This Saturday evening is Durham University Orchestral Society’s premiere concert of the 2018/19 year; and what a concert it promises to be! DUOS will be playing a famous, and undeniably ambitious, programme of Rachmaninov’s Symphony No.2, Debussy’s La Mer and Shostakovich’s iconic Piano Concerto No.2 with soloist Hector Halford-Macleod.

To watch some of the University’s top orchestral musicians, including many new faces, performing in Durham for the first time, I heartily recommend coming down to Elvet Methodist Church for 7:30pm. With Music Durham member prices available online for only £5, this is a true bargain for the powerful selection of music in store!

I spoke to DUOS president Laura Cooper who emphasised the benefits of a challenging first term repertoire and how this has brought the orchestra together:

What makes DUOS so special is the ability to produce such high-quality music but also coming together as an ensemble- and having a load of fun while doing it! Every musician in DUOS is passionate about what they do, and this connects us all together. This is particularly important given the huge level of difficulty this term. Everyone has really stepped up, come together and shown how dedicated they are to the society.


Alex Mackinder, conductor of DUOS for his third year, also described this Saturday as ‘the most difficult concert in his time’. He gave a brief overview of the reasons for his choice of Debussy:

As a seminal composer who changed the way Western music was perceived, and on the centenary of his death, I felt it was particularly important that Durham’s premiere orchestral society commemorate Debussy. La Mer is also one of my favourite pieces and the orchestra is finally at such a good level that we can actually do it.

Debussy’s La Mer poses a great challenge. It is both an individually virtuosic and crucially ensemble-focused piece. The leader of the Orchestral Society’s Symphony Orchestra, Becky Taylor, commented:

With the Debussy it is particularly important to work together really well- with both rhythmic timings and dynamics. We are all individually brilliant soloists, but the work DUOS do is to try and bring together individuals in a collaborative ensemble effort.

Alex Mackinder also emphasises the privilege of working with pianist Hector Halford-Macleod on the Shostakovich:

It has been joyous working with Hector. I have never heard such an accurate DUOS soloist ahead of a concert. He is a very relaxed and prepared presence and the Shostakovich is a wonderful piece that everyone knows.

Finally, I asked president Laura what else audiences should look out for from DUOS this year:

I’m very excited for the DUOS Chamber Concert next week – it is sounding fantastic! Next term, look out for Tchaikovsky’s sublime Romeo and Juliet Overture, music by Bax and, to end our year with a bang, Mahler Symphony No.5 in the Cathedral!

Tickets available at:

Ticket Prices: Adult £10, Student and concession £6, Music Durham £5