My Herts Life: Ann Parkhouse

Letchwroth Sinfonia founder member Ann Parkhouse

Letchwroth Sinfonia founder member Ann Parkhouse - Credit: Archant

The celebrated Letchworth Sinfonia marks its 30th anniversary with a special concert this month. Patsy Hudson talks to founder member Ann Parkhouse about this remarkable group of musicians

Letchworth Sinfonia rehearsing at The Settlement

Letchworth Sinfonia rehearsing at The Settlement - Credit: Archant

How did Letchworth Sinfonia begin? I played the oboe in a woodwind octet, after being lucky enough to be accepted at the Hitchin Music School as an adult student. Mostly we performed in people’s homes – as we still do. I met Janet Hickson, then a member of a string-section group and we decided to combine our sounds. Luckily, we then found the first of our three superb conductors, the late Kerry Camden – who was with us for the first 25 years.

Where do you perform – and where do the performers come from? We are now under the baton of Mark Galtrey, who is 30-something and not only a trained orchestra conductor but a talented cellist and singer. He’s also a science graduate working as an accountant. I’m a retired maths teacher, wife of a retired dentist, a mother and a grandmother. Just about every profession and age is represented in the membership, with many of the members working outside Letchworth, so rehearsals are held on Sunday afternoons in the Letchworth Settlement Theatre. Most of the three concerts a year are held in the Letchworth Free Church (Ann is pictured centre, above). But our new year concert will be at St Christopher’s School – which has a great piano.

What form has your involvement taken over the past 30 years? I was secretary of the sinfonia for 19 years. My first minutes were hand-written and then I was given – joy of joys – an electric typewriter! Then I held the role of chairman for seven years – cue computer! – before I decided, in October, it was time for new blood. That’s the advantage of an orchestra full of people with experience in the non-music world: we have a lot of administrative talent as well as musical talent. But I’ve recently moved home and some of the boxes are as yet unpacked, so I needed to hand over the admin reins and just let my oboe do the talking for me.

Do you need musicians? We are always interested in new members. We have a website and the Letchworth Tourist Bureau in Station Road – which does our bookings – has our contact numbers. But more than just wanting more orchestra members, I’d like to encourage everyone to play an instrument and discover the joy – and discipline – music brings to your life. I was lucky to live in Manchester and hear the wonderful Hallé Orchestra in the era when seats were 1/6d in the Gods.

In those days there was no such thing as music being taught in schools apart from the odd violin lessons. Nowadays, music, not just the piano or violin, is a popular part of most schools’ curriculums. Society will be the better for it. And our 30th anniversary concert is also a very good introduction to classical music for first-time listeners – whatever their ages.


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Letchworth Sinfonia’s New Year Concert featuring concert pianist Madalina Rusu, takes place on Sunday January 18 at St Christopher’s School, Letchworth from 7.30pm. Tickets are £5-£10. See