I went along to Cadogan Hall (pictured) not entirely convinced that a community orchestra was going to get through the almost two hours of Mahler's Third Symphony. But this was the Royal Orchestral Society (known in former days as the Royal Amateur Orchestra) founded by a music-loving son of Queen Victoria 150 years ago. This makes them, I think, the longest continuously-manned orchestra in London, and only rivalled for longevity in the UK by the RLPO, Hallé and Huddersfield Philharmonic.
Directed in this anniversary event by Orlando Jopling, a former ROS principal conductor, the music really gripped the audience, me included, through all its surprising events - huge flugelhorn solo, huge trombone solo, suddenly a contralto, then an angelic choir and children singing the bell parts. How remarkable that part-time musicians these days are up to performing something as complex as this enormous symphony.
A particular thrill for me was to discover that the children's choir came from my local church, St John the Divine, Kennington. Their director Ben Vonberg-Clark told me that many, or most, of the children had never been to a concert before this one. But they sat with utter attention through the hour-plus they had to wait before their entry in the fifth movement. Classical music can do many things at once - inspire, intrigue, teach. I didn't previously think of Mahler's Third as the perfect community project, but that's how it seemed on this cheering evening.