THE last day of January was a special day for Skipton Community Orchestra – it was almost five years to the day since its first rehearsal and therefore a cause for celebration.

To mark the occasion, a celebratory cake was shared at the rehearsal and the orchestra played Happy Birthday - to itself.

The orchestra has gone from strength to strength over the years, now with as many as 40 musicians gathering twice a month to make music and have fun.

It is a far cry from five years ago when a small group of people carrying violins, flutes, bassoon and keyboard arrived at Holy Trinity Church vestry rooms and had a go at playing Handel’s Water Music and Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.

For some, it was the first time that their instrument had been out of its case in quite a few years. For others, it was the first time they had ever played in a group. But at the end of the evening, they all said “let’s do it again” and so Skipton Community Orchestra was born.

Catherine Davison and Anita Birch had come up with the idea over a cup of tea at a toddler group – they both had young children and were keen to pick up their instruments again after a long break.

They felt Skipton was lacking an informal music ensemble where people of any age or ability and with any instrument could meet up and just play music for fun.

They never imagined that the first get-together would result in such an enthusiastic and large ensemble, with instruments covering all sections of an orchestra.

Anita said: “Sometimes I can’t believe so many people turn up to play each week but I think it’s the relaxed atmosphere and the fun we have at rehearsals that keeps bringing people back. I would like to think there will still be a Skipton Community Orchestra in another five years’ time.”

Over the years the orchestra has appeared at Grassington Festival, Holy Trinity Church Fete, Buckden Gala, Carleton Harvest Home, Skipton Town Christmas Lights switch-on, Skipton Library, Cliffe Castle in Keighley, Tesco Skipton and they perform an annual Christmas concert at Christ Church School.

Jess Mahler is at the helm as conductor – a talented bassoonist herself, she makes rehearsals fun but encourages everyone to reach their potential.

The ethos of the orchestra has remained the same throughout – it is open to all, regardless of age, ability or instrument. Ages range from 10 to 80 (ish) and the range of music played is almost as wide – anything from themes from Harry Potter to Shostakovich’s Second Waltz, and from Bach’s Sheep May Safely Graze to the Wallace and Gromit theme tune.

The orchestra aims to promote music in the local community and it never charges for its performances.

It relies on donations from local organisations and businesses in addition to member subs, which has helped buy music and equipment.

Rehearsals are held on the second and last Tuesday of every month at Holy Trinity Church vestry rooms at 7.30pm.

If anyone would like to join, come to a rehearsal or get in touch via