Oxford MailOrchestra is a pile of junk (From Oxford Mail)

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Orchestra is a pile of junk

Oxford Mail: Pete Oxley tweaks his bows Pete Oxley tweaks his bows

IT PROBABLY sounds like a rubbish idea that got out of hand.

But when Pete Oxley was challenged to help make an entire orchestra out of scrap he couldn’t turn it down.

The Headington resident is used to making violin bows but a leading conductor dropped him a line recently to ask if he could make one out of rubbish.

What resulted is a fully functioning bow made out of bicycle spokes that was used by the BBC Concert Orchestra during the 2011 Proms.

Mr Oxley, 50, said: “It was an enormous challenge. I just had three months to think up the design and then find the materials to make bows for the entire string section. The whole point of the project was to try to emulate the properties of the instruments we were trying to make.

“With a bow there is very little margin for error. Musicians are very sensitive to things like balance. For a bow any weight above 62 grams is considered extreme.”

He was part of a group of 11 instrument makers from across the country who had to make every instrument in the orchestra, from strings to percussion.

They turned to junk, broken furniture, and road-side skips.

Mr Oxley said: “With the cello bow I resorted to bicycle spokes but for violin bows I had to think of a completely different model so I used archery arrows which are light and very resiliant.

“It is such a different thing to making normal bows.

“I think it sounded pretty good, particularly when they were played on the musicians’ proper instruments.”

The orchestra, made up of 44 instruments, was given its debut at the Royal Albert Hall with a rendition of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

The project is the brainchild of Charles Hazlewood, who has conducted at the Proms and at Carnegie Hall in New York.

His efforts will be shown on BBC Four’s Scrapheap Orchestra on Sunday, December 11 at 9.30pm.

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