Interview with Anthony Rudd - WSO flautist and relative of legacy donor Eva Bunzl

Tony, your Aunt recently passed away and she left a bequest so that we may play The Mozart Requiem in her memory, can you tell me a little about her?

My aunt, Eva Bunzl was born in 1932 into a wealthy family in Vienna with a Catholic mother and Jewish father. She remembers attending the Vienna State Opera and every Sunday went to mass at St Stevens Cathedral in the centre of Vienna which is where she would have first heard a performance of the Mozart Requiem. 

After the arrival of the Nazi government in Austria her father, brother and sister moved to England, leaving Eva with her mother to live out the war in Salzburg, fearful of her Jewish heritage being discovered and suffering severe hardship not least because of her mother's alcoholism. 

After the war she spent much of her adult life in Milan before moving to England in the 1980’s. She spent many years in supported accommodation and her last years in a nursing home in Wimbledon.

What was her life experience of music? Did she sing or play an instrument, and tell us about her love of Mozart and the Requiem?

She led a lonely life and even though she was never given the opportunity to play an instrument, music was one of her few comforts. 

Eva always enjoyed attending the WSO concerts and left a bequest to the orchestra in her will. She specially asked if the orchestra would play the Mozart requiem which was one of her favourite pieces. The orchestra rarely performs choral music so it is a special treat for the WSO to join forces with Sonoro and the Wimbledon Community Chorus to play the beautiful music marred only by the lack of flutes in its instrumentation.

Interview by Conor Molony - WSO commitee member

Interview with soloist Richard Stockall

Who was Finzi – was he a clarinettist? I have heard colleagues say this concerto, with its mellifluous tones and colours, is Finzi’s finest work…what other works have you played of Finzi’s, that we may look out for?

Gerald Finzi was an early twentieth century composer, with the bulk of his output being vocal works. His three brothers and his first music teacher all perished in the first world war, and this, undoubtedly, influenced his musical style.

Although Finzi was not a clarinettist, he was inspired to write for the instrument by the playing of Pauline Juler, the dedicatee of both the concerto, and his Five Bagatelles for clarinet and piano. Most players will have come across the Bagatelles for their grade exams, myself included.

Pauline Juler was a pupil of Frederick Thurston, and it was Thurston that premiered the concerto for clarinet and string orchestra. Thurston was the pre-eminent British player of his day, having played in the BBC symphony orchestra from its inception, and before that in the orchestra of the Royal Opera House.

Finzi was originally commissioned to write a piece for string orchestra for the 1949 Hereford Three Choirs festival, but was able to persuade the organiser to accept a concerto instead. This background probably explains the why the clarinet is partnered by a string orchestra, and why the string writing is no mere accompaniment.


Listening in rehearsal, the melodies of the Finzi seem to entice us into an Agatha Christie type of adventure, what mysteries have you enjoyed discovering in this piece that we can listen out for?

There is one clarinet entry near the start of the slow movement which can’t be heard until the volume of the note rises sufficiently above the accompanying strings - a seamless dove-tailing.


There are some lovely chamber music moments between the soloist and string sections, are there any particularly special moments for you?

I enjoy the pizzicato accompaniment to the clarinet melody near the start of the last movement. I’m reminded of radio programme theme tunes of the nineteen fifties.


There are also some moments of exuberant brilliance…what other concertos does it remind you of?

The clarinet concertos of Weber come to mind, but Finzi’s exuberance has a much more emotional element to it.


You are an instrument repairer as well as a clarinettist, has this given you an even greater understanding of your instrument and its capabilities?

Allied with my interest in acoustics, it’s probably made me more aware of the shortcomings of the clarinet in its current form. The tuning of instruments has improved over the years, but, arguably at the expense of their efficiency. Players are often struck by how ‘free blowing’ some older designs are, and by the tone and pitch variation that can be achieved with less effort.


Can you tell me a little about the reed used on the clarinet - what plant does it come from? What country does it grow? Are there different types of reed used?

