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Bringing the music to town
FOR almost 50 years, a group of classical music lovers in Witney has been bringing up-and-coming musicians and orchestras to the town.
Concerts by Witney Music Society often feature talented young pianists, singers, harpists and groups who go on to become world renowned.
The society puts on six performances between October and March, and the new season is about to start.
Chairman Tom Jones, 76, said: “We often get performers before they are famous. We feel quite paternalistic about some people who we had when they were quite young who went on to do well.”
Over the years the society has brought in musicians including guitarist John Williams in 1968, clarinettist Jack Brymer in 1974, soprano Isobel Baillie in 1978, cellist Raphael Wallfisch in 1979, saxophonist John Harle in 1983, pianist Julius Drake in 1987 and pianist John Lenehan in 1989.
Mr Jones said: “We have a fairly elderly audience and in some ways we wish we had more younger people. There used to be more younger people 25 years ago.
“But we feel it is important to cater for the older population.
“Although there are lots of good concerts in Oxford, it is quite an effort to get there at night, and Oxford is one of the worst places in the country for parking at night.”
The concerts take place in either Wood Green School or High Street Methodist Church and attract up to 100 people.
Witney Music Society began when West Oxfordshire Technical College – now Abingdon and Witney College – expanded in the 1960s.
The new teachers created societies to bring arts and culture to Witney, including the Field Club, a natural history society, and the music society.
Mr Jones said: “A lot of new and enthusiastic staff came along and they were very keen to integrate the college and the town.”
The concerts are now organised by a committee of 13 volunteers, which Mr Jones has been on since 1977 and been chairman of since 1979. He added: “We are an ageing but very enthusiastic committee but we love to have one or two more join us, with energy and new ideas.”
This year’s concerts, which all begin at 7.30pm, start on October 11 with wind quintet Vesuvio at High Street Methodist Church, followed by pianist Jong-Gyung Park on November 8 at Wood Green School and Duo Karadys playing Schubert at Wood Green School on December 13. On January 10, soprano Lucy Roberts with pianist James Sherlock will perform at Wood Green School, harpist Elen Hydref at the school on February 14 and piano trio Combrio Copenhagen at the school on March 14. Tickets cost £12 for adults, £11 for concessions, and are available on the door. The society also offers membership.