The Bigger Picture

What makes Britain ‘philharmonic’?

While we all applaud and enjoy following the nation’s wealth of professional musicians, the greater part of musicians in the UK are in fact non-professionals. Choirs, symphony orchestras, brass bands, wind bands, string orchestras – even less familiar entities like saxophone orchestras – abound nationwide. They gather weekly in every region, drawn together by all the rewards that come from making music, and brighten their communities with everything they do.

Our friends at Making Music – the UK’s principal organisation supporting leisure-time music-making – represent over 3,600 such groups comprising around 200,000 music-makers. At the RPS, we want to celebrate everything that makes the nation musical, and going forward that includes shining a light on more such musicians, so vital to our collective musical ecology and prosperity.

The RPS Inspiration Award has become a new fixture of our annual RPS Awards, newly honouring such non-professional groups and, uniquely, voted for by the public. It was presented in 2021 to Bristol Choral Society and their boundless Music Director Hilary Campbell, in 2023 to Torbay Symphony Orchestra, and in 2024 to Derbyshire's Derwent Brass.

We plan to get out and meet more such groups, to find out why they’re special to their members and their community, and tell their story here on our website, as we do for many professionals, established and arising. What’s more, where we can, we want to bridge two worlds and take professional musicians to make music with their non-professional counterparts, given we’re all part of the same community, with a shared belief in the power of music. Click below for glimpse into some such trips we've recently made, the acclaimed soloists we took with us, and the music they explored with each group:

Dorking Choral Society meets baritone Roderick Williams
Vaughan Williams A Sea Symphony

Reigate & Redhill Choral Society meets mezzo soprano Kathryn Rudge
Elgar The Music Makers

Tonbridge Philharmonic Society meets soprano Anna Patalong
Verdi Requiem

Brighton Festival Chorus meets tenor Andrew Staples
J. S. Bach St Matthew Passion

We very much look forward to visiting more non-professional groups, as means permit, in the months ahead.

If you’d like to find a friendly, welcoming musical group you could join in your locality, head to Making Music’s website which is a great starting point.

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