We’re excited to welcome back the talented musicians from Orchestra of St John’s across the forensic services wards at Littlemore Mental Health Centre in Oxford this summer.

Thanks to funding from Oxford Health Charity, each week patients and staff enjoy a 30 minute mini concert performed by a member of the orchestra. Each session brings a diverse range of genre and instruments including classical, jazz and film music; and instruments range from harp to clarinet.

The musicians are hugely accomplished and love performing but also enjoy chatting about the music and their instrument, sometimes even taking audience requests.

This initiative started in Summer 2020 during the pandemic, when we could invite members of the orchestra to perform in ward gardens, however due to heightened restrictions we had to take a pause. With some easing of restrictions and the weather getting warmer we can press play once more on our concerts which will continue this summer.

We are grateful to the orchestra for offering Oxford Health this opportunity, for OSJ it a chance to pursue our aim to bring music to all – not just in the concert hall. The project has also been a lifeline for musicians who enjoyed playing in front of an audience during the pandemic.

Tom Cox from Artscape, who manages the project explains the benefits of the project “Over the last 18 months musicians have not been able to perform very much, if at all, in front of a live audience. For many of them this has been a hard period and the project gives them an opportunity to engage with people again doing what they love. You can see that the musicians enjoy performing for people, it energises them, and this gets passed on to the service users.”

John Lubbock OSJ’s founder and Artistic Director see this type of work as part of the core mission of the orchestra “For everyone at OSJ, the music comes first: beautiful music created by a group of outstanding musicians who bring their palpable joy at playing together to every performance. But that’s not all. OSJ have always believed that it is just as important to take our music-making beyond the concert hall. Music has an extraordinary power and an extraordinary reach. It can cross boundaries of comprehension, ability, race, gender, age and beyond. It can make inroads where words can’t and build bridges where none seemed possible. During the months of lockdown, we launched a new initiative to take live music, safely, to patients and staff in NHS hospitals. Our aim is to bring orchestral music of the highest quality to a wide range of different audiences, especially to those who don’t have easy access to it.”