Some frequently asked questions (with possibly helpful answers)…

Are there auditions?

  • No

Do I need my own instrument?

  • Yes (except for percussion)

 Do I need to be able to read music?

  • Yes – it helps

 Where and when?

  • Regular rehearsals are 7:15 to 8:45 pm on Tuesdays, in Glasgow City Halls. Enter by the stage door on Albion Street (map). For security reasons you will need to sign in (and out) on the attendance sheet at the front desk before proceeding to Studio 1 (level 5).

 Should I bring a music stand?

  • Yes. Music stands are no longer available for rehearsals.

 What if I have never played in a band or orchestra before?

  • Then this is for you.

What instruments?

  • Standard orchestral instruments (strings, woodwind, brass, percussion) but others possible – just ask.

How do I know an application has been received?

  • When you hit the “Submit” button on enrolment forms, you should get an immediate on-screen confirmation message (on some devices you may need to scroll up/down to see this). If this does not happen (very rare – but sometimes happens with iPads, etc.) try submitting from a different device…. or email us directly at: [email protected]

What does it cost?

  • There is no annual membership subscription, but there is a playing member fee, which is currently £85 per season. This costing is based on running expenses, tutor fees and hall hire, for both rehearsals and concerts.

Why must I pay the playing member fee in advance?

  • Advance payment (normally at least one week before first rehearsal) is required to confirm acceptance of your place and to give us time to prepare the attendance sheets required by City Halls.
  • We do usually have a waiting list, and only fully paid up members will appear on the sign-up sheet for rehearsals.
  • Please let us know (in confidence) if you may have difficulties meeting the payment deadlines.

Can I pay by bank transfer?

  • Yes
  • Acct. Name: Merchant Sinfonia
    Sort code: 83-07-06 (RBS Gordon Street)
    Acct. No: 19861646

Why do you have members and playing members?

  • Playing membership is for only one season at a time (e.g. Sept – Dec or Feb – May) to ensure that newcomers have a fair chance to play.  Therefore, between seasons there would be no membership and no way to organise the annual necessities of AGMs etc., unless some continuous membership arrangement existed.  So to apply for playing membership you have to already be a member.  We hope too that supporters who do not want to play or have particular conflicting commitments in a given season will stay as members and perhaps help in other ways.

I don’t think I’m very good, does that matter?

  • No. We do not hold auditions and we aim to be different from most amateur orchestras in being specifically about encouraging the late starter, the returner or less confident player as well as developing the more experienced.  It is hoped that we can develop, in some sections at least, a system of mentors to guide those who wish to have support to begin with.  Louise Martin, our conductor, always says that if you can play a few more notes each week then you are fulfilling what this orchestra is all about.

How does the ballot work?

When the number of playing applications exceeds our allowed capacity, the committee will adopt the following guidelines:

  1. Meetings to ballot for playing places should normally include the chair or a
    depute nominated by the chair, normally the vice chair, plus at least four other
    committee members.
  2. Decisions regarding which sections of the orchestra to be balloted will be
    made by the committee in the light of the best possible orchestral balance.
  3. Names going into the ballot will normally be checked by the chair or
    designated depute, and one other committee member not part of the section
    to be balloted. Likewise, the draw will be made and checked by committee
    members not part of the section to be balloted, as directed by the chair or
    designated depute.
  4. The number of names drawn will equal the number of applicants by which
    available places are exceeded.
  5. The names drawn will be numbered in the order in which they are drawn,
    and this determines their priority on the list for withdrawals, absentees or
    payment defaulter places that session.
  6. Balloted-out members will be given priority over late applicants in that
    session for withdrawals, absentees or payment defaulter places. Balloted-out
    members as well as new members will also normally be offered a place the
    following session, irrespective of section numbers.

Why is there a limit on the number of playing members?

  • For health and safety reasons. The designated capacity of our regular rehearsal space (Studio 1) is set at 75, as determined by City Halls authorities, and is strictly monitored via the sign-up sheets.

Can’t we move to a different and larger venue?

  • This may be possible in due course, but City Halls is centrally located and, until we can develop some financial reserves, it is preferable for us to remain at City Halls where we have been offered in kind support by Glasgow Life, who run the Halls.  Besides, it is not often that amateurs get to play at such a venue!

Who can become a member and when can I apply?

  • Anyone who plays an orchestral instrument, who supports the objectives of Merchant Sinfonia and is over 18 can apply.  Unlike playing membership, there is no limit on the number of members of Merchant Sinfonia.

How is the music sourced?

  • This depends on the repertoire, which is chosen by the Music Director. Music which is out of copyright is generally downloaded from the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) website, while music which is still in copyright is hired from the publishers. (The price for this is included in the fee for playing membership).

Can you supply instruments?

  • No, with the exception of percussion.  Other players will be expected to bring their own instruments, at their own risk.  There is no storage facility for instruments at City Halls that we can use.