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Orchestras at Royal Holloway

Orchestras bring people together - they employ on a daily basis skills we all need in our day-to-day lives - collaboration, listening, respect, humility, discipline, and commitment. Through participation in orchestra, students are given a chance to develop their confidence - not only in their playing, but also in their communication and leadership skills, and we hope that they then transfer these experiences into whatever path they choose in life.

Led by Royal Holloway's dedicated Director of Orchestras, international conductor Rebecca Miller, orchestral performance has become one of the most vibrant and active musical specialisms at Royal Holloway.

What did we do during the pandemic? 

In-person music making at Royal Holloway was severely impacted during 2020-2021 due to the pandemic. However we were determined to keep the creativity and stimulation usually provided by our orchestras. So we sourced creative and innovative ways to bring the art of orchestral playing, the conversations surrounding this form of music, and the people who specialise in it, to our students and the wider community. 

We are very proud to have offered a wide variety of online and in-person activity during 2020-21, and even received a prestigious Royal Holloway Teaching Award for one of our projects! We list our activities here, for your interest. During 2020-21, we ran the following programmes for our students, some of which may continue this year!

  • Re-Orchestrating Society: A social action project in which students worked together in teams of 4 to develop a project based around orchestras that aims to benefit society. The projects drew on issues such as diversity, mental health, globalisation, music education, or other social action topics and teams are mentored by prominent industry professionals Katharine Verney and Matt Belcher. More information can be found here
  • Bach Snapshots: As a creative response and homage to the composer, and following the success of Beethoven Snapshots, the Department of Music launched a special opportunity for music creators at the Department of Music to collaborate on a unique project with Orchestras at Royal Holloway: to respond to the wondrous works of J. S. Bach with a series of brand-new works. More information about Bach Snapshots, can be found here
  • Guest sessions: We were thrilled to welcome a host of international artists to virtually meet our orchestra members and talk about important and sometimes little-heard aspects of orchestral playing. These included (click on names for more information):
    • How to Practice, with Danny Driver (international concert pianist)
    • Artistic Citizenship, with Gabriela Lena Frank (award-winning composer, Founder/ Director of GLFCAM
    • On Bach - workshop on phrasing in Baroque music, with Debbie Diamond (violinist, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment)
    • Music and Health, with Matthew Swann (Chief Executive, City of London Sinfonia)
    • Racial and Cultural Diversity in Classical Music - a discussion panel with industry professionals.     
    • Schenker for Performers, with Oliver Chandler (Lecturer, Oxford University, PhD RHUL)
    • On being an Orchestral Musician, with Tom Hancox (Principal flute, Britten Sinfonia)
    • Music Entrepreneurialism, with Jeremy Isaac (violinist, Tippett Quartet)     
  • Watch Parties: Aiming to expand our repertoire knowledge, so that we can all play our part in diversifying classical music programming, our cohort of Orchestral Scholars led bi-weekly watch parties on music by female and black composers.
  • Bach Online: Our orchestra members recorded individual and multi-track ensemble pieces by Bach for our new Bach database, which we will draw on for future collaborations with composers. 
  • Bach Masterclasses and workshops: A series of online masterclasses and practical workshops with guest professional musicians

What orchestras do we have at Royal Holloway?

Led by internationally-acclaimed conductor Rebecca Miller, the Royal Holloway Symphony Orchestra meets weekly, giving three concerts per year in the Windsor Auditorium. The orchestra endeavours to create a lively, challenging, and social basis for orchestral life at Royal Holloway and comprises students from across the university. They also participate in side-by-side programmes with professional musicians, and through our unique partnership with the Chiltern Music Academy. For 2020-21, orchestras at Royal Holloway launched a new social action project called Re-Orchestrating Society, where members of orchestras at Royal Holloway work together in small teams to develop a project based around orchestras that aims to benefit society.

The orchestra has recently performed alongside the London Philharmonic Orchestra, at the Magna Carta 800 celebration in Runnymede, in the presence of HM the Queen, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince William Duke of Cambridge, and Prime Minister David Cameron. 

The orchestra meets on Wednesday evenings, enabling students from many departments to participate as there are no lectures on Wednesday afternoons. Some weekly rehearsals are used for special workshops, reading sessions, 'come and conduct' sessions, and other activities that will serve to enhance orchestral training, complement repertoire, and enrich the orchestral life at Royal Holloway. Social activities take place throughout the year and are run by the Orchestra Committee.

Sectionals take place throughout the year, led by members of our Instrumental Faculty, and professional orchestral coaches from Royal Holloway's associations with the London Philharmonic, Philharmonia, and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

Past soloists have included Tim Hugh, David Pyatt, Roger Chase, Nicola Eimer, Gemma Rosefield, James Kirby, and Mark van de Wiel. There are opportunities to perform with the orchestra through the concerto competition that takes place each Spring.

Entry is by audition during the first week of term, and comprises performing a short excerpt from a solo piece together with some sight-reading.

Applications are now open

Click here (link embedded) to find out how to apply for 2022-23. 

The Royal Holloway Chamber Orchestra features members of our Orchestral Scholarship programme as section leaders and others by audition. As opposed to the weekly Symphony Orchestra, the chamber orchestra operates on an intensive rehearsal process, to offer students the experience of adopting to the short-rehearsal processes found commonly in the professional world. 

The orchestra generally gives two concerts per year, and features as part of the university’s annual showcase event at St John’s Smith Square. Repertoire usually focuses on Baroque and Classical pieces, but integrates these with a range of lesser-known and contemporary works, with a recent focus on featuring female composers and composers of colour. 

Soloists include a mixture of professionals and student winners of Royal Holloway's annual concerto competition. The Royal Holloway Chamber Orchestra is the featured ensemble of our unique side-by-side programme with London Mozart Players. (include link to orchestral scholars’ page?)

The orchestra is conducted by the College's Director of Orchestras, Rebecca Miller.

Entry is by audition at the beginning of the academic year, and comprises performing a short excerpt from a solo piece together with some sight-reading.

Applications are now open

Click here (link embedded) to find out how to apply for 2022-23. 

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