Introducing Izabela

We caught up with Izabela Stocka, the talented violinist who is one of our finalists for the 20200 ERSO Soloist of the Year.

What is your main occupation at the moment?

I am currently working as a freelance orchestra, chamber and solo violinist. I am also a recent Masters graduate of the Royal Academy of Music.

What made you choose to play your instrument and how old were you when you started?

I started playing the violin when I was 7 years old. Coming from a family of Polish artists I was introduced to the music world very early on. My father is a concertmaster of Wroclaw Opera House, my mother used to be a part of corps-de-ballet in an operetta theatre as well as ballet teacher. I used to listen to my father practicing the violin, I used to go to see my parents in a theatre. I was always very sensitive and musical kid who liked to participate in any type of musical activity. I could sit by the piano for hours inventing something before I could even read. There was also this small violin hanging on a wall in my room and it is probably one of my earliest memories I cherish so fondly. I used to carry it around the house like a toy when I was only 2 or 3. Couple of years later I was sent to Karol Szymanowski School of Music and that’s how it all started.

What made you choose the concerto that your will be playing?

Shostakovich Violin Concerto no.1 is a piece very close to my heart. It tells a very personal story from the life of a composer who was forced to live and create under the brutal regime of Soviet Russia at a time. An inventive musical pallette as well as original harmonies and emotions involved in this music- sorrow, grief, satire and most importantly- hope, proved this composition not suitable to perform under the political censorship of communist party in 1947-1948. This has forced the composer to keep his work hidden until after Joseph Stalin’s death in 1955 when the restrictions were partially lifted and allowed the premiere of the concerto.

Shostakovich’s violin concerto projects the struggle, fear (1st, 3rd movement) and anger (2nd movmement) of living in a society crushed under a brutal regime. At the same time, its last movement finishes off with a positive message of will and fight for the freedom hidden between folk-style, glorious Burlesque. 

I believe the message of this concerto applies to a modern society more than ever. It cherishes an importance of freedom, puts an individuality as well as the authenticity on a pedestal and shares the spirit of fight so much needed in a now driven by the war world. I was born and raised in Poland- country who only just gained their independence in 1989. I would now like to dedicate this piece to brave people and my neighbours in Ukraine fighting for their homeland and their freedom. My whole heart and music goes to them.

What do you feel you would gain from the experience of winning this competition and playing your concerto with ERSO and Chris Stark?

I believe this opportunity would make a huge impact on my career as a violinist. Getting to play a concerto with a symphonic orchestra was definitely always a dream for me and having Chris Stark as a conductor of the project would make it only more remarkable. I cannot wait to share my music ideas and to listen and learn of orchestra’s interpretation of it too.

Happy New Year!

At ERSO we’re looking back at 2021 and wishing you all a Happy New Year for 2022.

Although 2021 wasn’t always as planned, it kicked off with us making our second “forgotten voice” film which explored the amazing life of Mel Bonis and her beautiful Danse Sacree.

We were so pleased that we were able to to get back playing live in front of an appreciative audience in the June Waterloo Festival at St John’s Waterloo. Our amazing soloist Grady Hassan astounded the audience with his lyrical and virtouso performance of the Vaughan Williams Tuba Concerto, followed by a very well received performance of Beethoven’s joyful and energetic 8th Symphony expertly conducted by Christopher Stark.

In October we held our Welcome Back concert at St Andrew Holborn which featured Schubert’s lovely 5th Symphony and a rousing welcome back to out much missed brass section who regaled us with some stirring pieces.

Schubert’s 5th Symphony at St Andrew Holborn
ERSO’s #BringBacktheBrass dectet in action

November was an exciting month for ERSO. We held an afternoon workshop with hugely talented young composer, Alex Papp, the winner of ERSO’s competition for emerging composers. Alex is one to watch – he is the most recent winner of the Rushworth Composition Prize and his piece The Myth of Bertie and Bella was premiered by the Liverpool Philharmonic in October 2021. Alex created Flashes of Light in a Hall of Mirrors for Grady Hassan and we had an amazing afternoon working on this fabulous new piece as well as Alex’s winning overture Eurythmia. We can’t wait to premiere these pieces in our 90th Birthday concert in March!

Composer Alex Papp and soloist Grady Hassan after a great afternoon workshop

We enjoyed a wonderful afternoon with the talented young members of the Camden Training Orchestra and their conductor Ian Brookman. During the afternoon workshop, adults and children worked side by side on arrangements of two well-loved classics – Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King and Copland’s Hoe Down from Rodeo. This was followed by an informal concert for family and friends. The event was a huge success and the ERSO members were so impressed by the children’s playing and the attention they paid to Ian, ERSO’s conductor Christopher Stark and the adult players working with them. They were a pleasure to work with and we can’t wait till next time!

ERSO working with the young musicians from the Camden Training Orchestra

ERSO’s new Brass Leader Ethan!

We’re sad that a burgeoning professional career means ace tuba player Grady Hassan won’t be continuing as ERSO’s Brass Leader. It’s not goodbye though as Grady will be our soloist in ERSO’s 90th Birthday Gala Concert in March playing an amazing new piece by young composer Alex Papp. We are very excited that talented trumpeter Ethan McInerney will be stepping into the role of Brass Leader and we know he’ll be a great addition to the team!

An afternoon of opportunity!

At ERSO we have a long history of providing opportunities for young musicians at the start of their careers and our ERSO Talent Programme provides exciting chances to develop for soloists, orchestral players, conductors and composers.

Alex Papp

This Saturday (November 6th) we’re so excited to be working with a hugely talented young composer, Alex Papp, the winner of our competition for emerging composers.  Alex is one to watch – he is the most recent winner of the Rushworth Composition Prize and his piece The Myth of Bertie and Bella was premiered by the Liverpool Philharmonic earlier this month.  

