Meet our players: Rosemary Stanbury and Michael Oliver

Michael Oliver

Rosemary Stanbury

‘Meet our players’ is intended as a regular feature on our website to introduce different members of the orchestra and find out a bit more about the people that make up NWSO. 

Rosemary Stanbury and Michael Oliver are the two orchestra members who have been with the NWSO (then NWO) right from the very start. They both have played, and are still playing, leading roles in the orchestra. We thought we’d use the occasion of our 50 year anniversary to find out a bit more about their time with the orchestra and their likes and dislikes…

Q: What instrument do you play in the orchestra?

Rosemary: Viola

Michael: I was principal viola for many years from the start until asked to take over as leader in 1997 and have stayed on violin since then.

Q: You have been member of the orchestra since its beginning in 1966. How did you first become involved with the NWSO and what is your memory of the first year?

Rosemary: Just married and new to the area I was invited to play chamber music with a family acquaintance at Marlborough College. There I heard about the plans for a new orchestra, auditioned and was invited to lead. I remained in the hot seat until 1984. 50 years is a long time and I’m afraid I remember nothing of the first year!

Michael: I was involved with the orchestra from the start because I knew the people who were the inaugurators.

Q: What has been your favourite concert over the years?

Rosemary: Early days performing with Jack Brymer, more recently the 40th Anniversary concert with Philip Martin.

Michael: I don’t think I have a particular favourite concert but the “Last Night of the Proms” concerts have been special, with so much atmosphere.

Q: Has there ever been a ‘catastrophic’ concert?

Rosemary: Yes! I remember one very embarrassing occasion when the orchestra outnumbered the audience.

Michael: I have memories of playing some Brahms in a concert as part of the Cricklade Festival that was fairly dire.

Q: Your best memory?

Rosemary: The vast amount of repertoire we have worked at.

Michael: Playing the solo violin part in sections of Mahler 4th Symphony on the violin tuned a tone higher and not having the wrong violin at any time!

Q: What do you enjoy most about being part of the orchestra?

Rosemary: Being in the centre of the action

Michael: I’ve enjoyed being a part of the orchestra over the years and knowing all the people who have played in it.

Q: If you could play any other instrument, what would it be and why?

Rosemary: I quite fancy having a go in the percussion department

Michael: The flute – I have tried over the years but never achieved any standard. I love the tone of it.

Q: What is your favourite piece of music?

Rosemary: To play, Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony, because of its incredible intricate form of the final movement. To listen to, any Brahms symphony

Michael: Beethoven’s 7th Symphony (really the slow movement)

Q: Any advice that you would pass on to music students?

Rosemary: Experience as many different types of music that you can, and practise your scales!

Michael: As I’ve never been a music student I wouldn’t have any, but for amateurs I would say join a group to suit your standard, as playing with others will improve your technique.

Q: Small ensemble or symphony orchestra?

Rosemary: Both.

Michael: I don’t have a preference between small ensemble and symphony orchestra – I enjoy both equally.

Q: Most disliked instrument?

Rosemary: Bagpipes

Michael: Saxophone – because it’s so loud!

Q: Favourite cake?

Rosemary: Anything containing ground almonds

Michael: Chocolate Gateau

Q: Famous person you’d most like to meet?

Rosemary: Sir David Attenborough

Michael: Nicola Benedetti