Playing in the HCO

Our orchestra's membership is drawn locally from North Hertfordshire and South Bedfordshire with a mix of accomplished amateur players, professional instrumental teachers, and a core of freelance musicians who lead the sections.

Most of the repertoire is played without a conductor, with the ethos of a chamber ensemble - although larger scale and more complex works are conducted whenever the need is felt. Rehearsals are positive and purposeful and are characterised by an atmosphere that is both friendly and mutually encouraging. They balance the orchestra's ambition to develop and improve its performance with an inclusive outlook wherein commitment and determination to succeed are as valued attributes as advanced skill and musicianship. We seek and expect challenge! The pay-off comes with the warm satisfaction of playing a part in performances of a high standard and from which our audiences derive great pleasure.

Each concert is preceded by a series of five or six rehearsals, for the most part in the very comfortable and inviting environment of Tilehouse Baptist Church in Hitchin, on Friday evenings between 7.30pm and 10pm at more or less fortnightly intervals. (The local ‘Highlander’ pub rounds off the evening for those who can stay.) This pattern of commitment has proved popular whilst also affording players more time to assimilate the music alongside busy work schedules and home lives.

We perform three concerts a year, principally at St Mary's Church in Hitchin but other local venues are also being considered for future events. The repertoire is as extensive as it is varied and future concerts will give us the opportunity to explore some rarely heard repertoire alongside the acclaimed favorites of the string orchestra genre.

We ask members to commit to attending as many rehearsals as possible and to putting in the time and effort to practise individual parts. Members are also responsible for actively promoting the concerts and selling tickets to their friends, families and colleagues so that our concerts are well attended and subscription rates can stay low (currently just £20 per concert cycle).

We re-seat the orchestra for each concert from the pool of available players. Section principals are fairly constant, but in general the HCO doesn't have full time first and second violins and does not seat players hierarchically; our practice reflects the belief that it is important to have a backbone of more experienced players throughout all the sections. The orchestra's size varies from concert to concert to reflect the repertoire and the capacity of the particular concert venue, therefore players are not necessarily invited to play for every event.

By and large, new members are recommended to us, however if you are interested in playing with the orchestra but are not currently known to us we'd like to have the opportunity to find out more about you. Please get in touch! There are no auditions; players are initially invited to play with us for a short trial period following which an invitation to join may be offered.

Who's Who


  • Chairman – Catriona Bevan
  • Secretary – Tom Ayres
  • Treasurer – Paul Reynard
  • Orchestra representatives – Elly Dobson, Vanessa Gaidoni, Jan Tothill, Ros Woodin, Shannon St.Luce
  • Music Director/Leader (ex officio) – Nick Evans-Pughe

Administrative roles

  • Librarian – Elly Dobson
  • Publicity – Vanessa Gaidoni / Ros Woodin
  • Social secretary – Catriona Bevan
  • Programme production – Christian Turton
  • Website manager – Ting Kuei
  • Refreshments – Ros Woodin / Paul Reynard
  • Orchestra Manager (fixer) – Jan Tothill
  • Orchestra Manager (concert day) – Paul Reynard
  • Programme Notes – Jan Tothill
  • Tickets – Shannon St Luce
  • Tilehouse Street link – Paul Reynard
  • Poster design – Charley Gaidoni

Repertoire Group

  • Nick Evans-Pughe, Vanessa Gaidoni, Helen Lord, Jan Tothill, Catriona Bevan

The committee meets a minimum of six times a year and an AGM of the orchestra is held every summer.

Any member of the orchestra may raise any issue with a member of the committee and ask for it to be placed on an agenda or brought to any other business for discussion at a committee meeting.

Ideas for repertoire for consideration are always welcome.

The committee acknowledges the contributions all members and friends make to the smooth running of the orchestra in many ways, such as helping with setting up and resetting, transport, selling tickets, welcoming, bowing music, offering lifts, stewarding, taking photographs and so on and extends its thanks and appreciation to all.