Homemade Orchestra

Welcome to the website of the Homemade Orchestra: a cool new music ensemble, jazz, classical but always great listening. Directors Colin Riley and Tim Whitehead.

The Homemade Orchestra is a dynamic group of players and composers from many genres of music aiming to bring an original and challenging perspective. The ensemble nurtures the development of new music through this flexible family of musicians, seeking to challenge the place of new music, its performing environment, and its audiences. The ensemble is dedicated to the development of new audiences for contemporary music.

Tim and Colin along with many of the other members of the ensemble are known for bringing the highest quality creative education work to young people throughout the UK, and have extensive experience planning and delivering concerts, festivals (eg the IF Festival, Way Out West) and consultation work (eg for the likes of London Sinfonietta, SPNM, South Bank Centre, ENO, Jazz Services etc).


Over the last 4 years the Homemade Orchestra has made a significant impact on the new music scene. Its debut album Tides was launched at Ronnie Scott’s in Sept 2002 receiving unequivocal critical acclaim from all sectors of the national press. The work was awarded the Peter Whittingham prize for innovation, and the ensemble was initially supported by both London Arts the Musicians Union, and Brunel University.

"Here are wondrous ideas, perfectly executed and with exquisite sound."
Garry Booth, BBC Music Magazine

"Jazz and classical music should go together more often if the new album 'Tides' is anything to go by. Intelligent, confident, accessible ... a labour of love rather than a product."
John L Walters, The Guardian

"Some of the most beautiful music you will hear this year ... lithe and buoyant .... has the hairs rising on the back of your neck."
Peter Bacon, Birmingham Post

A sustained and varied set of concerts throughout 2003 in a range of venues in London (the Spitz, Bloomsbury Theatre, Purcell Room, Brunel University) showcased several unique collaborations. Collaborative work was developed with poet Tony Curtis, photographer / film-maker Marcus Tate, electronic sound artist Tim Blackwell (Swarm Music), and with choreographer Mark Baldwin. There were also collaborative performances with Django Bates, and Ordessa (including Kenny Wheeler, John and Stan Sultzman), Denys Baptiste and Mike Outram.

Education projects have been an important aspect for engaging with young people and to building and nurturing an audience. These have taken many forms (eg Brunel University, Mill Hill School, the Festival of Music and the Mind, SPNM).

As well as national coverage via reviews of both live and recorded work, Classical Music published an article on the orchestra in 2003 and there was a front page article on their cross-genre work in SPNM’s New Notes magazine in 2004. The ensemble also played a live set on Radio 3's 'In Tune' in spring 2003, and tracks from both albums have been played by a range of radio stations in the UK and abroad.

The ensemble were invited to play at the last night of the 2003 London Jazz Festival and hosted (in conjunction with the SPNM) a forum 'Letting Go or Taking Control?' debating issues of composition and improvisation with leading practitioners in the field, Evan Parker, Mike Westbrook, Peter Wiegold, Tim Whitehead, Matthew Barley, Colin Riley and Nikki Yeo. It was chaired by Ian Carr. The Jazz Festival concert also featured the premiere of a new piece 'Mode For Joe' developed with composer Kevin Flanagan under the auspices of the SPNM.

A second album Inside Covers (Jan 2004) invested further in 'collaborative thinking' and contributions came from a range of the Uk's composers: Peter Wiegold, Fraser Trainer, Errollyn Wallen, Jenni Roditi as well as with singers Kathleen Willison, Gwyn Jay Allen and Claron McFadden. This album took the ensemble further in exploring several key issue; audience building, aspects of musical language, issues of audio production, and the nurturing of all members of the group. This work was supported by the PRS Foundation.

Once again the album received unanimous critical acclaim from the national and music press.

"... treasure troves of harmonic and rhythmical possibilities ... moon-bright clarity ... an intricate web of 'cello, vibraphone and trip-hop inflected drum machine ... intimations of chaos ... mischievously dissonant attack ... intriguing sound collisions ...a fearless lucky dip of a concert."
The Guardian, April 2004

"An audacious venture ... tantalising new territory ..."
Times April 2004

"Modern pop is now a legitimate source for jazz. The trend reaches a peak with the album Inside Covers by the Homemade Orchestra. The devilishly inventive arrangements bring unsuspecting depths to familiar songs. This attempt to expand the range of jazz is an unreservedly good thing"
The Metro, April 2004

The ensemble then mounted a UK tour of 21 dates supported by the Arts Council’s National Touring Fund. This has enabled further exploration of key issues of musical language, but most importantly we have been being able to develop skills in the performers and in the leaders in pushing forward our ideas about what a new-style ensemble can be (eg non-categorizable genre, audience engagement, adapting to different types of venue, education projects in local schools, audience engagement etc). Much of the tour took place in small and rural venues (eg small Arts Centres, music clubs, jazz clubs and village halls) as well as at more established venues (London's Pizza Express and Spitz, RNCM, York’s Early Music Centre etc). The feedback from these small venues was unanimously positive.

Of the most recent performance (the Spitz, Feb 3rd 2005) www.classicalsource wrote:

"There are also many intelligent musicians whose work defies casual categorization. The composer Colin Riley is one such musician, and the Homemade Orchestra, a post-modern big-band he founded several years ago with ex-Loose Tubes saxophonist Tim Whitehead, draws together musicians from varied backgrounds."

"Riley’s Blue Space, situated the tenor saxophones in a beguiling soundscape that combined electronic tintinnabulation with live percussion; his spare arrangement of Peter Gabriel’s Here Comes the Flood, with vocals from the glamorous Kathleen Willison, held the audience rapt."

"Tim Whitehead’s manic deconstruction of Just In Time ended the concert in anarchic fashion, by which time the Orchestra had comfortably moved beyond category into promising territory of its own."

Nonsense (Homemade with Michael Rosen) Following the UK tour the Homemade Orchestra settled down to create a new album harnessing improvisation as the starting point. A great many sessions have taken place throughout 2006-7 investigating ways to compose around theses recorded improvisations. This album is due for release in 2009. In the meantime Colin, Tim and Liam have been collaborating with Poet Laureate for Children Michael Rosen on a musical adaptation of is Nonsense poetry.


Basho MusicThe Homemade Orchestra is managed by Christine Allen at Basho Music and both CD’s are available from their website jazzcds.co.uk.