DUOS Chamber are, as ever, on stellar form. Their care for phrasing, individual musicality and energy was clear throughout the rehearsal. If this alone did not suffice, Theo Golden’s direction is highly competent, providing succinct comments to the whole orchestra, with a positive attitude and a clear technique. Frequent tempo changes were picked up immediately and very close detail was paid, especially syncing the playing. Knowing everyone’s names is a commendable feat for starters, and his dealing with issues remained cordial and tactful.

Among the orchestra it was great to see the percussionists helping each other out and making progress, the dialogue between players and the conductor and generally an advanced and yet welcoming atmosphere. Character, passion and responsiveness were all in spades in this highly professional ensemble.

The repertoire this term, celebrating English music, is as follows: M. Arnold, ‘Serenade for Small Orchestra’, Op.26; G. Butterworth, ‘The Banks of the Green Willow’; G. Finzi, ‘Dies Natalis’; R. Quilter, ‘Children’s Overture’, Op.17; and B. Britten, ‘Suite on English Folk Tunes (A time there was)’.

I asked Theo about the challenges of rehearsing this repertoire.

“The most challenging thing has been the complex rhythms and really diverse network of concepts around the Britten and the Arnold. We’ve also been working on a really good blend across the orchestra, particularly in the Finzi; really enjoying the phrases and getting into this English pastoral idea. It’s really come together particularly in the last few weeks, which is really down to the incredible leaders we have in each section.”

Laura Cooper, DUOS President, offered the following:

“What makes DUOS special is that everyone knows that no one does this for their degree – everyone is here because they wholeheartedly love music and that is what brings us together as a society. You can tell just how passionate everyone is about music and just how much we care not just for the music but for one another. Even though much of the percentage of the orchestra are freshers, we’ve gelled really well. It’s been great that we’re able to create such high-quality music but also have really good fun together.”

Nathanael Thomas-Atkin, singing the Tenor solo in the Finzi, commented that

“it’s been a great experience; I’ve worked with many of the players before, having been in DUOS last year and continuing this year [on the double bass], and it’s been great to now be on the other side.”

Martha Dean, trumpet:

“The smaller setting is really friendly… great going into groups during break time.”

Oonagh Taylor, French horn:

“The music’s really fun and a bit different; you don’t get much of an opportunity to play this repertoire. It’s been interesting to play something other than Classical music.”

Natalie Houston, percussion:

“We were on a social last Saturday night; it was nice to meet people in different years and doing so many different subjects – I wouldn’t have ever met them otherwise.”

I urge you to come and see their concert this evening at 8:30pm in Castle Great Hall for some exceptionally high-quality playing. Tickets are on sale here until 5pm (or on the door): https://www.musicdurham.org/event/duos-chamber-concert