What do you get when you mix 3,503 pupils, a raft of orchestral instruments and a top conductor? A record breaker, writes KAREN ROSINE.

Pupils from schools across Oxfordshire took part in an attempt to break the record for the world's largest orchestra yesterday - and succeeded.

A total of 120 students from schools across the county associated with Oxfordshire Music Service took part in the attempt at the Birmingham National Indoor Arena.

From the youngest at 12 to the oldest at 18 the youngsters took part in gruelling rehearsals on Saturday and yesterday morning before setting off for the attempt.

Having arrived at Birmingham they had a final rehearsal of the piece - The Little Suite No. 2 by Malcolm Arnold - before taking the stage for the real thing. The youngsters joined their counterparts from schools across the UK for the event organised by Music for Youth to raise funds for Marie Curie Cancer Care.

Top conductor Sir Simon Rattle, the celebrated former musical director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, led the event in memory of his father who died in a Marie Curie hospice.

He had to conduct more than 2,212 musicians for at least five minutes to smash the current record held by Kent County Music Service.

In fact he managed to conduct 3,503 people for a piece of music which lasted seven minutes and 40 seconds.

Stephen James, deputy director of the Oxfordshire Music Service, said: "As far as we are aware the record has been smashed. "We all had to come together for one piece in one mammoth orchestra. It was fantastic."

Student Gina Gatenby,17, from Blessed George Napier Secondary School in Banbury, played the cello in the attempt.

She said: "It was very exciting. You got a real buzz from it. It was a really loud noise and you could see all the shining brass. It was fantastic."

Jeremy Baurgein, 17, also played the cello in the piece. He said: "It was really great to be involved in something like that. It was quite hard work and there was a lot of rehearsing but it was great to smash the record."

Music for Youth attempted to break the record two years ago - but although they had a total of 2,800 people taking part, it was adjudicated that the piece of music fell just seconds short of the five minute minimum.

The attempt will now be judged by independent adjudicators and, if passed by them, entered in the Guinness Book of Records.

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