Corby International Orchestra

Arun Ghosh creating new music with the musicians of Corby
Corby International Orchestra. Photo: Martin Baldock

Made in Corby, in partnership with The Core at Corby Cube, commissioned internationally renowned British-Asian musician and composer Arun Ghosh to form a new ensemble drawing upon the varied musical communities in Corby. They performed over an hour of new music as the finale to Corby’s International Day celebrations on Saturday 5 September 2015. 

The project

The aim of the project was to bring together musicians across the borough, many of whom gather in distinct groups or as individuals who play with other informally and infrequently. Made in Corby wanted to create a performance that truly reflected the diversity of musical traditions in Corby and the only way to do this was to create new music, composed with, by and for the local population. They also wanted to showcase the talent in Corby and attract new audiences. 

Made in Corby brought skills and knowledge around engaging the local community and worked with Arun to identify a range of groups for him to visit. As well as talking about the project, he led taster sessions, joined a local choir for an evening and performed at several local jam nights. Made in Corby then issued an invitation for any local musician, regardless of background or ability, to take part in a two week residency to devise material for the final performance. 

The performance was part of Corby’s International Day, an event organised by Corby VCS and Corby Borough Council to celebrate the diversity of the town. The main event happened in a public square directly outside the theatre and incorporated performances by local amateur groups and a range of international food stalls. Made in Corby also ran three internationally-themed taster sessions of visual art, storytelling and belly dance during the afternoon in the theatre.

What was the learning from the project?

Whilst the participants in taster sessions and community workshops reflected the international diversity of Corby’s population, the seventeen musicians who became the orchestra didn’t. Informal feedback revealed that the intensive nature of the rehearsals meant that several interested musicians were unable to take part as well as a few musicians who found the prospect of improvised devising daunting; this is important learning for future projects. The orchestra did, however, incorporate a varied range of musical styles and members were all keen to write their own music. 

What was the impact of the project?

The partnership with The Core at Corby Cube was invaluable – not only in terms of practicalities, including rehearsal space and performance venue - but their local knowledge, connection with schools and their reputation added to the growth of the orchestra. Made in Corby developed strong links with two local groups – Corby Silver Band and the Deep Roots Tall Trees Choir – who joined the orchestra as guest artists for elements of the performance, including a dramatic finale with over 50 musicians performing a track written by Arun. The project was practically and financially supported by local county councillors, who wanted to showcase our local talent in response to comments about the lack of skilled musicians in the town. 

Over 200 musicians took part in the taster sessions and 78 engaged with the devising period, rehearsals and performance. Musicians in the orchestra gained creative inspiration and valued the opportunity to develop their music: 

“Speaking personally, I have learned so much from the experience, and feel creatively inspired.  To have a tiny musical idea that might just have never been heard by anyone but me in my little studio, turned into a piece played by such a wonderful bunch of people to a live audience in a theatre is a major boost.” Musician

Five out of the seventeen core musicians hadn’t attended an arts event in the previous 12 months and for one this was the first time he had played in public. Many played new genres, composed their own music and played different instruments for the first time, learning valuable new skills and expanding their musical knowledge;

“It has given me the confidence to play and it has encouraged me to write my own music. It has given me a huge amount of happiness and joy.” Musician

The final performance attracted an audience of 288, from which the orchestra were invited by the local council to play at the Spirit of Corby awards to a further 170 people to rave reviews:

“I hope this is a sign of things to come, Corby has so much talent”

“It was fantastic, a big surprise”

Made in Corby engaged two local musicians as paid support artists who got valuable experience of leading groups of musicians in devising and rehearsal.  They are now working with these musicians, alongside other key musicians, to establish the group in their own right and secure funding for the group to employ one of the support artists as their leader; a direct result of the groups enthusiasm to continue working together:

“I want to play more and more. Obviously not every day for two weeks. But still continue to collaborate and write new music together. I want the band to be looked at by the local area as "the" must see band. I think we can do it.” Musician


Photo: Martin Baldock