The Lydian Orchestra was founded in 1976 by Sevenoaks violin teacher June Clements, accepting only the very best local young musicians. Small and select, Lydian remained a chamber orchestra until relatively recently. The inclusion of full brass and percussion sections for some courses has allowed the orchestra to expand and explore new repertoire. Over the last 40 years, more than 1,000 young musicians have taken part.
In 1989 June also set up the Lydian Training Orchestra, providing an opportunity for younger, less advanced musicians to gain orchestral experience outside the school environment and to provide a training platform for the main orchestra. This was run for many years by Ethan Merrick, himself a former Lydian member.
In 1995, only a year before her untimely death, June founded the Sevenoaks Young Musician of the Year Competition (SYMY), supported by the Sevenoaks District Arts Council, with part of the prize being the opportunity to play a concerto with The Lydian Orchestra (see soloists). The competition is still going strong and this year's winner, Jonathan Ma (flute) has just performed Nielsen's Flute concerto at the Lydian's Winter Concert at the Pamoja Hall, Sevenoaks.
In its early days, the orchestra was conducted by Jonathan Butcher and in 1983, only seven years after its conception, the orchestra made its London debut at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.
On 22nd July 1996, Lydian returned to the Queen Elizabeth Hall for its 20th Anniversary Concert. Again conducted by Jonathan Butcher and with soloists Alexander Baillie (cello) and daughters Helena (violin) and Martina (piano) they performed Beethoven's Triple Concerto, Copland's Appalachian Spring and Sibelius Symphony No.6.
In July 1997, The Lydian Orchestra performed a special memorial concert to celebrate the life of June Clements and all she had done to enrich the musical life of the local area. It featured a work commissioned by the Lydian in 1983, the winner of the 1996 SYMY Competition, the LTO, a flute solo by a founder member of the orchestra (Ian McLauchlan), all conducted by the three main conductors of that time - Barry Griffiths, Jonathan Butcher and Paul Sanders (LTO) - who are pictured above.
The orchestra regularly took part in the Festival of British Youth Orchestras in Edinburgh and made foreign tours to Rheinbach in 1998 for the 700th anniversary of Sevenoaks' twin town in Germany (where they still award an annual Lydian Orchestra music prize) followed by trips to Prague in 2000 and Italy in 2001 combined with players from Trinity Music College.
Visits to Edinburgh were resurrected in 2003, 2005 and 2008 under the baton of Ethan Merrick, but sadly the Festival of British Youth Orchestras no longer takes place. The 30th anniversary was celebrated by a trip to Paris in 2006, conducted by former Lydian member Geoffrey Paterson. In order to keep the touring spirit alive, the orchestra, under the direction of Brynly Clarke, has visited Belgium in 2011, and Germany in 2013 and 2015, with help from our twinning partners, in particular Wiesbaden where we have a very strong relationship with the Wiesbaden Musikschule. In 2017 we had a very successful tour to the Loire performing in stunning chateaux and cathedrals and we hope to return to the Charente-Maritime area of France in July 2019. Our recent tours have featured soloists from within the orchestra - Tabitha Reynolds (mezzo-soprano ), Fraser Bowles (cello), Sophie Westbrooke (recorder, 2014 BBC YMY finalist) and Bethany Crawley (flute).
In July 2016, the orchestra celebrated its 40th anniversary with a spectacular concert at the Pamoja Hall in Sevenoaks, with its most ambitious programme to date. A DVD was made of the event and this is available from the orchestra.
We have recently introduced a special 'play-through' day for aspiring soloists from within the orchestra (in non-tour years) to try out a concerto movement and some of these players have subsequently gone on to be soloists at regular concerts or on tour (see soloists). Our next concerto day will be in 2020.