The Orchestra


Mid Somerset Orchestra
THE MID-SOMERSET ORCHESTRA was founded in 1973 and performs regularly in Street and Wells. From the player’s point of view, the aim is to give local amateur orchestral musicians of a high standard the opportunity to rehearse together, and to take part in four concerts during the year. From the music-lover’s point of view, we aim to give good performances of the classics for the enjoyment of the residents of this part of the country. For many years now, the orchestra has actively encouraged the support of young people by specially low-priced tickets. The Mid-Somerset Orchestra rehearses on Wednesday evenings in school term time at

Croscombe Village Hall Fayreway Croscombe Somerset BA5 3RA

The orchestra promotes 4 concerts a year, all at Strode Theatre, Street. We also perform once a year at Wells Cathedral for the “Sing for Somerset” carol service (promoted by Somerset Life).
Strode Theatre
THE STRODE THEATRE has been around since the early 1960's and still functions today as an integral part of Strode College and Crispin School. The first ever concert at the theatre was performed by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in 1963 and ever since, the venue has been a prominent location for many professional dramatical companies and orchestras. The stage is well equipped with the latest technology, and the auditorium has recently been refurbished with more spacious seating. The Strode Theatre is a perfect venue for the Mid-Somerset Orchestra.
Wells Cathedral
At the heart of life of Wells Cathedral is the daily pattern of prayer and worship. Music is integral to the worshipping and educational life of this holy place. A particularly busy time is in December when a number of organisations arrange christmas services.  One of these is the "Somerset Life" carol service.  The MSO has supported this annual charity event for a number of years now.

There are currently no advertised orchestral vacancies, although new rank-and-file string players will always be considered.

However the orchestra sometimes needs players to cover for absence in all sections, either in rehearsal or concerts. Additional occasional players are also required when larger works are performed.

The chair of the orchestra maintains a list of players that can be called on in such situations. If interested in being placed on this list, please email us with details of your instrument and experience.

Welcome to MSO’s 2017/18 concert season which commences with a wonderful programme of Rossini, Chopin and Brahms.

Following the recent retirement of Steven Smith after seven years as their Musical Director, the orchestra will be engaging different guest conductors for each of our concerts this season. The first of these, Tim Pithers, who gained a double first in Music and French at Exeter University, has a fine reputation and is currently working with a number of orchestras and ensembles based in the South West.

The soloist in Chopin’s Piano Concerto No.2 is Hannah Mitchell who also studied at Exeter University and then at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Hannah is now a very established performer, teacher and examiner based in South Wales where she is also half of the musical piano/flute duo “Tranquillo”.

The concert begins with arguably one of Rossini’s finest overtures Semiramide, followed by the evening’s highlight, Chopin’s Piano Concerto No2, which was premiered in 1830 and has been a firm concert favourite ever since. After the interval, the orchestra plays Brahms’ masterful, light and airy second symphony, which some critics have likened in character to Beethoven’s Pastoral.

Rehearsing for this evenings performance

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Tickets selling well, don't miss out it's going to be a great concert. Featuring Classic FM's number 1 in the Hall of Fame, Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending and our very own Hywel Jenkins

Just over three weeks to go until the summer concert.
Rehearsals going well, make sure you don't miss out, book your ticket now!

Members of the Mid Somerset Orchestra wind section are performing Folk Songs and Myths from around the world at a charity supper concert in support of the RUH Forever Friends appeal.
Tickets £15 in advance
(£20 on the door)
Contact Graham Darke 01749 677062

The spirit of “Merrie England” is at the heart of this summer offering, opening with the inspiration of English folk song with a local flavour in Gustav Holst’s A Somerset Rhapsody, leading to 2 ethereal masterpieces by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Five Variants on Dives and Lazarus for strings and harp, and the much-loved and ever-popular The Lark Ascending for Solo Violin and Chamber Orchestra, inspired by the poem by George Meredith. The celebrated violin solo will be played by MSO leader Hywel Jenkins.

The second half of the concert will move away from the rarefied to the rather more cosmopolitan inspiration of the English stage, first as observed from the world of American Musical Comedy in Robert Russell Bennett’s Symphonic Picture of Frederic Loewe’s My Fair Lady, which was such a runaway success when the MSO last performed it in 2003, then capturing the “Merrie England” spirit literally in Four Dances from the operetta of the same name by Edward German.

The concert will end with a great favourite, The March of the Peers from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe, before we all have the chance to join in Hubert Parry’s Jerusalem.


