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Radcliffe Orchestra

History of the Orchestra

Dr Donald Lane
In 1978 a group of hospital musicians, led by respiratory consultant Dr Donald Lane, came together to give a concert in memory of a young nurse named Jill Broadis who had died of melanoma, and helped to launch a memorial fund for cancer research in her name. This concert then became a regular event for 20 years. Gradually, extra concerts were added, each supporting other medically-related charities. Over time, the number of musicians involved grew to a full-size symphony orchestra, and moved from the old Radcliffe Infirmary to the larger venue of the Tingewick Hall at the John Radcliffe Hospital, becoming the Radcliffe Orchestra.

The winning formula of the orchestra, liaising with a charity to host a concert on a Saturday evening, with refreshments being provided after, was established early on, and has persisted since. The players are drawn from all walks of the healthcare services in Oxfordshire, including porters, pharmacists, technicians, scientists, medical students, nurses, physiotherapists, clerical staff, GPs, as well as junior and senior doctors. Family members and friends also help swell the numbers up to a full symphony orchestra.

Dr Donald Lane, also a viola player, pianist and composer, founded and conducted the orchestra from 1978 and saw the concerts through their 25th anniversary year. In 2004, he handed the running of the orchestra over to a committee chaired by Professor John Stradling, also a respiratory consultant, who was in turn succeeded by Dr Rosie Adams, a radiology consultant, in 2017.

Over the years we have had the privilege of working with a wide range of talented musicians, both professional and amateur, who have performed as soloists with the orchestra. In recent years we have also been fortunate to have amazing conductors prepared to rehearse the orchestra for 6 to 7 weeks prior to the Saturday concert. Our most loyal conductor in the modern era has been Catherine Underwood, who has conducted us at every June concert since 2006. These regular conductors now include George Caird for our March concert and Andrew Gray each November. Our 100th concert was in 2016 and we look forward to giving many more in the future, combining music, fun and fundraising.
The Radcliffe Orchestra was founded in 1978 by Dr Donald Lane, a respiratory physician, viola player, pianist, composer and conductor based at the Churchill Hospital. It started very small, following a request by Professor Peter Morris (department of surgery) to hold a memorial fund raising concert in honour and memory of a young nurse, Jill Broadis, who had recently died of a melanoma.

The first concert on the 6th May 1978 took place in the nurses’ home at the old Radcliffe Infirmary and was a small intimate affair. The second concert a year later on the 23rd June was again a ‘Jill Broadis’ concert. The concerts very soon moved to the relatively new Tingewick Hall at the John Radcliffe. The Jill Broadis concerts ran every year until 1998, their 20th anniversary. Gradually ‘extra’ concerts were added through the year, again supporting medically-related charities.

The winning formula, of the orchestra liaising with a charity to put on the concert on a Saturday evening, with refreshments after, was established early on and has persisted since. The players were drawn from all walks of the health care services in Oxfordshire, including porters, pharmacists, technicians, medical students, nurses, physiotherapists, GPs, junior and senior doctors, to name but a few. In addition, many family members and friends help swell the numbers up to a full symphony orchestra, often of 70 or more players. Such are the vagaries of medical rotas that sometimes the only time all members are present to play would be at the actual concert!

Some years ago the Hospitals Charitable Funds helped support the orchestra, but the orchestra always at least triples this support in aid of the chosen charity. An early charity, dear to Donald Lane’s heart, was the League of Friends of the Osler Chest Unit where he worked, that raised funds for patients in need of financial help. Gradually the number of charities supported grew, and the ones supported in the last 15 years or so are on this website under Past Concerts.

The 50th concert was in March 2000 and the 100th in March 2016. Over the years we have had a very wide range of talented musicians, both professional and amateur, who have performed solo works with the orchestra. In recent years we have been lucky enough to have amazing conductors prepared to take the orchestra for 6 or 7 Tuesday rehearsals prior to the Saturday concert. This has produced a gradual improvement in the quality of the orchestra’s performance.

Donald Lane conducted the orchestra, and ran it single-handed until 2004, when it was taken on by a committee, with Professor Stradling (also a respiratory Physician at the Churchill) as chair. Dr Rosie Adams, a radiologist at the Churchill Hospital, has been the chair from 2017. The longest serving member of the orchestra played in the second concert in 1979 and most of the concerts since! Two particular highlights were concerts in Oxford Town Hall in association with a local choir, the Headington Singers, led by Sally Mears. In 2007 we had a Gala concert, which included a medical choir as well (Oxford Collutorium, led by cardiologist Will Orr), to celebrate the Old Radcliffe Infirmary that closed that year after 237 years of service to the people of Oxford. It featured The Serpent God, especially written for the orchestra by local composer Roger Teichmann. In 2014 another concert at the Town Hall, again in association with Headington Singers, but also East Oxford Community and Youth Choirs, featured Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana.

Our most loyal conductor in recent years has been Catherine Underwood, who has conducted us at every June concert since 2006. More recently we have also been very lucky to be regularly conducted by George Caird (March concerts) and Andrew Gray (November concerts).

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