THE performance by the English Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Kenneth Woods. at the Shirehall in Hereford on Sunday, February 7 was an exciting event for a number of reasons.

For four Herefordshire youngsters, the concert provided the opportunity to sit and play alongside professional musicians during the performance of Beethoven's Third Symphony. The launch of the ESO's "orchestral scholars" programme gave musicians such as Orlando Timmerman the chance to do exactly this. "It was brilliant to see and to be a part of the routine followed by a professional orchestra," said Orlando, a member of Herefordshire Youth Orchestra, who was joined in this project by Tara Dudhill (violin) and William Thomson (clarinet), fellow members of HYO, and also by a member of the Academia Musica Orchestra at Hereford Sixth Form College.

Orlando continued, "Each of us had a desk partner who was a member of the orchestra, to answer any questions and to help and advise on technique. They were very friendly - everyone in the orchestra, including the conductor, was very welcoming to us and encouraging, and made us feel part of it all. I would love to do it again if given the opportunity."

The concert began with the UK premiere of green/blue by Canadian composer Emily Doolittle, and this was following by a stunning performance of the famous violin concerto in E minor by Mendelssohn. Following the interval, the four youngsters took to the stage for the Beethoven in the second half. Orlando summed up the experience perfectly: "I had never heard this before I started learning it for the concert but it has now become one of my favourite orchestral pieces. It was wonderful being part of an orchestra with such accomplished and full sections, and I have learned a great deal over the past two days."

Jon Weller, Acting Manager of HYM, attended the concert and was pleased with the impact the performance had on both the young musicians and the regular ESO players: "At the reception afterwards, it was apparent that the partnership had been as rewarding for the professionals at it had been for those aspiring, perhaps, to become professionals. There was a great feeling of warmth in the concert hall and it is a delight to see and hear the ESO right on our doorstep."