Orchestra History

The Old Barn Orchestra has been giving concerts in Maidstone and the Medway Towns for the last 95 years. It was founded in 1927 and incorporated with a full constitution the following year. Its name derives from its first meeting place, which was the music room – a converted barn - of County Medical Officer Dr Ponder and his family at Abbey Court in Sandling, north of Maidstone.


In the 1950s, the conductor was also Director of the Kent Rural Music School (now Kent Music), and she encouraged many music teachers to play in the orchestra. There are still several teachers in the orchestra, although there is no formal link with Kent Music. In the last thirty years, conductors have been Frank Ray, Martyn Williams, Michael Downes, Christopher Hayward, Bryan Gipps and Dwight Pile-Gray. 

Since the 1990s, programmes have included Glazunov’s Saxophone Concerto, Vaughan Williams’ Tuba Concerto, the first performance in Kent of Percy Whitlock’s Organ Symphony and less conventional music from the likes of Poulenc, Krommer and Milhaud. Familiar great composers have not been neglected, and the list includes the great symphonists Franck, Balakirev and Bruckner.

Since 2013 the schedule has included symphonies by Mozart, Haydn, Schumann, Brahms, Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky, as well as shorter works by Fauré, Saint-Saëns, Donizetti, Gluck, Järnefelt and Elgar. The orchestra currently rehearses for these concerts
in the Maidstone area on Friday evenings in term time. We pride ourselves on being a friendly group with a number of social events in addition to concerts and rehearsals. We also try to give an opportunity for local young musicians, particularly the Medway Young Musician of the year, to experience playing with an orchestra.