With the arrival of a new year and many people looking to take up the challenge of a new hobby, a Community Orchestra based near Chester is looking to recruit new members of all ages and all abilities to help swell its ranks in the run up to concert performances being staged in 2020. The Jan Modelski Community Orchestra, founded in 2001 by Conductor and Musical Director Jan Modelski is currently based in the village of Barrow near Chester and was set up with the aim of enabling musicians of all ages and abilities to participate in a performing amateur orchestra.

Originally from London, Jan has lived in the Chester & North Wales areas for over 20 years and is a full time professional musician with many years’ experience as a conductor and performer, gaining an ever-increasing reputation in the orchestral music scene in the North West. He is currently Founder, Conductor and Musical Director to the Chester Big Band, the Jan Modelski Pop Orchestra, the Jan Modelski Big Band and the Wirral Community Orchestra.  The Jan Modelski Community Orchestra already has three concerts planned for 2020.

The Orchestra has become something of a family affair with several members also having siblings or parents and even Grandparents performing alongside them including recent member Debs McCarthy who said “Before joining the orchestra I hadn’t picked up my violin for over 35 years! While taking children to music lessons I regretted that I had not continued playing. The Community Orchestra has now given me the confidence again to play music once more in a fun relaxed setting while creating precious family memories. Saturday morning orchestra lifts my spirits and starts my weekend”. Debs now plays in the Orchestra with her children Joe a violinist and Charlotte a flautist. Natalie Meara, a cellist and mother of Tom, a trumpet player and Emily who is a flautist said “It is great to do something with the children rather than watching from the sidelines”

Another family who have been with JMCO for a number of years are the Fowles family,  Edmund, a viola and violin player and Jo a trumpet player along with their children Robin a clarinetist and Hugh, a violinist play regularly and remain important backbone members of the Orchestra. The Orchestra also features several people who have returned to playing an instrument after a gap of many years including John and Pam Toft who have been delighted to bring their grandchildren along over the years including their granddaughter Olivia who plays saxophone.

Speaking about the benefits of joining the Orchestra, Committee member Richard Wright said “Jan aims to ensure his rehearsals are relaxed and informal whilst at the same time ensuring that every musician becomes the best they can possibly be. This, in turn, ensures a high level of professionalism and develops the musical skills and experience of everyone taking part. He also strives to ensure that the repertoire of any of his orchestras is always varied and challenging. The atmosphere is friendly, informal and geared towards encouraging the best performances from its members and aiding their musical development. The orchestra has an “open admission” ethos – which means that there is no audition and no one is ever turned away, the only requirements are a basic ability to read music, a desire to play with other performers and a sense of humour.”

Richard added “There are 3 separate orchestras; Introductory, Intermediate and the “Main” Orchestra, so there is sure to be an orchestra suitable to most playing abilities. The average attendance is between 60 and 70 players and a number of players participate in more than one Orchestra. All three Orchestras share the common goals of enjoyment, encouragement and development”.

All three Orchestras perform two concerts each year. The Orchestras rehearse on Saturday mornings in term time at Barrow Village Hall with the Introductory and Intermediate Orchestras session starting at 9.15 am and the Main Orchestra at 11.10 am. 

Full details about the Orchestra and how to get involved can be found at

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