Bilsthorpe instrument maker creates ‘rubbish’ music

INSTRUMENT maker Andrew Wheeldon is certainly not down in the dumps after seeing five instruments he built from scrap materials played at the Royal Albert Hall.

The instruments were part of a Scrapheap Orchestra and were used in a performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture at the famous London venue.

The 44-year-old, from Bilsthorpe, built two flutes, two clarinets and a piccolo from chrome painted towel rails, blue underground piping and brass tubing, using old cutlery and washers for the keywork.

Andrew was approached by a BBC researcher interested in making a documentary about building an orchestra from scrap and decided he could not refuse the challenge.

He said: “It was a little bit stressful. We had 11 weeks to complete the instruments. Normally, to make just one instrument in a conventional way from normal materials takes four-five months. To make five in 11 weeks was a tall order.”

Andrew had to work through whole nights to have the instruments ready for rehearsals but it had been a great experience.

“I am a little sad it’s over now. Me and the other makers were all in London and developed a camaraderie.

“Instrument menders do not spend a lot of time talking to each other because we are all from different disciplines. I hope we can all keep in touch,” he said.

The Bilsthorpe music maker, who is a lecturer at Newark College wood wind department, said it was ‘astonishing’ to hear the instruments played in the Albert Hall.

He added: “Immediately afterwards everybody stood up and there was an uproar. It was quite emotional really.

“Some areas were a little shaky - there were some issues with balance and tuning but it sounded like an orchestra. Some of the strings were too quiet but if more volume was needed the conductor helped out by writing in the flute. He did a really good job.”

Father-of-three Andrew, who went to Bilsthorpe Junior School and then Rufford School, Edwinstowe, studied on the woodwind course for three years and had his own business repairing instruments for a while before starting at Newark College.

He said: “I could not imagine doing anything else. Right from being quite young I loved music and making and mending things. Teaching has different issues but I work with students who are there for a purpose.”

Andrew and the other makers will be featured in a documentary about the Scrapheap Orchestra to be aired on BBC4 in the Autumn.