Our first Childrens’ Concert was in 2002. It took the form of performing music such as Peter and the Wolf and the Toy Symphony to children from local primary schools.  

Other concerts followed, and took on a new format in 2012 when we worked with a group of schools including Little Waltham and Newlands Spring. Concerts became more interactive, with a facilitator or our conductor explaining the story behind the music and what the orchestra was doing. Some children got to volunteer to use our props and act out various roles. In 2012 we also had children from the Gifted & Talented registers to play in the orchestra.

In 2019, the format changed again and in this year we held our first Young People’s Orchestral Workshop. We invited young instrumentalists from all the primary and secondary schools in Chelmsford and the surrounding area to come and join us at St John Payne School, playing alongside our members to rehearse and perform some fantastic music.

We have found that to help schools participate we need to obtain sponsorship specifically for the concert. In 2007, Making Music generously provided funding and we were especially fortunate that the finance group M&G contributed substantial funding to the orchestra’s childrens’ concerts from the very beginning until 2019 as part of their community sponsorship programme.


Free Young People’s Orchestral Workshop

Sunday 5th May 2024 at St John Payne School, Chelmsford

Essex Symphony Orchestra is delighted, once again, to invite young musicians to join them for a morning to enjoy orchestral playing alongside experienced players and under the guidance of our professional conductor, Mr Robert Hodge (

The workshop is for pupils who learn an orchestral instrument in or out of school and who have passed Grade 1to Grade 5. This year there will be just one session for everyone so that all players can enjoy the full orchestral sound created by the mix of beginner, intermediate and Grade 4/5 parts.

The workshop will be from 10.00 am – 1.30pm on Sunday 5th May 2024.

To comply with safeguarding guidelines, a parent or responsible adult will need to accompany their child to the workshop; in previous workshops parents sat all around the edges of the hall and really enjoyed watching how the music came together.

If you would like your child to take part, please email:

Catherine Gunnett (member of Essex Symphony Orchestra) at with the following information:

  • Child’s Name
  • School’s Name
  • Orchestral instrument (i.e. NOT piano, keyboard, guitar, recorder). We do, however, have a few spaces for drummers who would like to play orchestral percussion.
  • Grade attained
  • Parent/carer contact email and phone number

You will then be given further details about the day, including the music that we will be playing so that you can choose the best ability level for your child and then they can practise it at home and with their instrumental tutor before the day of the workshop.

If you would like further information about the Essex Symphony Orchestra and to see pictures and a review of previous workshops, please see below

Our last workshop was very popular and there are limited places for each instrument, so please reply as soon as possible to secure your child’s participation.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Kind regards

Catherine Gunnett

Member of Essex Symphony Orchestra


After a year’s break due to Covid, we were delighted, once again, to welcome young players to join us for a day of music making at St John Payne School on Sunday 22nd May 2022; the event was attended by 62 young players from more than 20 different primary and secondary schools, accompanied by family members.


Under the superb direction of our conductor, Robert Hodge, we played simplified arrangements of fabulous music taken from the BBC’s Ten Pieces.


In the morning, following a series of fun warm-up activities, we played the Doctor Who theme, arranged by Delia Derbyshire and Symphony No.1 in G major (Allegro) by Chevalier de Saint-Georges; two fantastically contrasting pieces. Players in the morning were of a Grade1-3 standard and, for some, it was their very first experience of orchestral playing.


In the afternoon it was the turn of more experienced players of a Grade 4-5 standard and we played  ‘Rondeau’ from Purcell’s Abdelazer Suite (the melody used by Benjamin Britten in his Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra), Grieg’s ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’ and, finally, the Juba Dance from Florence Price’s Symphony No.1 in E minor: famous melodies, great rhythms, exciting accelerandos – the afternoon had it all!


Everyone had a great time; orchestra members enjoyed sharing their enthusiasm and expertise with youngsters at the beginning of their musical journey; proud parents loved watching the process of rehearsal and seeing how the final performance was achieved; and the young players were able to experience the awe and wonder of making such a huge orchestral sound without any worries about wrong notes, rhythms or counting because they had someone right beside them to help and encourage.


The ESO is passionate about encouraging young players to join orchestras so, as always, we followed up the event by providing parents with details of local youth ensembles and orchestras that their children might like to join.


Feedback from players and parents has been very positive.  Members of the orchestra said ‘it was a joy to spend time with such enthusiastic young musicians’, ‘I really enjoyed helping the young players and was very impressed by how they responded’, ‘it’s so important that we at ESO encourage young instrumentalists and this workshop was the perfect way to inspire and spread the enjoyment of orchestral music making’.  Parents offered the following comments from their child’s experience of the day: ‘enjoyed playing in the orchestra’, ‘great fun and a new experience’, ‘Great atmosphere and lovely experience’. Favourite things about the day were ‘Breaking down the pieces’, ‘playing new repertoire’ and ‘switching seats’ which was done so that the children could feel what it was like to play in other sections of the orchestra besides their own. Other great takeaways from the event were ‘the final result’ and how it was ‘wonderful to listen to the rehearsals’. One thing that everyone agreed on that made the day such a success was ‘the fun environment’ and ‘the laughing between the kids and the members of the orchestra!’


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