Thanet Light Orchestra

Forthcoming concerts (which are generally announced via TLO's Facebook page and Thanet Classics:


Thanet Light Orchestra is a very informal group of musicians, some professional, some amateur, which meets every Thursday evening in Ramsgate to play through a wide repertoire of classical and light music, ranging from major symphonic works to "songs from the shows". It used to play largely for its own enjoyment, but now tends to put on 3-4 charity concerts per year, often in local churches. It is always looking for new members, on any instrument: those interested should contact the overseer, Joyce Edling.

The orchestra was created in July 1946 with 18 members, some of whom came from the South Margate Orchestra (founded 1914, disbanded 1969). It was founded and conducted for many years by Captain L.P. Donne M.B.E. (ex Royal Marines; moved to Broadstairs after the war; taught at Chatham House and Betteshanger schools; died September 1967). After a short interim period, George Martin became conductor in 1969, and proceeded to guide the orchestra expertly for 43 years, until 2012. Originally it was known as the Broadstairs Philharmonic Orchestra, but it soon changed its name to the Thanet Philharmonic Orchestra and then the Thanet Philharmonic Light Orchestra; it assumed its current name in January 1981, primarily to avoid confusion with the Isle of Thanet Symphony Orchestra (now defunct). It was originally led by George H. Last, also a member of the South Margate Orchestra, who resigned in 1969 — apparently because he objected to another member bringing along a flask of tea! (As soon as he left, a tea break was introduced in the middle of the weekly rehearsal.)

There was apparently also an "East Kent Light Orchestra" active during the 1960s (q.v. Bill Worland), but no further information has yet been found. Substantial parts of TLO's large library (over 700 items of popular classics and light music) were inherited from the Cecil Barker Orchestra which used to play at Broadstairs Pavilion in the 1950s and 60s, or Derek Downes-Powell, another local enthusiast who used to play flute with the orchestra but also had his own group. Some music also came from Henri Prinsepp, a violinist who used to conduct a 12-piece orchestra (sometimes led by a Mr Tracy-Richardson) at the 'Picture House' in Ramsgate in the late 1920s (q.v. Thanet Advertiser, 15 Oct 1927), and in the 21st century other music came to the orchestra from the Port Sunlight and Folkestone & Hythe orchestral societies.

Marcia Crayford and Helen Crayford, who both went on to become internationally renowned musicians, both played with TLO a few times as their father Marshall was a member on trumpet. Some other prominent professionals who have played with TLO include violist George Turnlund, and George Martin's son Charles (who had a 30-year career with the BBC Symphony Orchestra as cellist).

There is an interesting description of Light Music at the Light Music Society. A comprehensive overview of the orchestra as it was in April 2014 appeared in the East Kent lifestyle magazine "The Weekender" (see also the full version with more photographs - turn to pages 24 & 25).

Several TLO videos are available on YouTube. A few are "warts & all" recordings of the orchestra sight-reading lesser-known pieces from its library that might otherwise never get played. The orchestra has also given premières of a few pieces, including a trombone concertino written for a TLO member by Derek Bourgeois, and Bill Worland's Broadstairs Suite. In our Concert of Thanet Music on 16 July 2022 we reintroduced the audience to Alfred Wall's Thanet Concert Overture. This exuberant piece was first performed 100 years before, although we suspect never in Thanet, so this was also a première of sorts. Wall wrote of it, "This overture is intended to reflect something of the gay holiday spirit – together with its underlying romance – which pervades that favourite summer resort of the Cockney: the so-called Isle of Thanet". It was accompanied by other pieces with local connections, including the Broadstairs Suite.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License