|The Italian word 'Sinfonia' is a name for a piece of music or symphony, but has also come to be used, in both Italian and English, for the group of musicians playing it. Thus the diminutive 'Sinfonietta' is used to mean both a smaller-scale piece of music, and, more frequently, a small orchestra.|
'The Taunton Sinfonietta - a Musical Trend Setter' was a proud slogan to be seen on some car stickers in the 1990's. This was no idle boast; the Sinfonietta had indeed been a force for innovation in the West Country's musical scene for over ten years.
It was founded by Hugh Bushell in 1982 out of the belief that there was a place, indeed a need, for a professional orchestra working in the area, and built from resources available within the region. Before that there had been only the usual gatherings of professional musicians in theatre orchestras, pits or churches, engaged on an ad-hoc basis for local performances of opera, oratorio etc. Hugh William Done Bushell was a double bass player himself and studied at Jesus College, Oxford, and played for ten years with the Salomon orchestra in London. He was on the staff of the Richard Huish college in Taunton, conductor of the Wednesday orchestra and assisted with the National Children's Orchestra. With his violist wife Anna he was a tireless promoter, not only of this orchestra, but especially of introducing music to children in the area. He maintained his energy and drive until his death from chronic lung disease in August 2003, though he had been forced to give up active playing a few years earlier due to the effort required to carry such a large musical instrument around!
Those who came together to form the Taunton Sinfonietta shared the conviction that far more could be achieved by assembling largely the same musicians, but generally without a conductor or singers, and with an appropriate rehearsal and management structure. The rest, as they say, is history. Though it must be admitted that there have been difficult times, the orchestra will be enjoying to its 30th anniversary this year, and has become a popular and successful part of the cultural calendar of the area.
Many 'themed' concert series were devised by Hugh, with a lot of input from his wife, and we have fond memories of 'Vivat Europa', 'Very Vivaldi', 'Mozart with a Modern' and many others.
Whilst the orchestra's base is Taunton, over the years it has played in places as diverse as Bath, Bristol and Canterbury Cathedrals, and many other venues closer to home in the South West.
The orchestra has been flattered to have had Allan Schiller, the world-renowned pianist, as its president for many years.