Performing Great Music • Encouraging Young Talent • Supporting Local Charities

Founded in 1919

The Guildford Symphony Orchestra is the borough’s premier community orchestra, and currently the only local orchestra offering a full, large-scale symphonic repertoire.


Guildford Symphony Orchestra Centenary Season 2018/19

This year will be the GSO’s hundredth season. Centenary celebrations are in an advanced stage of planning, with highlights including a guest appearance at St John’s, Smith Square in London, a written history of the orchestra, and a special centenary concert in Autumn 2019 to feature Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

Next Concert – Una Clark Young Artists Concert

Saturday 26th January at 12.30 pm – St Catherine’s School, Bramley


One of the best-loved events in the Guildford calendar, the Una Clark Young Artists’ Concert sees five prize-winning young musicians perform concerto movements with the orchestra. With at least two recent winners going on to be finalists in the BBC Young Musician of the Year, the standard is never less than superb, and the concert is a chance to catch names of the future at the very cusp of stellar careers. For the second time in a row, we had so many excellent applicants that the auditions at Queen Eleanor’s school had to be organised with military precision to fit everyone in before the rest of the orchestra turned up for their normal rehearsal.

This year’s programme will feature:

Laura MacDonald – Dvorak Cello Concerto (1st mvt)

Elisaveta Saul – Prokofiev 2nd Violin Concerto (1st mvt)

Francesca Cox – Strauss Oboe Concerto

Zacharias Brandman – Schumann Piano Concerto

Toby Cook – Walton Viola Concerto



From the moment the large yellow lion appeared blowing a trumpet to conduct Saint Saens’s Royal Lion March, the sell-out audience for the GSO family concert was enthralled.

Huge teddy bears flanked the orchestra represented Elgar’s tame and wild bears, and Guildford Symphony Orchestra musical director Darrell Davison produced a succession of wonderful props to illustrate the music.
A swan and her cygnets dancing on the top of his head, a green inflatable crocodile snapping its teeth, a bumble bee whizzing around on a wire – they had the children roaring with laughter, joining in the rhythms and most importantly, enjoying and interpreting a programme of wonderfully evocative music.

The highlight of the concert at St Catherine’s beautiful purpose-built theatre cum concert hall on October 7 was the performance of the iconic children’s classic, Peter and the Wolf. Narrator David Leonard gave a brilliant rendition of the grumpy grandfather, the dopey duck and kept the audience on the edge of their seats.

Guildford Symphony Orchestra is just starting its Centenary Season – what an achievement! One of its key aims is to promote music and the enjoyment of music among young people. This concert did just that.




Calling Young Musicians – Jellinek Competition Opens

We are now accepting entry forms for the 2018/19 Jellinek Competition. The five winning finalists will play concerto movements with the GSO in the Una Clark Young Artists’ Concert (Saturday 26th January 2019 – please note the revised date). This is one of the most popular events in our calendar, and the standard is invariably spectacular – two winners subsequently went on to be finalists in the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition, and finalists often return to the orchestra as full soloists in our major concerts. Application forms can be downloaded here. Please note that the deadline for applications is November 5th, for auditions on 20th.


2018-2019 Season

GSO Animal Magic posterFamily Concert – Animal Magic

The GSO’s centenary season kicks off with the latest in our much-loved series of Family Concerts. Regular narrator David Leonard (better known as the dastardly Miss Trunchbull in the stage play of Roald Dahl’s Matilda) returns to give his uniquely lupine take on Prokofiev’s much-loved Peter and the Wolf.



