An amazing concert in Eastbourne by the world’s only recovery orchestra

Deli from New Note Orchestra
Deli from New Note Orchestra

The world’s only recovery orchestra will play a concert at the Towner Art Gallery on Saturday November 24.

The New Note Orchestra, based in Brighton, features musicians in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.

The live performance will accompany the premiere of a 45-minute documentary A Sense Of Place filmed and edited by Hugh Fox and Laura Seymour which features members of the orchestra reflecting on places that are important to their recovery from addiction.

One of the participants, Adele Marie (“Deli”) Davidson, said she discovered the orchestra one year into her recovery from alcohol addiction. She is now three years sober.

Deli said: “A friend who was in the orchestra told me they were looking for people to do vocals. I asked what sort of songs they performed and he said no, it was just vocal sounds.”

She and a friend thought it over and eventually went along to one of the rehearsals in St Luke’s Church near the centre of Brighton.

Deli said: “I was like - yeah this is a good place to be, these are good people to be around. I had always had this sort of jokey ambition to play the glockenspiel and the founder of the orchestra Molly Matthieson told me they had one in the cupboard. So I thought that’s it, I’m in. Now I have the confidence to have a go at anything.”

For Pat, who plays in the handbell section which gives the orchestra its ethereal sound, the city of Brighton where he was once homeless is a brand new place now, seen through sober eyes. Keyboard player Nick chose a spot on the South Downs where he used take drugs. Now clean, it has become a meditative haven for him, a place where he can commune with nature.

The orchestra’s musical director, Conall Gleeson, based at the University of Brighton, has built the orchestra from a grassroots charity to an arts organisation which is viewed with credibility in the musical world. An earlier work by the orchestra has been nominated for a 2018 British Composer Award in the Community or Educational Project category. A public call took place earlier this year for works which had received their UK première between April 1 2017 and March 31 2018 and the winners will be announced on Tuesday December 4 at the British Museum, London.

Gleeson highlights that improvisation is at the heart of the orchestra and allows it be to be truly inclusive featuring complete beginners through to professional musicians.

“The context gives the piece resonance but to hear the music is why people should come. We draw on all the talents of each member of the orchestra and everybody is given the opportunity to shine.”

He does not find the collaborative nature of the compositions a challenge: “It’s totally rewarding,” he said. “I see my role as allowing the members to access the music.”

Deli sums up: “It’s taken a long time to overcome my social anxiety. To be allowed, even encouraged, to sing publicly is such a lovely feeling.” Tickets £6 from www.townereastbourne.org.uk. By John Keenan.

read more: Ten great things to do in Eastbourne this week - starting Friday November 16