Orchestra of the Swan was founded in 1995 and is based in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. We give over 45 concerts a year and have performed in China, Mexico, Turkey and the United States. The OOTS catalogue of over 20 recordings features works by Bax, Mahler, Elgar, Finzi, Ireland, Strauss and Copland. Our recording of the complete symphonies by Hans Gál has received outstanding critical acclaim.
We are passionate about promoting new music and have premiered more than 70 new works by composers including Joe Cutler, Tansy Davies, Joe Duddell, Alexander Goehr, Roxanna Panufnik, Joseph Phibbs, Dobrinka Tabakova, Errolyn Wallen, Huw Watkins, John Woolrich and many others.
OOTS has been enormously successful in making a positive and effective contribution to the communities at the heart of our immersive residencies in Stratford, Hereford and Birmingham. Our ambitious program of work in care homes, schools and rural areas is growing year by year. As resident orchestra at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, we continue to promote and encourage young talent.
We are thriving despite the fact that many orchestras are facing difficult times. This is, in part, due to the excellence of our players and their ability to communicate with audiences. It is also because of the dedicated and imaginative team working behind the scenes, the support of our trustees and of course the loyal Friends of the Orchestra. OOTS is proof that an orchestra really can be an indispensable and relevant part of the community.
We aim to entertain, educate and engage in a way that truly makes us a living orchestra.
Now under new management, the Stratford Playhouse (previously the Civic Hall and then the Stratford ArtsHouse – home to OOTS since its formation in 1995), is at the centre of OOTS artistic provision in Warwickshire and our office base.
Alongside up to 10 annual orchestral concerts, this ‘immersive’ residency reaches into the heart of Stratford upon Avon schools, care homes and dementia cafés working closely with key stakeholders such as the Stratford Hospital, the RSC, Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust and King Edwards School. In support of this, OOTS has established a new Dementia Arts Network involving 17 local arts organisations who meet tri-annually, to coordinate delivery of arts activity to people with dementia in Warwickshire whilst ensuring adherence to best practice and latest developments in the field.
During the 2018-19 season, pairs of OOTS players led:
- workshops in 15 care homes caring for those with dementia in partnership with Mindsong
- workshops in 7 dementia cafés (WRAP, Springfield Mind, Alzheimer’s Society, Alcester and others) involving 1268 participants
- 37 workshops involving 1419 school children
After the successful launch in 2018, in 2019-2020 we have added again six ‘Night Owl’ concerts to the mix at Stratford Play House Variety Bar, showcasing small virtuoso ensembles performing cross-genre repertoire in an informal cabaret atmosphere, from Tango and Berlin Cabaret to ‘Baroque and Roll’ and ‘Mozart in Cuba’.
OOTS won the Touch FM ‘Pride of Stratford’ award in both 2013 and 2015.
ROYAL BIRMINGHAM CONSERVATOIRE
Following the opening of its new ‘campus’ in Jenners Road in 2017, the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire boasts a beautiful concert hall and recital theatre, the first UK Conservatoire to be built with embedded digital technology including state-of-the-art recording facilities. Our new ‘immersive’ residency puts a professional orchestra at the heart of this flagship music college outside London. Alongside a series of concerts designed to bring the paying public into the concert hall, there are numerous opportunities for talented and aspiring student musicians to learn alongside OOTS professional players and staff and from participating international soloists, conductors and composers. To include:
- A side-by-side opportunity for students across each performance department at every rehearsal to gain experience of a pressured professional environment
- The premiere of a 3 to 5-minute commission by a Conservatoire Composition Student at every concert
- An internal Conservatoire Chamber Concerto Prize with a concert platform for the winner
- Staff shadowing opportunities for Arts Management students
- Participation in our half day workshops in Birmingham care homes and dementia cafés, giving students taking their final year undergraduate ‘Further Community Engagement’ module the opportunity to enhance their learning in a real-life context.
Next season sees the formation of ‘The Burning Swan’, a small ensemble formed of OOTS core players & talented students from various Conservatoire departments, who will create and curate a programme of original music with improvisatory elements that meld different musical genres. Watch this space for pop up performance locations in Summer 2020.
THE COURTYARD, HEREFORD
This ‘immersive’ residency reaches rural villages, schools, care homes, young families and the traditional classical music audience, marketed through a bespoke ‘orchestra-in-residence’ season brochure. Alongside 3 mainstream orchestral concerts, this residency, in partnership with the Courtyard, Orchestras Live, Arts Alive and Encore Music Services includes:
- A family concert based around a Circus/Carnival theme
- 4 Rural concerts in volunteer-run venues
- 4 free foyer performances in the main theatre
- A school ‘sharing’ concert preceded by 16 workshops in 4 primary and 4 SEND schools
- Up to 24 workshops led by pairs of OOTS players in 4 care homes in partnership with Mindsong (Gloucester-based music therapy charity) and the Courtyard community department.
OOTS Associate Artists have included Peter Donohoe, Tasmin Little, Julian Lloyd Webber, Benjamin Grosvenor, Laura van der Heijden, Raphael Wallfisch and Tamsin Waley-Cohen.
Resident Composers have included Huw Watkins (2012-14) and Dobrinka Tabakova (2014-16) generously supported by the Sorel Organization, New York.
“Nothing defines the Orchestra of the Swan better than its commitment to new repertoire….(with) programmes (that) have a knack of making connections which are genuinely stimulating”