Long-serving conductor leaves Symphony Orchestra

CONDUCTOR James Ross who has led St Albans Symphony Orchestra (SASO) for nine years is to leave when the season ends in July.

After so many years at the helm, he has decided it is time to take up new challenges including a growing volume of international work with professional orchestras around the globe including the USA, Europe, Sri Lanka and China.

Dr Ross said: “It has been a pleasure to work with SASO over the past nine years and to see the orchestra grow and develop so much. This would not have happened without a massive effort made by all those who have played with and supported us during this time to whom I am hugely grateful.”

An authority on French opera and past finalist in the BBC Philharmonic Conduction Competition, Dr Ross’s tenure has seen SASO grow in size and attract amateur and professionally-trained musicians of a high standard.

He also obtained grant support for the orchestra’s sections to be coached by members of the City of London Sinfonia.

That has enabled SASO to tackle increasingly ambitious music including large-scale works by composers such as Bruckner, Elgar, Janacek and Mahler. Among the critically-acclaimed highlights have been concerto performances with Guy Johnson, the Harpenden cellist and former BBC Young Musician of the Year, charity concerts in St John’s Smith Square, London, and a celebration of the orchestra’s 75th anniversary in 2007 which included Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring ballet music.

SASO chairman, Kieran McGuirk, said: “Under James’s expert guidance over nine years, the orchestra has grown substantially in size, skills, repertoire and reputation, enabling us to reach new peaks of performance as well as broadening our range of musical activities in and around St Albans.

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“We owe him a great deal and wish him every success in his growing international career.”

From September, the baton will pass to St Albans-based conductor Bjorn Bantock who is well known to local audiences through concerts with the Herts Philharmonia and Watford Philharmonic Orchestras. He is also principal conductor of the London Chamber Strings and the Europa Ensemble.

Before he departs, Dr Ross will lead SASO through a performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony on Saturday, June 12, as part of the St Albans Magna Carta celebrations.

The work’s five movements are on an expansive scale and require the participation of two choirs as well as solo singers.