The Orchestra

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.

Jonathan Butcher

Jonathan Butcher (Conductor)

Jonathan Butcher is an experienced and versatile conductor, whose repertoire not only encompasses all the major orchestral, choral and operatic works but also includes a large selection of both 20th and 21st Century compositions. He has a particular passion for the chamber orchestra repertoire and is much admired for his work with young people and students, most notably as conductor of the Bromley Youth Symphony Orchestra. Jonathan also conducted orchestras at the Royal College of Music for some twelve years. 

Whilst studying at the Royal College of Music, where he was awarded a Foundation Scholarship, he won all the major conducting prizes, including the Sir Adrian Boult Conducting Scholarship (on three consecutive occasions), The Arthur Bliss Prize and a Leverhulme Studentship for further study, which he utilised to attend the Tanglewood Summer School in the USA. His teachers have included Leonard Bernstein, Jan Stulen, André Previn, and Seiji Ozawa, but his major influence and inspiration was the great Strauss scholar and a recognized authority on the orchestra, Norman del Mar.

Jonathan has worked with many orchestras and ensembles, including the London Mozart Players, Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, English Symphony Orchestra, New London Orchestra, Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra, National Centre for Orchestral Studies, Divertimenti, London Bach Orchestra, Promenade Orchestra of Radio Hilversum in Holland, Surrey Sinfonietta, National Orchestra of Malta and the Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz. On the lighter side he has conducted two Hoffnung Concerts in Munich and in 2004, Jonathan conducted several New Year concerts in and around Ludvigshaven, Germany. He also conducted the Family and Prom style concerts at the National Trust house, Polesden Lacey, for many years. At present, Joanthan holds musical directorships with four orchestras and is Artistic Director of Surrey Opera, with whom he has conducted and directed many acclaimed productions. Jonathan also teaches choral singing at the Royal Academy of Art and is a member of the Royal Society of Musicians.

Recent musical activities include the World Première of Madeleine by David Hackbridge Johnson, for which Jonathan also constructed the libretto. He returned to the world-famous Minack Theatre in Cornwall with a new production of Don Giovanni.

Upcoming Concerts and Events