August 2016 – APO commissions Max Charles Davies for January 2017 concert

We’re delighted to announce that we’ve commissioned former APO Young Composers Award winner Max Charles Davies to write a new work for our January 2017 concert. We gave the world premiere of Max’s concerto for orchestra, ‘The Mysterious Kiss’, in January 2010 – a piece rapturously received by orchestra and audience alike. In January 2012, Max supplied the finale for our ‘Sumer is icumen in’ variations with, ‘A very British summer prayer’, which brought together all the elements of the piece in a beautifully light-hearted way.

The new work will be presented alongside another new work by Max, ‘Tiny Symphony’. Max describes this piece as, ‘…a little musical portrait of my two-year-old son, Sebastian. But, it does also contain all the elements of a late-classical-period symphony in miniature: a sonata form first movement, a scherzo and trio, a slow movement, and a sonata-rondo finale. So it is quite literally a Tiny Symphony, about a tiny person, and because of its bite-sized proportions, gives a little flavour of what (at least this composer’s) contemporary classical music is all about, without being too long or intimidating.’ We can’t wait to perform it.

Max’s work replaces, at least temporarily, the #APOdances project and Sibelius’s Valse Triste, but fear not as they are now firmly penned in for January 2018 – and in an even more spectacular way – watch this space! Nicola Loten will still join us to perform Nielsen’s Flute Concerto, and the programme will still conclude with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.1 ‘Winter Daydreams’.

July 2016 – APO soloists cut it at the Fringe!

In the beautiful surroundings of the 900-year old St. Laurence Church, APO made its debut at the Reading Fringe Festival on Saturday 23rd July. In an event titled ‘Mozart Unwrapped’, a performance of Mozart’s Serenade in B flat, the ‘Gran Partita’, was preceded by an extended introduction from conductor Andrew Taylor, complete with musical examples from the band.


Our #mozartunwrapped audience reclines in advance of the performance

In a relaxed atmosphere, with the players presenting the introduction in casual clothing and audience reclining on comfortable sofas, we went ‘under the bonnet’ to explore what makes Mozart’s writing so original and memorable – a task which even involved showing the link between Mozart and Oasis!

We really enjoyed our Reading Fringe experience and send our thanks to the all-volunteer Reading Fringe team, especially the volunteers who helped run the event on the night. We hope we can do similar ‘unwrapped’ events in future years.

July 2016 – Young musicians enchant audience at RBCS as APO bids farewell to Honorary Patron

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Trombonist Marcus Fifield wows the audience with trombone acrobatics

We were delighted to offer the opportunity for four talented pupils of Reading Blue Coat School to perform concertos on Sunday 3rd July. The pupils, Emily Reeve, David Fifield, Marcus Corbin and Angus Trott, were accompanied by RBCS Director of Music Jonathan Bowler (continuo), teachers Elizabeth Burrowes and Dominic Oldfield, and APO’s Music Director Andrew Taylor. The performances were part of a matinee concert which also featured the continuation of Edward Reeve’s Beethoven piano concerto cycle with APO – to the delight of his legion of fans in the audience.

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APO Music Director Andrew Taylor with APO Honorary Patron Michael Windsor

We ended the afternoon with ‘The Elephant’ from Saint-Saëns’ ‘Carnival of the Animals’, arranged for full orchestra by Andrew Taylor in honour of APO Honorary Patron and outgoing Headmaster of RBCS, Michael Windsor (who is a fine double bassist). Andrew thanked Mike for his unstinting support of APO during his time at RBCS. We wish him well as he becomes Headmaster of Abingdon School and look forward to seeing him at future concerts.