Although synthetic reeds have improved considerably in recent years, the material of choice is still arundo donax cane. This plant is native to the Mediterranean basin, and the middle east. I believe that the Camargue area is where most French cane is harvested from.


Where does the clarinet evolve from, is it the recorder or madrigal, and how and when did this happen?

Its pre-cursor was the chalumeau. Like the clarinet, this had a single reed coupled to a cylindrical bore, but was limited in its pitch range to just over an octave to enable all tone holes to be coverable by the fingers without the need for keywork. The clarinet would have developed as a result of adapting the chalumeau using keywork to extend its pitch range, enabling a contiguous second register to be achievable. The instrument maker, J.C. Denner of Nuremberg is generally considered to have developed the first clarinets between 1690 and 1700.


Finally, who are your other favourite clarinet composers? Who are your inspirational clarinettists?

They would have to be Mozart, Brahms and Weber.

The player I most admired in my youth was Jack Brymer, and I first heard him play on the promotional record that came with my first Boosey & Hawkes plastic Regent clarinet, back in 1965.

Current players would have to include Michael Collins, Andrew Marriner and David Campbell.

WSO Chair, Marion Friend MBE talks about our 2018-2019 season

The natural world dominates the season which features new local collaborations with Wimbledon Community Chorus, Sonoro and National Opera Studio

I am delighted to introduce Wimbledon Symphony Orchestra’s 2018-19 season and what better way to open it than with Gaspard the Fox, the handsomest fox in London! We’re thrilled that the author and BBC Radio 4 broadcaster Zeb Soanes is returning to WSO for the third time to read extracts from his recent book and he will be signing copies after each Foxtrot concert (Saturday 13 October 2.00pm and 4.00pm). The programme opens with Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie and ends with Poulenc’s Baba the Elephant so be prepared for an adventure!

The celebrated violinist Jennifer Pike also makes a welcome return to WSO on Saturday 08 December to perform Korngold’s stunning violin concerto filled with lyrical melodies and virtuosic writing for the soloist. Korngold gained an iconic reputation as a Hollywood film composer and you may hear references to some of the film scores he incorporates in the work.  With Mahler and Beethoven in the programme too, this is a concert not to be missed.

WSO has been supporting Macmillan Merton for over twenty years and our annual concert at St Paul’s Church SW19 6DA is always a special occasion for both organisations. As well as the popular programme we are always treated to the most delicious refreshments made by the Macmillan committee, all in aid of this vital charity.  On Saturday 02 March 2019 we shall feature WSO’s talented principal clarinet Richard Stockall in a performance of Finzi’s clarinet concerto and Brahms Symphony no.1, not forgetting Suppé Light Cavalry Overture which will take you back to those Disney Mickey Mouse cartoons!

And now to two new collaborations: firstly we are delighted to be partnering with Wimbledon Community Chorus and the professional choir Sonoro in a performance of Mozart Requiem on Saturday 30 March 2019. This is an exciting opportunity for WSO to meet and perform with local amateur singers and professional singers, some of whom will also be performing Mozart Exultate Jubilate and other well-known masterpieces in the first half of the concert.

Our final concert of the season is another new venture, an Opera Gala on Saturday 22 June 2019 featuring talented young professional singers from National Opera Studio, a prestigious training organisation based in Wandsworth. They will perform famous solo arias and duets by Puccini, Verdi and Wagner, many of which are likely to be familiar to audiences including  ‘Vissi d'arte’ and 'E lucevan le stelle' from Puccini’s Tosca. This is perfect entertainment for a summer’s evening, and you never know, there might even be a glass of Pimms!

WSO is grateful to our regular professional conductors Andrew Morley and Leo Geyer, who help us to bring these imaginative concert programmes to fruition, to the Friends of WSO and Humphrey Richardson Taylor Trust who support us, and to the WSO committee who work with great commitment throughout the season.


Marion Friend MBE

Chair WSO



Foxtrot Family Concerts - October 13th

We are looking forward to our next Family Concerts on Saturday October 13th when we will be bringing you on a merry musical adventure with our line up of a thieving magpie, a cunning fox and a little elephant !

