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 2021/22

  A list of dates 

and this year's music

can be found

by clicking on the

2021/22 Calendar page



Julian Dale



from 6.30pm to 9.00pm



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


Annual subscription:  £30.00


Good parking available

Note re. Covid-19: following our successful Summer 2021 Programme of music making, we are going ahead, as planned, with our programme for 2021/22. 

A few Covid related provisions will remain in place - so that all members can continue to feel as safe as possible - full details on application.  

Notes from our Conductor about our Spring 2022 music:

Beethoven  Symphony no. 2 in D major Op. 36

This dates from 1801-2, when the composer, only in his early 30s, was already worried by his increasing deafness. It was in 1801 that he wrote in a letter to a friend 'I lead a miserable life... I live entirely in my music.' The music is generally serious in tone, but far from tragic.

This is now considered the tail-end of his 'early' period, less radical than his later work, but many listeners already found Beethoven's music shocking in its departures from the usual conventions. One reviewer called this work 'a hideously writhing, wounded dragon that refuses to die, writhing in its last agonies and, in the fourth movement, bleeding to death.' There was nothing polite about this music. People weren't used to such surprising changes of harmony, so many big dynamic contrasts, and passages of very loud music in every movement.

The symphony is in four movements: an allegro con brio with a substantial slow introduction, a not-very-slow slow movement larghetto, a scherzo allegro with trio, and an allegro molto finale.


Smetana  Vltava (AKA The Moldau) (1874)

Yet another symphonic poem - we've never featured so many in a season before. In this piece Smetana intended to describe the course of the Vltava river, and the countryside through which it flowed. It is by far the most popular piece from his cycle of symphonic poems, Ma Vlast. The famous tune in this piece was adapted by the composer from an old Czech folk song.


Dvorak  Slavonic Dances, Op 46 (1878)

This is the first, and the more popular, of Dvorak's two sets of dances influenced by Slavonic folk music. Originally written for piano duet, Dvorak orchestrated them at the request of his publisher. Quoting Wikipedia: 'Dvořák never actually quotes folk melodies, but evokes their style and spirit by using traditional rhythmic patterns and structures in keeping with folk dances.'

We enjoyed playing the following pieces during the Autumn Term 2021

Dvorak  The Noon Witch, Op 108 (1896)

This is a most unusual piece, with some of the most extreme contrasts of material of any music of its time outside of the opera house, from the simplest of pretty melodies to fierce, jagged declamation. It's a 'symphonic poem', following a dark verse narrative by Karel Erben, based on the Slavic legend of a noon demon. The tale doesn't end happily, I'm afraid. We haven't played this before, and it should be exciting.

Schumann  Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op 120 (1841, revised '51)

Schumann began to study law at university, but his evident musical talent soon got the upper hand. He ruined his promise as a virtuoso pianist by overuse of a finger-strengthening device. For most of his adult life he was troubled with mental problems, including some serious breakdowns.

In a letter he wrote 'I have been composing so much it seems quite uncanny... I cannot help it, and should like to sing myself to death, like a nightingale.' Schumann's music became much more popular after his death. Elgar called him 'My ideal!' Confusingly, this symphony was the second of the four he composed, nos. 2 and 3 having appeared between the original version of this one and its revision. We last played it in 2012 and declared it 'good'; it's more than worthy of another outing. It is in the usual four movements, including a beautiful slow movement, a presto scherzo, and ending with an allegro vivace in D major.


Liszt  Les Preludes, S 97 (1849-55)

This was the first-ever orchestral work to be called a symphonic poem, though the composer originally thought of it as an overture. The first edition of the score begins with a text very serious in tone:

'What else is our life but a series of preludes to that unknown Hymn, the first and solemn note of which is intoned by Death? - Love is the glowing dawn of all existence; but is there a fate where the first delights of happiness are not interrupted by some storm...? Nevertheless... when "the trumpet sounds the alarm", he hastens, to the dangerous post...'

There is great drama in this music, but also beauty. It's many years since we played any Liszt, and we've never tackled this work before.


Borodin  Symphony No. 2 in B minor (1869-76)

Borodin's day-job was as a doctor, and a researcher and teacher of chemistry. He was eminent in his native Russia, and founded a School of Medicine for Women. Composing was an abiding, serious sideline, which is why it took him so long to write this, the largest work he actually completed on his own. He told a friend that in the first movement he intended to depict a gathering of Russian warrior-heroes, in the slow movement to evoke the legendary minstrel Bayan, and in the finale a scene of heroes feasting.

Liszt admired his music, and encouraged him to ignore those who advised him to tone down some of his turns of harmony to something more conventional. Rather a favourite with this band, we've tackled this symphony a few times before, and always enjoyed it.


Notes from our Conductor about our concert pieces:

Schubert  Symphony no. 3 in D major, D. 200 (1815)

Written very quickly, when the composer was 18 and already a considerable musical craftsman, this is not a mature masterpiece, but is full of rhythmic exuberance and melody.


Rachmaninov (arranged by Julian Dale)  

Vespers & Matins: (movements from the All-Night Vigil (1915)).

This is included as a highly-contrasted short interlude. Arranged from austerely beautiful music for unaccompanied voices, this is very unlike Rachmaninov's orchestral works.


Beethoven  Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61 (1806)

We are very pleased to welcome back Peter Evans, this time to play one of the greatest violin concertos in the repertoire. Like so many works we now value, the piece was not much appreciated in the composer's lifetime. It is a lyrical work: less dramatic than the piano concertos, though longer than any of them - which is why we have chosen a fairly short symphony this year.  

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. 

For Brass and Woodwind, please enquire.


Bristol Orchestral Players