The Orchestra

Appointment of a new Principal Conductor

Hitoshi Suzuki

The Mid Somerset Orchestra is pleased to announce the appointment of Hitoshi Suzuki as our new Principal Conductor.

Hitoshi first worked with the orchestra in May 2018 as a guest conductor.  As quoted by Brendan Sadler after this concert, Despite his youth, Hitoshi Suzuki is clearly a talent to be watched. The orchestra made their feelings plain with enthusiastic applause”.

The MSO would also like to thank Tim Pithers, Richard Jones and Dennis Simons who joined us in the last year as guest conductors and for their valued support in our search for a new principal conductor.

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

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.


Hitoshi Suzuki

The highly accomplished Hitoshi Suzuki  has studied all over the world including the University of the Arts Tokyo, Royal Northern College of Music, Royal College of Music and is currently at the Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles. A prizewinner in many orchestral conducting competitions, Hitoshi will certainly bring a unique international perspective to the MSO’s next concert.

Hywel Jenkins

Hywel first performed in the Strode Theatre over fifty years ago in July 1964 aged 11, and started learning the violin that autumn at Elmhurst Grammar School in Street. He joined the MSO on his return from University in 1975 and became Leader in January 1980. He has led every concert since then except for three which he conducted, and has also performed as soloist with the orchestra a number of times.

He taught for twenty four years with Somerset Music, for the last eleven as Head of Strings, then in 2011 moved to take over 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 ‘Betts’ Strad, made for him in 1994 by his first ever violin pupil, Caroline Crowley of Bowlish, Shepton Mallet.

Biographies of recent Conductors

Dennis Simons

Dr. Dennis Simons, F.R.A.M., has been founder leader of the Alberni String Quartet, Co-Leader of the London Philharmonic and Leader of the BBC Philharmonic returning to the U.K. after twenty years as Music Director and Conductor of three orchestras in North America. He has a Ph.D. in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education from the University of North Dakota.

Richard Jones

RICHARD JONES was educated in Newtown, Powys , gaining his MA from the University of York, specialising in youth music and received his PGCE from UCNW Bangor. Always a keen advocate for youth and community music, Richard currently works as the Music and Arts Strategy Manager for South Gloucestershire.

Richard took up the post of Music and Arts Strategy Manager for South Gloucester in September 2011. Here he leads a team of 65 teachers who deliver the National Plan for Music Education as Arts Council England’s preferred bidder to run the Music Hub in the LA.  He is a member of the ACE National Hub Quality Group and the Bristol Cultural Education Partnership.

He is no stranger to the world of the community orchestra as he was associated with the Richmondshire Orchestra for over 25 years as a player and conductor and in the South West was the conductor of the Keynsham Orchestra.

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.

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.

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