Wilmslow Symphony Orchestra

Next concert

June 16th

Bernstein, Copland

Wood, Parry

V Williams, Elgar

more details


Wilmslow Leisure Centre

Wilmslow Leisure Centre


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Orchestra in concert

The orchestra celeste


Our celeste was built by Schiedmayer's, an old-established German company in Stuttgart. Their pianos had a very good reputation a century ago, when no respectable home would have been without one. Nowadays the firm is still in the family, run by Frau Schiedmayer, and is one of the few firms that can actually build a celeste. This is the superior, five octave model. It is 43" high, 48" wide and 24" deep.

Hiring the celeste

The instrument is not purely for the use of Wilmslow Symphony Orchestra - musicians throughout the North-West and even further afield are intended to benefit. Any organisation affiliated to the National Federation of Music Societies is encouraged to hire it. The fee is currently £100.

If your organisation is interested in using the celeste, please contact John Nattrass. Please note that the fee includes insurance but not transport and that 4 people are required to move it.

What is a celeste?

You have probably heard the celeste more than you think - you may well have thought you were hearing a glockenspiel, but with a fuller sound than usual. If you've seen one from a distance, you might have thought it was a rather small upright piano. It is actually a keyboard instrument which strikes metal bars with hammers.

Why did the orchestra want a celeste?

The celeste isn't part of the standard symphony orchestra, but composers do call for it from time to time. Most people are probably only familiar with it as the ethereal tinkle of the sugar-plum fairy in Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. Because of our ambitious programming, we find ourselves needing a celeste surprisingly often.

Despite its appearance, a celeste is remarkably expensive. They are not mass-produced, but have to be made to order. Amateur orchestras wanting to perform pieces demanding a celeste have found programme planning a surprisingly hard nut to crack. As yet there is no satisfactory electronic substitute, and renting was proving frustrating: there was only one celeste in the entire North-West available for amateur orchestras, and of course someone else would already have made the booking. Only one sugar-plum fairy at a time!

How we got a celeste

While in his late 80s, Tom Quibell, who had been treasurer (and bass player) of the WSO for 50 years, cast his eager eyes onto the application forms for Lottery money. Persistence and determined hard work finally paid off shortly after his 90th birthday. The North West Arts Council awarded the Orchestra a 90% Lottery grant towards the purchase of a celeste. Macclesfield Borough Council contributed £500. The rest of the money came from members' subscriptions and the Orchestra's slim reserves. Tom didn't live to see the actual instrument, but he did live to see his work rewarded when the grant was approved. The celeste bears a small plaque in Tom's memory.