About Us

Brent Symphony Orchestra is one of London’s oldest and best known amateur orchestras – we celebrated our 100th birthday in 2011

We aim for high standards of musicianship, at the same time as having fun and enjoying making music. At present, we have around 50 regular members and we are hoping to grow even larger.

We are based in Kensal Green and perform four concerts a year. We aim to be both popular and adventurous in our repertoire. While we perform a wide range of music, we tend to concentrate on large orchestral works from the late 19th and 20th centuries.

If you would like to see more details of the music we play, programmes for our concerts going back to 2000 are here.

History

The Orchestra was founded in 1911 to accompany the popular Harlesden Choral Society but gave only four concerts with the chorus before establishing itself as an independent entity, the Harlesden Philharmonic.

In 1956 Willesden Borough Council took complete financial responsibility for the Orchestra, which was renamed the Willesden Municipal Orchestra and then the Willesden Symphony Orchestra. After the London Borough of Brent came into existence in 1966 we became the Brent Symphony Orchestra. With this level of support, the BSO was able to engage internationally-renowned soloists such as Shura Cherkassky, Peter Frankl, Peter Katin, John Lill and Moura Lympany; Iona Brown, Erich Gruenberg and Nigel Kennedy; Paul Tortelier; Jack Brymer; Alan Civil; John Wilbraham; and Felicity Lott, Forbes Robinson and Richard Van Allen.

This halcyon period came to an end as local authority budgets tightened. Brent Council stopped promoting its own concerts after the 1984/85 financial year, leaving the BSO to put on its own. With reduced financial support from the Council, and none after 1998/99, the Orchestra turned to local commercial sponsorship to supplement members‘ subscriptions and ticket sales.

Over the past 20 years we have regularly held concerts in St John’s Wood Church and St James’ Church West Hampstead, but the orchestra’s permanent home since 2014 is now St Martin’s Church in Kensal Green.

Remarkably, the Orchestra has had just three Music Directors in its long history. Frank Greenfield was the conductor from 1912 to 1952, Harry Legge from 1953 to 1999, and Levon Parikian since 2000. We owe a great debt to them all.

We celebrated our centenary in 2011 with a sold out performance of Mahler’s massively-scored First Symphony. Also, as a special centenary project, some members of the orchestra researched our history. The full pdf can be downloaded here: BSO Centenary History