IT’s the “end or an era” for Leamington Sinfonia orchestra, whose members are bidding a fond farewell to a conductor who has been a “musical inspiration” for the past 28 years.
Jenny Barrie, who will celebrate her 60th birthday later this month, joined the orchestra when it was just an evening class with 14 members in April 1985 and, over the years, has developed it into the thriving 55-strong organisation it is today.
Funnily enough, when Jenny first came across the group, she was not too impressed. She said: “I saw them playing and I didn’t think they were very good. I was looking for an evening class to teach, so I asked if I could take over tutoring. Luckliy, the previous tutor had just resigned.
“It had been a very imbalanced orchestra, so to improve the situation, they became an independent society. They are wonderful now.”
Despite having a professional job as conductor of the Hook Norton Brass Band, doing freelance musical tutoring and organising musical tours, Jenny has been committed to regularly travelling from her home in Shipston-on-Stour to Leamington to lead the Sinfonia in her spare time.
She said: “It has been a wonderful privilege to conduct them.
“The age range of members is from early 20s to late 70s, but they all get on very well and some have set up their own string quartets and music groups and a lot of them often organise pub socials. One group is cycling to the Loire Valley in May.
“A lot of the members have become good friends of mine. It has been a big part of my life. It’s only two hours a week, but in reality, it’s much more than that.
“But I have always said I would stay while there is a challenge. I don’t think the orchestra can get much better now, so there is nothing much left for me to do. They also need a different conductor because they have got very used to me - it’s tying them down.
“I do feel that I have done a good job when I look at the orchestra and hear what other people say about them. They are a very exciting orchestra.”
Alex Morris, of the orchestra, said: “It is truly the end of an era. Through Jenny’s leadership, the Leamington Sinfonia has become of the most accomplished amateur orchestras in Warwickshire.
“She has been a musical inspiration.”
Jenny will conduct her last concert with the Sinfonia at the Kingsley School in Beauchamp Avenue, Leamington, on Saturday March 2 at 7.30pm. For details, visit www.leamingtonsinfonia.org.uk