A Wigan orchestra is inspiring former musicians to dust off their instruments and revisit their skills, no matter how rusty.
The Really Awful Orchestra, launched by a retired musical director and a former teacher, is reaching out to the thousands of ex-musicians whose talents have been long-forgotten.
Ian Darrington MBE, who was director of jazz performance for Wigan Council for more than three decades, is hoping to inspire people to join up - even if it is just to socialise.
For the past 18 months he has been working with retired PE teacher, Peter Fletcher, to engage people of all skills and ages and give them an outlet for their creativity.
“It’s so much better than we originally thought,” said Ian. “When we put the project together we didn’t want people to have hang-ups about their playing.
“Ex-musicians often say ‘I can’t play now I’m really awful’. But from the very first evening they played together, we looked at each other and said ‘wow’.
“It was incredible how quickly it transformed into a really enjoyable experience.
“The main priority of the orchestra is enjoyment. Musical standards aren’t at the top of the list, the priority is enjoyment through music.
“People really love their Monday evenings, they have a coffee and a chat during the break - that’s very important to us as well.”
Another aim of The Really Awful Orchestra is to try and include elderly musicians who may have either played in an orchestra before, or always wanted to join but never had the opportunity or confidence.
“When people retire sometimes they don’t go out as much and evenings can become quite boring for them,” he said.
“We have addressed that and seem to have got a good response. We thought it would be good to have a younger director with a bit more energy.”
The current MD, Chris Perry, has seen the orchestra through since its first rehearsal back in January 2018.
More recently, the ensemble has graced the stage at Holland Hall for an evening of live music which raised around £1,400 for The Christie.
The musicians are next set to perform live at the Rotary’s community day in Wigan town centre on Saturday, July 6 at 11am.
The group is also discussing plans for a short tour in Ireland.
“We are always looking for new members,” Ian added. “There is almost no limit to how many people you can have. The instrumentation is as it would be in a symphony orchestra but if someone turned up with an accordion that wouldn’t be a problem.
“We have three piano players but there’s always room for more.”
For more information about The Really Awful Orchestra visit www.musiccontinuum.co.uk/really-awful-orchestra/ or just turn up to a rehearsal on Monday evenings from 7pm until 9pm at Hindley Music Centre.