THE Colne Valley Youth Orchestra had a good reason to celebrate.

The group marked its 40th anniversary with a concert staged at the Firstsite, where both training and existing members came together for a day of music and fun.

The Colchester-based group was founded in 1981 by music teacher and composer Nigel Hildreth to give a platform to young musicians aged seven to 18 without the pressure of auditions.

Throughout the concert, audiences enjoyed performances from about 25 members who played a range of all-time favourite pieces, including Eye Level and Mary Poppins as well as works from Mussorgsky.

The members were also surprised with a short video from the orchestra president Blur frontman Damon Albarn as well as from two partnering music schools in Sweden and Germany.

Mr Hildreth, 67, of Colchester, who is the musical director of the orchestra, said the club was a vital part of Colchester’s community.

He said “It is important in the terms of providing an enjoyable, fun but also musical background for youngsters where they work together in assembles.

“We don’t do it for competition.

“We just do it for performance and performance is itself a competition because you are always wanting to perform as well as you possibly can.”

The concert wasn’t the only entertainment for parents and past members of the orchestra.

A raffle was also held and guests had the chance to purchase orchestra-branded products to mark occasion.

The club also used the occasion to award Lucia Bell, 16, of Colchester for designing the best logo for the anniversary of the club.

Mr Hildreth added:“I was very pleased with the occasion. It was relaxed and enjoyable for everybody.

“It was great to be supported by my family, because my three children were all members of the orchestra as well and they helped organise the event in all sorts of way during the day.”

For more information on the orchestra, visit

Photo credit: Peter Hildreth and Steve Brading