Guildford Symphony Orchestra - join the club

PUBLISHED: 19:46 14 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:18 20 February 2013

Guildford Symphony Orchestra - join the club

Guildford Symphony Orchestra - join the club

Having famously been conducted by Elgar and Vaughan Williams, among others, Guildford Symphony has built a reputation as one of Surrey's finest orchestras. Here, chairman Kathy Atkinson provides us with an overture to their next concert

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine May 2010

Having famously been conducted by Elgar and Vaughan Williams, among others, Guildford Symphony has built a reputation as one of Surreys finest orchestras. Here, chairman Kathy Atkinson provides us with an overture to their next concert

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When was the club set up?
Founded in 1919 by Claud Powell, a man of enormous musical drive, Guildford Symphony Orchestra is the oldest in the borough and established itself throughout the inter-war years as an ensemble of distinction.

Its members have always been amateurs but the group has been conducted by some very well-known composers including Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Roger Quilter. Other guest conductors include Adrian Boult, Arthur Bliss and Charles Groves.

After Claud Powells death in 1959, Ralph Nicholson, violin professor at the Royal College of Music, took over with his inimitable combination of humour and fine musicianship, leading the orchestra for 31 years.
In 1990, the baton passed to Darrell Davison, under whose expert and dynamic direction, new heights have been scaled. A former Charterhouse music scholar, he has conducted all four main London orchestras and has a very busy career conducting, composing and arranging music.

The last decade has seen the orchestra grow in numbers and in reputation; both the standard of playing and the difficulty of the works played have risen. The GSO is now the only Guildford orchestra regularly offering a full-scale programme of 19th and 20th century symphonic music.

How often do you meet?
The GSO rehearses on Tuesday evenings from 7.30pm to 9.45pm at Queen Eleanors School in Onslow Village, Guildford. We also hold three play for pleasure rehearsals at the start and end of each season. There is no obligation to join and no fee!

Whats the best thing about being a member of the club?
Playing in an amateur community orchestra enables individual musicians to play a huge repertoire of large-scale works. You are surrounded by brass, woodwind, strings and tympani, each producing very different sounds that create wonderful harmony and texture together. Orchestral music is all about teamwork, and performing well together to a high standard gives the most enormous buzz.

Do you find being surrounded by like-minded individuals inspiring?
Making music together is one of the oldest social activities associated with human beings and each member of the orchestra feels stretched, challenged, inspired and uplifted by being surrounded by other musicians.

How many members do you have?
GSO has around 60 members, drawn from all sectors of the community teachers, full-time parents, dentists, doctors, journalists, accountants, people working in the City and in academic research all brought together through a love of playing music.

Do you have links with other clubs?
We enjoy working with local schools, encouraging young people to write and perform music. We also raise huge sums of money for local charities.

Whats the most interesting story from the groups history?
Over the years, we have been privileged to encourage local talent and delighted that Godalming-born violinist Andrew Haveron who has performed many concertos with us since his teens has recently been appointed leader of the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

and the funniest?
Soloists occasionally turn up late for rehearsal but some years ago a Russian cellist, whose credit card refused to work, very nearly missed the entire concert. With tension mounting, he finally found some cash, and got on the train from Bedford. By this time, orchestra leader Darrell Davison had rehearsed the orchestra, singing the entire cello part himself. When the cellist arrived, the orchestra was having tea, so Darrell rehearsed him alone, this time singing the orchestral part. Luckily, Darrell sings very well and the concert went beautifully!

Describe your club in five words...
Performing, enjoying great classical music!

  • If you are interested in joining Guildford Symphony Orchestra, contact the secretary Wendy Ratcliffe on 01483 59502 or by e-mail

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