East Lothian Council Instrumental Music Service recently enjoyed a week long residency with the Countess of Wessex’s String Orchestra (CWSO).

It was a real treat for us to be able to share part of this experience of this with parents and carers at the concert in the Brunton

The London-based CWSO can usually be found performing for investitures and ceremonies at the Royal households, so it was a particular pleasure for to welcome them into East Lothian schools. Over the course of the week the orchestra visited five schools, working with over 150 young string players from Dunbar Grammar School, Dunbar Primary School, Preston Lodge High School, North Berwick High School, Law Primary School, Musselburgh Grammar School, Knox Academy and Ross High School. 

Concert performance

Each school visit consisted of a side-by-side rehearsal for the young people, a presentation and concert performance. The side-by-side session allowed the young musicians to work with, learn from and play alongside these inspiring professionals. The presentation then gave the young musicians an insight into what the orchestra normally do and offered them opportunity to learn more about potential careers in British Army Music.

The concert performance then offered the CWSO a platform to showcase their superb musical skills and offered the young people the chance to join the CWSO on stage to perform to their peers. 

'Incredibly proud'

Jodie Hannan, Head Teacher at Musselburgh Grammar School commented: “We were delighted to have the CWSO in the school. I had the privilege of listening to the rehearsals, and it was an absolute treat to hear such beautiful music fill the hall for hours. I am so incredibly proud of all our young musicians. I always speak of the privilege of being a Head Teacher for our amazing young people and the importance of finding the joy in everything we do as teachers – this was one of those most joyous uplifting days.

"Thank you to the CWSO for letting our musicians play alongside you, and congratulations to our pupils for your wonderful achievement. “

The finale of the week was a joint concert in the Brunton Theatre’s Venue 1 to a near capacity crowd. The CWSO performed a programme of classical music in the first half before being joined in the second half by the ELC Secondary School String Orchestra, with special guests from Law and Dunbar Primary Schools.

Performing with professional musicians

Instrumental Music Service Team Manager, Jonathan Gawn, commented “With almost 100 musicians on stage the sound of the combined orchestra was just incredible. It’s great that our young people have access to so much music online and through recordings but it’s not comparable to hearing professional musicians of this standard live. For our young people to have the opportunity to then share the stage and perform with these professionals was just incredible.

"Our biggest concern of the week was fitting them all onstage! I’m sure this is an experience our young people won’t forget for a very long time.”

"A great week of music making"

Staff Sergeant, Band Master, John Brown commented “The Countess of Wessex’s String Orchestra are thrilled to have worked with East Lothian Council Instrumental Service and their talented young musicians. It was a great week of music making and a pleasure to have the opportunity to work alongside and inspire so many talented young people.

"This was a great opportunity for the CWSO to inform the young people of East Lothian, about British Army Music and to assist the pupils in their musical development. The result was a sensational side-by-side performance, in the Brunton Theatre, which was thoroughly enjoyed by all present. The pupils in East Lothian were an inspiration to the CWSO and I’d like to say a massive thank you to all involved for a great week of music making”


Instrumental Music Service Instructor Fiona Smith commented: “The CWSO musicians have been so inspiring with our young people. They’ve ensured the young people felt comfortable during every part of the residency and it’s been incredible to see the young people’s confidence grow during the week.

"The atmosphere and buzz in the schools has been fantastic and it was a real treat for us to be able to share part of this experience of this with parents and carers at the concert in the Brunton.

"I certainly had no idea that the standard of musicianship in British Army Music was so high or that a career in the armed forces could be so diverse!”


View more performances from Instrumental Music Service residencies and activites on the IMS Youtube Channel

Published: Wednesday, 25th January 2023