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General Information

an informal playing session to celebrate Gamelan Sekar Petak's 10th birthday

Gamelan is the name given to an orchestra of gongs and metallophones (usually made of bronze), with additional instruments and voices, found principally on the islands of Java and Bali. The set housed in the Music Department, University of York, England was made by Tentrem Sarwanto in Solo, Central Java, in 1981 and given the name 'Sekar Petak', which means 'white flower'.(For those who may not know, the city and county of York have the emblem of a white rose.) Its 'birthday,' based on when it was first assembled and tried out by expert musicians in Solo, on Sunday 22nd November 1981, is marked every year by a special playing session, at which the gamelan is offered fruit and white flowers. By happy coincidence, that date is also St. Cecilia's Day, when the West's patron saint of music is honoured.

also from the informal playing session to celebrate Gamelan Sekar Petak's 10th birthday

Gamelan Sekar Petak has the distinction of being the first complete purpose-built Javanese gamelan in a British university, and it has assumed a central position in the music course, with regular rehearsals throughout term, and numerous concerts and workshops for schoolchildren, adults and other university music students. Since the English Gamelan Orchestra, also directed by Neil Sorrell, ceased using the Indonesian Embassy gamelan in 1983, Gamelan Sekar Petak has become the most widely toured gamelan in the country. It has been heard on BBC Radio and also been used in educational and entertainment programmes for children on BBC TV and ITV. Public concerts in York and elsewhere, including appearances at the Cheltenham International Festival of Music and the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, have featured the first performance of wayang kulit (shadow puppet theatre) with gamelan accompaniment by British musicians, premieres of works specially composed by members of the group, and British premieres of works by Lou Harrison, John Cage and other distinguished American composers, performance with the celebrated percussionist, Evelyn Glennie, as well, of course, as traditional Javanese music for the gamelan. The mixture of traditional and modern, Javanese and Western, is a special feature of concerts by Gamelan Sekar Petak.

local children performing with the puppets they made for a shadow play accompanied by the gamelan

If you want to know more about Gamelan Sekar Petak, email the director, Neil Sorrell, on

More about the story of how it was manufactured may be found in Neil Sorrell's book A Guide to the Gamelan
(London: Faber and Faber, 1990. 2nd edition, ed. M. Hatch. Ithaca, N.Y.: Society for Asian Music, 2000)

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