From Minor to Major - Piccadilly Symphony Orchestra

Piccadilly Symphony Orchestra celebrate their first year in the business.

By Manchester's Finest | 17 February 2015

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‘One of our main aims is to engage new audiences and take orchestral music out of the city centre concert halls and bring it into the community.’ – Rachel Hoyle, PSO General Manager.


Two young musicians stood in the sports hall of Manchester Communication Academy eagerly mapping out a seating plan for their inaugural concert, locating and testing a multitude of seating arrangements.
And just one year on the same pair, accompanied by a sixty piece strong orchestra, have taken Manchester by storm, recently performing at the Bridgewater Hall alongside Jason Manford and a host of stars in a Christmas Charity Concert.

So how did they do it – from sports hall to Bridgewater Hall?

The tale starts with two music students, one idea and one unique purpose forging their tagline: Piccadilly Symphony Orchestra, not just another orchestra.

They are as you’d imagine, astute, and fanatical about classical music. Tom Newall, the conductor, moves, stands and gestures during typical everyday exchanges as if he’s leading an imagined orchestra. Tom trained at Durham University and at the Royal Northern College of Music.

Rachel Hoyle joined PSO in its infancy as General Manager establishing the orchestra from concept to reality. Rachel obtained a BA in Music from Leeds College of Music and then went on to the Royal Northern College of Music studying for a PGCE. In this tale she is the role of reason, with a knowledge and appreciation of performance, audience and occasion, she plays Houston to the Orchestra’s Apollo 13.


Piccadilly Symphony Orchestra hold the strong belief that music and performance belong to all and therefore should be available to all.

With this at the forefront of the new orchestra’s mind, Rachel and Tom turned to Manchester Communication Academy and the community of Harpurhey and Collyhurst where they planned to give life to both their musical ambition and their social commitment in the orchestra’s inaugural concert.
One by one the musicians took to their seats in the dimly lit sports hall to the applause of the community members of Harpurhey and Collyhurst. The final bout of clapping welcomed in Tom who announced the evening’s programme giving a brief overview of each piece to be performed. That night Manchester Communication Academy fell silent. All could have seemed desolate to passers-by if it weren’t for the echoes of Gershwin, Bernstein and Shostakovich that crept out onto an empty playground.

PSO continued their journey taking the orchestra to Emmanuel Church in Didsbury and back to Manchester Communication Academy where they entertained the crowds with numbers from musicals. This concluded in a sing-a-long lead by Tom conducting a sea of waving bodies who responded with an enthusiastic rendition of The Sound of Music.

They are now advancing as a part of Manchester’s cultural scene with a full season and a full house at every venue. Between concerts the pair host lessons and visit clubs in the surrounding Manchester communities. They have now established a successful community choir in Collyhurst.

More than content with the progress they had made within the year they were delighted when fame came knocking at the door. Rachel had answered Jason Manford’s advertisement for musicians to accompany him during his Christmas concert. With little hope that anything would come from her reply to the advertisement, which she made on a whim, she heard that Manford not only wanted the musicians she had to offer but he wanted the whole orchestra. This meant that Piccadilly Symphony Orchestra were about to headline The Bridgewater Hall.

It came as happy news to all concerned or interested in the orchestra’s story, but with that also came a hint of fear for some, that their newfound success could take the orchestra away from the community and into the limelight.

When asked if they’d be seen within the smaller communities of Manchester again, Rachel replied – ‘This is where we began, there will never be a season where we won’t perform in the community.’
They may have transitioned from sports hall to Bridgewater Hall but their future will never take them too far from the community. They are in fact an orchestra with a difference, their real aim not simply to enhance their own musical careers but truly to enhance the careers and musical experiences of those around them.

Join Piccadilly Symphony Orchestra to celebrate a year in the business.
February 20th 2015 – 7.30pm
Manchester Communication Academy
Silchester Drive
M40 8NT
Ibert: Flute Concerto
Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No4
Conductor – Tom Newall