Leeds Baroque Orchestra -The Timpani Project

by Jillian Johnson in Leeds, England, United Kingdom

We did it
On 16th March 2019 we successfully raised £9,215 with 105 supporters in 28 days

Our aim is to purchase a set of Baroque timpani for Leeds Baroque Orchestra for performance of music from the17th & 18th century.

by Jillian Johnson in Leeds, England, United Kingdom

New stretch target

An important part of Leeds Baroque's mission is to provide coaching and performance opportunities to aspiring performers. Should we be fortunate to exceed our target the remaining funds will be used to expand the ‘instrument bank’ (so far two Baroque violins and a Baroque viola,) established to provide period instruments on loan, free of charge, to promising young players without specialist instruments of their own. With your help we could add a Baroque cello to our student loan collection and complete the quartet.

Who we are:

Leeds Baroque - "[Their performance] was a life enhancing jewel in the sea of mediocrity which surrounds us!" 


Founded in 2000, Leeds Baroque is a period instrument orchestra and choir specialising in music of the 17th and 18th centuries. It is made up of professional, student and talented amateur performers and directed by internationally regarded authority on the performance of this repertoire, Prof. Peter Holman MBE. 

We were delighted when, in 2015, Sir Alan Langlands, accepted an invitation to become our Honorary Patron.  

Sir Alan is Vice Chancellor of Leeds University and in addition to his many academic interests has a wide ranging interest in music and the arts. Leeds Baroque, since its inception, has had strong links with the University and the School of Music with both staff and students participating in our work. Sir Alan's continuing support is much appreciated.

Leeds Baroque has gained an enviable reputation for lively performances and academically informed programmes covering standard works from Monteverdi to Mozart as well as bold explorations of unfamiliar Baroque music

Their main base is Leeds, where they perform at The Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall at the University of Leeds School of Music, at  The Venue at Leeds College of Music. Leeds Baroque also gives occasional concerts further afield in York, Hexham, Saltaire and Richmond (North Yorkshire). The Organisation receives little external funding and is largely supported by its ‘Friends’ organisation and ticket income.

Most of the performers are unpaid, playing in the belief that this specialist, but very accessible, repertoire should be more widely available and appreciated.

What we do:

Leeds Baroque performs three or four concerts per year, largely in the West Yorkshire region. They provide an opportunity for audiences to experience the very individual sounds of seventeenth and eighteenth century repertoire played on period instruments and with historically informed techniques based on recent research. This approach sheds new light on familiar repertoire and brings less familiar works to a new audience. We also provide educational opportunities for students to explore the music of the 17th and 18th centuries, with places in the orchestra and by providing a small number of period instruments on loan free of charge from the Leeds Baroque "Instrument Bank" supported by the Friends of Leeds Baroque and gifts from private donors.

Why are period instruments important to us?

The musical resources of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were very different to those of even the nineteenth century, let alone the twenty-first. Instrument construction was generally lighter; stringed instruments were strung with gut rather than the nylon and steel used on modern instruments.  Woodwind instruments had fewer keys, brass instruments were generally constructed with a narrower bore and without valves, the piano had not yet been invented and “concert pitch” had yet to be established. These factors provide players with different technical challenges and the audience with a different sound world. Leeds Baroque uses such instruments for their performances.

Why do we need historical timpani?

A drum’s a drum for a’ that (with apologies to Robert Burns)


  Images: The Military origins of timpani: the kettledrums      |  Timpanist Louise Goodwin with Baroque timpani

Timpani in the Baroque orchestra developed from the military kettle drums, much smaller and lighter than the modern instruments. As Louise Goodwin, the timpanist in our demonstration video explains, they provide a more incisive sound  in keeping with the other instruments of a period orchestra.  Much of the large-scale core Baroque repertoire that we perform requires period timpani – instruments that are hard to find in our region. The dynamic combination of “trumpets and drums” is used to illustrate ceremonial events, and to create tension and drama.  The opening movement of Handel’s coronation anthem The King shall rejoice is a great example.

As a largely unfunded organisation with limited financial resources we can only occasionally cover the costs of hire and transport for these instruments, which limits our repertoire choices, and prevents us from performing music that we want to play and that would be enjoyed by our audience. It also limits the opportunities we can give to aspiring young timpanists to experience playing historically accurate instruments.

Who is supporting our project?

We are fortunate to have support from a wide range of luminaries with interest in this ambitious project:

Images from L-R: Honorary Patron, Sir Alan Langlands | Baroque trumpeter, Crispian Steele-Perkins |  Musician, Comedian and Impressionist, Alistair McGowan (photo credit - Leeds International Piano Competition) | Director of the National Centre for Early Music, Dr Delma Tomlin MBE.