Our local hero, Gaspard the Fox, is an urban fox brought to life in a new children’s book written by author  Zeb Soanes. You may remember  Zeb, who narrated our last family concert ‘The Christmas Carol’! 

Zeb’s official website gives more background of Gaspard with some enlightening interviews with Zeb about how this fox came to life, where his name came from,  and importantly where you can buy the book!

Our super creative composer conductor Leo Geyer has teamed up once again with Zeb to imagine the musical colours that will enhance not only the adventures of Gaspard, but also Baba the elephant and of course not forgetting that thieving magpie! 

Zeb Soanes with the real ‘Gaspard’, and his bike…

Zeb Soanes with the real ‘Gaspard’, and his bike…

Leo immediately made the connection to Beethoven’s 6th Symphony, the Pastoral symphony, when he first read Zeb’s book. He found imagery linking the two compositions. For example in Movt. 2 – ‘Zene am Bach’ –( Scene by the brook) - this represents Gaspard by the canal. Another example, is found in  Movt. 3 –‘Lustiges Zusammensein der Landleute’ (- Merry gathering of country folk) – the melody played by the brass section representing heavy folk music is a perfect pairing for the scene where Gaspard meets the squeeze-box player!

Come along on Sat 13th at either 2pm or 4pm when Zeb will join Leo and the orchestra for our lyrical Adventure of the Animals!


New Commission for Wimbledon Symphony Orchestra

As part of our summer concert, Wimbledon Symphony Orchestra (WSO) will premiere a new concerto for trumpet (and flugelhorn) written for local trumpeter Imogen Hancock and WSO by Leo Geyer, one of WSO’s two artistic leaders and conductors. The title of the concerto ‘Somewhere In-Between’ has been inspired by marshlands in London. The commission represents an exciting opportunity for WSO to broaden its repertoire and to work with the country’s leading young composers and performers.

Imogen Hancock_B&W in field.jpg

The concert will take place at St Paul’s Church SW19 6EW at 7.30pm on Saturday 16 June. This year, WSO’s summer concert is an exciting jazz themed event also featuring Gershwin's An American In Paris, Gershwin’s Cuban Overture and the dramatic and evocative Danzon 2 by Arturo Márquez made popular by Gustavo Dudamel and El Sistema Venezuala.

Leo explains a little more about this project here;

“I'm delighted and honoured to be the composer for Wimbledon Symphony Orchestra's first commission and really thrilled that Imogen Hancock is the soloist. The title Somewhere In-Between describes places such as the E17 marshes which are in-between the city and country and therefore reflect both the business of life and stillness of nature, as well as the inspiration I find when walking around the marshlands in London, particularly Walthamstow Wetlands which was recently opened to the public. It's a haven for me from my busy composing and conducting schedule. I'm also inspired by Imogen's musicianship and versatility as a performer on trumpet and flugelhorn and the way that she and the orchestra enter into the sound world I hope to evoke. I've conducted WSO several times in a range of repertoire and have put together this concert programme steeped in jazz

influences including the iconic An American in Paris. It's going to be a lively evening and I can't wait for 16 June!.”

Here, Imogen Hancock explains more about her involvement in this exciting new work and some of her other current projects:

"I am incredibly excited and honoured to be preparing for the premiere of Leo Geyer’s new trumpet concerto with the Wimbledon Symphony Orchestra. It’s been fantastic to work on this piece with Leo and also to enjoy the rare luxury of the composer conducting their own music! It feels particularly special to be performing this concerto in Wimbledon as I’ve always been local to the area. I grew up in New Malden, now live in Raynes Park and I teach a number of trumpet students around Wimbledon. Since finishing my studies at the Royal Academy of Music in 2015, solo playing has been an integral part of my freelance career: I was chosen as a Park Lane Group artist for their 60th Anniversary season, I participated in masterclasses with soloist Håkan Hardenberger through the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme and I spent seven weeks in Oslo, studying with Tine Thing Helseth, as an RPS Julius Isserlis Scholar. I have since been invited by Tine to be one of two trumpet students at her new international solo course in Norway, as part of the Risør Chamber Music Festival in late June 2018."