May 2016 – #APOfriends provides emotional evening

The orchestra stands to receive a rapturous reception from the audience at our #APOfriends concert

The orchestra stands to receive a rapturous reception from the audience at our #APOfriends concert

An enthusiastic audience enjoyed our #APOfriends concert on 21st May at The Concert Hall in Reading Town Hall. The orchestra took advantage of the hall’s beautiful acoustic to make a rich sound in Elgar’s Enigma Variations. The second half saw conductor Andrew explain the tragic back story of Malcolm Arnold’s Fifth Symphony, before a performance packed full of emotion and drama. The long silences held at the end of the second movement and the finale were indicative of how spellbound the audience were. The concert opened with composer Fumiko Miyachi joining Andrew on the stage to talk about her development as a composer since the commission of her Variation on Purcell/Warlock Fantasia No.2 for strings. You can hear her revised version here.

May 2016 – New ‘Progcast’ series in advance of #APOfriends

APO is always seeking ways of enhancing the concert experience through innovation. In advance of our #APOfriends concert on Saturday 21st May, 7.30pm, The Concert Hall, Reading, we’ve begun publishing a series of extended audio programme notes via podcast – we’re calling them ‘Progcasts’.

The first features an interview with APO Percussionist, Roger Clift, who talks to our Music Director, Andrew Taylor, about the ‘friends who died too you’ portrayed subtly within Malcolm Arnold’s Fifth Symphony, including the inimitable Gerard Hoffnung, famous for many talents, including his brilliant cartoons!

APO Progcasts can either be streamed or downloaded from Soundcloud.

April 2016 – Save the date! APO will perform at Reading Fringe Festival

We’re delighted to announce that wind soloists from APO will be performing at this year’s Reading Fringe Festival. In an event titled, ‘Mozart’s Gran Partita Unwrapped’, an extended introduction will see APO members exploring Mozart’s Serenade for 13 Winds, nicknamed the ‘Gran Partita’, before giving a full performance of this immense 50-minute work.

The performance will be on Saturday 23rd July at 8pm. Venue and other details will be confirmed soon. It’s part of a busy summer for APO, with performances at Reading Town Hall on Saturday 21st May (7.30pm) and at Way Hall, Reading Blue Coat School, on Sunday 3rd July (4pm).

February 2016 – #APOpictures shortlisted for Alt Reading’s Event of the Year award

We’re delighted to have been shortlisted in the Event of the Year category for the Alt Reading awards. Alt Reading is AltReadinga not-for-profit online magazine which aims to show all the best that Reading has to offer. It’s particularly supportive of the arts and is highly regarded in the Reading arts community. It’s wonderful to get recognition for #APOpictures, especially in the company of some fantastic nominees and our categories and others.

January 2016 – Pictures at our Exhibition concert is a great success

An audience well in excess of 400 enjoyed our concert on January 23rd. Geoffrey Silver’s spine-tinglingly emotional performance of the Sibelius Violin Concerto drew tears from many audience members (and a few orchestra members, too!), whilst Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures at at Exhibition’ rocked the stage and almost took the roof off for a tub-thumping conclusion. The biggest ovation, however, was for our wonderful young composers award winners, whose ‘Pictures at APO’s Exhibition’ were given their world premiere.

That performance was recorded and is now available on our Pictures at Our Exhibition microsite ( We are actively seeking local schools and community organisations who are interested in doing some follow up work with the orchestra on this fantastic project, which was supported by Reading arts organisations jelly and Creative People, as well as by a generous grant from the Reading Cultural Partnership, as part of the Reading 2016 Year of Culture.

January 2016 – Preparations ramp up for ‘Pictures at Our Exhibition’ as part of the Reading 2016 Year of Culture’s ‘Get Fit for Culture’ January

The Reading 2016 Year of Culture is here! One of the first events will see us present our own ‘pictures’ of classical music, on Saturday 23rd January, 7.30pm, at The Concert Hall, Reading Town Hall. Tickets are available here.

For over ten years, through our famous ‘Concert Virgin’ scheme, we’ve offered anyone who has never heard a live orchestra a free ticket to one of our concerts. This fits wonderfully with the aspiration of Reading 2016’s ‘Get Fit for Culture’ theme for January, which encourages people to broaden their cultural horizons and try something new. And we’ve been hard at work on a special project which will make the concert even more accessible.

