Guest blog: Tom and Caroline’s APO birthday celebration

Tom and Caroline Brett (who play horn and flute, respectively) have been APO stalwarts for twenty years. In this guest blog post, they tell us about their life in APO and why they’ve generously sponsored our concert in October 2023.

Our musical lives changed forever in the autumn of 2003 – exactly 20 years ago – when Tom got a call out of the blue asking him if he was free to play a concert with “a new orchestra in Reading”.  The orchestra was Aldworth Philharmonic, the programme included Dvorak’s 8th – one of Tom’s favourite symphonies – and the deal was done. (That programme, APO’s 4th ever concert, also included the premiere of Roger May’s Euphonium Concerto, which is due for another outing in our February 2024 concert.)

APO’s following concert, in March 2004, had a vacancy for flute, and very soon Caroline found herself in the 1st flute chair for Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, with its nerve-wracking flute cadenza – an experience which brings her out in goosebumps to this day!

APO has been the top item of our musical agenda ever since, an orchestra which successfully combines the most incredibly friendly and supportive atmosphere with a phenomenal standard of musical excellence (how often those are seen as opposites in the amateur music world!), along with a rehearsal model which allowed us to participate even when the demands of work took us off to foreign shores.  When other playing opportunities were few and far between (especially for Caroline on flute), APO has been the constant presence which kept our musical passions burning! It’s been very much a family thing for us, too, with all of our 6 children having been involved with APO at various times – very memorably including Alyx joining the choir for Mahler’s 2nd Symphony and conjuring out the sub-bass note in that spine-tingling first choral entry in the Finale.

2023 is the year in which we both turn 60 and we asked the APO Committee whether we could sponsor a programme item as part of our birthday celebrations.  We had a precedent for this exactly half our lifetime ago, when we organised a concert on Tom’s 30th birthday – the mission brief, now as then, was to choose music which we love, which amateur players rarely get a chance to play, and which provides a challenge to learn and perform.  From our shortlist of suggested pieces the choice fell on Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade (ask us after a few drinks at the after-party what the others were!), which fits the bill perfectly.  It’s romantic, dramatic, exotic, sensual; it features both of our instruments prominently; it’s going to be tough to pull off, both in terms of technique and stamina.  Our wonderful orchestra colleagues in APO will be more than equal to the challenge!  We can’t wait!