Established for more than a decade, Central England Ensemble has become one the region's finest non-professional orchestras.
Founded in 2001 by freelance professional violinist Anna Downes, the orchestra has given over 60 concerts in leading venues in the Midlands, further afield in the UK and abroad. CEE has distinct objectives which makes it stand apart from other similar orchestras. Firstly, to support the work of contemporary composers living in Birmingham and its surrounding areas. By doing so, it hopes to raise the profile of composers in the region and showcase their music throughout the wider community. Secondly, to give music graduates, music students and other talented performers the opportunity to study new and exciting repertoire to a very high standard.
Since its launch in October 2001, CEE has performed many exciting contemporary works by composers such as Andrew Downes, Nathan Rose, David Fanshawe, James Langley, David Bradbury, Michael Whitcroft, Gareth Jones, William Southworth, Louis Clark, Guy Woolfenden, Simon Lesley, Stephen Williams, Ivor McGregor and Simon Pratt, Tony Bridgewater, John Robson and Richard Francis.
As well as its commitment to contemporary music, CEE enjoys the challenge of large scale orchestral works, and has given highly acclaimed performances of
Elgar’s Enigma Variations, Sea Pictures and In The South, Holst’s The Planet’s Suite, Beethoven’s Symphonies no. 6 and 7, Brahms Symphonies nos 1and 2, Shostakovich Symphonies nos 5 and 10 and Vaughan Williams Symphonies nos 2 and 5, Der Rosenkavelier Suite, Death and Transfiguration and the Four Last Songs by Strauss, as well as many others.
In addition to its regular season of concerts, CEE has accompanied Birmingham Festival Choral Society on several occasions, run a series of workshops with the West Mercia Probation Service, taken part in Education Projects with 1000 primary school children in Symphony Hall and performed at Birmingham St George's Day Concert as the 'Grande Finale' for the second time this year.
The Orchestra also has it's own Concerto Competition, the first of which took place in 2008 when violinist Sarah Sew was the winner, playing Elgar Violin Concerto. In 2010, violinist Martyn Johannesberg won with his performance of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto. The Concerto Competition takes place every two years and has so far attracted over 30 entrants on each occasion.
The string section of CEE gives at least two performances each year which are conducted by CEE's Associate Conductor, Lee Armstrong, and chamber groups from the orchestra are also regularly hired for functions.
CEE has also toured abroad, in Northern Germany in 2005, and in Paris in 2007, where concerts were given in prestigious venues such as La Madeleine and The American Cathedral.