A Reminiscence by Elaine Goh
In the Autumn of 1981, a new evening class was started with the idea of giving orchestral experience to adults who had learned an
orchestral instrument as a child. The teacher of the course and conductor of the orchestra was Michael Colleer.
A great time was had by all and many friends were made and, to mark the end of the course,
a concert was arranged for May 1982 at Hadleigh High School. I was in the lower sixth at the time,
working towards A level music. I had peripatetic violin lessons at school and my teacher was Amanda Brown,
who was the daughter of Michael Colleer. She asked me, along with the other A level musicians and a few other advanced students,
to join the orchestra as reinforcements for the afternoon rehearsal and concert. It was great fun and the pattern of a cracking
afternoon was set from the start! I remember one piece that was played that day, a Mozart divertimento,
and have sent a link in an email. At the end of that concert, no one wanted to stop the evening class so the
decision was made to continue and the Hadleigh Orchestra was born.
One of the founding members was Michael Connellan, a retired maths teacher who made music his life in retirement.
He became an extremely skilled luthier of stringed instruments and many members of the orchestra played instruments that he had made.
He made skilled and necessary repairs on mine and my pupils’ instruments on several occasions and never charged enough.
He was an enthusiastic viola player for many years until increasing frailty forced him to leave.
He was still an enthusiastic audience member until not long before his death.
Michael lived in Polstead and we had many happy summer concerts in Polstead church, a beautiful venue, until the orchestra
and audience outgrew it.
Throughout the years, the orchestra has always encouraged and included people of all ages
and abilities and enthusiasm has always been the watchword. In the early days, there was an elderly
lady who played the double bass. She was less than five feet tall and sat on an umpire's chair. Apparently,
she always arrived late for rehearsals and caused chaos as her double bass crashed into everyone's stand, knocking off
their music as she, so very politely, said “oh, do excuse me,” “so, so sorry, dear" etc.
Michael Colleer was the conductor for a few years and the concert remained an annual event in Hadleigh High School.
The next conductor was the legendary Ute Cooper, who, with husband John in the ‘cellos, took the orchestra to new heights.
A Christmas concert was introduced and became a fixture on the calendar for many local people.
In addition to the repertoire of orchestral pieces, đthere are always four carols for the audience to sing
accompanied by the orchestra. After a variety of venues, the orchestra has happily made its home in
St. Joseph's church for the Christmas concert. It is always standing room only.
The summer concert has also gone from strength to strength and more ambitious music is often chosen for this.
We have played several concertos and symphonies and in 2012, the year of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee,
were asked to make an encore of Land of Hope and Glory. At both summer and Christmas concerts,
there are always retiring collections, which must have raised thousands of pounds for charity over the past forty years.
As time has moved on, there have been several changes among the players and, of course, the occasional sad event.
The orchestra's banner was bought after a flautist, Tony, died in tragic circumstances as a memorial. After many years’
service and leaving very large shoes to fill, Ute Cooper stood down as conductor of the Hadleigh Orchestra in 2018.
Kay Bartlett ably took over the baton and has guided the orchestra through some of the most turbulent times in its
history as Covid-19 put a stop to music making for two years. Kay is passing on the baton to Ian Macrae in September
as she rejoins the percussion section.
Hadleigh is a small town and very few comparably sized towns have an orchestra of their own,
let alone one as successful and held in such affection as Hadleigh Orchestra.
I feel very privileged to have played in around thirty years worth of concerts as an extra second violin or viola player –
even more so to have been doing it since the very first concert. Will l be in the concert forty years from now?
Well, l would be pushing 100, so who knows. Happy Birthday, Hadleigh Orchestra.