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History of the FSO

The Farnborough Symphony Orchestra was formed in 1922 as the Orchestral Society of the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE).

The Society flourished before the war, attracting well-known soloists such as Beatrice Harrison who was famous for having made the first complete recording of the Elgar cello concerto. The outbreak of war brought musical activities to a halt but the Orchestra reformed in 1944 with amateur pianist, David Kettle, as conductor.

In 1965 David Kettle resigned and John Cotterill, a local solicitor and amateur violinist, took over as Music Director. He spearheaded a drive to improve standards of performance and, in 1969, the Orchestra was retitled the RAE Symphony Orchestra. In 1981, John Cotterill, who was also conductor of the Farnham-based Waverley Singers, stepped down, recommending that, for his successor, the Orchestra should seek a professional conductor. Following that advice, the committee appointed John Forster, an accomplished conductor, pianist and violinist who had worked extensively with the Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra and who had strong associations with the Royal College of Music.

FSO 1931 at Farnborough Town Hall

1980’s onwards

In the late 1980s, the Royal Aircraft Establishment became part of Margaret Thatcher’s Defence Research Agency, a move which culminated in the Orchestra becoming an independent charity in 1996. With the ending of the 70 year link with the RAE, the new organisation became a true community orchestra and was christened the Farnborough Symphony Orchestra. John Forster’s tenure was to span over quarter of a century during which the musical excellence of the Orchestra improved consistently. In 2007, John Forster retired and was succeeded by Mark Fitz-Gerald, who conducted the orchestra until 2015. From the start of the 2015/16 season, the orchestra used a series of guest conductors but, in 2018, William Carslake was appointed as the FSO’s first Artistic Director.

Fab performance of The Planets Suite by the FSO this evening – out of this world!

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