Strings attached

Winchmore String Orchestra was founded in 1991
Winchmore String Orchestra was founded in 1991 (credit Nikos Zarb)

Towyn Mason previews an upcoming concert from Winchmore String Orchestra

There’s no shortage of amateur symphony orchestras in North London. Much rarer are amateur string orchestras, but one has become a prominent feature of the musical landscape well beyond its own borough of Enfield.

With the start of a new decade, Winchmore String Orchestra (WSO) has a new home for rehearsing and performing. This is Southgate Methodist Church in The Bourne, where its next concert will be held on Saturday 21st March.

The orchestra was founded in 1991 by the late professional violinist and teacher, Stanley Lishak, and his viola-playing wife Bertha, who is now its president. It has a core membership of more than two dozen, most of whom live in Enfield and Barnet, though some come from as far afield as Croydon! Concerts are also boosted by guest players.

Under the baton of conductor Michael Coleby since 2018, WSO normally gives three concerts a year, with a repertoire ranging from baroque, classical, romantic and 20th Century genres, to less familiar output, including occasional music by local composers. While the amount of music written specifically for string ensembles is modest compared to that for full orchestras, there is a large body of works that have been adapted for them.

A string orchestra has a distinctive sonority. An audience member at one WSO concert said afterwards: “I thought this was a wonderful concert, and I certainly didn’t miss the sound of wind or percussion.”

At its March concert, WSO will play a Bach concerto for violin and oboe, a part of Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, Mozart’s graceful Symphony No29, and two quintessentially English works of the last century – Holst’s Brook Green Suite and Rutter’s Suite for Strings, inspired by folk tunes.

Like most amateur orchestras, WSO is funded by members’ subscriptions and ticket sales, and though a registered charity, it raises funds for other charities through raffles held at its concerts. The beneficiaries are nominated by its soloists and range from well-known medical charities to local organisations; over the past ten years WSO has collected a total of around £14,000.

To buy tickets (£9 advance) for the Winchmore String Orchestra concert on Saturday 21st March, from 7.30pm at Southgate Methodist Church:
Call 020 8882 0351