The Co-op Orchestra was initially founded as a children's orchestra at the Centaur Road Boys School. It was directed by Mr Petty who was both Headmaster of Centaur Road School and an enthusiastic music teacher, giving regular music classes at the Coventry Co-operative Society Evening School. In February 1917 the orchestra gave its first public concert.
In 1927 the orchestra expanded to include adult members, and has continued with sponsorship from the Heart of England Co-operative Society. During the war years, the orchestra rehearsed during the day-time to avoid the blackout, and many concerts were given – in parks, hostels for the war workers, clubs, hospitals and even at the American Army Base at Stoneleigh where 'The Stars and Stripes' was played to great acclaim.
In the 1980's, Geoff Collins, a retired Bandmaster in the Royal Marines, became the conductor of the orchestra. Under his direction and with more light music in the repertoire, the orchestra became the Coventry Co-operative Concert Orchestra and later, in recognition of the continued support, became known as the Heart of England Co-operative Concert Orchestra (HOECCO).
Membership of the orchestra is open to musicians of varying abilities and new members are given help and encouragement by more experienced players. The orchestra presents five or six concerts throughout the year in a variety of locations. The orchestra hosts at least one concert for it's sponsors, which is usually in October time at the Central Hall in Coventry, and other concerts are held to raise money for local charities. In recent years, we have been pleased to help several local groups including Coventry Mencap, Headway Coventry & Warwickshire, the restoration fund of St. John the Baptist Church, the Grangers Group for Young People with Learning Disabilities, The Laura Centre and Zoë's Place.
Under the Direction of Christopher Evans the orchestra began to present an annual concert to Sunday shoppers in the Coventry Lower Precinct which proved to be a great success and became the regular and popular 'Proms in the Precinct'. As we are now a bigger orchestra, and as the space has got smaller, we are currently investigating a new area to continue this type of concert.
The orchestra's current Musical Director is Mark Wooton, who brings experience and enthusiasm and has led the orchestra through a range of concerts including playing at Baginton Airport for the last flight of the feted DC3 Dakota, which took part in the Berlin airlift. He has conducted for an average of 5 concerts every year, most of which are for fundraising for local and national charities. We average over £2000 every year which is donated to good causes.
We are always pleased to welcome new members for which we have a vacancy. The Orchestra rehearses at a City Centre venue with good parking, on Tuesday evenings. Please visit our Join HOECCO page for full details of current vacancies and contact information on joining.