The Endcliffe Orchestra originated in 1977; in 2002 a special concert celebrated our 25th anniversary.
Dr Margaret Staniforth initiated what is now the Endcliffe Orchestra. In 1977 she assembled a group of local musicians to form what was then called ‘Sheffield Amateur Orchestra’. For the first few years they met at Brantwood School in Nether Edge. At first they had a series of different conductors and a somewhat fluid membership. In May 1984 the orchestra performed at St Andrew’s Church Flower Festival under the baton of Allan Hughes. The programme was an ambitious one, consisting of Wagner’s Mastersingers Overture, Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto (soloist Joseph Morrison), and Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8. Subsequently members of the orchestra met under the umbrella of the LEA at the Langsett Music Centre. Later on they moved to the church hall of St Augustine’s, Endcliffe. There, under the leadership of Tony Ward, one of the staff of the Langsett Centre, the orchestra settled down to become an established part of the Sheffield music-making scene.
Not long after Tony Ward took over as conductor, the Polytechnic Orchestra, which met at the Collegiate Campus of what is now Hallam University and was conducted by Roger Hoyle, was discontinued. As well as students of Sheffield City Polytechnic, this orchestra included a number of local amateur players (some of whom played together previously in Malcolm Hanna’s evening-class orchestra at Abbeydale Hall) and these players now joined the Sheffield Amateur Orchestra at St Augustine’s Endcliffe under Tony Ward.
Music in Sheffield developed quite remarkably through the 1980s, partly due to the developing activities of Sheffield University and also to the stimulus provided by the arrival of the Lindsay String Quartet. The city was soon to have several amateur orchestras playing to near-professional standard and expecting their players to have at least Grade 8 as a minimum requirement. In these circumstances, Tony Ward’s priority as a teacher was to cater for players of quite modest ability, including some ‘late starters’, and to help them develop musically by playing enjoyably together.
Tony Ward was the orchestra’s conductor for ten years. A pattern of informal concerts was established, one at the end of each ‘term’; audiences mostly consisted of friends and family, and often the concert was followed by refreshments which members brought to share. In 1992 the orchestra was re-named The Endcliffe Orchestra, since that was where we met. In 1994 we took part in a public concert at Stocksbridge Parish Church, and did the same again the following year. By then we had found a more suitable venue for rehearsals, Holy Trinity Church Hall in Millhouses, and we have continued to meet there.
When Tony Ward retired, in the summer of 1997, we were fortunate to secure the services of Alan Eost, who continued as our conductor until 2004. Under his baton we performed regularly in Holy Trinity Church, and occasionally elsewhere, often sharing the concert with a group of singers or young instrumental soloists. In the summer of 1998 we put on a joint concert with Hallam Choral Society in Hallam Community Hall; and in 1999 we shared a concert with Escafeld Chorale at Banner Cross Methodist Church. Our current conductor, Martin Lightowler, took up the baton in January 2005.
The orchestra has continued over the years through the efforts of many people, including our conductors. Special thanks are due to Penny Kay, who was Honorary Treasurer prior to 1992; to Bernard Jones, Treasurer (and much else besides!) from 1992 to 2001; to Julia Robinson, Leader of the orchestra for more than a decade; and not least to Eric Charlesworth, who for many years until his recent retirement acted as librarian, putter-out of chairs, and coffee-maker. To these people and many more the current members of the orchestra are extremely grateful.