Our Honorary Patron Sir Alan Langlands: Thank you all for your contributions to this exciting project – every penny will make a huge difference to Leeds Baroque, and we hope that other groups in Yorkshire will also use the timpani from time to time, adding greatly to the range, depth and interest of their work.

 One of the many things I enjoy about Leeds Baroque performances is Peter Holman’s direction of the ensemble from the harpsichord. Apparently without effort, he inspires coherence, togetherness and a great spirit in the group, blending the sound of the instruments and voices in a magical way. This is a largely voluntary ensemble with a truly professional attitude. The strength of their commitment is always evident in the warmth of their performances, which combine the enthusiasm of people giving up their own time to perform, with the detail, discipline and precision characteristic of professional music making. 

 Leeds Baroque performances have an intimacy of sound and ambience; they give me a sense of being transported to another age, perhaps relaxing in a seventeenth or eighteenth century salon! There is also something in the visual impact, in the sound and in the atmosphere of their performances that makes the whole experience special. This is always enhanced by the context provided in Peter's fascinating programme notes, meticulously prepared for each concert.

Leeds Baroque adds to the great diversity of the cultural offer in Leeds, and it makes a truly distinctive contribution. I know from personal experience that audiences across the age range value its performances, including many of the University's staff and students from home and abroad. 

Alan Langlands

Adrian Bending - Professor of Timpani at the Royal College of Music and principal timpanist for the Orchestra of The Age of enlightenment. You can read his article on historical timpani HERE


Crispian Steele-Perkins - Baroque Trumpeter:  "Henry Potters have been the foremost Drum manufacturers in London for the past 200 years. I have Potter trumpets and bugles in my private collection; they are made using traditional materials and techniques established in the 16th and 17th centuries.Their Drums are ideal for reproducing the sounds of former centuries and the opportunity to buy a pair of quality historic Timpani occurs rarely. I am happy to support your fundraising! 

Best wishes, Crispian"                                                                                                                        

Alistair McGowan - Musician, Comedian and impressionist: "All the best to Leeds Baroque in their ambitious plans to acquire historically appropriate timpani".


Dr Delma Tomlin MBE - Director The National Centre for Early Music: "I’m delighted to support this ambitious project – a set of historically appropriate timpani will enable Leeds Baroque to widen its repertoire and be a resource for other period instrument groups in the region. I wish them every success and look forward to hearing their next performance – with timpani."

Delma Tomlin

... and Finally

A project like this could not happen without the support of a team effort. Grateful thanks go to all those who have inspired the project, provided technical support, general encouragement throughout a year of planning and us 'banging on' about timpani. We hope their dedication to the outcome will encourage you to support us too.


This project offers rewards in return for your donation.

£15 or more

Thank you from Leeds Baroque

A massive #thankyou from Leeds Baroque, a custom-design LBO pin badge, and priority booking for the launch concert with the new timpani.

£25 or more

Thank you from Leeds Baroque + LBO T-shirt

A massive #thankyou from Leeds Baroque, a custom-design LBO T-shirt, and priority booking for the launch concert with the new timpani.

£50 or more

4 of 30 claimed

Pair of tickets to a Leeds Baroque concert

Pair of tickets to a Leeds Baroque concert of your choice.

£75 or more

2 of 50 claimed

A copy of Leeds Baroque Programme Notes

A signed copy, and your name printed in the subscription list, in the newly published extracts of the Leeds Baroque's Programme Archive. A representative collection of director Peter Holman's erudite and entertaining notes from eighteen years of Leeds Baroque repertoire.

£100 or more

6 of 20 claimed

A Season Ticket for Leeds Baroque Concerts

A Leeds Baroque season ticket - 3 to 4 concerts

£100 or more

1 of 10 claimed

Observe an LB rehearsal and informal performance

An invitation to observe a Leeds Baroque rehearsal and informal performance. With tea and cake!

£250 or more

5 of 12 claimed

Yor name engraved on the timpani tuning fittings

Each instrument has six sets of tuning fittings set into small copper fixing plates. Your name, or that of a dedicatee, can be engraved onto one of these fittings - a permanent memento of your generosity.

£2,000 or more

0 of 1 claimed

Private Concert given by members of Leeds Baroque

A private afternoon tea concert for the donor and their guests in the historic Ilkley Manor House - a Grade II listed building. The event will include afternoon tea followed by recital by members of Leeds Baroque. Date to be by mutual agreement.

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