The Orchestra

The Solway Sinfonia is an amateur orchestra based in Dumfries & Galloway with its members being drawn from the south of Scotland and north of England.  Many of its members have made their careers in music and all play to a standard of at least Grade 7. Each year the orchestra puts on a number of public concerts and a few workshop study days.  

Over 27 years ago a group of musicians, mainly drawn from the old Galloway Chamber Orchestra in Newton Stewart, came together for a performance of Faure’s Requiem. One of the violinists, Sarah Berker, subsequently asked the conductor, Geoff Keating, if he would conduct the first performance of her ‘Caerlaverlock Suite’, written for the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve. A concert was organised at the Easterbrook Hall, Dumfries on October 12, 1997, with an orchestra of some sixty players.

The success of this event inspired the idea of an orchestra which would convene a couple of times each year. The rest is history.

For 21 years the orchestra was very fortunate to be conducted by Geoff Keating. When Geoff retired in 2018 the orchestra set about finding a new Musical Director. Now under the baton of young Argentinian conductor Hilario Flores-Coni the orchestra continues to inspire community spirit and aspire to the highest standards of music making.

Join Us

We are always keen to hear from players of any orchestral instrument.

We perform two main concerts a year with five rehearsals before each. The subscription is currently £25 for the first concert of the season and £15 for the second. Modest travelling expenses are available to help players attend rehearsals and concerts.

We aim to achieve as high a standard of playing as possible. We therefore ask that members play to at least at grade 7 standard.

If you are interested in joining us please contact us via contact@solwaysinfonia.org.uk with your contact details and a brief description of your playing experience.

Conductor

The orchestra is between conductors at present but is delighted to welcome Jonathan Mann to conduct our Autumn concert.

Hailed by Bernard Haitink for the “infectious joy in his conducting and music making”, Jonathan Mann is in demand as both performer and music educator. He has conducted extensively internationally with recent collaborations as diverse as the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra, Chineke! Youth Orchestra (London) and the Arad State Philharmonic Orchestra (Romania).

He is currently Music Director of UK based Ensemble Cambrica, Artistic Director of the Cardiff International Academy of Conducting and Consultant for Orchestras and Conducting with the Association of Music in International Schools.

At the Jeunesses Musicales International Conducting Competition 2015 in Bucharest, Jonathan received the George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra prize and a special jury prize leading to his Polish debut with the Kielce Philharmonic Orchestra. He was also previously selected as one of 20 finalists from 300 live auditionees to participate in the prestigious Besancon International Conducting Competition in France.

As founder and Music Director of the Cardiff Sinfonietta, Jonathan Mann oversaw the orchestra’s expansion over a 15 year period. The orchestra broadcast for the BBC and S4C and worked with soloists including Nicola Benedetti, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Benjamin Grosvenor, Sunwook Kim and Dennis O’Neill. At the start of 2020 the Cardiff Sinfonietta merged with the Welsh Sinfonia to form Ensemble Cambrica, an exciting new orchestra aimed at reaching the community in innovative ways.

Passionate about inspiring young musicians, Jonathan Mann has conducted numerous youth orchestra festivals around the world. From 2015 – 2022 he was Artistic Director of the Immanuel Orchestra in Bangkok which is loosely modeled on the renowned Venezuelan music program ‘El Sistema’. During this time he raised the standard of the orchestra performing symphonies by Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart and Schubert and helped mentor students encouraging them into higher education.

Jonathan is also a popular teacher of conducting as guest clinician for universities and conferences and teaches classes at his home and virtually. He is Artistic Director of the Cardiff International Academy of Conducting providing intensive live and virtual courses for emerging conductors and with the founding of the Thai Conductors Forum in 2019 he has started to mentor a new generation of young Thai conductors.

Leader

Violinist Sarah Berker has been the leader of the Solway Sinfonia since the very first concert.   In her words …

I live in Langholm with my partner of 41 years, Steve, and have a daughter, Sadie, who is just finishing a post-grad at Glasgow University.

Earliest musical influences: My Dad playing vinyl on a Sunday afternoon (Da Falla, Kabalevsky, Brahms, Montserrat Caballe, Andres Segovia). Primary music teacher, Harold Cooper who taught us to read music on hand bells (if you were good you got to play two at once).

King Edward VI College Stourbridge (Robert Plant had just left when I got there). We had a fabulous orchestra and played several times in The Schools Prom, Albert Hall (with Rick Wakeman of Yes).

Music Degree at Hull University: I had violin lessons with Eta Cohen’s daughter, Maureen, but rarely got past bar 2 in lessons. She was furious I played the Franck Sonata in my final performance… probably thought I was only up for Haydn.

Teacher training at Bath College followed by almost unbroken period of 35 years teaching in secondary schools (had a break in Spain for a year when I wrote my ‘Caerlaverock Suite’).

I’ve been the ‘music wifey’ at Langholm for the last 22 years but  will finish this summer and take up basket weaving and knitting.

Favourite Composers: Shostakovich, Bach, Verdi and Frank Zappa.

Favourite hobbies: bird-watching, travelling around Spain and wine-sampling ….. and practising the violin.

I’m proud to be a member of the Solway Sinfonia and feel privileged to be able to play challenging music among a fabulous group of talented friends.

Past Concerts

View a list of our past concerts here.