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#RWCMDCreative: Composer Nathan Jones’ Virtual Orchestra

8 June 2020

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Leaving us shaken, stirred, and very much inspired, composition grad Nathan Jones’ new Virtual Orchestra extravaganza dropped last week and it brings together an astonishing 71 musicians – over half of which are RWCMD grads or current students.

Here’s the James Bond Medley – brought to you by our suave, sophisticated musicians. Glamour not an option.

Composer, Arranger, Musical Director & Pianist Nathan’s first lockdown project Musicals Medley, which featured in a previous #RWCDMCreative blog, brought together 35 musicians, 12 solo singers and a choir of 12, with all but one being RWCMD alumni or current students.

With such a big project we wanted to ask Nathan all about it:

Firstly, how did the Virtual Orchestra come about?

I was in the process of making a Virtual Choir video. I was enjoying it, and becoming a bit anxious about what I was going to fill my time with once I’d finished it. Nearly all my work projects had recently been cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak and my diary was looking very empty.

Chatting to other musician friends, we were all missing making music and desperate for a creative outlet.

I had a Musicals Medley that I’d arranged a few years ago. The arrangement started out as a Piano duet, and has been performed by a number of different ensembles, including a couple at RepCo, our student entrepreneurial festival in College, so I knew it worked and I know it inside out.

This new orchestral version was written for a reduced orchestra, I thought this’d be the perfect piece to show off everyone’s talents and give as many people as possible their moment in the spotlight.

I contacted some players and singers I’ve worked with before and put the message out on Facebook.

I didn’t expect the uptake to be as big as it was, but I’d wanted to make sure it was as open as possible in case anyone else was feeling as creatively deprived as I was.

It turned out that everyone else was really excited to have some playing and singing to do!

Bringing It All Together…

I managed the whole thing on a spreadsheet and used various web services to send and receive all of the necessary files. I sent out a comprehensive (aka long-winded) set of instructions to make sure that everyone could be involved no matter what their technical setup,  It’s been a learning curve but I’ve applied those lessons in admin and video editing to the second project!

As the response was so huge, I decided to upscale and reorchestrate the Woodwind and Brass sections to accommodate more players and shared out the Piano, Guitar and Bass parts between a number of players.

 ‘This has really encouraged me to take my instrument out of its case today. I’ve been a bit depressed about everything and wasn’t seeing the point. So, thank you!’    Email from a performer

I hope that projects like this give musicians something to be involved in and aim for.

The James Bond Medley 

Almost everyone who was involved in the first project signed up to this one too, as well as some new members. Somehow, this one has managed to be even bigger than the last one, with over 70 performers!

What’s next?

I love being able to show the versatility of the orchestra, and how it doesn’t need to be restricted to stereotypical styles of classical music.

So I have two pop arrangements in the pipeline – one will be just the orchestra and the other will include the singers.

I’m also hoping to form a professional orchestra of local players.

The aim is to continue providing online content so we can keep engaging those who wouldn’t usually get to see an orchestra perform, as well as expanding our reach with concert performances and education projects.

College Collaboration & Networking

I’ve done a lot of Musical Directing work, as well as working in local amateur dramatics and youth musical theatre as a Rehearsal Pianist, Keyboard player and Musical Director. For these gigs I am also the orchestra fixer, so I’ve always tried to engage friends, and those from College with an interest in Musical Theatre. We all want to play for the College’s Musical Theatre (MT) productions and showcases  – they’re hugely popular with the musicians!

Since graduating I’ve worked for the MT department as both an MD and Arranger and when I go back to College I get to meet some of the new students who working there. I’ll always try and get them involved if a spot comes up on one of my gigs that they are suitable for. It’s a great way for us to all stay in touch after College as we usually work together on a number of shows each year.

My Time at RWCMD

For me, being immersed in the musical and creative world with like-minded people was one of the biggest benefits of studying at RWCMD.

As composers, it was essential that we have the majority of our final year portfolio performed by live musicians. This encourages a collaborative approach, engaging players at the earliest stage in the composition process and also exposing composers to other skills required by the job, such as conducting, music preparation and, most importantly, communication.

My tutors were fantastic, and guided me to develop my skills and knowledge and expand my listening while supporting me in the musical areas that I was interested in.

Other Projects 

As well as my ‘behind the scenes’ music work and working as Musical Director, I also play keyboard for live orchestra with film concerts across the UK. Highlights from these include La La Land, Beauty and the Beast and Titanic. Other work includes Keyboard player and Arranger with the Cardiff based Novello Orchestra; Assistant MD with Neath Male Choir; I run my own pop choir, Rechoir; Musical Director with RCT Theatres; and Musical Director for House of Broadway, a West End Cabaret group.

I love how varied my work is, and that I get to meet and work with performers from all walks of life. My time at RWCMD was the springboard for the career in music that I have today.

Find out more about Nathan on his website:

and discover more about studying Composition or Music at the College.

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