Torbay Symphony Orchestra - this page is still being edited

Leon Cochran, the founder of the Torbay Light Orchestra was born in Birmingham into a theatrical family. He started learning the violin at an early age and his musical career included playing on ships orchestras, a variety of dance bands, almost 40 broadcasts for the BBC, trios and quintets, TOADS (Operatic Society) Brixham and Paignton Operatic Societies and Paignton Pantomime Productions and the Torbay Big Band in 1978.

In 1983 Leon Cochran decided that Torbay could do with a Light Orchestra. He contacted a few friends and, before long, the orchestra was formed with about 25 players. Leon was musical director and Reg Mitchell Orchestra leader. Among the early players were Colin Woodford (secretary) Michael Taylor (librarian) Charles Comley, Jack Barnes, Chris Sheppard, Lesley Stuckey, John Grundy, Ron Bailey, Anne Sandham, Andy Stark and Tommy Gill. Our first rehearsals were held in a classroom of the old Torquay Boys Grammar school in Torre! When we grew a little larger we moved to the Abbey Lawn hotel. Our concert repertoire was opera, G&S oratorios, light and standard music. 

By 1985 our membership had grown....

In 1988 Leon and his wife moved to Wales. The baton was handed over to Antony Constantine who continued with Leon’s love of light classical music and G&S. Reg Mitchell continued as leader and the orchestra moved its rehearsals to Kingskerswell Public Hall on the old Newton Road. 

Mr David Warwick took over the baton of the orchestra in 1989 and continued as their musical director for the next ten years. The orchestra continued their rehearsals at the Kingskerswell public hall and then at The Abbey School in St Marychurch, Torquay. As well as musical director, leader, secretary, treasurer and librarian they formed a committee to deal with publicity. Several young members of the orchestra during this time included Emma Hall and Tim Badcott (violin) Christopher Hunt (cello) and Helen Stuckey and Hannah Read (Flute). Anne Hall, Emma’s mum, attended all the rehearsals and provided the orchestra with refreshments. 

The orchestra performed regularly at Oldway Mansions Paignton, Central Church Torquay, St Marychurch Town Hall, the Civic Hall in Totnes and St Paul’s Church Preston, Paignton. 

Leon Cochran, the orchestra’s founder, returned to Torbay in 1992. Within a few weeks he was almost fully booked to play for Christmas and New Year and the 1993 season but in October he became ill and in November, after several tests, was diagnosed with cancer. He died two weeks later. 

Jim Somerville took over as leader of the orchestra in 1995 and the orchestra continued to grow in strength. David Warwick was particularly keen to organise concerts with the orchestra’s members, local singers and choirs as the soloists.

Summer 1999 saw the retirement of David Warwick as the musical director of the TSO for the previous ten years. It was a most successful period for the orchestra.

Derek Browning was appointed as musical director in September 1999. 

His first concert with the orchestra was on Thursday 9th March 2000. In keeping with the orchestra’s tradition it featured local soloist Lynda Grieveson from Opera South West and was in aid of the Dexa Scanner for Torbay and District Osteoporosis Society. 

In 2001 the orchestra was renamed the Torbay Symphony Orchestra. Richard Gonski was named as its new conductor. The choice of music now reflected the change of name. Rehearsals were now held at St John’s Church, Bridgetown, Totnes and Susanna Burnett became the orchestra's leader.

From this point every concert includes an eclectic mix of the traditional and the modern, every concert showcases a young musician of outstanding talent; every concert offers the opportunity to enjoy an always expanding musical repertoire. 

Following the June series of concerts the orchestra now takes part in the opening of the Kingskerswell Summer Moon Festival. We open the event with a ‘Last Night of the Proms’ style concert featuring music from our June concert plus wonderful prom favourites.

These Prom concerts have became a highlight of the Kingskerswell Festival and were always sold out. The audience were always so enthusiastic with their singing and loved every minute!

Autumn 2016 saw the beginning of the themed weekend concerts, workshops and lectures at KEVICCS.

The first was a ‘family affair’ for the very talented McLachlans who each played one of the five Beethoven piano concertos.

The June concert of 2017 featured the wonderful Professor Ofer Falk. He plays regularly with the TSO

The autumn weekend of themed music continued in 2017 with music for a variety of stringed instruments. Individual soloists performed on viola, violin, cello and our own Danny Cleave on Double Bass. 

During lockdown, the TSO continued to have weekly sessions online, learning and talking about music, socialising and generally keeping in touch and supporting one another. In the periods when we were allowed to meet in small groups we met for chamber music sessions and small rehearsals outdoors when the weather permitted.

Post lockdown we are back playing together, doing concerts and our education work.

In March 2023, we were shortlisted for the Royal Philharmonic Society 'Inspiration Award' which we subsequently won. The award was presented at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the South Bank on 1st March, 2023.