Notes to editors: Wimbledon Symphony Orchestra is a vital part of the local community and has a reputation for very high standards of performance and for supporting young professional soloists from Young Concert Artists Trust and recent winners of BBC Young Musician of the Year. The orchestra usually performs around 5 concerts per season including family concerts and an annual concert in support of Macmillan Merton. These are conducted by artistic leaders Andrew Morley and Leo Geyer, both established conductors with busy schedules. The orchestra welcomes local players from a wide age range who are a good standard, usually grade 8 or above.

For more information contact: Louise Cleverdon – Press and Marketing Officer, Wimbledon Symphony Orchestra

Louise Cleverdon talking about our upcoming "Mendelthon" day

We caught up with cellist and press & marketing officer with WSO to ask about the forthcoming "Mendelthon". Hopefully this will give interested players a feel for what to expect on the day, but if you do have any other questions do please get in touch with us at

WSO: What is the Mendelthon and what will you be doing on the day?

LC: The day is a play through of some of the popular (and lesser known) works by Felix Mendelssohn.

The running order and programme are available here in case you would find it useful to listen to the music or look at the score beforehand. Most of the music can be found on the ISMLP website. .

WSO: What standard of player do I need to be to join in?

LC: The day is open to anybody who wishes to join in.  Generally WSO performs to a good standard and the majority of members will have achieved Grade 8 or above. However, for this more informal and open event we would recommend a minimum standard of playing to be around grade 5 in order that you will be able to participate fully and enjoy it. The day is ideal for those who are considering joining an orchestra, players of any instrument who may not have played for a while or those who wish to just come along and have fun in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. You will not be made to sit at the front if you do not wish to!

We are not only welcoming instrumental players but budding conductors can contact us to arrange a slot where they will be able to conduct a symphony orchestra under the guidance of our conductor Andrew Morley.

We welcome students to participate in the day at a reduced rate, but if you are under 16 you will need to be accompanied by an adult.

WSO: What should you bring on the day?

LC: You only need to bring your instrument (or baton) and a music stand along as we will provide all the music required. If you do not have a music stand just let us know in advance so we can make sure one can be available. You may bring a packed lunch or refreshments with you, but these will be available to buy during the breaks and lunch. There are shops fairly nearby the venue.

WSO: Can players and conductors invite friends or family along to watch some of the day?

LC: Yes of course. There will be plenty of seating for audience members wishing to come along and watch, and there is no charge to attend as an audience member.

For full details, and to sign up go here.

A new and exciting season ahead - 2017 2018 programme announced.

We are very pleased to be able to announce our 2017- 2018 programme for which we welcome back Andy Morley and Leo Geyer as our two guest conductors for the season. 

We will start the season on November 4th with a celebration of romantic music conducted by Andy Morley and featuring Brahms Double Concerto with soloists Benjamin Baker who we are excited to be playing with again, and cellist Michael Petrov. This will be followed by a performance of the magnificent 4th Symphony by Tchaikovsky, with its recurring "Fate" theme.

Eventbrite - Autumn Concert featuring Benjamin Baker and Michael Petrov

Our season continues with our now popular Christmas family concert for children on December 9th in Wimbledon Town Centre for which there will be two performances at 2pm and 4pm which will be conducted and lead by Leo Geyer, with narration by Zeb Soanes and Mezzo-Soprano Rachel Maby.

Once again we will partner with MacMillan Cancer Support for our early spring concert on March 17th to be conducted by Andy Morley. Further details for this concert will be announced soon. 

We are also very excited to be holding another of our bi-annual 'athon' events on April 29th 2018.  For those of you who have not experienced this event before it is a whole day playing the music of one composer - whose identity will  be revealed shortly - where we welcome audience as well as guest players and conductors, and raise money for the orchestra whist enjoying a day of playing and meeting new players as well as friends of WSO. This will take place at Burntwood School in Earlsfield, SW17. 

And on June 16th we will close the season with an exciting jazz themed summer concert featuring Gershwin's An American In Paris, and the dramatic and evocative Danzon 2 by Arturo Márquez and made popular by Gustavo Dudamel.

