About Luton Symphony Orchestra
Luton Symphony Orchestra, based in Luton, Bedfordshire, was founded in 1953 as the Luton Youth Orchestra and was initially conducted by Michael Marsh-Edwards. Three years later it became Luton Symphony Orchestra and was subsequently conducted for many years by the well-known and respected champion of Luton music, Colin Smith.
In 1989, Uwe Radok, then Head of Brass for Bedfordshire Music Service, was appointed as conductor, a post he filled admirably for over 20 years until his retirement in 2011. In 2013, Dafydd Billinghurst was invited to take up the conductor's baton.
Over the years, the orchestra has had the privilege of working with many famous soloists. These have included Ralph Wallfisch (cello), Erich Gruenberg (violin), Richard Watkins (horn), Jack Brymer (clarinet), Michael Hext (trombone), Rohan de Saram (cello), Ifor James (horn), Rodney Friend (violin), Daniel Smith (bassoon), Andrew Gough (guitar) and Vovka Ashkenazy (piano). Nigel Kennedy gave his first professional performance with Luton Symphony Orchestra at the age of 15.
In recent years, we have been privileged to present many other young soloists at the start of their careers including Rachel Nicholls (soprano), Ben Westlake (clarinet), Juliet Arthur (soprano), Joo Yeon Sir (violin), Timothy Ridout (viola), James Sherlock (piano) and Steven Joseph (guitar).
What We Play
We currently give three concerts a year - two of the traditional "overture, concerto, symphony" format and one lighter programme in the summer concert. Where necessary, we augment our regular forces with extra brass and percussion players.
In recent years, programmes have included: Wagner's overture Die Meistersinger; Weber's overture Der Freischutz; Sibelius' overture Karelia; Borodin's Polovsian Dances; Martinu's Rhapsody Concerto for Viola and Orchestra; Beethoven's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No 5, The Emperor; Dvorak's Symphony No 8; Mahler's Symphony No 4; Brahms' Symphonies Nos 1 and 3; and Borodin's Symphony No 2.
Our Musical Director, Dafydd Billinghurst
Born in north Kent, Dafydd began playing the violin at a very young age. Initially tutored by his father, a self-taught amateur player, at the age of 9 he was awarded a scholarship by the Kent Music School to study with acclaimed solo violinist Anthony Saltmarsh. In 1964, Dafydd was lucky enough to be invited to join the Kent Youth Orchestra. Created and directed by charismatic music educator and conductor Bela de Csillery, this was one of the foremost youth music groups in the country at that time, performing on national radio and television as well as undertaking frequent European concert tours. Being part of the Youth Orchestra during this period and working with great musicians such as John Lill, Moira Lympany and, on one occasion, Herbert von Karajan, was exciting and inspirational.
Four years at the Royal Academy of Music studying violin, piano, composition and conducting were followed by a number of years as a freelance professional player and teacher. Performing with orchestras and opera groups throughout England, as well as giving regular solo recitals, Dafydd also taught for the Kent Music School based in Canterbury and later at the choir schools of Christ Church and New College Oxford.
This somewhat bohemian existence ended in 1980 when Dafydd took up an appointment as a full-time peripatetic instrumental teacher with Bedfordshire County Music Service. Over the next 20 years he played a significant part in developing a strong musical culture in Leighton Buzzard, was a founder member of the Saturday Morning Music School at Vandyke Upper School and composed and arranged over 400 pieces of music. He was particularly active in developing bespoke music for the Fiddle Fiesta, an innovative annual inter-school music making festival involving every string player in the county.
During the school holidays, Dafydd was involved at various times in coaching the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Bedfordshire County Youth Orchestras, but was mainly responsible for County 4th Orchestra for which he was the principal conductor, twice taking this group to perform at the Royal Albert Hall.
In 2000, Dafydd took up a new post as a manager for the Luton Music Service with responsibilities for overseeing delivery of instrumental tuition in schools and developing new programmes for whole-class teaching and school-based music projects, a post he held until his retirement in 2012.
Dafydd has been associated with Luton Symphony Orchestra since the early 1980s, when he led the orchestra under Colin Smith, so he is delighted to have been asked to take up his baton as Musical Director.
Our Leader, Angela Pulsford
Angela was awarded a scholarship to study the violin at the Royal Academy of Music. She then embarked on a varied freelance career playing many styles of music including orchestral, ballet, opera, chamber music, popular music, theatre and TV.
Angela worked for several years with the Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet Orchestra touring all over England and in many London seasons at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Sadler's Wells Theatre and Battersea Park. In addition she played in Royal Ballet Sinfonia concerts and recorded music for The South Bank Show. She has also played with other ballet companies including English National Ballet, Northern Ballet, Ballet Rambert and the Bolshoi Ballet Company.
Angela has taken part in numerous Popular Classics Concerts with a variety of professional orchestras at the Barbican, Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Royal Albert Hall and at other major concert halls across the country. Working with the RPO Pops and Concert Orchestras, she has also played in outdoor concerts at Kenwood House and Bedford Park.
Angela has played for West End musicals and at many provincial theatres round the country. Her playing career has also included recording sessions for TV and radio commercials and recording artists. Her TV work includes 30 Channel 4 shows as a member of the string section backing pop artists in recorded and live performances.
Over the years, Angela has led many amateur and semi-professional orchestras in London and the Home Counties, including appearances on the South Bank. Her chamber music engagements have included string quartets in hotels, restaurants, at weddings and on a Mediterranean music cruise.
Angela has coached on music courses including the Hertfordshire Schools Symphony Orchestra and has conducted youth, junior and beginner string orchestras at County Music Centres. She also conducts two String Ensembles and a full school orchestra combined with peripatetic teaching in several Hertfordshire schools.