Joining APO

Please read the information below about how the orchestra works and if you are interested in joining then please contact us.

Rehearsal model

The rehearsal model consists of six main rehearsal events, which are usually in the following timescale before each concert:

  • Initial Rehearsal – five hours of daytime rehearsal anything between 4-8 weeks before the concert, depending on various factors.
  • Rehearsal Day 1 – five hours of daytime rehearsal (three hours of which will usually be sectionals) the Sunday 13 days before a Saturday concert.
  • Rehearsal Day 2 – five hours of daytime rehearsal the Saturday a week before a Saturday concert.
  • Rehearsal Day 3 – five hours of daytime rehearsals the Sunday 6 days before a Saturday concert, usually including time with the soloist(s) and used to record run-throughs of the pieces so that rehearsal notes can be made.
  • Friday Rehearsal – two hours of evening rehearsals the night before a Saturday concert
  • General Rehearsal – three hours of rehearsals on the day of the concert, in the venue.

APO is a project-based orchestra, with rehearsals starting, in earnest, scarily close to each concert date! We don’t have weeks and weeks to assimilate the music, so to ensure that the intensive rehearsal model works, we set out some expectations of how members should practice/prepare. All of the below is a picture of an ideal world; we’re all amateur musicians and competing demands in our lives don’t always permit an ideal approach to practice and preparation. So, please take the below as encouragement, rather than orders!

As a guide, members should endeavour to do the following:

By the Initial RehearsalListen to the works in the programme to ‘get into them’ and, if possible, have a look through parts available on the Internet or in extract books. Andrew may post some links to good recordings on the Rehearsal Resources website (often available on YouTube or streaming services) and interesting articles/notes on the pieces, as well as also contacting individual players to alert them of tricky solos!
Between the Initial Rehearsal and Rehearsal Day 1Listen to the works with their part (issued at the Initial Rehearsal) and mark up any important/difficult passages and prioritised practice on them, having had the chance to identify them at the Initial Rehearsal. Andrew usually supplies a list of markings for parts on the Rehearsal Resources website. Members should really know and understand what they are trying to do at Rehearsal Day 1, even if all the notes aren’t there, yet. Soloists need to have tricky/important solos under the fingers, by this stage.
Between Rehearsal Day 1 and Rehearsal Day 2After sectionals on Rehearsal Day 1, the week between RDs 1 and 2 should be spent consolidating what’s been learned, particularly in a technical sense. When looking through parts (perhaps if you’re too tired/busy to get your instrument out, one evening), you should be actively thinking about how you fit into the wider orchestral texture/who you should be listening too, etc.
On Rehearsal Day 3Start to really challenge yourself to get out of your bubble and give more of your concentration capacity to listening, building ensemble and sound.
Between Rehearsal Day 3 and the Friday RehearsalKeep yourself in the pieces, even if you just look through your part to keep things worked on during rehearsals in working memory. Of course, if you have the time and energy, keep up individual practice on those tricky/exposed passages. Even a small amount of individual practice makes a big difference. Andrew will make the RD3 rehearsal recordings available and (usually towards the end of the week), publish notes on the Rehearsal Resources website. There simply isn’t time to go through all the notes during the Friday and General Rehearsals, so please read and digest!

Rehearsals are held at Reading Blue Coat School, Holme Park, Sonning Lane, Sonning on Thames, RG4 6SU. Directions to the school can be found here.

Fixing

All of APO’s activities rely on the goodwill of volunteer musicians, who choose to spend their precious free time making great music. Whether playing in a small chamber ensemble or a huge orchestra/choir, every member is vital, even in large sections such as the strings. We therefore advocate a ‘full attendance’ policy, underpinned by intelligent rehearsal scheduling and a thorough fixing process.

Fixing takes place on a rolling basis, with a year’s worth of projects (usually concerts, but including other musical activities such as workshops) fixed at a time, usually during or just after a set of rehearsals/concert, via an online form sent out by the section coordinators.

The next event is fixed in detail, with members specifying which sessions they can make and any other relevant information. Fixing for events beyond that are an indication of initial commitment, with members marking one of the following:

  • I have noted the rehearsal and concert dates and agree to make a commitment to be available for them, which I will only rescind if it is impossible to avoid other commitments that present themselves between now and then.
  • I have noted the rehearsal and concert dates, but it is likely that I will have other commitments around that time, and as such I cannot make a firm commitment to APO for the time being.
  • I know for certain that I cannot commit to this project.

Asking for this indication of availability/commitment, up to a year ahead, is very important, as it enables the committee, and especially section coordinators, to deal with any issues early. With each new fixing form, members will find themselves reconfirming an indication/commitment already made. Not only does this mean that we have the very latest information, it’s easier for us to process the information, that way!

Vacancies and standard required

APO seeks to provide an opportunity for as many amateur musicians to play/sing in its rehearsals, workshops and performances. Whilst seeking maximum accessibility, it is necessary, in order to ensure enjoyment for ensembles as a whole, to specify some minimum standards required for participation in various APO activities, in terms of musical ability.

General standard and strings

Excluding the special requirements detailed below, the only criterion for participation in APO’s musical activities is that all players need to demonstrate an ability to play or sing in ensemble. This can be in terms of tuning, rhythm, phrasing or articulation. If you’re a string player and meet these criteria, do contact us. We generally always have room for more violins, violas and basses. There are often vacancies in the cellos, too, though we have had one or two concerts where we have been oversubscribed versus the proportions in the upper strings.

Woodwind, brass and percussion

APO has been fortunate to call upon the services of many talented woodwind, brass and percussion players, over the course of its existence. Unfortunately, this has its drawbacks. There aren’t enough parts in every concert for everyone to play and having different players each time doesn’t help to build a coherent section – especially when APO works with such a limited and intensive rehearsal schedule.

To try and get the best of both worlds, APO runs a Wind/Percussion ‘Pool’, which usually has slightly more players than there are parts for concerts, meaning that when doing smaller scale works, players take turns to sit out a piece, or occasionally an entire concert. We also maintain a list of deps for each section. Members of the wind pool are sent the fixing form as a matter of course, whereas deps are only contacted on an as needed basis.

The ultimate aim is to have a settled and balanced section of players, who can maintain a good general standard and improve through playing together as a unit. Therefore, in addition to the ability to play in ensemble stipulated above, Wind/Percussion players must meet the general technical standard of the section as a whole.

To ensure this standard is met, we only appoint players as members of the wind pool if we know their playing standard through them having depped for existing wind pool members, or through audition. Occasionally, if necessary, individual players or sections may be reauditioned, to achieve the correct balance of skills and sound.

Decisions about all playing membership matters are made solely by the Music Director.

Singers

From time to time, APO performs orchestral works that require singers. A list of APO singers who meet the required standard is kept for such occasions. The criteria for being added to this list are that individuals must have an appropriate range for their voice type, a voice that is likely to blend well with others and within an orchestral texture, a high level of sight-reading ability and/or the ability to learn parts quickly. The Music Director may require singers to audition in order to check that these standards are met.

Concert Dress

Our evening concert dress is smart, elegant, long black for ladies and black tie for gentlemen. A splash of colour is allowed in accessories, bow ties and cummerbunds.

Membership Fees

APO doesn’t charge a subscription fee. However, we do ask for a voluntary donation on a concert by concert basis.