Full details will be posted shortly. You can follow WSO on Facebook ( and on Twitter @WimbledonSO


The Wimbledon breakthroughs of Olivia Jageurs - Interview with WSO's Michael Archer

In this fascinating interview, Olivia Jageurs, soloist in our upcoming Summer Concert tells Michael Archer how her career began with the WSO, talks about The 15 Second Harp, her love of Debussy and discusses some of the technicalities of this much loved instrument.

The harp is not the usual instrument for a child to be attracted to – what fired your enthusiasm for it?

I was brought up near the only on-site harp makers in the U.K., Pilgrim Harps, in Godstone, Surrey so there were a few children in the area learning. If it wasn't for seeing my best friend at primary school play it I'm not sure I would have nagged my parents to try it too.

How do you overcome the physical issues of a large instrument when you are still quite small?

Like most harpists I started on a small lever harp. I then moved on to a small pedal harps when I was a teenager and eventually had a full size concert harp of my own (once my parents were convinced I was planning on playing forever!). 

Your parents must have played a very important role in the early days?

My parents are not musicians so I am just lucky they supported all my musical interests. They were definitely not "pushy" parents; I'm grateful I never had any pressure to rebel against and I only ever played for enjoyment.

Did they find you an inspirational teacher?

When I was 13 I started taking lessons at the Junior Department of Trinity College of Music (Trinity Laban), Greenwich. Gabriella Dall'Olio was my harp teacher and I remember wanting to have a life filled with stories and musical excitement like hers. Marion Friend, the director of Junior Trinity, also played a hugely supportive role in my musical development.

Was there music in the family when you began the harp?

There was a lot of Paul Simon played by my Dad, and I loved Tina Turner, but I don't remember there being much classical music except via the radio.

Were you an ‘all-rounder’ at School or did the harp ‘take over’ your life?

I went to very academic schools and I was joint first study with piano so the harp never took over. I just remember it being a constant juggling act.

What do you remember about your first public performance?

My first public performance was probably playing a 13 page piano version of the theme from "Titanic" and I remember loving the attention. My first professional experience was with Wimbledon Symphony Orchestra playing the Mozart flute and harp concerto! (03.03.2007 concert in support of Macmillan Cancer Care)

Were there particular musicians or pieces of music that inspired you in the early days?

I used to listen to Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto for hours. I guess the popular pieces are popular for a reason!

Was there a ‘breakthrough’ performance that really launched your career?

I don't know about breakthrough performance, but there was definitely a breakthrough phone-call. I had just finished my Masters at the Royal Academy and was sitting in Starbucks with my Dad moaning about not having a regular office job, when I got the call asking if I was free to play in the Royal Box at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships!

You definitely go through peaks and troughs being a musician: namely how you feel about your own music-making. If I'm ever having a down day I think of that Starbucks moment and that you never know what's around the corner. I have never wanted an office job since that day.

And now you are the Official harpist for the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. What exactly does that involve? 

My job is to entertain guests of the Royal Box before and after the matches on the men's and women's final days. If there is any break in play due to rain I will play then too. If you normally watch the matches on TV I am positioned in the main Club House where the players walk through just before they enter the court.  Luckily, I do normally get to see the action! I remember my first year playing there, in 2013 when Andy Murray won for the first time, sharing a step squeezed next to David Cameron who couldn't get back to his seat after a toilet break. The whole weekend is pretty unbelievable and it's very nice to feel like a V.I.P. once a year.

You seem to balance an amazing variety of repertoire and venues. Is that what makes music such a wonderful career for you?

Yes, I love playing all kinds of music: from classical music, to working in a West End show last year (Jeff Wayne's The War of the Worlds at the Dominion), to some occasional jazz (with bassist Herbie Flowers at Brighton Festival). I think my instrument really is so versatile that it can be involved in all genres, so I have the harp itself to thank for that. It has also taken me on some surprise adventures, such as the unveiling of the world's most expensive teapot.