“The visual spectacle of over 80 musicians playing amazing music in front of your eyes surprises and delights ‘concert virgins'”, explains APO music director, Andrew Taylor. “So, we’ve added an extra visual element through the ‘Pictures at Our Exhibition’ project, which will take the concert experience to another level.”

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Reading’s foremost creative arts organisations, jelly. Five young composers aged 12-21 from Reading and the surrounding area were given a guided tour of the jelly studios by its director, Suzanne Stallard, exploring how each artist works to create pieces in different mediums.

Each of the young composers has, with the help of Reading-based professional composer, Roger May, composed a musical response to a work of their choice by jelly artists Julie Simmonds, Mark O’Neill, Mark Andrew Webber and Jim Attewell. These pieces have been compiled into a new work, ‘Pictures at APO’s Exhibition’, which will be given its world premiere at the concert on the 23rd.

Thanks to a grant from Reading Borough Council, the performance will be recorded and hosted online with an accompanying audio/visual guide, so that the art works can be exhibited as part of jelly’s ‘Open for Art’ exhibition, later in the year, as well as being taken around schools and community organisations.

And, of course, the jelly art works will be exhibited at the concert itself, so that the audience can see what they’re about to hear represented in music. The #APOpictures work was inspired by Mussorgsky’s famous piano piece, ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’, which APO will also be performing in Ravel’s dazzling orchestration. Sibelius’s haunting and dramatic violin concerto is also on the programme, with soloist Geoffrey Silver.

November 2015 – ‘Pictures at APO’s Exhibition’ young composers benefit from Mark-Anthony Turnage’s guidance

Our brilliant Young Composers Award winners, who are busy composing their ‘Pictures at APO’s Exhibition’, benefitted from a fantastic workshop with world-famous British composer, Mark-Anthony Turnage. Mark gave up several hours of his Sunday and went through each of the composers’ pieces to give them guidance on writing for a large orchestra.

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Mark-Anthony Turnage during his workshop with our #APOpictures composers

For full details of our ‘Pictures at APO’s Exhibition’ project, click here. #APOpictures

October 2015 – Audience delight at APO’s presentation of Peer Gynt

Our October concert saw us present a spine-tingling performance of the overture to Humperdinck’s opera, Hansel and Gretel and a dramatic performance of Mahler’s Totenfeier (a prelude to our performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, in October 2016).

But the biggest applause was for our presentation of a selection of Grieg’s incidental music to Peer Gynt, complete with narration written by a member of the orchestra, which even cast the orchestra as trolls (“Render him into lard!”).

Our wonderful soprano soloist, Tania Pratt, tugged on our heartstrings, particularly with the final Cradle Song, during which a small group of singers (from APO’s own ranks and several from Reading’s Tamesis Chamber Choir) interposed the haunting Whitsun Hymn.

As well as Tania, there were several other star performances, including an amazing ‘Hardanger fiddle’ solo from viola player Kat Hatton, some fantastic wind solos (particularly during ‘Morning mood’) and a cameo from Louise Rapple Moore, director of Tamesis, on the organ.

But it was two pupils from Reading Blue Coat School, 12 year olds Ted Aplin and William Peters, who stole the show with their entertaining and engaging performance of the narration. Here they are, with Tania, at the end of the performance, quite rightly looking pleased as punch!

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Next concert

Saturday 21st May 2016 – 7.30pm

  • Miyachi – Variation on a Purcell/Warlock Fantasia (APO commission)
  • Elgar – Enigma Variations
  • Arnold – Symphony No. 5

The Concert Hall, Blagrave Street, Reading

Conductor – Andrew Taylor

Tickets are £12, £10 concessions and YRP, £5 under 16.

Click here for more information and to buy tickets