First Position Strings

Ensemble-playing Workshops for adult beginners

…for adult players of violin, viola, cello and double bass, approximately Grade 1 - 5 standard...

Next workshop:

Sunday 7th November 14:00 - 16:00

Sharrow Performing Arts Space
Sharrow School,
Sitwell Place,
Sheffield S7 1BE

Tutor: Jenny Jackson

Fee per workshop: £18 / £15 concession (65+)


Workshops are COVID-secure:

  • masks must be worn (if you are able)
  • numbers limited to 20 players maximum
  • well-ventilated room
  • lots of space between seats
  • hand sanitiser station


More dates for 2021:

  • Sunday 19th December 14:00 - 17:00 (includes Xmas party/social)

I felt very safe in the environment that had been created. There was no need to touch even a door handle! The room was well ventilated and everyone adhered to social distancing and face mask wearing. Ruth Batty


Some positive news! The UK Government has confirmed that we have met all the necessary criteria to progress to Stage 3 of the Covid Roadmap on 17th May. Therefore, we will be allowed to go ahead with our planned workshops on Sunday 23rd May and 20th June! If you would like to attend either workshop, please contact Jenny or complete the Booking Form. Do not send payment until your place is confirmed as numbers are limited.


Merry Christmas! To celebrate the wonderful tradition of carolling in Sheffield, we have collaborated with Sheffield Viola Ensemble to produce a virtual ensemble performance of one of the most well-known Sheffield carols; 'The Christmas Tree'. Hope you enjoy it!

On 13th September we had our first Covid-secure workshop since we last met in March. It was great to get the ensemble back together, playing some new music and in the same room (no need for a click track!). Numbers were limited to fifteen to allow for 2 metres of space between every player, and we kept the doors open to allow for plenty of ventilation. It was well worth the extra effort and we're looking forward to the next one in October!

Feedback from players:

I had been a little apprehensive since it's the first time I have been amongst people since March, but good ventilation, masks and social distancing procedures meant that I was able to relax and enjoy us playing together again. " Elle Williams
I really enjoyed it and so much better than playing virtually. I thought the structure worked well - timings about right given the need to wear a mask." Katrina Hulse
I felt as safe as is possible outside home" Gill Wilson
Thank you SO much for today.  A first step back into the real world for me - and you set it up and ran it so carefully and safely - it felt really relaxed and good." Gill Hughes
I knew from your emails you had checked and followed all the guidance and that you kept in communication with us throughout the process with details of how things could and would work was very reassuring." Claire Conway
It was great to get some normality back playing music if only for a few hours! There was a wide range of music covered during the session, and although we were further apart it was still possible to try and actively listen to different parts and blend into the ensemble." Tim Dolan

August 2020: we decided to produce another virtual ensemble performance! Here is the Jazz Waltz No. 2 by Shostakovich recorded remotely by members of First Position Strings with players from Sheffield Viola Ensemble.


June 2020: a second virtual ensemble performance! As we were unable to meet up physically, due to the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, we collaborated with Sheffield Viola Ensemble once again to create a performance of 'Hit the Road, Jack'; a song written by the rhythm and blues artist Percy Mayfield. 


During the COVID-19 lock-down in April 2020, we collaborated with Sheffield Viola Ensemble to create a virtual ensemble performance of Bach's Passiontide chorale, 'O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden' (O Sacred Head Now Wounded).

Quotes from previous workshop attendees:

Just to say thank you for Sunday. I had a wonderful time. My multi tasking is not so good as it used to be but what I most enjoy is learning and appreciating what musicians do when they play in big orchestras. Looking forward to the next one!
There’s been such a gap in Sheffield for adult beginners interested in learning to play in an ensemble, so thank you for organising this.
It was great to play in a group setting with someone other than a teacher etc.

It was a pleasure to play with you all today! I had a fantastic afternoon.
Just having it in first position and keeping it simple meant it was easier to concentrate on the difficult part of timing and playing together.
It was lovely to have a little break and get to say hello to other people there.
Just to say I thought it was fantastic!

Have you started to learn to play an instrument recently, or are you a returning, rather rusty, player? Perhaps your aim is to join an orchestra?

These workshops will give you the opportunity to experience playing a part within a string ensemble and to practice the skills required for successful ensemble-playing. This includes learning how to follow a conductor, understanding your part (deciphering multi-bar rests, repeats marks and rehearsal marks, for example), practicing how to play in time with others, and picking up tips for how to recover and continue playing if you lose your place.

In each workshop we will tackle a number of pieces in a variety of styles, in simple keys. There will be a number of different parts to choose from, of varying levels of difficulty, and we will play music in first position only. We will start with short, easy-to-sightread pieces, before tackling some longer and more complicated arrangements that may need more than one rehearsal to to get together (the parts for these pieces will be sent out via email a few weeks before each workshop, as long as you have completed the booking form).

We will work to make the music sound as good as possible, observing the dynamics and articulation (including bowing), although the emphasis will be on enjoying learning how to play together rather than working on the technical aspects of playing your instrument.

As well as learning and developing your ensemble-playing skills, these workshops offer a chance to get to know other adult players in the city (you may even decide to form a quartet with people you meet!). We will have a break mid-afternoon for everyone to get to know each other better. Light refreshments will be provided.

You will need to bring:

  • your instrument
  • a music stand
  • a pencil to mark your part when necessary
  • a mute in case we play music that requires it (don't worry if you have not got one, however)
  • cellists should bring a 'Black hole', or similar, to stop their spike from skidding or damaging the wooden floor

***Please note that I cannot accept absolute beginners***


If you are interested in attending a First Position Strings workshop but are unsure of your suitability, or just want to know more about it, please contact Jenny: