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BBC Concert Orchestra

This is one of the five surviving BBC orchestras in Great Britain.   It was founded in 1952 as the successor of the BBC Opera Orchestra who evolved from the BBC Theatre Orchestra that was formed in 1931.

The first conductor of the BBC Theatre Orchestra was Leslie Woodgate in 1931 and he was replaced by Stanford Robinson.  They appeared on light music programmes, gave their own concerts and provided incidental music for BBC plays.

From 1937 it also worked as the studio orchestra for operatic features and evolved into the BBC Opera Orchestra with 63 members.  The BBC had a need for light music as well as the ballet and operatic music that Stanford Robinson wished to concentrate on and in 1952 it was agreed to disband the BBC Opera Orchestra and make it a smaller unit of 45 members named the BBC Concert Orchestra.  Their first radio broadcast was on the BBC General Overseas Service and the domestic radio shows came soon after.

Sir Charles Mackerras was appointed the conductor in 1954 and the members were increased from 45 to 54.  It has been conducted by many acclaimed composers and conductors including Sir Malcolm Sargent, Sir William Walton, Vilem Tausky, Marcus Dods, Barry Wordsworth who is now Conductor Laureate.  Johannes Wildner is the Principal Guest Conductor and Keith Lockhart became the seventh Principal Conductor in 2010.

Composers often arranged and wrote compositions specifically for the orchestra, including Eric Coates, Gordon Langford and Ronald Binge, and popular artists and soloists such as Shirley Bassey, Yehudi Menuhin, Jose Carreras, Tony Bennett and Dionne Warwick, have made many radio and concert appearances with them.

It currently plays at the BBC Music Centre having moved there around 2004/5 after having played at the Hippodrome, Golders Green. North London since 1972 and the Camden Theatre previous to that. The public concerts are often played in the Royal Festival Hall in London and the Chichester Festival Theatre in Southern England, as well as in regular international tours.  It continues to be heard on the radio and TV, providing soundtracks for many BBC programmes and is possibly best known for its performances on Friday Night is Music Night, which saw is 50th anniversary in 2003.

Richard Addinsell Recordings
Fire Over England Suite
Marco Polo 8.223732 (CD: Richard Addinsell: Goodbye Mr. Chips/A Tale of Two Cities)
Conductor – Kenneth Alwyn

Goodbye Mr. Chips Suite
Marco Polo 8.223732 (CD: Goodbye Mr. Chips/A Tale of Two Cities)
Conductor – Kenneth Alwyn

Invitation Waltz (from Ring Round the Moon)
Marco Polo 8.223732 (CD: Goodbye Mr. Chips/A Tale of Two Cities)
Conductor – Kenneth Alwyn