It has been another good and busy year for Semitones, with the emphasis very much on sustaining and developing our core activity of making music together for the benefit of the community. The normal pattern has been to rehearse on the first two Sundays of the month and give concerts in the second two Sundays, and this generally works well. Over 20 concerts have been given, mainly in care homes and retirement flats, but also in Jesmond Library, in the elegant Gibside Chapel, and on the windy bandstands of Saltwell Park and Exhibition Park, while in a new venture some Semitones members played to a very enthusiastic audience at a weekday lunch club in Wallsend.
The number of players remains very healthy, and there's a welcome diversity in terms of inistruments, ages and levels of experience (even more strings always desirable!). Our longsuffering regular conductors, John and Will in the early part of 2016, and Alex in the later part, have coped extremely well with the fact that, reflecting players' availability, the line-up is slightly different every time, and we thank them very much for all their sterling work. All the playing members are to be thanked for their distinctive contributions, and we are especially grateful to those who also make all the arrangements with minimum fuss and maximum efficiency: Ewa, Jennifer and Jen. Thanks also to Peter not only for his beautiful trumpet-playing, but for acting as compere for our concerts in such a warm and engaging way.
Annette's grant-raising talents have helped us to gain further much-needed funding. We received £850 from the City Council to perform concerts in North and South Jesmond, East Gosforth and Parklands; £600 (shared with Jesmond Dementia Action Alliance, JDAA) to do observations of our concerts, with a further £100 from the Concertina Trust for this joint project (explained below); £500 from the Skipton Building Society to run master classes for the group; and £300 from the Big Lottery, Awards for All, to buy sheet music from the 50s and 60s. As always, we are very grateful to All Saints Church, Gosforth, for the use of their premises for rehearsals, and we are pleased to be able to repay their generosity occasionally by supplying music for their afternoon tea events.
We are always seeking to improve the quality of experience for the people we play to, and 2016 saw a major new development in collaboration with Kellie Morrissey of the Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University. Kellie is attending our concerts, observing how audiences respond and producing detailed reports recommending ways that we can engage still better with them. It will be one of the exciting challenges in 2017 to take Kellie's ideas forward.