We run orchestras at three different levels. At the Summer and Christmas courses, we have a full-scale symphony orchestra for players of Grade 6 and above. Music is from the classical repertoire, and results are outstanding. At the Summer courses, we also have an Intermediate Orchestra for players of Grade 4+, where the music is somewhat lighter but children have the experience of playing within a full orchestra. Also, at every course, there is a very popular Training Orchestra for players of Grade 2 and above.




We run three string ensembles at every course: Training Strings (players up to Grade 2 standard), Intermediate Strings (Grade 2 and above), and Upper Strings (Grade 4 and above).

Wind bands

We run three wind bands for woodwind, brass and percussion: Training Band (players of at least Grade 1 standard); Intermediate Band (Grade 3 and above); and Upper Band (Grade 5 and above).


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10+ Choir

Our choirs, which run in every session, are open to all children and no prior experience is necessary. In addition, we often include a chamber choir for older, more advanced, children who have some sight-singing experience.




We like to include recorder groups in our timetables, usually requiring Grade 1 standard on the recorder but sometimes intended for complete beginners. When possible, we also have an Advanced Recorder ensemble for children playing all sizes of recorder from descant to bass.


Gamelan, Christmas 2011When Holiday Orchestra is held at West Road Concert Hall, we are fortunate to have expert tuition for playing the University’s full gamelan orchestra, providing a unique opportunity for children to learn this unique style of music.


Hogmanay 2011 250 (640x428)At Christmas and Summer, we run two jazz workshops of differing levels taught by jazz musicians, for almost any instruments. Improvisation is encouraged for those who want to try it. The lunchtime presentation is always popular.


Hogmanay 2011 230 (640x428)Players with percussion experience can play with one of the wind bands or orchestras. We also often run sessions such as Percussion Games or Junk Percussion which are open to players with no prior experience. Hogmanay 2011 274

Djembe Drumming


Djembe Drumming

African drumming (drums provided) features clear and precise rhythms. The drums are of different pitches and the overall effect is surprising and great fun!


Folk Music

Folk Music

Wherever possible, we include Folk Music at two different levels. One requires Grade 4+ on a suitable instrument and may focus on a particular folk tradition. The other, ‘Folk For Fun’ is for all-comers, including singers as well as instrumentalists.

Folk Dancing has proved a very popular addition recently.


Ukuleles are increasingly popular, both with children and also with adults. We have brought them into the Holiday Orchestra mix with, whenever possible, a beginners’ group and a more advanced group. We provide the instruments, but children may bring their own. No written music is used: the children learn the chords and the rhythms, sing the songs, and have a lot of fun.

Taster Sessions

As the opportunity arises, Holiday Orchestra provides `Taster’ sessions on some of the more unusual orchestral instruments such as double basses, trombones, tubas and bassoons. These sessions are intended for children who already play a different instrument to a reasonable standard and so read music competently. They can then concentrate on mastering the new instrument. A grade standard is always required.

Music Games

We sometimes offer Music Games sessions for which no prior experience is required. These sessions are especially suited to younger children and are intended to be musical fun whilst also inculcating a sense of internal rhythm and providing a first ensemble experience. Varieties include Move and Sing, Rhythm Explosion, Percussion Games and Musical Merrymaking.


Music theory! In the ABRSM system, Grade 5 Theory is needed before a player can progress to Grade 6 performance exams. It is also very useful in the understanding and performance of music, but it is not an easy exam. However, Kirsty Body takes children through the basics of the four main topics and manages to make it fun and illuminating for them. We don’t promise an instant Pass but people do find this course very useful.


Despite having a wide range of musical offerings, we like to ring the changes by occasionally introducing new groups to give the children a different experience. Most of these have no grade requirements and have included Boomwhackers, Belle Plates, Ocarinas and Glock `n’ Roll, Samba and Steel Pans.