Your social media project The 15 Second Harp produced an amazing response and an RPS Award (shortlisted nomination – NB: we will know on May 8).  Where did that idea come from?  And what are you going to do with all those 250+ submissions?

The idea for 15 second harp came from a desire to create more interesting content about classical music on social media. The photography app Instagram was becoming more and more popular and on this app the videos could only be 15 seconds long. In February 2016 I invited composers of any age and ability to send me 15 seconds of notated music; I then video recorded it and posted it online with feedback by 5pm the next day. I had just started playing in a show in the West End and I thought it would be a good challenge for myself to play some new music every day. The response was overwhelming and after announcing my intentions online I woke up to 10 submissions. Within three months I had recorded 100 of these compositions from all around the world. There is a definite need for composers to learn about how to write for the harp as it is an instrument like no other, so the project has continued and I am still being sent in snippets of musical experiments and perfectly formed 15 second miniatures.

I have created quite a few mini-suites consisting of several 15 seconds strung together. I recently performed a few of these on BBC Radio 3. I would also love for them to be published, but that is still very much a pipe dream.

Tell me about the instruments you not only play but transport from venue to venue AND, obviously, keep fully insured! It must be a commitment- and investment -  similar to the concert violinist with his Strad?

I own three harps: a blonde Lyon & Healy style 85 made from maple, which I've had since I was 16 years old, a black Lyon & Healy style 30 made from ebony, which I bought last summer making it my greatest life achievement, and a very small Morley blade harp, which is roughly 100 years old.

Debussy Danses Sacrée et Profane was commissioned by the instrument makers Pleyel to promote their new harp. Is it a special work in the repertoire of your instrument?

It is a very important work in our repertoire. It was commissioned by Pleyel to showcase their new double-strung chromatic harp: a harp formed of a row of white notes that overlapped with a pentatonic row of black notes. The rival harp makers Erard responded by commissioning Ravel to write his Introduction and Allegro to show-off their double action pedal harp. It is the latter instrument we play on today but it is thanks to Pleyel that these two seminal pieces were written. As the Danses were written for a different instrument it does mean that there are a lot of tricky pedal moves that Debussy would probably have avoided had he been writing for a pedal harp instead.

What is the special appeal of the work to you?

It is a truly beautiful piece of music by one of my favourite composers of all time.

You have worked before with tonight’s conductor, Leo Geyer. What have been the highlights so far – and what have you planned for the future?

A highlight was performing Leo's piece Bronze Garden II, inspired by Barbara Hepworth, at the New Art Centre, Salisbury – a stunning sculpture park worth making a special trip to visit! 

Either side of tonight’s concert, you are playing in Benjamin Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Aldeburgh Festival – now there’s a really demanding musical ‘sandwich’! Looking forward to it?

Britten and Debussy – two of the best composers who wrote for the harp. June is definitely a good month!

To order tickets to hear Olivia perform with WSO on June 10th in Raynes Park SW20 follow the link below.

Eventbrite - Wimbleson Symphony Orchestra Summer Concert with harpist Olivia Jageurs

An exploration of orchestral colour, showcasing the 20th century masters of orchestration

Eventbrite - Wimbleson Symphony Orchestra Summer Concert with harpist Olivia Jageurs

We're excited to be welcoming back guest conductor Leo Geyer for our summer concert in June featuring Harpist Olivia Jageurs. Here Leo shares a little more about the programme for this concert which we know will be a wonderful evening - "This programme is an exploration of orchestral colour, showcasing the 20th century masters of orchestration. Opening with two neo-classical dances originally written for piano, and beautifully orchestrated in both cases by Ravel. Continuing with the dance theme, Debussy’s harp concerto will be performed by the award-winning young virtuoso Olivia Jageurs . The first half will conclude with Ravel’s explosive La Valse which many argue sets out to destroy the Viennese Waltz. Rimsky-Korsakov’s symphonic poem Scheherazade comprises the second half of the concert and tells the middle-Eastern folk tale One Thousand and One Nights. This love story is told through transformations of leitmotifs and dazzling orchestral colour."

