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Are you interested in playing in a friendly orchestra that meets once a month to work on the orchestral repertoire, and with NO ticket selling?


We could be the orchestra for you!  Please read on.......

How we began


Bristol Orchestral Players was formed in 1963 by a small group of musical friends at Southmead Hospital. Since then it has expanded into a fun and friendly group of musicians of differing ages and experience drawn from Bristol and beyond.


For more information about the music we enjoy playing, please click on the About Us page.



We play for the pleasure of working on and getting to know the orchestral repertoire. 


From September to March, we meet monthly, usually on the third Sunday, to focus on a couple of works (usually one symphony and one overture) for two successive sessions before moving on to explore new works for the next two rehearsals and so on.  

Between April and June, we meet more regularly (up to five times)  preparing for our annual concert – which is given free to family and friends, followed by an Americian supper style buffet.


We don't take ourselves too seriously but we do work hard at playing the music to as high a standard as possible. 


With only one concert (free!) a year, there is NO TICKET SELLING....  . Friends and family are warmly invited.



Season 2023/24

  A list of dates 

and this year's music

can be found

by clicking on the

2023/24 Calendar page



Julian Dale



from 6.30pm to 9.00pm



St Peter'sChurch Hall, The Drive,  Henleaze Bristol BS9 4LD.


Annual subscription:  £35.00


Good parking available

Get in touch


The orchestra is affiliated to "Making Music" and managed democratically.

For contact information, please see the Contact page.


We currently have vacancies for all strings; also horns

For other Brass and Woodwind, please enquire.


Notes from our Conductor about our 2023/24 Programme

As always, most of this year's programme is made up of pieces requested by members of the orchestra.  

Otto Nicolai  Overture 'The Merry Wives of Windsor'

Nicolai's comic opera, based on the Shakespeare play, was composed in the 1840s and remains popular in Germany. This lively, colourful overture, new to BOP, is his only piece well-known in the UK.

Mendelssohn Symphony No. 5 in D major/D minor, the 'Reformation', Op.107

This was actually the second symphony Mendelssohn composed, in 1830 when he was 21, apart from the symphonies for strings he wrote in his teens. It appears to have been performed only once during the composer's lifetime. He himself dismissed it as juvenilia, and it was not published until some years after his death. He had originally labelled it as being in D major, but not very much of it is in that key. The work is in four movements, of which the first and last are in sonata form, the second is a playful scherzo and trio and the third a sombrely beautiful slow movement in G minor. The finale begins and ends with, and is based on, the chorale 'Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott' by Martin Luthor.


Brahms  Variations on a Theme by Haydn Op 56a 'The Saint Anthony Variations'

When this was composed, in 1873, whole orchestral works in the form of theme and variations were very unusual. The work from which Brahms borrowed the theme (from a movement headed 'Chorale St Antoni') is no longer attributed to Haydn, hence the alternate title which is often now used. Some of the variations are in a complex contrapuntal style not often found in music of the Romantic period.


Dvorak  Symphonic Variations Op 78

It has been claimed that Dvorak deliberately chose, in 1877, a theme (from a song of his own for male-voice choir) which seemed unpromising as a basis for variations, as a challenge to himself. He certainly rose to that challenge, though his publisher was not impressed, & declined to print it until it had achieved success, championed by conductor Hans Richter, 10 years later.


Schubert Symphony No 9 in C, 'The Great'

Originally called The Great to distinguish it from the shorter symphony no 6 (also in C major) this was Schubert's last completed orchestral work, written in the mid 1820s, near the end of the composer's tragically short life. 'Great' is now associated with the unusual length of this work, which was an impediment to performance in the years following its composition. Schubert almost certainly never heard it. Though his songs were widely appreciated, he was not in demand as an orchestral composer. This piece was, at first, considered impossible to play - not least because of the stamina required from the players. It was performed in the years following his death, but at first only 2 movements in a concert, or the whole work but with cuts. Its merits have been more appreciated by later generations: it is now a popular classic, and is not considered unduly difficult to play.

All four movements are structured on a grand scale: even the scherzo is in full sonata form. Schubert was a great melodist, and there are many tunes, but they are always deployed as part of a large overall design.


Cimarosa  Overture 'The Secret Marriage'

This will be our first performance of anything by this Italian composer (1749-1801), best known for his operas, from one of which comes this short, lively overture in D major. Marriage was evidently a popular subject with Italian audiences: at least five of Cimarosa's operas have the word 'matrimonio' in the title.


Ravel (arr. Julian Dale)  Introduction and Allegro for Harp and Small Orchestra

This is one of the great 20th-century works - originally a chamber piece - featuring the harp as, in effect, a concerto soloist. This will be the first performance of a new arrangement, tailored to Bristol Orchestral Players, and featuring Julia Hammersley as soloist.


Bizet  Symphony in C

The life story of Bizet (1838-75) is sad: after early promise, his work was largely ignored in his lifetime, and he died young, believing himself a failure. His operas, especially Carmen, are now among the most popular in the repertoire. Astonishingly, this symphony was written in just a few weeks, when the composer was 17 years old. It was neither published nor performed in his lifetime, but is now his best-loved orchestral work. It uses the usual musical forms of its day being in four movements, full of melody and of a predominantly cheerful character.


Ravel (arr. J Dale)  The Fairy Garden

Another new arrangement, this short piece from Mother Goose (originally a piano duet) will, we hope, be a magical coda to the concert. Slow melodic lines, with Ravel's warmest harmonies, gradually build up to a huge, luminous tutti, with the harp coming back with great swooping washes of sound.

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