The Isle of Wight Symphony Orchestra (IWSO) is the only orchestra to bring a regular programme of classical music to audiences on the Island. It is run by its members on a voluntary basis and is formed of professional and retired professional local players, music teachers, students and strong amateur players. In order to cover the repertoire, the Orchestra regularly engages professional players to play with it. The quality of performances and the popularity of programming have built audiences over the last 5–10 years so every performance is usually sold out and there is a waiting list for season tickets. Much of this is due to the high expectations, careful rehearsal and inspired programming by Musical Director, Jonathan Butcher, who celebrates 25 years with the Orchestra in November 2022.
The Orchestra has earned a reputation as an ensemble that works well with emerging international soloists. Many of the most talented young soloists regularly travel down to perform with us and many keep returning to the delight of our audience. The list reads as a Who’s Who from BBC Young Musician of the Year finalists, international competition and prize winners who have all performed with the greatest orchestras in the UK and across Europe in all the major concert halls. Bringing this quality of soloist to Island audiences at affordable prices is one of our major objectives as an orchestra.
Another key objective for the Orchestra is to serve as a seed-bed for talented local players who progress from the Isle of Wight Music Centre. Many of these go on to become full members and make up the future of symphonic music on the Island. Others go off to music college or University with a very strong apprenticeship in orchestral playing under their belts.
As well as great symphonic music, the Orchestra programmes an annual concert of shorter, often well-known pieces around a theme, for example Last Night of the Proms, Festival of the Sea, American Independence Celebrations or Movie Themes. These more relaxed concerts are a perfect introduction to orchestral music for younger audiences as well as those who just enjoy a great tune.
The Orchestra often joins forces with other local ensembles to perform larger-scale, often choral music. Over the years this has brought some very large pieces to the Island, seldom heard outside of large cities—Britten’s War Requiem, Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, Vaughan Williams A Sea Symphony—as well as providing players for local choirs and events.
Thanks to sponsorship from Wightlink, the loyalty of its audience and the commitment of its members, the Orchestra remains in a healthy state. Having weathered the storm of COVID-19 which forced us off the stage for over a year, we are very much looking forward to moving ahead with our commitment to providing high-quality symphonic music,, bringing talented soloists to Island audiences, offering a progression route for young Island orchestral musicians, supporting other local ensembles and delivering an annual, more relaxed orchestral experience.