East Lancashire musician celebrating 65 years with Burnley and Colne Orchestras

Oboe-player Patricia Chippendale is celebrating 65 years with both Burnley and Colne Orchestras.
Oboe-player Patricia Chippendale is celebrating 65 years with both Burnley and Colne Orchestras.

A multi-talented musician is celebrating 65 years with both Burnley and Colne Orchestras.

Patricia Chippendale will mark more than six decades with the groups in August.

Patricia (76) is the longest ever serving member of Burnley Orchestra, with whom she is the principal oboe player.

She said: "We've been lucky to be on stage with lots of professional musicians, like Dennis Brain and Leon Goossens. Burnley Orchestra tend to get soloists from the Royal College of Music and we've had lots of great conductors. It's hard to pick my favourite memory as I've loved it all.

"A highlight was when I went to one of the Queen's garden parties a few years ago in recognition for performing around Lancashire. That was lovely. It was an absolutely gorgeous day."

She began learning to play the piano at eight-years-old and the oboe at nine when her great uncle, a professional bassoon performer, brought one home from Colne Orchestra.

Patricia starred in her first concert - a big solo - at just 14 years old and was recruited to the Lancashire Youth Orchestra. A year later she joined Colne, Nelson and Burnley Orchestras where she was one of the youngest members.

"I think I was just lucky my uncle gave me the right instrument," she said.

"If I was to go back, I'd never switch instruments. I'd definitely play the oboe again. I love it. I don't know why. I just enjoy the music and the concerts. This is where I belong - behind an oboe."

Patricia also entertains audiences on the flugal horn in a brass band and is confident on the flute, clarinet, French horn and saxophone.

She's also lent her musical talents as conductor to both Burnley Alliance Silver Band and Colne Operatic Society (now named Pendle Hippodrome Theatre Company).

Patricia was a former Walverden Primary School pupil, before moving from Nelson to Colne, where she attended Park Primary School and then Edge End High School.

She had dreams of teaching but her father encouraged her to become a musician, and at 17 years old she won a scholarship to study at The Royal College of Music in Manchester. There she perfected her craft under the direction of guest conductor and distinguished British cellist Sir John Barberolli, who helped save Manchester's prestigious Hallé Orchestra and was the music director of the New York Philharmonic.

But Patricia left in her second year and began working at Smith and Nephew's Laboratory then Hull Traders in Trawden.

At 30 years old she finally achieved her dreams when she received a grant to study for a two year teaching certificate in Chorley before travelling round schools teaching woodwind instruments.

She then worked as Head of Music at Walton High School for seven years, before spending 12 years in the same role at Park High School.

"Many of my pupils have turned out to be professionals or made a life-long hobby of music," she said.

Music, it seems, flows in her veins. Her mum Elsie sang in concert parties before the war, her sister Susan ran her own dance school in Burnley, and Patricia's husband was also a trombone player.

"It was a family thing. We went everywhere together," she said.

"My dad Jim and my great uncle, who once performed the oboe on a camel in the dessert, were my influences. Mummy always came to our concerts and Susan played the timpani for a little while in the orchestra. And me and Dad did every show and rehearsal together."

Bumps in the road include a fall in February which threatened to stop her music career due to a potential broken bone in her hand. But her injuries healed and she recovered well.

Like Patricia, Burnley Orchestra is still going strong - and it is now more than 100 years old.

Commenting on the future of group, Patricia said: "As long as it continues, that's all that matters. And I think it will."