FAMILY CONCERT – Animal MagicSunday 7th October at 3.30 pm, St Catherine’s School, Bramley
The Lion’s Royal FanfareDaniels
Tame Bears, Wild BearsElgar
Flight of the BumblebeeRimsky-Korsakov
Dance of the CygnetsTchaikovsky
Angry Rat & Jolly Elephantsarr Richards
Cuckoo PolkaStrauss
The Ostrich and HippoPonchielli
Peter and the WolfProkofiev
Gallop from William TellRossini
David Leonard – Narrator BOX OFFICE

GSO Russian Massterpieces G Live

Russian Masterpieces

The first major concert of our centenary season is a gala concert of Russian masterpieces. Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique, both his last symphony and the last work premiered in his lifetime, is the culmination of his genius for heart-rending melody coupled with fabulous orchestration. Nowhere are those traits more evident than in the first movement, with the strings and woodwind lingering over one of the composer’s most sensually romantic tunes, interwoven with episodes of high drama. The quicksilver, shimmering scherzo of the third movement is reasonably conventional (but no less brilliantly written for that), but the other movements are all highly unusual: the second, Allegro con Grazia,  is a waltz with a twist, written in the time signature of 5/4 – a common enough trope in the more avant garde experimentalism of the twentieth century, but unheard of at the time, to the extent of provoking confusion and outrage from the first orchestra to rehearse it! Tchaikovsky’s genius manages to transform this most awkward, irregular rhythm into a graceful dance: the so-called ‘limping waltz’ is coloured by the time signature but never in a way that jars. The finale is even more original – ending not with a rousing, triumphant flourish in a major key – but in the minor, in a slow, quiet statement of despair.

The same could not be said of Rachmaninov’s third piano concerto, which most certainly ends with a bang, and has a fair few fireworks along the way as well, including one of the most demanding cadenzas in the repertoire. Lasting a gruelling (for the pianist), epic (for the audience) three quarters of an hour, the work is a virtuoso tour-de-force: the film Shine memorably depicted pianist David Helfgott’s breakdown as he tried to tame its fiendish pyrotechnics. Happily Masa Tayama, one of the GSO’s favourite soloists, and who has wowed Guildford audiences with both Tchaikovsky concertos in recent years, is well versed in its challenges.

Kicking the evening off, the riotous Festive Overture catches the normally sardonic Shostakovich at his most exuberant and playful.




Russian MasterpiecesSaturday 24th November at 7.30 pm, GLive
Festival OvertureShostakovich
Piano Concerto No. 3Rachmaninov
Symphony no 6 – PathetiqueTchaikovsky
Masa Tayama – Solo Piano BOX OFFICE

Una Clark Young Artists’ Concert

One of the most popular concerts in the GSO calendar, five award-winning young soloists perform concerto movements with the orchestra and receive the Jellinek prize. The standard is invariably superb – two recent alumni have subsequently become BBC Young Musician of the Year finalists – and is a chance for Guildford music-lovers to see some of tomorrow’s real stars at the start of their careers. Please note that, owing to circumstances beyond our control, the time and date for this concert have changed from that originally advertised.

YOUNG ARTISTS’ CONCERTSaturday 26th January at 12.30pm, St Catherine’s School (date and venue TBC)
Programme TBC
Outstanding young soloists from the Guildford area perform concerto movements with the orchestra and are awarded the prestigious Jellinek prize. BOX OFFICE

Spring Concert – Rhapsody & Fantasia


As a particular highlight of our centenary, the GSO is thrilled to be performing at one of London’s premiere classical venues, St John’s, Smith Square. In addition to two concertante pieces by contemporary composer John Rand, we will be playing works by three of the greatest British composers, all of whom conducted the GSO in its early years: Elgar, Walton and Vaughan Williams

Rhapsody & FantasiaSaturday 23rd March at 7.30 pm, St John’s, Smith Square, London
Coronation March – Crown ImperialWalton
Irish RhapsodyRand
Greensleeves FantasiaVaughan Williams
Piano Concerto No 5Rand
Symphony No 1Elgar
Alan Brown – Solo Piano BOX OFFICE

SPACE – the Final Frontier

Saturday 18th May, 7.30pm – G Live


SPACE – the Final FrontierSaturday 18th May at 7.30 pm, GLive
2001 – a Space OdysseyStrauss
Star TrekGoldsmith
The Shape of Things to ComeBliss
Doctor WhoGrainer
Cosmic Constellations – ConcertoPandeiros
Sea Songs FantasiaWood
Star Wars Williams
ET Williams
The Planets (Mars, Venus, Uranus, Jupiter) Holst
Solo Percussion – Hyungi Lee BOX OFFICE

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