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The Story of Marchwood Prelude

Marchwood Prelude is a community orchestra that was formed in 2009 and has grown to include more than 60 amateur musicians of all ages.

The music played by Marchwood Prelude is specially arranged by John Bell to accommodate the wide and varied range of instruments played in Marchwood Prelude.

Marchwood Prelude has evolved from an off-shoot of Marchwood Orchestra. The Orchestra was formed over 30 years ago in St John’s Church in Marchwood, by a group of enthusiastic amateur musicians under the leadership of Reg Martin. Marchwood Prelude has become a confident self-contained organisation as part of the Marchwood Music Society.

The motto of Marchwood Prelude is “sharing the joy of music” and judging by the applause and smiles at Prelude concerts, this spirit is being effectively embraced by both audience and musicians!


Musical Director Marchwood Prelude

John studied the clarinet at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, was a national mentor trainer and SE programme manager for Trinity/Guildhall/OU, assistant director of music for Southampton and a teaching fellow at Southampton University contributing to PGCE and Masters degree courses.  His pupils have played at the school proms at Albert Hall and have gone on to study at The Royal Academy, The Royal College and The Guildhall.  Whilst a headteacher John was invited by Ofsted to join its inspection team.

John has always enjoyed being a working musician.  He plays drums with the Chris Walker Band and Dave Shepherd doing gigs all round the country.  In the past he was the drummer with the Real Ale and Thunder Band and the Ray D’Inverno modern jazz ensemble. If that were not enough, he also played the drums on gigs involving Mark Nightingale, Stan Saltzman, Pete King, Nigel Hitchcock, Monty Sunshine, Acker Bilk, Kenny Ball and even the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

John also works with elderly people and children who have been permanently excluded from school and is about to start work with young, autistic adults.  He was co-organiser of the very successful concert for intergenerational awareness in Southampton’s Central Hall.

John has not given up teaching altogether and often acts as a consultant for inclusive music education.  A great supporter of both Marchwood Orchestras,  he really enjoys working with Marchwood Prelude for whom he writes or arranges most of the music.  He encourages those, whatever their age, who played instruments at school to get them out of the cupboard and to start to play again.

Not one to rest on his laurels, John is just starting a novel based on his grandfather’s experiences before, during and after WWI.

We rehearse on Thursday evenings during term time from 6:30pm – 7:45pm at Marchwood Village Hall, SO40 4SX. If you would like to join us please get in touch via



The following photographs were taken by Carolyn Evans at “Prelude’s Summer Holiday” concert on Sunday 15th July 2018 in Marchwood Village Hall.