The Ernest Read Symphony Orchestra (ERSO) was founded in 1931 by Ernest Read, the British conductor, organist, and music educator. Read was a pioneer in the development of music education and youth orchestras within England during the first half of the 20th century. Nearly 90 years on, the community of musicians who are part of ERSO strive to continue his legacy.
Read was passionate about spreading music as widely as possible – in particular to children and young people – while providing orchestral training. His orchestras played in schools, concert halls and the BBC studios, culminating in the birth in 1945 of the renowned Ernest Read Concerts for Children at the Royal Festival Hall. Read developed an innovative format for these day-time concerts that many professional symphony orchestras still follow today with short programmes, accessible introductions to the repertoire and audience participation. The concerts had a well-renowned and established reputation and sold out for over 50 years.
Read’s daughter and son-in-law, Noel and Jean Long, ran ERSO for many years after his death. Following their retirement, Music Illuminated was founded in December 1998 as a charity to manage ERSO and continue Ernest Read’s work. Music Illuminated has four Trustees and eight Committee Members.
ERSO presents a series of six concerts each year, combining high quality performance with an approachable style of presentation. We are currently working with a series of guest conductors, prior to appointing a new permanent conductor to follow our previous conductors Peter Stark and Paul Hoskins.
Our membership is diverse and includes conservatoire students, music teachers, professionals at the start of their careers and skilled and experienced amateur musicians.
ERSO champions developmental opportunities for emerging conductors and performers, and we have recently created The ERSO Talent programme which brings together all of our work with emerging soloists, conductors, animateurs and section leaders.
Since the Ernest Read Symphony Orchestra was founded (initially named the London Senior Orchestra), our membership has always included talented music students and young professionals at the start of their careers who are keen to gain repertoire experience. Famous names who gained training and experience as ERSO members during their early professional lives include: the horn player Dennis Brain, clarinettist Jack Brymer, oboist Evelyn Rothwell and flautist James Galway.
We are strongly committed to giving concerts for children and young people and three of our concerts each year involve ERSO working with children. We work closely with partner organisations including The Camden Music Service, the Camden School for Girls and local primary schools.
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