2021 Course and Concert

31 October 2021 - St John's Smith Square, London

St John's Smith Square 2021 St John's Smith Square 2021

This was probably our most eagerly anticipated concert since our first ever and at times it appeared like it might never happen. When we announced the programme for the 2020 concert in January 2020, we knew that this would be one of the most exciting concerts we had put on, with such a vibrant repertoire. Little did we know that only a few months later our plans would be put on hold.

It was with great disappointment that we had to cancel the October 2020 concert and then the proposed replacement in February 2021. Even as we neared the course this year, we nervously hoped that we would not only start the course but get to the concert on the 31st without any further setbacks. We were hugely grateful that Jess Gillam was able to reschedule for this year and that we were able to put on the much-anticipated programme that everyone was so looking forward to.

Just two weeks before the start of the course, our Musical Director was forced to withdraw from the course. We were able to call on our Assistant Conductor James Widden and former String Tutor and accomplished conductor, Gonzalo Acosta, to take over the baton at short notice. Between them they led the students to produce an incredible performance.

It is fair to say that the final performance exceeded all our expectations and was well worth waiting for. Read the feedback from students, parents and tutors, together with photos, at the bottom of the page.

The concert started with a vibrant performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. This work has been one that we have wanted to perform for several years, and this was the perfect time to perform the piece with Spielberg’s remaking of the original film version being released in Cinemas in December 2021. The work calls for a large percussion section featuring over 40 different pieces of percussion played by the outstanding section of 7 players. The audience was visibly moved by the Latin American rhythms and energetic playing.

For many students, the highlight of this year’s course was playing with the incredible saxophonist, Jess Gillam, in Darius Milhaud’s Scaramouche Suite for Saxophone and Orchestra. Jess was inspirational during rehearsals, spending time with the students to answer questions, take selfies and even have lunch with the students. The music continued the Latin American feel with Milhaud’s take on Brazilian and French street scenes.

In the second half, the Orchestra returned to a piece we have played twice before – Shostakovich’s Symphony no. 5. This is always a favourite for players and audience alike with its powerful melodies, rich orchestration, and technical wind solos. This was another assured performance by the Orchestra and reflected the sound of the nearly 90 strong ensemble. In the original performance in 1937, it is said that the audience wept at the end of the performance. Looking around St Johns’ Smith Square at the end of this concert, it was clear that a similar reaction had been achieved.

Over the last two years, we have formalised our Mentor Scheme and this was the perfect programme to launch the new scheme. Each of the mentors made a massive contribution to the course, taking sectionals, working one to one with students and providing help and advice during rehearsals. Our mentors provided additional support to our excellent team of Sectional Tutors who once again helped develop the students during the course.

Full Programme
  • Leonard Bernstein - Symphonic Dances from West Side Story
  • Darius Milhaud - Scaramouche, Suite for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra with soloist Jess Gillam
  • Dmitri Shostakovich - Symphony No.5 in D minor
Rehearsal and Concert Photos - Click here to see all photos.
Photos by Justin Griffiths-Williams
Feedback from the Course and Concert

It was absolutely fabulous, so good to see everybody together again and to be listening to live music, thank you ESO.

Absolutely spectacular! Thank you for a wonderful afternoon. Jess Gillam and all the children were superb. Looking forward to next year!

It was a fantastic concert and great to watch young people performing together again. Huge thanks to the ESO team.

I just wanted to say thanks for having me this week. I’m very proud of the horn section for their hard work and for how fantastic they’re sounding. They’re all excellent players and can be relied upon in any position for the years to come in the orchestra.

Brilliant concert, our first one with ESO. Thank you so much H has had a fabulous time.

Thank you so much English Schools Orchestra. T had a great time with you. What a fabulous way for us to return to watching him play in an orchestra. Well done to all the students, you are truly inspiring, and thanks again to everyone involved.

This was amazing. After such a tricky time it was so positive to see all the young talent and witness all the dedication of those involved to pull it off. We were so happy to have been part of it

Thank you so much, it was such a pleasure to be involved with the course and I was overwhelmed by the standard and how well the students worked, I can’t wait to see everyone again next year!

I just wanted to say a huge thank you for welcoming me onto the ESO course this year, I have been overwhelmed by how well the students have worked and how fantastic the orchestra sounds.

Thank you so much for having me on the course, it was a pleasure to be there from start to finish. All the students did extremely well both during the course and in the final performance. I hope they enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed tutoring.