Alex has created an amazing piece for tuba and orchestra “Flashes of Light in a Hall of Mirrors” for the winning soloist from last year’s ERSO Soloist of the Year competition – our very own Grady Hassan. We’ll be working on this piece plus Alex’s winning birthday fanfare Eurythmia, complete with harp and percussion  – an exciting afternoon for everyone.

We are keen to find a few more experienced upper strings for the afternoon. As this is a really big afternoon for us, we’re offering players who take part the chance to enter our ERSO Soloist of the Year competition. The winner will be our soloist in our June concert.

Contact us on if you are interested in joining us

Alex with ERSO at the final of our competition for emerging composers in 2020

Update on next season

Dear ERSO players,

We hope you are all well and enjoying the summer.

We are excited to get back to rehearsals again in September and wanted to let you know about our forthcoming concerts as well as a couple of other key things.

Staying safe at ERSO

The easing of restrictions does not mean risk of Covid has disappeared, and so groups like ours still need measures in place to ensure they are providing a safe environment.   We would like to get your input to help the committee to determine the best solution for our players.  All responses will be treated with strict confidentiality. 

Thank you in advance for completing our survey which can be found by following this link:

Members’ donations

As we’ll be getting back to a fuller schedule it seems timely to mention members donations.  It costs over £30,000 per year to run ERSO and as a result of our much smaller concerts last season, donations by members were the lowest for many years.   Instead of a formal subscription system or ‘pay to play’ policy we choose to ask for voluntary donations to help towards the running costs of the orchestra.  We also generate income through ticket sales, financial support from the Ernest Read Trust and run a fundraising programme, approaching Trust and Funds for grants, but none of these sources are guaranteed.

 Donation recommendation
Per concert£25.00
Monthly standing order£8.00

Please note that these are only recommendations, and some members donate more or less as they feel appropriate.   The recommended annual donation works out as £3.70 for a half day rehearsal if you were to attend them all this season – good value for three hours of high-quality music making in London!  These suggested donations are also significantly lower than many other London amateur orchestras of a similarly high standard.  In many of these orchestras, fees are mandatory.

We understand that pensioners, students and those on low incomes or who are unemployed etc may find making any donation difficult and we want to emphasise that there is no obligation to donate if this applies to you. We would much rather have you on board making music with us! If you are in a position to make donations without creating any hardship, particularly if you are in full-time employment, it would be greatly appreciated.

Find out how to pay and to increase your donation through GiftAid at Members’ donations

Next season – let your fixer know which concerts you can do

So good to be back!

It was such a great feeling to be back playing live in front of an appreciative audience last night at the Waterloo Festival at St John’s Waterloo. Our amazing soloist Grady Hassan astounded the audience with his lyrical and virtouso performance of the Vaughan Williams Tuba Concerto. This was followed by a very well received performance of Beethoven’s joyful and energetic 8th Symphony expertly conducted by Christopher Stark. A night to remember for players and audience alike!

Not a novelty!

67 years ago (and a week) the Vaughan Williams Tuba concerto had its premiere. It was written for Philip Catelinet, the principal tubist of the London Symphony Orchestra and he was the soloist in the premiere on 13 June 1954, with Sir John Barbirolli conducting.

On hearing the news Catelinet said “I was quite terror stricken! As a musician, I really couldn’t appreciate the the idea of the tuba being the centre attraction as soloist on a concerto at an orchestral concert. The tuba was too often connected by the public with what was humorous and ludicrous to be considered seriously a possibility on a concert platform.”

Following on the actual performance, the caption over his picture in the paper read, “Wife Was ‘Banned’ From His Night of Triumph.” Catelinet explained that the reason was because of the belittling image invariably linked to both the tuba and tuba players. Even a press announcement of the concert referred to it as being: “…the novelty of the evening…” He said to a reporter who questioned his wife’s absence: “In the past, the tuba has been treated as a rather comic instrument, and I did not know how the public would react. If I had to suffer, I would rather suffer alone.” After all, musicians are sensitive to the feelings of others, particularly those of their wives. If she had been present and the reception other than it was, I would have been that much more embarrassed for her sake.”

To find out more about this piece – decidedly not a novelty but one of Vaughan Williams’ most popular works – check out our soloist Grady Hassan’s helpful programme notes: Vaughan Williams Tuba Concerto

Bring on the Beethoven!

We’re so excited to be performing Beethoven’s compelling 8th Symphony in our Waterloo Festival concert on Sunday.

Here’s a sneak peek of the beginning of the second movement, which was once thought to be a homage to the invention of the metronome by Johann Maelzel.

Want to know more about the symphony? Check out the programme notes by conductor Christopher Stark Beethoven’s 8th Symphony

Want to hear the full work – get tickets at ERSO: Beethoven and Vaughan Williams Tickets, Sun 20 Jun 2021 at 18:30 | Eventbrite

One year on…

It’s hard to believe that it is exactly a year our last big event which was the Final Workshop for our ERSO Emerging Composers’ competiton.  We had an amazing afternoon workshop with the fabulous five finalists and their amazing pieces and had a really tough choice to make in selecting a winner.  Our fab five finalists were selected from a really impressive set of candidates and the workshop showed why these five earned their places in the final.  Each composer had a totally unique approach to creating a Birthday Fanfare for Ernest Read –  but the thing that united them was talent!

After much deliberation, we were delighted to announce that talented young composition student Alexander Papp was the winner.  Alex is creating an amazing new piece for Grady Hassan who is our 2020 winner of the ERSO Soloist of the Year competition.

From left to right, Finalists Alex Papp. Sarah Cattley, Caitlin Harrison, Andreas Swerdlow and Jared Destro along with composer and mentor Emma-Ruth Richards and conductor Chris Stark