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“A prime example of what one inspired man can do”

Ernest Read’s obituary in The Times

October 9th marks the fifty-fourth anniversary of our founder Ernest Read’s death.

Having recovered from a mild heart attack earlier that year, Ernest Read was back to work reheasing and teaching.  He collapsed suddenly and died on October 9th – which was also the first Children’s Concert of the season.  Knowing what her husband would have wanted, Helen Read told no-one and went to the Festival Hall to make sure the event ran smoothly.

Once the sad news spread there were obituaries in papers such as the Times and the Musical Times.  Read was 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.”

The Musical Times said: “No one who played under him could fail to warm to his whole-hearted, eager devotion to music. “

Ernest Read held two major appointments: at the RAM 1914-59, and director of music at Queenswood Girls’ School for over 40 years.  The London Junior Orchestra (founded in 1926) and the London Senior Orchestra (which later became ERSO) gave amateurs a chance of orchestral experience, and young professionals a chance to learn the repertory. In 1944 he launched the first school holiday orchestra and he was famous for his children’s concerts.  He knew that the length, content and style of a concert needed to reflect the audience and developed an innovative format that many professional symphony orchestras still follow today, with short programmes, accessible introductions to the repertoire and audience participation. 

Read lived to see his ideas for youth orchestras widely accepted and his ideals achieved and on the 30th birthday of the London Junior Orchestra he was awarded a CBE. 

Another famous first chance!

Looking into the ERSO archives we discovered that the international soloist and highly-acclaimed recording artist Robert Cohen made his solo debut at an Ernest Read children’s concert.  He was only twelve when he gave his performance of the Boccherini B flat Cello Concerto at the Royal Festival Hall.   The children’s concert in question was dedicated to Ernest’s wife Helen in celebration of her 70th birthday.

During forty years of his distinguished international career, Cohen has been hailed as one of the foremost cellists of our time. “It is easy to hear what the fuss is about, he plays like a God” (New York Stereo Review), “A virtuoso of genius” (Nurnberg Nachrichten).

We’re so proud to have played a small part of such an amazing career!

robert cohen

We’ve got form…

It’s not such a new idea for ERSO to be getting involved with composers – John Rutter’s Partita for Orchestra (his first orchestral work!) was commissioned by the Ernest Read Music Association to celebrate the 50th anniversary concert of the London Junior Orchestra (later known as the Ernest Read Youth Orchestra). Rutter dedicated his work to Ernest’s wife Helen.

April 1976 saw the first performance of John Rutter’s Partita for Orchestra (his first orchestral work) at the 50th anniversary concert at the Festival Hall.  The concert was attended by royalty  – Princess Alexandra (the Queen’s cousin) was present!

princess alexandra
Princess Alexandra with the Queen Mother in 1963


Ciao Bella!

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Isabella Fleming

At ERSO we’re really excited to work with young soloist Isabella Fleming in our forthcoming Mozart & Mendelssohn concert.  Bella will be playing the Mozart 2nd Violin Concerto and said:

 I chose the second violin concerto because I enjoy its shifting moods from playful in the first movement; through consolation in the second, finishing with a joyful dance in the third.  It is a wonderful opportunity to perform this less frequently heard concerto in its entirety with ERSO.”

Talented Bella started playing the violin aged seven at primary school through Redbridge Music Service.  She is currently studying for her Masters at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama on the LSO Orchestral Artistry course.

Come and hear her if you want a real treat – we think you will agree she has a very bright future ahead!


Exciting news on ERSO’s composers’ competition!

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Emma-Ruth Richards

At the Ernest Read Symphony Orchestra we are honoured and excited to be working with acclaimed composer Emma-Ruth Richards on our ERSO emerging composers’ competition.

Emma-Ruth is a composer much in demand in the UK and overseas, acclaimed for her understanding of both instrumental and vocal writing, earning her a role as a favourite among musicians and singers.

Praise for Emma-Ruth includes:

“Accomplished” – Sunday Times

“a composer of exceptional refinement and subtlety [with] a gift for writing deeply expressive pieces”, “lucid, impassioned and compelling” – Musical Opinion, Paul Conway

“Highly charged and simply beautiful” – Opera North, Bachtrack

Emma-Ruth will make the initial assessment of all submitted compositions and will be an expert member of the panel who determine the shortlist of up to 10 composers who will be invited to workshop their compositions with ERSO.  She will also be at the workshop and will provide valuable expert advice and feedback to the shortlisted composers.

To learn more about Emma-Ruth and her highly succesful career go to:



Calling composers!!

Would you like to win the chance to have your composition performed by the Ernest Read Symphony Orchestra, one of London’s leading and longest established amateur orchestras, conducted by renowned young conductor Christopher Stark?

We are looking for an inspiring, contemporary classical Fanfare for full symphony orchestra which celebrates ERSO’s 90th Birthday and the huge contribution to music made by our founder, Ernest Read.

The competition is open to composers who are aged 16  – 30 years old on January 15th, 2020 and who are UK residents.

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Acclaimed composer Emma-Ruth Richards

Up to 10 composers will be invited to workshop their Fanfare with ERSO.  These composers will benefit from heairng their piece played by a full symphony orchestra and from feedback given by our conductor Christopher Stark, leader John Crawford (a Professor at Trinity Laban) and renowned British composer Emma-Ruth Richards.  The workshop will be recorded, and the composers will be given a recording of ERSO playing their Fanfare to use as part of their portfolio.

The composer of the winning Fanfare will be awarded a prize of £250.  They will also receive a commission of £1,000 to create a piece for soloist and orchestra for the winner of the ERSO Soloist of the Year 2020 competition.

The winning Fanfare and the soloist piece be central pieces at ERSO’s 90th Birthday Gala concert to held in the prestigious Duke’s Hall at the Royal Academy of Music in Spring 2021.  The concert will be recorded and the winner will be given copies of the recording of both pieces.

Entry to the competition is free and applications close on 15th January 2020

To find out more about the competition go to: ERSO emerging composers’ competition: “A Fanfare for Ernest Read”

Four weeks to go – we can’t wait!

In just four weeks we’ll be kicking off our new season at ERSO and we’re raring to go as we’ve got some fabulous programmes planned!

And as if that wasn’t enough, we have our ERSO Soloist of the Year 2020 competition.  Players who take part in at least one concert this season (including rehearsals) are eligible to enter.  The prize is to be our June soloist AND to have a solo piece written for you by the winner of our ERSO emerging composers competition (watch this space for more information very soon!)

We’re a friendly orchestra playing to a very high standard under inspiring Principal Conductor Christopher Stark.  We are always delighted to hear from experienced players, especially strings.

Interested?  Then get in touch on

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