Chinese folk tunes and Native American dances make up Grand Union’s winter celebration

Young east London musicians used their talents to perform music ranging from Indian ragas to a Native American spirit dance at a youth orchestra celebration.

The Grand Union Youth Orchestra, which rehearses at The Premises Studio in Hackney Road, held its annual winter celebration at The Brady Arts and Community Centre in Hanbury Street last Sunday (December 5).

Instruments from Turkish saz, a type of stringed instrument to Spanish bagpipes and penny whistles were used by 23 young musicians in their hour-long concert.

They were joined by three professional musicians from the affiliated Grand Union Orchestra which has offices in Wentworth Street; Claude Deppa, a well-known South African trumpeter and percussionist, Yousuf Ali Khan, a Bangladeshi tabla player and Ros Davies, a multi-instrumentalist.

Anna Windsor, 14, of St Philip’s Road, Dalston, has played the clarinet with the orchestra, which includes players aged 14 to 25, for a year-and-a-half.

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She said: “It went really well.

“It is really inspiring to work with professional musicians as well – they are amazing players.”

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The orchestra also played Chinese folk tunes, ska and reggae songs and three pieces adapted from traditional songs by its young members.

Michael Howlette, 10, of Hornchurch, tackled three instruments – the steel pans, violin and mini-bassoon – during the performance.

He said: “It’s a good opportunity to play with older musicians.

“I’ve never come across an ensemble like this before.”

The orchestra has been invited to create a special project next year commemorating the 75th anniversary of the East End’s Battle of Cable Street, at which anti-fascist protesters clashed with police in an attempt to halt a march by Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists.

A photographic display of the orchestra is also on display at The Brady Centre throughout this month.

Anyone interested in joining the orchestra can email Hannah Turner at

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