play together is a joy and to share our music making is a privilege. We are excited about curating dynamic and diverse programmes with music that spans the centuries, alongside new works from present day composers; music we love playing.
If you are part of a community group and have a project in mind, we'd love to hear about it. Please get in touch via the
I very much hope to see you at one of our performances in the South West soon!
A message from the Trustees
As the world emerges from the Covid 19 crisis, the counties of Somerset, Devon and Cornwall need to come to terms with its long-term impact. Our response has been to form a new touring chamber orchestra with the community at its heart.
Our aim is to enable the people of the Southwest to have access to the transformative power of music. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of community groups and activity as social lifelines for many and we'd like to facilitate community interaction and connection through Music and the Arts.
There is now renewed focus on local communities and supporting community activity. This is an opportunity for the Arts world to embrace wholeheartedly, and a chance to reset previous precedent of the high-quality music making in the UK being, all too often, focused around the largest urban areas.
We are now a Registered Charity and are looking for pledges from companies or individuals to assist with funding applications.
We are interested in hearing from anyone who has ideas of venues, charities or community ventures we might approach.
If you give us your details we will send regular updates on our progress and plans.
We are looking to the future and feel we have something very special to offer a rapidly changing world. We want to make sure we are offering what is needed and what really matters to you and your communities.
You are the experts. Please join us in whatever way you can.
ANNABEL LEAKEY is an experienced Arts Administrator with specific in-depth knowledge of Orchestral Management. She has worked for a variety of organisations, including with the Britten Sinfonia, BBC Singers, London Sinfonietta, and Cheltenham Festivals. She is currently General Manager of the Berkeley Ensemble. Annabel enjoys living in the countryside with her young family, and has great enthusiasm for bringing arts to rural areas.
JOHN OWEN was Director of the Britten-Pears School in its early years working closely with Peter Pears, and then Director of Artistic Planning for the Hallé Orchestra when Kent Nagano was Music Director. He is the Founder and Director of Owen White Management Ltd, which represents conductors, singers and instrumentalists. OWM represented the Brindisi Quartet when they were starting out, so he has known Jackie, Bert and Katie for many years.
TAMSIN DIVES was a professional opera singer for many years. In 2005 she retrained as a Music Therapist. As a therapist her experience includes working with children with behavioural problems, adults with dementia and neurological disorders and latterly palliative care. At St Christopher's Hospice in South East London she managed a large Arts team, facilitating collaborative work in the community with organisations such as the RA and the City of London Sinfonia. Whilst working at the hospice she established a monthly professional concert series and a large community choir. She also helped create an Annual conference for art therapists and artists working in the field of palliative care.