Heard the one about a viola choir?

No joke, though: Sheffield is to have a viola ensemble!

Adults only, its first get-together, or rehearsal is on Saturday, the 9th of December at Sharrow Performing Arts Space (S7 1BE) between 10am and noon.

The decision to set up such an ensemble was taken by Platform 4 composer Jenny Jackson, a self-confessed “enthusiastic viola player.”

“I’ve attended Robin Ireland’s viola workshops in the past in Ravenfield (near Rotherham) and, although I enjoyed them, the part of the day that most appealed to me was the ensemble playing”, she explains.

“I felt that there was enough support to try and start a viola ensemble which offered just that, but closer to home, here in Sheffield.

“I have always loved the sound of the viola and there is nothing quite like the sound of a viola ensemble: it’s sonorous, warm and strangely intense.”

She describes herself as a keen amateur with a great empathy for adult players of any instrument, especially late starters who are looking for chances to develop and exercise their newly found skills.

“This ensemble will offer the opportunity to gain experience in ensemble playing for players who may feel overwhelmed at the thought of orchestral playing.

“Also, for all players, the experience of playing more varied parts which is not always the case with orchestral and ensemble parts, including playing melodies as well as the filling accompaniment.”

Jenny believes the idea of a viola ensemble appeals to a “niche market” – “a very specific and small group of people that are viola players, which brings with it a very special camaraderie.

“We are often the butt of jokes (usually from violinists) and I think you have to be a particular type of person to want to play the viola. We are not necessarily show-offs – unlike those flashy violinists! – but we do like to be challenged and to feel appreciated.”

There is absolutely no danger of feeling under-appreciated in the Sheffield Viola Ensemble.

“It offers an opportunity for viola players who want to get together to play for pleasure in a friendly and supportive group,” says Jenny.

“All will be relaxed and informal with an ethos of helping each other and sharing technical and musical advice in order to achieve the best outcome.”

Repertoire must be extremely limited?

“We are supported by the British Viola Society which is providing us with a selection of music to begin with. The repertoire is unknown at the moment but will include Bizet’s L’Arlesienne Suite arranged for seven violas.

“We’ll work on a number of pieces each session in a variety of styles, including arrangements and original music for viola ensemble” – assuming some can be found!

“At this stage, it’s hard to know where it may lead. It may evolve to become a performing ensemble but, initially at least; it is limited to enjoying playing together for our own amusement.”

Further details and booking information can be found at www.jennyjacksoncomposer.com/sheffield-viola-ensemble