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.



A concert of great Russian Masterpieces on November 24 at G Live marked the start of Guildford Symphony Orchestra’s Centenary Season – a stunning achievement for an organisation made up of local musicians from every walk of life.

Since its foundation in 1919, the Guildford area has produced a continuum of amateur musicians playing to an incredibly high standard, generation after generation. Doctors, teachers, lawyers, housewives, students, techy whizzes, accountants and more – this area has been rich in musical talent for 100 years.

This spring, as part of the GSO Centenary Season, it will play St John’s Smith Square on March 23 before returning to G Live on May 18. Come and support it.


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The GSO heads to one of London’s premier venues to celebrate its centenary season

Symphony Orchestra is performing its spring concert Rhapsody and Fantasia at St John’s Smith Square on March 23 as part of its Centenary Season celebrations.

GSO was founded in 1919 by the dynamic Claud Powell, whose friends included a formidable array of famous English composers, musicians and conductors.  He was a terrific supporter of English music, so it is fitting that this concert features works by three of the most revered names in British musical history, Elgar, Vaughan Williams, and Walton – all the more so because each of these superstars featured as a guest conductor of Guildford’s orchestra during its formative years.

Opening the concert is Walton’s rousing Crown Imperial, written for the British Coronation (despite – thanks to the Wallis Simpson affair – being used for the coronation of a different monarch than the one envisaged!). Keeping the royal theme – literally if stories of Henry VIII’s authorship of the tune are to be believed – is Vaughan William’s much-loved Fantasia on Greensleeves. Altogether more contemporary are two concertante works by John Rand, his Piano Concerto No 5 and Irish Rhapsody. Rand has had a lifelong fascination with the piano concerto, and now has more to his name than Beethoven managed! His background as a film composer shines through in his love of dramatic, driving rhythms, coupled with strong jazz influences and a touch of Nyman-esque minimalism. The piano soloist is Alan Brown, winner of the Hastings International Piano Competition and known to many Surrey music lovers as the outstanding accompanist at Leith Hill Music Festival.

The centrepiece of the concert is Elgar’s Symphony No 1 in A flat, which emerged from a long gestation as a towering masterpiece that was a smash hit on the concert stage in England and across Europe, receiving over 100 performances in its first year alone, and acclaimed by the likes of Richter as the “Greatest symphony this century”. Its gorgeous opening melody is first stated gently, then rousingly and then disappears for the most of the rest of the elaborate, intricate first movement, emerging a mere handful of times as a ghostly echo, played by the back desks of the violins and violas only.

The scherzo and the slow movement are united by a stroke of pure, unadulterated genius – they use the same melody. On initial hearing it is hard to believe that agitated, quicksilver tune that fizzes and flows through the restless scherzo,  could emerge – slowed down to largo and completely reharmonized – as the soul of an achingly beautiful and unabashedly romantic movement that rivals the famous Nimrod for its quiet dignity.

Another restless, questing theme in D minor forms the core of the finale, interrupted by secondary march-like themes. The episodes only serve to ratchet up the relentless, driving energy until a climax that Elgar dramatically interrupts to unveil again at last the opening theme of the symphony, elaborately decorated by string arpeggios, before it is triumphantly restated one last time by the whole orchestra tutta forza, accelerating through the coda to a joyous and emphatic finish.

There is likely to be transport available for people wishing to attend the concert – ring 01483 415847 or check this site for details nearer the time. Tickets are on sale via the SJSS website 020 7222 1061.



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.





2018-2019 Season

GSO Animal Magic poster

Family 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 Magic Sunday 7th October at 3.30 pm, St Catherine’s School, Bramley
The Lion’s Royal Fanfare Daniels
Tame Bears, Wild Bears Elgar
Flight of the Bumblebee Rimsky-Korsakov
Dance of the Cygnets Tchaikovsky
Angry Rat & Jolly Elephants arr Richards
Cuckoo Polka Strauss
The Ostrich and Hippo Ponchielli
Peter and the Wolf Prokofiev
Gallop from William Tell Rossini
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 Masterpieces Saturday 24th November at 7.30 pm, GLive
Festival Overture Shostakovich
Piano Concerto No. 3 Rachmaninov
Symphony no 6 – Pathetique Tchaikovsky
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’ CONCERT Saturday 26th January at 12.30pm, St Catherine’s School (date and venue TBC)
Laura MacDonald Dvorak – Cello Concerto (1st movement)
Elisaveta Saul Prokofiev – 2nd Violin Concerto (1st movement)
Francesca Cox Strauss – Oboe Concerto (1st movement)
Zacharias Brandman Schumann – Fantasia
Toby Cook Walton – Viola Concerto (1st movement)
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


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 & Fantasia Saturday 23rd March at 7.30 pm, St John’s, Smith Square, London
Coronation March – Crown Imperial Walton
Irish Rhapsody Rand
Greensleeves Fantasia Vaughan Williams
Piano Concerto No 5 Rand
Symphony No 1 Elgar
Alan Brown – Solo Piano BOX OFFICE

SPACE – the Final Frontier

Saturday 18th May, 7.30pm – G Live

To infinity and beyond! The GSO invite you aboard their symphonic starship for a voyage through space and timeto music’s outer limits, taking in Holst’s “Planets”, and close encounters with Darth Vader, ET and Doctor Who.

A fun concert and a great introduction to classical music for the whole family.


SPACE – the Final Frontier Saturday 18th May at 7.30 pm, GLive
2001 – a Space Odyssey Strauss
Star Trek Goldsmith
The Shape of Things to Come Bliss
Doctor Who Grainer
Cosmic Constellations – Concerto Pandeiros
Sea Songs Fantasia Wood
Star Wars  Williams
ET  Williams
The Planets (Mars, Venus, Uranus, Jupiter)  Holst
Solo Percussion – Hyungi Lee BOX OFFICE