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Robert Maycock on classical music

News of a debut in Peterborough this weekend by the Classic East orchestra will stir musical memories. In the early Eighties, eastern England was the region where orchestras feared to tread, while London teemed with them. The immortal phrase "possibly to Nottingham" was coined as part of the argument for relocating one of the capital's perceived surplus - which foundered on the predictable wish of the candidates to stay where they were. With Nottingham the home of two rival chamber orchestras already, the attractions of the metropolis grew ever firmer.

And where are we now? London's flagships sail on untouched, it seems. Yet the Royal Philharmonic has dared to set up a part-time residency in Nottingham, and both city and musicians are thriving on the link. Peterborough, on the other hand, has seen its own string orchestra come and go for lack of local support. Better news from Cambridge, where the Britten Sinfonia has put down roots.

As Classic East, a full-size professional symphony orchestra, brings in Evelyn Glennie (below left) for Sunday's launch at The Cresset with a programme of popular works, what are its chances? The key factors are artistic success and private sector support. Planners in the funding system are keen to "develop" the region's orchestral life but this usually means more efficient use of what already exists. A new group has to force itself into the ear as a vigorous, unstoppable venture that can't be ignored.

Classic East's manifesto says it will be entertaining and particularly welcoming to families with children. It plans to work with local orchestras and choirs, and offers pre-concert talks and post-concert socialising. So far there is no word of the education programmes and contemporary work that public funders will insist on. But if it picks up enough business support it can call its own tune. As Norman Beedie launches into Mozart's Figaro overture and Beethoven's Symphony No 5, there's everything to play for.

Classic East, The Cresset, Bretton Centre, Peterborough (01733-265 705) 13 Aug