Orchestra of the City was founded in April 2003 by Benjamin Bayl and made its debut at St John’s Smith Square in July of that year. In June 2010 Classical Music Magazine listed the Orchestra of the City as one of the top five non-professional orchestras in London. The Orchestra gives talented and enthusiastic voluntary musicians the opportunity to play in an orchestra of the highest standard with challenging repertoire, and is noted for its active and friendly social culture. The Orchestra is made up of teachers, nurses, solicitors, bankers, doctors, researchers, scientists, recording engineers, arts administrators and a variety of other professions.
When Benjamin Bayl was appointed Assistant Conductor of the Budapest Festival Orchestra in September 2006, the orchestra worked with a number of guest conductors, including Nicholas Collon, Robert Tuohy, Dominic Grier and Sam Laughton. Chris Hopkins was then appointed as the new Music Director of Orchestra of the City, taking up the role in September 2008.
Performing up to 6 concerts per year at London venues including St. John’s Smith Square, St John’s Waterloo and its regular home, St James’s Piccadilly, the orchestra thrives on a diverse range of challenging repertoire including Mahler’s Symphony No.5, Walton Symphony No.1, Holst’s The Planets, Shostakovich’s Symphonies Nos. 5 & 10, Bartok’s 2nd Violin Concerto, Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, Beethoven’s 7th Symphony and Haydn’s The Creation.
Committed to the advocacy of contemporary classical music, in April 2014 the orchestra performed the world premiere of Nedudim ("wanderings") Fantasia-Concertante for mandolin and string orchestra by emerging Israeli composer Gilad Hochman, with mandolin-player Alon Sariel. The orchestra also premiered Christopher Gunning’s Guitar Concerto with the acclaimed guitarist Craig Ogden in 2011 and, in 2004, gave the first European performance of Sir John Taverner’s Lament for Jerusalem at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge with the Rodolfus Choir, in the presence of the composer.
Over its formative decade, the orchestra has developed a policy of working with exciting young soloists at the outset of their careers, including Benjamin Grosvenor, Oliver Coates, Gweneth-Ann Jeffers and Charlie Siem, as well as established artists such as Piers Lane, Simon Preston, Guy Johnston and Craig Ogden.
Orchestra of the City has had a starring role in television programmes such as ‘Derren Brown - Trick of the Mind’, and can be heard playing the title theme for the British film ‘The Magnificent Eleven’, released on DVD in 2013.
In July 2013, Orchestra of the City celebrated its 10th Birthday at St James’s, Piccadilly, with a thrilling programme including Bernstein’s Overture from Candide and Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 3. The celebrations continued into their tenth season, which saw an exciting collaboration with Opera Danube - a semi-staged production of Lehar’s The Merry Widow at St John’s, Smith Square – and a succession of orchestral greats including Brahms’s Symphony No. 2, Smetana’s Ma Vlast and Strauss’s Death and Transfiguration.