Ernest Read

The Ernest Read Symphony Orchestra (ERSO) was founded in 1931 by Ernest Read.  He was a pioneer in the development of music education and youth orchestras during the first half of the 20th century.

On Read’s 85th birthday William Cole wrote in the Musical Times:
“It is hard to over-estimate the influence of Ernest Read on musical education and on professional and amateur musicians”.

He was also described by Yehudi Menuhin as:
“a prime example of what one inspired man can do with single hearted devotion decade after decade in awakening the passion for music in successive generations.”

Nearly 90 years on, the community of musicians who make up ERSO strives to continue Ernest Read’s legacy.

Since its inception, ERSO has brought together talented music students, young professionals keen to continue developing and accomplished amateurs. Read was passionate about spreading music as widely as possible – particularly to children and young people – while providing orchestral training. His orchestras played in schools, concert halls and the BBC studios, culminating in the birth of the renowned Ernest Read Concerts for Children in 1945 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 ran ERSO for many years after his death and following their retirement in 1998, the charity Music Illuminated was founded to manage ERSO and continue Ernest Read’s work.

ERSO presents a series of five concerts each year, combining high quality performance with an approachable style of presentation.

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ERSO has worked with many distinguished professional conductors.  Our recently appointed Principal Conductor is best known as co-founder and co-Artistic Director of the RPS Award-winning Multi-Story Orchestra with whom he made his critically acclaimed BBC Proms debut in 2016.  Chris has also worked extensively with the English Touring Opera and Glyndebourne and will conduct the Multi-Story Orchestra in the 2019 BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall.

ERSO is proud to have a highly experienced professional leader, John Crawford, a Professor at Trinity Laban and former member of the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

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.

famous faces
Famous faces – players who gained experience at ERSO include Dennis Brain, Jack Brymer, Evelyn Rothwell and James Galway

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 two of our concerts each year involve ERSO working with children.

Check out our latest news on our ERSO Facebook page.

Information about us:

The Ernest Read Symphony Orchestra is run by Music Illuminated

Registered charity no:1074016, Registered company no: 03685489

Registered address: 20 Wimborne Close, Epsom, Surrey KT17 4DP

email address:

Affiliated to Making Music