Sutton Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1946 giving its first concert in November of that year. In the tradition of those days, the programme on that occasion comprised 9 items, including a symphony!
The orchestra has been well served by several conductors, of whom the longest-serving was Joan Kemp-Potter (1974 – 1992) During her tenure, ‘Pot’ as she was affectionately known, extended the repertoire of the orchestra and the musical appreciation of the audience, by introducing some lesser known works and commissions alongside more familiar pieces.
The arrival of Phil Aslangul in 2009 as conductor heralded a new era for the orchestra, with rapid expansion and the boldness to tackle a more adventurous repertoire. This has included Mahler’s First Symphony, Holst’s Suite “The Planets”, and Elgar’s Enigma Variations.
The orchestra has given an average of 3 concerts every season and almost every one has featured a solo item. Soloists have included professional musicians living locally, talented students, and members of the orchestra. A programme in January 1988 included a group of songs performed by a young Welsh singer, Bryn Terfel, just starting out on his career. Barry Wordsworth, conductor at the Royal Ballet, was a harpsichord soloist with the orchestra in December 1966.
The SSO has teamed up with local youth choir Osiris on two occasions in recent history, once in 2014 for Bernstein’s West Side Story Symphonic Suite and again in 2017 for Rutter’s Gloria.
The majority of concerts have taken place in Sutton, initially at the Sutton Public Hall, then at Sutton High School, Christchurch, Sutton Baptist Church and now usually at St. Andrew’s United Reformed Church, Northey Avenue, Cheam, with occasional visits to All Saints Carshalton.
In June 1988, Sutton Symphony Orchestra travelled to one of Sutton’s twin towns, Apeldoorn in Holland, for a concert including Vaughan Williams ‘The Lark Ascending’ with their now President, Louis Rutland, as soloist. The performance was very enthusiastically received and the Veluws Instrumental Ensemble returned in the autumn of 1989 to play in Sutton. In July 1999 the orchestra accompanied a choir from another Sutton twin town, Minden in Germany, in performances of ‘Messiah’ in Cheam and Oxford.
For its 70th Anniversary in 2016, the orchestra joined forces with Carshalton Choral Society in a sell-out performance of Verdi Requiem and Respighi Pines of Rome,
The orchestra is noted for its friendliness and enthusiasm. It rehearses at Homefield School, Western Road, Sutton, Surrey, SM1 2TE and is pleased to welcome new members, particularly in the strings and brass. The orchestra is affiliated to Making Music and to the Arts Council of Sutton.