Kent's specialist string orchestra, based near Faversham.

The History of the Orchestra

A reminiscence by Don Goodsell, our president


We still hear of people saying when asked, that the orchestra is probably so named name because its players live in or near Oare, making it a sort community orchestra, which it isn't If you want the truth read on. It's a story worth telling, and while I'm still around I'll tell it.

It began with a chance meeting at Harty Ferry on the East Swale. It was here, in the summer of 1982, that the orchestra's long-serving conductor (Peter Aviss) and Don Goodsell, both keen cruising yachtsmen met, quite by chance. Don had fairly recently moved to Oare, and was returning from a few days sailing on the Essex Coast. but returning with a problem on his mind. Before moving to Kent he'd lived in Hertfordshire where he worked and where there was plenty of music. He played the cello in a local orchestra and would often spend an evening with friends around the piano playing classical trios, but young men in their twenties tend to move on. Nevertheless the three players kept in touch. The trio's violinist married and moved to Godalming where, a keen churchman, he was appointed choirmaster, raising his . choir to a good performing standard.

Don had answered the unexpected phone-call as he was gathering his gear for his trip to Essex. It was his violinist friend from Godalming. "I'm sure you've made many musical friends in Kent. Could you get some of them together and come over to accompany my choir?"

Navigating the Thames Estuary is not an easy task at the best of times, but this request from an old friend wouldn't make it easier. At least he was now safely back in home-waters. All that remained boat-wise was to bring the plastic tender, which he'd towed, ashore. There were a few other sailing folk on the hard, one of whom (a younger man) offered him a hand, so leaving his boat (Capriol 2) safely at anchor, and with the dinghy now ashore he prepared for the mile or so walk to Oare. He thanked his willing helper.

Sailing folk get to know other sailing folk, so the opening gambit - "We've met before haven't we?" earned the response "Yes, you look familiar, but where? I don't think it was sailing?" The truth surfaced: they both played in the Maidstone Symphony Orchestra in which the younger man played the viola. As he had left his car in Oare they walked there together talking sailing and music, as young men often do. The 'younger man' was Peter Aviss, who had certainly had a thorough musical education and had gone on to work for the BBC. I was an just an amateur, but one with a musical problem, so I told him about the Godalming request.

By the time we had walked to Oare we had pooled our string-playing friends, just over 20 of them, and laid plans for setting up a string orchestra to take to Godalming. Peter, with his training as a conductor, would conduct. A few doors along the road from where I still live was the village schoolroom, which I booked for our rehearsal and possibly a trial concert. The local papers picked up the story, so before long Oare String Orchestra was local news. Was that as long ago as 1982? It was!

No sooner had I started preparing posters to announce our inaugural concert than with a knock at the door I was offered Oare's church of St. Peter as a more appropriate venue than the schoolroom. Here, on 17th October 1982 Oare String Orchestra gave it's inaugural concert of music from Geminiani to Percy Fletcher, with a Vivaldi Flute Concerto played by Rosemary Rathbone, a one-time student of the Royal Academy of Music who formerly played with the Bournemouth Sinfonietta.

That mix of classics and light music set the pattern that OSO has maintained for the many years that have followed which included concerts in Holland, France and Denmark , but moving more recently to the fine acoustics of the concert hall at the nearby West Faversham Community Centre.