About us

Our Story

The Colchester-based Colne Valley Youth Orchestra (CVYO), made up of the CVYO Main Orchestra and its junior partner, the Colne Valley Training Orchestra (CVTO), was established in 1981 by local music teacher and composer Nigel Hildreth who is still its Musical Director. The Orchestra is a Registered Charity No. 1028647 and is a member of "Making Music".

Since its launch, hundreds of young musicians from the local area have had the chance to play and perform not just in and around North Essex, but in countries across Europe. The orchestra has broadcast on national radio, performed a prestigious events such as the Oyster Feast, and played a major role in encouraging youngsters to take up playing a musical instrument and to play it with others.

Together the CVYO and CVTO provide an ideal opportunity for young musicians from the surrounding areas to express themselves musically in a friendly, non-competitive environment, free from the stress of auditions and safe in the knowledge that while they are making music, they will also be making friends and having fun. The aim of the orchestra has always been to afford musical and social opportunities to youngsters aged 7-18 no matter what their background. Many CVYO members have since gone on to become professional musicians.

Before his death in 2006, the composer Sir Malcolm Arnold was the orchestra's President. We are delighted that Damon Albarn, composer and performer in "Blur" and "Gorrillaz" and former member of the orchestra is our new President. Over the years as the orchestra has grown in numbers, so have the number of people who help and support the orchestra, which today is run by a Committee of fantastic volunteers


The Main Orchestra

Our members range in age from 11-18 and as a rough guide our string players are of approximately Grade 5 standard or above and our Wind and brass players are Grade 6 and above.

We play around 8 concerts a year in a wide range of venues from Churches and Castles to Town Halls and Schools. Our concerts are always well supported by parents, friends and family and many members of the public who regularly attend our performances.

We are not just a classical orchestra and although we do play many classical favourites such as Brahms, Strauss, Grieg and Beethoven; we also play jazz, pop and musical theatre numbers too making our programmes really diverse and fun - quite simply great music played by enthusiastic young talented musicians.

Once a year all the members go away together for a residential weekend - it's a chance for new members to get to know everyone and for us to get to grips with the music so that we perform at our very best the rest of the year. The weekends are a really important part of the CVYO calendar and we like everyone to go if at all possible. We also go on a Summer Tour usually to Europe and to date we have been to Germany, France, Italy and Estonia to name but a few. As well as giving concerts, we go on trips and have a huge amount of musical fun.

Members pay an annual subscription fee to join the orchestra and there are no additional fees for rehearsals. Residential weekends and tour costs are paid separately. There are reductions in the subscription for second and subsequent family members and there is financial help for anyone who needs it. The best time to join is generally at the beginning of the school year - we usually have an Open Rehearsal in September when anyone can come along and try out without having to commit to joining (although of course we hope you will).

The Training Orchestra

The training orchestra is generally for our younger, less experienced players starting at about the age of 8. There is no upper age limit, but once players have reached a certain standard they are encouraged to move into the main orchestra.

Members are usually between Grade 1-2 standard but if you enjoy playing and haven't yet taken any exams you can still come along and try out. The Training Orchestra gives a Christmas Concert and also takes part in a joint concert in June with the Main Orchestra, a fantastic opportunity to mix and perform with the older more experienced members.

A real highlight of the year is the Come and Try Workshop which takes place during February Half Term Week.

Come along to our Open Rehearsal on the third Sunday in September at Colchester Sixth Form College. You are welcome to just turn up and have a day of fun, while finding out if it is for you.