Rusty fiddle players are ‘Strung Out’ for Express Symphony’s world premier

Strung Out... ready to perform

Strung Out... ready to perform - Credit: Strung Out

A working mum and a retired vicar who last played the violin as youngsters but let it lapse are among the first ‘rusty’ players to join a new community orchestra performing a world premier of a symphony about life in east London.

Strung Out... ready to perform

Strung Out... ready to perform - Credit: Strung Out

The Strung Out orchestra founded by professional violinist and composer Alison Jones is performing her new ‘Express Symphony’ at Saturday’s East End Film Festival at 2pm at the Old Spitalfields Market, with an unusual blend of violins, ukuleles and banjos.

Strung Out... ready to perform

Strung Out... ready to perform - Credit: Strung Out

They perform again at the First Fruits Festival at Forty Hall, Enfield, next Saturday, July 13, at 2.15pm, tickets £8, and on Sunday, July 14, at the Shoreditch Festival at 12 noon in Hoxton Street, free.

“I hadn’t played my old violin since I was 18,” explained 30-something Stephanie Pamment, a Tower Hamlets films officer by day.

“I was pregnant with my second child and wanted to do something for myself, outside the house. The orchestra offered a communal experience rather than lessons on my own.

“The old skills came back slowly. Playing with the group is worth the juggling hassles.”

But Stephanie admits: “I get stage fright, although I’m looking forward to the festivals—once I get the childcare sorted!”

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Strung Out has grants from the BBC’s Performing Arts fund and the Arts Council for six summer festival appearances.

The orchestra has joined up with Walthamstow Acoustic Massive, an umbrella for singing and music groups, to perform Alison Jones’s Express Symphony in four movements—the violins, ukuleles, banjos and voices blending in a sing-along, play-along extravaganza.

Players recorded sounds, images and text as inspiration for her composition that conveys everyday emotions of life in east London.

Alison revealed: “It’s uplifting and humbling that the simple act of picking up an instrument and making music together can have such far-reaching effects bringing communities together.

“But channelling the players’ feelings into a symphony has been a challenge all round, with the responsibility of getting the music right to reflect accurately their input at a level everyone can play.”

More than 50 singers and players are coming together to perform the symphony and other works at each festival, including solo performances interacting with audiences.

Many are having to brush away the rust of performing, like 58-year-old semi-retired vicar Kathryn Robinson.

“I hadn’t played violin since school and university, she reveals. “But being with other people in a similar position feels comfortable and gives me a buzz.”

Other bookings include The Stow Fest in Walthamstow’s Town Square on September 7 at 1pm, the Wanstead Festival on September 15 at 12 noon and the Word Festival at Walthamstow Central Library on October 26 at 2pm, all free.

The festivals are just the start for the Strung Out collective. The aim is more collaborations with music groups across east London—and to spread the word that it’s never too late to pick up that violin.


[Pictures: Giuseppe Cifaratti and Olya Yakubovych]