Founded in 1984, we are an amateur chamber orchestra of the highest standard (‘Oxford’s top amateur orchestra’ as reviewed by OxInABox). The orchestra has neither a fixed membership nor a permanent musical director. This enables us to engage a wide range of accomplished musicians to direct and play in our concerts. Many of our players are involved in music professionally, though not necessarily as performers. Core to our philosophy is the pure enjoyment of playing music and we are currently led by Kate Bailey.
We regularly offer young, up-and-coming soloists and conductors the opportunity to work with the orchestra. Conductors in the past and who have made it big include Andrea Quinn (Freelance Conductor Specialising in Ballet, ex Music Director New Your City Ballet) and Daniel Harding (Principal Conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, guest with Vienna Philharmonic).
Recently we have worked with some really amazing upward-coming young musicians, including conductor Cloe Rooke (already Assistant Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and winner Contemporary Award at the first International Conducting Competition in Rotterdam in May 2022), violinists Madeleine Pickering and Emma Lisney and horn player Zoë Tweed: they are ones to look out for in the future!
We also work with established musicians: recently these have included Jennifer Pike (international violin soloist), Maggie Faultless (Co-leader of the Orchestra of Age of Enlightenment), Ian Brown (was pianist of the Nash Ensemble), George Caird (was Principal of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, oboist), Robin O’Neill (Principal Bassoon Philamonia) and Cayenna Ponchione (Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra)
We organise 4 concerts a year (January, March/April, June and September), generally performing in either St Mary’s Church on Oxford’s High Street or the Sheldonian Theatre. Our funding comes from our ticket sales and from fees for accompanying local choral societies in their concerts.
As part of our voluntary activity, we support the annual Orpheus ‘come and sing’ concert that raises funds for musical charities. We also offer free tickets to our concerts for accompanied under 18s, so they can experience the fun of classical music.