About the PTO
Experimental Music Catalogue
experimental music since 1969

About the PTO

The Promenade Theatre Orchestra grew out of Sunday afternoon sessions at John White's home in Wimbledon, London at the end of the 1960's. Various composer-performers brought along music to be played, and gradually a core membership developed, consisting of White, Hugh Shrapnel, Alec Hill and myself, though others, notably Brian Dennis, occasionally joined in. The unique instrumentation of the group came about through accident rather than design; one of us bought a one-and-a-half octave chromatic toy piano (the Golden Grandiosa), so the rest of us bought one too. Similarly with the reed organs. A second set of toy pianos (Michelsons) replaced the first set as they inevitably broke. Later, we began to use our other instrumental skills; oboe (Shrapnel), clarinet (Hill), trombone (White) and percussion (Hobbs). Spoken voices were also used on occasion.

All the music for the PTO tended to be written rather quickly (particularly by White and Hobbs) in order that there be something new to play each Sunday. The pieces which seemed worthy of performance were then rehearsed thoroughly. Concerts were given at various art galleries and informal venues between 1970 and 1973, when the group dispersed, though White and Hobbs continued as a duo for the next three years.

Christopher Hobbs

November 2000

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