How would it feel to play in an orchestra conducted by your school music teacher,  sitting next to one of your own fellow pupils 35 years  after leaving school, and one thousand miles away from home?

I found the answer last June when Jill Hyde, the extraordinary music teacher for many years at the King David School, Liverpool, brought her orchestra to Madrid. Obviously, Jill is slightly over 21, and the orchestra are not school children but adults who represent all kinds of trades and professions, or none, and who belong to the Liverpool  Phoenix Concert Orchestra.

How did this group of amateur musicians from Liverpool come to be performing in Madrid? Two years ago the orchestra were invited to do some concerts in Elba by friends who have retired there. Everything went so well that when they  thought they had to repeat the experience somewhere else in the sun, Jill contacted a former pupil who has lived in Madrid for years. Of course, said former student, this would be a great idea, and he showed Jill and Sheila around Madrid when they visited the city to make plans, and introduced them to some good friends, and there you are.

In the end the orchestra played several concerts at a Madrid school, including commentaries so that local pupils could practise their English, and finished the tour with a concert of songs from the shows  at the magnificent International Institute in the city centre.

The local talent provided the singers, while the orchestra were the Liverpool group, plus a couple of locals who just could not resist the chance to play along, thanks Adam and Pavel…

We had each rehearsed in our own cities, Liverpool and Madrid, and as I rehearsed with the singers, we listened to iPhone recordings and did our best to match the tempi. Many times the singers asked me how the tempi would work and what we would do about keeping in time all together, and I always felt I knew exactly how it would sound because I knew how Jill would conduct this was uncanny that she did exactly what I expected, after all these years.

We were also extremely lucky in having Robert sharing the conducting, a real perfectionist with tact and diplomacy in his veins.

In the final concert the playing was wonderful and the singing was exquisite. To be honest there were some problems of balance, ok yes more than a few,  which we’ll get right next time some time… but it was a great evening and was probably the first time ever in Madrid that these songs from the shows have been heard with a live symphony orchestra, all in English, in this combination.

We were all held spellbound by the Richard’s commentaries, and can’t forget the beautiful poem written especially for the occasion by James. If he sends it to me I’ll publish here, it was too good to hear only once.

Here are the players:

Liverpool  Phoenix Concert Orchestra

Musical Director: Jill Hyde

Associate Conductor: Dr. Robert Howard

Violin: Christine Bratherton (Leader), Rose Sims, Robert Howard, Suzanne Dawber, Lyndsey Travis, Paul Dadswell, Jane Little, Yan Zhang

‘Cello: Charlotte Sawyer

Double Bass: Julia Cadman

Flute: Laura Bonnett, Jane Berry, Frances Aston

Oboe: Alex Swift

Clarinet: Susan Hyde, Maggie Edwards, Lyndsey Whelan

Bassoon: Helen Chatterton, Sara Padmore

Saxophone: Howard Fenton (flute), David Toller

Trumpet: Tony Lister, Gary Boden, Julie Baker

Trombone: Jonathan Malits

Tuba/ Bass Guitar: Mike McLoughlin

Percussion: Alasdair Chatterton, Janet Malits

And the organisers:

Liverpool  Phoenix Concert Orchestra

Administration: Tish Bratherton

Tour Organisers: Jill Hyde, Tish Bratherton, Howard Fenton,

Susan Hyde, Christine Bratherton

Here are the singers:

The Singers:

Kevin Beer

Julie Davies

James Duggan

Delories Dunn

Diana Grayland

Richard Hunter

Judy MacInnes

John Ruescas

Commentaries written and presented by Richard Hunter

The Musicals Mystery: A poem composed for  Salute to Broadway  by James Duggan.

Our thanks are due to all those friends who made this concert possible, especially to Pilar Piñan, Director of the International Institute, Madrid, and Kevin Robb, Representative of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music.

So how did it feel sitting in the orchestra being conducted by Jill Hyde, sitting next to Julie Baker? It was great, of course, Jill being as musical and full of musical feeling as ever. It was inspiring because Julie plays beautifully, any student in Liverpool is very lucky to be on her list.

And the most striking thing… the same feeling I always had I every rehearsal: that playing music is the best ever way to spend an evening, and why didn’t I find more time to practise before I came?

Thanks to all my friends in Madrid for such a huge effort, especially Judy, and to all my old, sorry-longstanding- and new friends in the Liverpool Phoenix Concert Orchestra.

Come back soon.