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The origins of the Colchester Symphony Orchestra go back to 1969, when the Colchester Chamber Orchestra was founded by Dr W.H. Swinburne (1907 – 1994) and Pamela Jenkins (née Munks).  

Dr Swinburne was the founder and Head of the Music Department at the North-East Essex Technical College and School of Art – now Colchester Institute.  The Colchester Chamber Orchestra drew upon the talents of both staff and students for concerts within the College and in Colchester. The orchestra made its debut accompanying Colchester Choral Society at the Moot Hall.


In the years that followed, Colchester Chamber Orchestra supported a number of choral societies in the region under Dr Swinburne’s baton.  In 1978 Jessie Ridley became leader.  A programme on 20 February 1978 shows Emmanuel Hurwitz as conductor, and soloist, in two of the Vivaldi ‘Four Seasons’. The Orchestra’s President at this time was Malcolm Williamson, Master of the Queen’s Musick, he was later succeeded by Dr Swinburne.  By 1980 Beth Spendlove had become leader, with concerts held at the Moot Hall and St Botolph’s Church.  In 1983 Christopher Phelps became Musical Director.  Now, led by Philippa Barton, the orchestra is known as the Colchester Symphony Orchestra.

The members of the orchestra are mostly professional musicians.  Opportunities are also given to new, talented students.  The Orchestra does not receive any grants or subsidies but is delighted and very grateful to receive sponsorship and donations from Friends. Ticket sales also form an important contribution to our income.  Colchester Symphony Orchestra makes a unique contribution to high-standard professional music-making in the Colchester area.




Musical Director -  Chris Phelps

Leader of the Orchestra -  Philippa Barton

PhiliippaBarton ChrisPhelps

Remembering our late President, Roy Teed

It is with great sadness that we mark the passing of our esteemed President, Roy Teed on 17th June 2017.


His association with the Colchester Symphony Orchestra goes back to the days of the legendary Dr Swinburne at the Colchester Institute.  Roy’s support of the orchestra over the decades has been unwavering and he has been a rock when the orchestra has been going through periods of change.  Roy has not only been our President for many years, he has also written the programme notes for our concerts since time immemorial.

While Roy was in hospital, I was glad to be able to discuss with him a concert to celebrate his 90th year. We plan to hold such a concert in celebration of Roy’s life next season, as close to his date of birth as possible.

Next season will not be the same without Roy’s famous ‘Bravo!’ at the end of performances - we will greatly miss him.

Chris Phelps

Colchester Symphony Orchestra is run by Colchester Symphony Orchestra Trust,

a registered charity (no 1146126) which was set up in 2012