Music Thursday, January 28th Words by: Bill Tanner, pictures by: ESO

Inspiring Millennials: English Symphony Orchestra playing to the next generation of Herefordshire musicians

Music Thursday, January 28th

Inspiring Millennials: English Symphony Orchestra playing to the next generation of Herefordshire musicians

Andy Culshaw…

Bryan Allen…

Simon Hogg…

Stuart Essenhigh can still reel off the brass section that made such an impression when he first saw the English Symphony Orchestra.

Respected and renowned for its work inside schools as much as concert halls, the Worcestershire-based ESO was established in 1978 and has had close links with Herefordshire since its inception.

For Stuart, a professional trumper player and now member of that orchestra, it was an ESO concert that sparked his passion. Today he hopes he might inspire youngsters the way that brass section inspired him.

Until first hearing the orchestra, Stuart, then a teenager in Ledbury, thought brass was limited to brass bands.

“How wrong I was,” he said.

“I remember the brass section sounding amazing, really exciting. From then on I wanted to play in an orchestra - and to play with that fabulous brass section.”

Stuart went on to study with Bryan Allen and, one by one, met his ESO inspirations on the way to that “magical day” when he first played with the ESO.

“Of course there was a lot to learn about playing in an orchestra, and there still is.

“But Bryan and other members of the orchestra inspired me as a teenager and still inspire me today.

I'm sure ESO has inspired many more youngsters than me and continues to do so – that’s the most important thing?

“It certainly was to me.”

On February 7, the ESO will perform at Hereford Shirehall, playing Beethoven’s Symphony no.3 Eroica, Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor and the UK-premiere of “green/blue” by young Canadian-born/Glasgow-based composer Emily Doolittle.

Maybe, somewhere in that Sunday afternoon audience is another Stuart? 

ESO's Principal Conductor Ken Woods can only hope. He said the response to this concert, with its family friendly 3pm start, will go some way to deciding whether it’s worth the ESO ramping up its presence in Herefordshire.

Ken is keen on the ESO, historically based in Worcestershire, feeling at home in Herefordshire too. After all, it’s been playing here since 1978.

Now, the ESO has Arts Council funding to run a regular series of concerts in Herefordshire – with a view to establishing itself as the resident professional orchestra. Ken believes the success of this hinges on ensuring youngsters are in tune.

And that’s all ages, he says, hinting at future variation on a petting zoo - but with orchestral instruments.

On February 7 young musicians from Hereford Sixth Form College and Herefordshire Youth Orchestra will join the ESO on stage.

ESOside by side

The students are there through the new Orchestral Scholars Programme, which offers top young instrumentalists in the county a chance to play major orchestral works in a professional orchestra under the guidance of an ESO mentor.

Three of those scholars are from the sixth form college, where Principal Jonathan Godfrey believes an “in-house” ESO would enhance the county’s cultural offer.

“American orchestras like Chicago and Los Angeles are very much part of their community,” said Jonathan.

“The professionals work with schools and colleges. They also meet the community and they have a sense of ownership- the community is proud of its orchestra. 

“We are hoping Hereford will feel like that about the ESO,” he said.

Suzanne Casey already does, and has done since she, too, was a teenager growing up in Hereford.

ESO violinist Suzanne says professional musicians can always “pinpoint moments put them on the path to pursuing music”.

“Growing up in Hereford, many of those moments, for me, are connected to the ESO,” said Suzanne.

“I was lucky enough to study violin with the wonderful Hazel Davis who played with the orchestra and through her I became quite a fan.” 

Suzanne went on residential courses related to ESO and faithfully attended its occasional Shirehall concerts – even meeting Yehudi Menuhin.

“These sorts of opportunities are invaluable to kids living in a place like Hereford.

“The then-ESO conductor William Boughton even conducted a string concert in Hereford featuring me and my contemporaries - The Young Mozart Players; a fantastic experience for us.

“I can honestly say that having the ESO in Hereford was a huge influence, and there is one Mozart symphony that still transports me back to the Shirehall on a summer evening, listening to their beautiful playing.”

For more information on the ESO's concert at Hereford Shirehall see our What's On guide.

To be in the know about what's happening across Herefordshire sign up to our newsletter.


Fiddler comp canva


Do you want to write for Herefordshire Live? Get in touch on Facebook, Twitter or say