Winchester Amateur Orchestra started as a Hampshire County Council evening class in 1951, and was conducted by John Sealey, one of the music Dons at Winchester College. When John Sealey left in 1964, David Gwilt, also a music Don at the College, followed him. The tradition continued with Francis Wells, who conducted the Orchestra until 1992, when Hilary Brooks, took over. She in turn handed the baton to Nick Wilks in 2006. Our present conductor and Musical Director, Cathal Garvey, took over in 2022. The Orchestra was renamed Winchester Symphony Orchestra at the AGM of 16 September 2002
During the troubled financial times of the early 1970's, the Orchestra, by now a thriving evening class, was destined to be axed by Hampshire County Council because of the electricity cuts. The members were reluctant to give in so easily, so when Winchester College offered us the Music School facilities to rehearse in, they gratefully accepted. These events precipitated the move to complete independence from the County Council, and the orchestra became a registered charity in 1984.
The original purpose of the orchestra - to give its members the pleasure and experience of orchestral playing, to improve their standards, and to give concerts - has not changed over the sixty years of existence. Our programmes have been more adventurous and challenging to a degree that could not have been imagined in 1951. We thank all our conductors, and particularly Nick Wilks, for leading us down this challenging and rewarding path