The trick to turning butterflies into a box of miraculous delights, Zeb Soanes in conversation with WSO's Helena Todd.

This year Wimbledon Symphony Orchestra is very excited to be sharing the platform with BBC Radio and Television broadcaster Zeb Soanes. Zeb will narrate Peter and the Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood in our family concert on 20th November, which features as part of Wimbledon International Music Festival 2016. WSO’s Helena Todd took the opportunity to pose a few questions to Zeb to help us know a little more about the man behind the soothing tones that many recognise as the voice of the shipping forecast.

What are you most looking forward to about this concert?

Peter and the Wolf is a piece I have wanted to perform for years.  I first heard it in my Primary school.  I had a wonderful music teacher called Mr. Taylor who illustrated pieces of music on an overhead projector, then played the record and we would copy the pictures into our books - even now when I hear those pieces of music I can visualise his illustrations.

There are so many characters in Little Red Riding Hood and Peter and the Wolf. How did you devise their voices?

Mostly the voices that I hear in my head when I first read something are the ones I choose, it’s instinctual,  then when you try them out loud you discover how easy they are to sustain, whether they are clear enough in a live performance.  You try to make them as distinct as possible and fully rounded characters.

How do you then practice these voices into familiarity?

I don’t think about it, it’s just like singing - you think of the note and then you sing it.  I think of the character and my body does what it needs to do to make the right sounds.  I’ve played with my voice and made silly voices since I was a child; we had a cassette recorder with a microphone and I would pretend to be Terry Wogan or Russell Harty interviewing my sister as Margaret Thatcher.

Besides news shows, you have presented a number of music shows including The Proms and Songs of Praise. You are also a patron for Awards for Young Musicians. Where does this musical involvement come from?

From my family.  My sisters and I were encouraged to play the piano, my mother was in a choir and dad played the church organ.  I used to come home from school and spend hours improvising on the piano.  AYM is a wonderful charity, funding talented young musicians who otherwise couldn’t afford to buy an instrument or take lessons.  Two BBC young musical winners have been supported throughout their studies by the charity.

Your voice is a real tell tale of how you are feeling emotionally. How did you train out quivers, shakes, audible smiles?

A studio microphone is a very sensitive lie detector, you can’t fake ‘fun’ or ‘sympathy’ and it makes me cringe when I hear it.  That means it can be tough when you’re reading the news at 5.30am and wishing you were still in bed.  Everyone feels nerves sometimes, particularly when things go wrong or you’re covering a major event that you know millions are tuning in for.  You develop a kit bag of psychological tricks to deal with these things and my way of handling nerves is to tell myself the butterflies are actually excitement and a willingness to get on with whatever it is I’m about to do.  And an audible smile is a wonderful thing, when you want to show it: it can subtly suggest incredulity or elicit forgiveness if you’ve said something you shouldn’t.

If you could spend a month in another job of your choice, what would it be?

A tea-buyer - flying around plantations drinking tea - what could be better?  (Wine could be substituted for tea if there are no vacancies but it would be a short career.)

Were there early signs of you being a news reader? How were you spotted?

I was a very shy child but it didn’t stop me wanting to be a performer so long as I was being other people.  I used to invent puppet shows and do all the voices, I wrote plays in my primary school and had a very inspirational drama teacher at High School, who was rewarded with a thank you in last year’s BAFTAs by another former student.  At university I was in an improvised comedy show and was spotted by the BBC because I was a good mimic until one day needed me to read the news (which was terrifying).  My career-plan was to be an actor playing anyone other than myself and have ironically spent the last 20 years mostly using my own voice.

What from your childhood do you associate with Christmas?

One of the most magical children’s television programmesIsaw as a child was The Box of Delights (BBC, 1984) which had Hely-Hutchinson’s Carol Symphony as its theme.  Whenever I hear that piece of music it feels like Christmas and I am 9 years old.  It has made me love The First Nowell for the same reason.

Is there something in particular you would love to narrate or a show you would like to appear on?

