Why Sir John Tomlinson is joining an amateur orchestra

Britain’s foremost Wagnerian can be heard on November 25 with the Kensington Symphony Orchestra, made up of high-achieving amateurs.


Because the late conductor Leslie Head, who founded the orchestra, enabled music graduates to try out their stuff at a time in their lives when they could not afford professional accompaniment. John Tom was one of them. He tells Slipped Disc:

john tomlinson

‘For a young singer, bridging the gap between Music College and the profession is usually quite a tortuous transition: you are relatively inexperienced, and no one will employ you until you have experience – which you cannot gain until someone employs you… It’s a vicious circle, a quandary which in my case was largely solved by my working on several projects in the early 1970s with Leslie Head.

‘With limitless energy, whether resurrecting a neglected Donizetti Opera or gathering the forces for a Berlioz or Wagner epic, he confidently developed the talents of singers young and old to spectacular effect. I and many of my colleagues in the profession will always be grateful to him, and those impressive performances of his will be long remembered.’

Go hear him.




Date: Tuesday 25th November 2014
Time: 7.30pm
Venue: St John’s Smith Square, London SW1P 3HA
Tickets: £12.50-17.50
Box office: 020 7222 1061 /www.sjss.org.uk  
WALTON Variations on a Theme of Hindemith
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Three Songs of Travel*
MONTAGUE From the Ether (new commission by St John’s Smith Square)
SIBELIUS Symphony No.5
Kensington Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Russell Keable
Leader: Alan Tuckwood
Bass: Sir John Tomlinson*

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  • Good non professional orchestras and choirs are a vital part of the musical infrastructure. They don’t get the grants, and it’s an endless fight to get any media coverage and to shift tickets. My own choir, the Royal Leamington Spa Bach Choir is 75 years old this year. It has engaged countless big names of the future and helped artists to start or maintain their careers. We’re going to keep on doing that, whatever it takes.

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