Levon Parikian, Musical Director

Levon Parikian

Levon Parikian’s first musical influence was his father, the renowned violinist Manoug Parikian, whose musicianship and experience as soloist, chamber musician and orchestral leader instilled in Levon from an early age a deep appreciation of the tradition of musical performance.

While studying timpani and percussion at the Royal Academy of Music, Levon developed his interest in conducting, and subsequently studied privately with Michael Rose and David Parry. Following further study with George Hurst, and at his encouragement, Levon auditioned successfully for a position in Ilya Musin’s class at the St. Petersburg conservatoire. Here he gained an insight into Musin’s rigorous technique of conducting, which has influenced generations of Russian conductors.

Since his return from Russia, Levon has pursued a freelance conducting career, and is much in demand as Guest Conductor with orchestras in Britain. He currently holds Principal Conductor posts with several London-based orchestras, is Principal Conductor of the City of Oxford Orchestra, and Artistic Director of The Rehearsal Orchestra. He is also very committed to training young musicians and has worked extensively with students and youth orchestras, including the Hertfordshire County Youth Orchestra, National Youth Strings Academy, Royal College of Music Junior Sinfonia, and at Royal Holloway, University of London, where he also taught conducting for fifteen years.

In 2012 Levon conducted the UK premiere of Armen Tigranian’s opera Anoush with London Armenian Opera. He recently conducted the BBC Concert Orchestra in a re-recording of the theme tune for Hancock’s Half Hour for lost episodes recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

Lev has a parallel career as a writer. His first book, Waving, Not Drowning, was described as ‘a must-read’ by Classical Music magazine, while the Times Literary Supplement called his second, Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear? ‘good-hearted and well made, funny and clever.’ Into The Tangled Bank, published in 2020, was longlisted for the Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing. Music to Eat Cake By: Essays on Birds, Words and Everything in Between is a collection of essays exploring everything from the art of the sandwich and space travel to how not to cure hiccups and, of course, his beloved birdsong. Most recently, Light Rains Sometimes Fall: A British Year in Japan’s 72 Seasons, was published in September 2021, and Lev’s next book, Taking Flight, an exploration of flight in the animal kingdom, will be published in May 2023.

Lev has been our Musical Director since 2000, and his website is

Charlie Brookes, Leader

Charlie Brookes has been fortunate to study with some of the UK’s finest violinists, including Lucy Gould (Gould Piano Trio) and Itzhak Rashkovsky at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and Joshua Fisher and Alexander Sitkovetsky during his Master’s degree at the Royal Academy of Music in London. At both RWCMD and the Academy, Charlie was selected as a member of their respective String Soloist ensembles where he closely collaborated with artists including Henning Kraggerud, Adrian Brendel and Clio Gould for events at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Buckingham Palace.
Charlie enjoys a varied career of teaching and freelancing with ensembles including the European Union Chamber Orchestra, English National Ballet, English Symphony Orchestra, Welsh National Opera, Ulster Orchestra, and of course the Brent Symphony Orchestra, which he leads. In 2021, Charlie performed the Bruch Violin Concerto with the BSO.
Charlie is the founder of the Elgar Ensemble, a group which champions the nineteenth and twentieth century British repertoire ( He plays an English violin by Lockey Hill made in London in 1780.

The Players

The rest of us come from diverse backgrounds: students, teachers, architects, artists, engineers, accountants and many more. We have several music college graduates and players from around the world: France, The Netherlands, Germany, Japan and the USA. One of our former violinists, Chonon Lewis, was an accomplished composer, and we have performed his works on several occasions.

Some of us have been in the orchestra for years, some have joined much more recently. The age range is wide and there are plenty of young members. Many of us live in the North London area, but a significant number travel in from other parts of London and from much further afield. What we all have in common is that we are passionate about music and our orchestra.

As well as playing music together, we enjoy a very strong social scene which includes post-rehearsal drinks and regular nights out.