I would love to narrate Britten’s setting of W.H. Auden’s poem Night Mail to accompany a screening of the GPO film for which it was composed and I would quite like to live in the BBC’s Cranford (only with better medical facilities).


Zeb Soanes

Zeb Soanes

"Christmas Adventures" Family Concert in Wimbledon on Sat Dec 5th at 3pm

Wimbledon Symphony Orchestra will be welcoming families and children of all ages to our "Christmas Adventures" concert on Saturday December 5th at 3.00pm at Holy Trinity Church on Wimbledon Broadway, which is within walking distance of the heart of Wimbledon town centre.

The concert will be directed and narrated by award-winning composer and conductor Leo Geyer, and will be a perfect way for children to hear a live symphony orchestra perhaps for the very first time, and for families to enjoy a festive musical tale featuring a programme of well-known music.

We hope you will be able to join WSO for a Christmas adventure like no other. Opening with joyous dances from the Nutcracker and sing-a-long carols, Christmas receives an unexpected guest – The Mountain King. After explosive dances from the Firebird, Santa returns in his Sleigh for Christmas merriment.

Eventbrite - Christmas Adventures - Family Concert with Leo Geyer

November Concert celebrating the life of Paul Vaughan, broadcaster, clarinettist and WSO member

Our November concert will be a celebration of the life of broadcaster and friend of WSO, Paul Vaughan and will feature the beautiful and well known clarinet concerto by Mozart.

Paul Vaughan was a long-standing member and supporter of WSO. He was a celebrated broadcaster of science and arts programmes, a journalist, author and narrator and presented the Radio 4 arts programme Kaleidoscope from 1973 to 1998. Paul joined WSO in the 1960s and remained a loyal and regular player until 2010 as a member of the clarinet section as well as serving on the orchestra’s committee and writing concert programme notes.

He was a passionate chamber musician and was fond of organising informal sessions at his home. The repertoire for this concert has been selected with Paul very much in our minds and features the clarinet as a solo, chamber and orchestral instrument. 

Concert Details

Eventbrite - WSO Autumn Concert - In celebration of the life and work of Paul Vaughan

Concert schedule, repertoire and artists announced for 2015-2016 season

We are excited to be announcing our Concert Schedule for the 2015-2016 season, which will see WSO performing four concerts. Our November concert will be a celebration of the life of broadcaster and friend of WSO, Paul Vaughan and will feature the beautiful and well known clarinet concerto by Mozart. In December by popular request, we will be putting on an afternoon Family concert - further details to be confirmed shortly.  This season our regular 'Macmillan' concert in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support will be in March featuring the monumental Sibelius Violin Concerto, and the season will close with our summer concert in June, with an exciting and diverse programme to get everyone in the mood for the start of the tennis!

We are very happy to be welcoming back Andrew Morley as guest conductor for our November and March concerts, and we are also looking forward to performing with two new guest conductors, Leo Geyer and Dominic Alldis for our Family and Summer concerts. 

We are also thrilled to have secured the talents of a number of star soloists this season - Clarinettist, Joseph Shiner, and tenor, Neil Latchman as well as Joo Yeon Sir who regular WSO concert attendees may remember following her amazing performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto with us in January 2015, and her generous and hugely enjoyable performance of the Brahms Violin Concerto at our 'Brahmsathon' event in May.

Further details for the programme for our December Family concert will be announced shortly and tickets for the November concert will also be on sale shortly - Please keep an eye on the site for details and links.

We are looking forward to an exciting and varied season and hope that you will be able to come along to hear some of the great programmes and artists that we have in store.

Brahmsathon - WSO fundraiser a great success

Our recent 'Brahmsathon' was a great success - A fun day of music making and fundraising for WSO. Under the direction of guest conductor Andrew Morley, the orchestra together with a number of visiting players, played all four Brahms symphonies, the Violin Concerto and we just managed to squeeze in one Huungarian Dance at the end of the day. We were pleased to welcome a number of guest conductors throughout the day and we would like to thank everyone for their time and support.

For more on the Brahmsathon and to find out how you can donate to WSO as part of "Brahmsathon" please follow this link - Brahmsathon Info.