Tim Pithers
TIM PITHERS began conducting in his teens and went on to read Music and French at the University of Exeter. He studied violin with Mary Eade, composition with Joe Duddell and specialised in Musical Direction with Ian Mitchell. Subsequent to his graduation with a double first class degree, he has conducted a wide variety of vocal and instrumental ensembles. He particularly enjoys working with ensembles of varying degrees of experience and is a firm believer that classical music should be made as accessible as possible to both performers and the wider audience. Tim is currently Musical Director of the Exeter University Symphony Orchestra, the Dartmouth Orchestra, the Dunsford Singers and orchestra+, the South West’s first LGBT+ symphony orchestra, which he co-founded in Autumn 2016. In August 2015, he established the EX4 Chamber Orchestra, which draws high-calibre players from around the region and beyond. Recent podium highlights include Sibelius’ 5th Symphony, Elgar's Cello Concerto in E minor (with Amye Farrell, Théa-Rose Mumford), Brahms' 1st Symphony, Schumann's Concert Piece for Four Horns (with Cara Watson, Andrew Humphreys, Lydia Taylor and Lynn Henderson, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama), Dvorak's Cello Concerto (with Kieran Carter, Royal College of Music) and Mozart's 40th Symphony.
Hywel Jenkins
HYWEL JENKINS firat performed in the Strode Theatre over fifty years in July 1964 aged 11 end started learning the violin that autumn at Elmhurst Grammar School in Street. One of his later teachers at Elmhurst was Andrea Hanwell, who remains a stalwart member of MSO! At Southampton University he studied for a while with Richard Studt, at the time a member of Sir Neville Marriner's Academy of St Martin-in-the Fields and later Associate Director of the Bournemouth Sinfonietta. He joined the MS0 on his return from University in 1975, first led two MSO concerts in February 1979 and officially became Leader in January 1980. He has led every concert since then except for three three which he conducted, including the 1990 Prom and the Millennium Concert in December 1999, and has as soloist with the orchestra a number of times in Romances by Beethoven, Dvorak and Svendsen, the Bach Double Concerto and the theme to Schindler's List; he has also been privileged to play some other major orchestral solos including Scheherazade three times, Dance Macabre twice and Beim Schlafengehen within Richard Strauss's Four Last Songs and has led many classic symphonies and concertos. He has also recently performed The Lark Ascending fulfiling a long-held ambition. For many years he led the Strode Opera Orchestra for Brendan Sadler, including grand opera and almost all the Gilbert and Sullivans; he also led for several local choral societies, and also leads the Abbey String Quartet, which comprises members of members of the MSO and will be performing at the Somerton Festival on 13 July. He taught for twenty four years with Somerset Music, for the last eleven as Head of Strings, then for five years until July 2016 owned the Glastonbury Music Shop. He continues to tutor with the County Youth Orchestra and to direct ensembles at COSMIC, the Saturday Morning Music Club in Street. His violin is a copy of the beautiful 'Betts' Stradivari, made for him in 1994 by his first-ever violin pupil, Caroline Crowley of Bowlish, Shepton Mallet, now a distinguished luthier, who recently rejoined the MSO.

Former Conductors

Stephen Smith
STEPHEN SMITH joined the Army as an oboist in 1969 and studied at Kneller Hall, during which time he was the school’s principal oboist. He returned there in 1977 to take the Bandmaster degree course, graduating in 1980 with seven prizes, including the Worshipful Company of Musicians’ Silver Medal for the best student bandmaster of the year. He served seven years as Bandmaster with the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, in West Germany, Northern Ireland, Berlin and UK. During this period, he was faced with the challenge of forming a new band during a rationalization of the Army’s musical resources. In 1987 he was appointed Staff Director of Music at the Directorate of Infantry, with responsibility for recruiting for 22 of the Infantry’s bands. Notable highlights were a period of duty in Swaziland, to train the country’s Army Band, and a tour in Turkey in charge of the composite band representing the UK in commemoration of the Gallipoli Landings. In 1992, he was appointed Director of Music of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps Staff Band, but reorganisation once again obliged him to form a new band, and he was appointed as the first Director of Music of the new Logistics Corps. The next four years included a number of high profile musical engagements, most notably tours to Hong Kong and Australia. In 1998 he returned to Kneller Hall, joining the Directorate of Army Music, where he had overall responsibility for the design and validation of musical training. After two years, he became Director of Music of the Royal Artillery Band, one of the Army’s premier State bands. As principal conductor of the oldest established orchestra in the country, he directed it in public concerts and State events, including at Buckingham Palace. He was honoured to be on parade for the State Funeral of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Whilst performing as the Musical Director of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo in 2003, Stephen was appointed Chief Instructor at the Royal Military School of Music, responsible for all musical education and training. After two years in this highly rewarding post, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and appointed to the most senior musical post in the Army, that of Principal Director of Music. As the Army’s top musician, he conducted many prestigious and challenging engagements, including concerts, recordings and radio broadcasts. During this time he formed the Army’s orchestra and conducted it in concerts in London and across Southern England. In 2008 he gained an M.A. degree (with distinction) in conducting from Salford University, and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Music by Kingston University. Since retiring from the Army in 2009, Stephen has worked as a freelance conductor and oboist. As well as working with the MSO as music director and principal conductor for five years, he is also conductor of the Corsley Festival Choir.