New conductor takes to the stage with St Albans Symphony Orchestra

Tom Hammond

Tom Hammond - Credit: Archant

A new principal conductor has been appointed by St Albans Symphony Orchestra (SASO) following the departure of Bjorn Bantock after five years in charge.

Tom Hammond will start working with the orchestra on a regular basis in the autumn.

He was chosen from more than 40 applicants for the post and a selection process that included an opportunity to guest conduct this year’s New Year concert in St Albans Cathedral.

Although new to St Albans, 41-year old Tom is no stranger to Herts having been music director of the Hertford Symphony Orchestra since 2014 and co-director of the Herts Festival of Music, being launched there this summer.

His other regular conducting engagements include the Essex Symphony Orchestra and London-based Sinfonia Tamesa. As conductor of the Yorkshire Young Sinfonia, he appeared in a recent Radio 4 documentary.

Tom has visited Jordan and the West Bank as guest conductor of the Palestine Youth Orchestra and directs a professional ensemble in London called sound collective.

Fans of TV’s comedy sports quiz A League of Their Own may well remember Tom attempting to teach celebrity presenter James Corden how to conduct Beethoven.

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Plans for Tom’s first season with SASO include two of the mightiest by Russian composers – Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony in October and Prokofiev’s Symphony No 5 in March next year.

May 2017 will bring a performance of the dramatic Piano Concerto No 1 by Brahms, with St Albans-based soloist Alissa Firsova. There will be further Tchaikovsky fireworks on January 2 in the Abbey, with music from his ballet Swan Lake as well as the rare Konzertstück by Schumann for four horns and orchestra.

Tom said: “One of the joys of working with non-professional orchestras is the freedom it gives you to put together exciting repertoire rather than repeatedly programming works that just sell seats.

“I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but the word ‘amateur’ does refer to people doing something that they love. They are there making music because that is what they want to do.

“I was attracted to SASO by the way it programmes exciting, ambitious repertoire and my aim is to develop that. I also want to strengthen and build on its core audience so that we feel we are really connecting with the people who come to hear us play.”

David Utting, SASO’s chair, said: “It is a measure of the orchestra’s progress, and growing reputation that we attracted such a strong field of candidates to become our new conductor. We are excited to be working with Tom, who impressed our playing members as well as the New Year audience with his thoughtful musicianship, technical skill and friendly authority.

“We are confident in his ability to ensure that SASO can continue to attract high-quality, amateur players and raise its playing standards even higher.”