Haslemere Musical Society

The Haslemere Musical Society was founded in 1923 by violin teacher Annie Bristow.  It is proud to be one of the few amateur societies to have both a symphony orchestra and chorus.  In 1988 a half-page profile of the Society in the Financial Times bore the title, “The amateurs deliver with brio!”  Today we can say: “They still do!” The writer found “ passion – of a musical kind – in a genteel Surrey town where life, it seems begins at forte …”  Well, the members have always been amateur performers and singers but nowadays they start younger and piu dolce.  

From its beginning The Society has given annual concerts and since 1945 it has performed up to four concerts a year of classical works and now it has a considerable following. Membership is wholly amateur with players and singers from Haslemere and beyond. It is represented by a wide range of professions and retirees, and ages range from the mid-20s to the mid-80s.

Rehearsals are lively events, held at 7.30 on Monday evenings from September to May in the Haslemere Hall; choir and orchestra compare notes in the coffee break


Haslemere Musical Society is grateful to Friends and Patrons for support, and to local concerns for sponsorship, and appreciate the encouragement of their discerning audiences. Local musical tradition is built upon where possible.  Sir Hubert Parry, for example, is remembered in Haslemere for his associations with Shulbrede Priory, in Lynchmere;  he wrote the ‘Shulbrede Tunes’ for piano, as miniature portraits of his daughter’s family there. HMS has presented Parry’s, ‘Blest Pair of Sirens’, and, to mark his centenary in 2018, the members performed a favourite song, one that he himself always called, ‘And did those feet in ancient time’. 

Even remote-sounding works may have a home grown ingredient:  HMS has performed Baermann’s 1811 Concertstűck  with a restored middle section –  discovered in a manuscript, transcribed and reinstated by the orchestra’s lead clarinetist, Helen Owlett.   Another object, found even more locally, is the song ‘The Royal Oak’, collected in Haslemere in 1912.  This was set, together with other nautically-themed folksongs as ‘Songs from Three Counties’ by composer, Clive Osgood, director of music at St. Bartholomew’s Church, and HMS Accompanist.  The Society had the privilege of giving these dramatic stories and intricate rhythms a resounding premiere.

All comers are welcome at the less formal HMS ‘summer sessions’ and to the come-and-sing events at St Christopher’s Church.  Here a piece is rehearsed and performed from scratch on a Saturday afternoon – the occasions are famous for their tea and sumptuous array of cakes!

Singers and instrumentalists interested in joining the society are cordially invited to look at the ‘Join us’ section for details.

Our Professionals

HMS maintains its high standards with the help of four permanent professionals:  a Leader of the Orchestra, an Accompanist, a Chorus Master and Director of Music – all musicians of national standing, who inspire members to enjoy reaching their best. There is lively debate about which works should be performed and every member has a say.  Most pieces chosen are from the classical repertoire and the concerts are often graced by top-flight soloists.  

Music Director: James Ross

James Ross studied at Harrow School, London, and Christ Church, Oxford University, reading Modern History, then took a master’s degree in music and a doctorate on French opera, winning the Sir Donald Tovey Prize. Training first as a violinist, he was a finalist in the 1998 BBC Philharmonic Conducting Competition; since then he has conducted over 850 works in fifteen countries throughout Asia, Europe and North America. In addition to HMS, other UK music director positions include Oxford Opera Company, Sidcup Symphony Orchestra, Welwyn Garden City Orchestra and Chorus, Bridgnorth Sinfonia and previously, Oxford University Sinfonietta and St Albans Symphony Orchestra, of which he is Vice President. He has performed in leading UK concert halls including Symphony Hall Birmingham, St. John’s Smith Square and the Sheldonian Theatre. Symphonic repertoire includes all of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms and Tchaikovsky, most of Schubert, Schumann, Dvořák, Bruckner, Shostakovich, and Suk’s Asrael; numerous oratorios, e.g. Elgar, The Dream of Gerontius, and major 20th-Century works including Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring, Bartòk, Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, and Schoenberg, Pierrot Lunaire. Soloists accompanied range from Sir Thomas Allen to BBC Young Musician of the Year Guy Johnston; operas include by Bizet, Tchaikovsky, Britten, Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, Wagner and Janǎcèk. He has also conducted much French repertoire and has a strong interest in contemporary music. He has conducted numerous first performances including leading New Music Days in collaboration with the City of London Sinfonia, the Saatchi Gallery and the Arts Council of England. James Ross is also a frequent speaker on music, including at the Bibliothéque Nationale de France and the Purcell School of Music; he has taught at Oxford University and contributed to several music journals and books, including Vincent d’Indy et son temps and French Music Since Berlioz (2006) and French Music, Nationalism and Culture (2008). He has also helped raise over £150,000 through concert-giving for charities including Whizz-Kidz, Addaction, Rethink, The Fund for Epilepsy, NSPCC, Oxfam, Response International, UNICEF and in May 2012 presented a concert at St John’s Smith Square with soprano Danielle de Niese in aid of the UK-Sri Lanka Trauma Group and Sunera Foundation for Disabled People. Complete repertoire, details of concerts, publications and a large selection of press reviews are available at www.james-ross.com and www.facebook.com/James.Ross.conductor.

Chorus Master: Cole Bendall

Educated in Scotland, Cole’s growing reputation as a strong practitioner in choral music has seen him work in the United Kingdom and overseas. Recent and upcoming highlights include work with the British Sinfonietta, Byre Opera and leading choral societies in central Scotland, as well as masterclasses with Neil Ferris and Sonoro, and Gijs Leenaars and the Rundfunkchor Berlin, which he has also conducted in concert.
His pre-professional chamber choir, the Reid Consort, is critically acclaimed for performances of contemporary choral music by Joanna Gill, Thomas LaVoy, Kerry Andrew and Veljo Tormis. Alongside his Artistic Director position with the Reid Consort and freelance work as a tenor singer, Cole is Musical Director of the Athenaeum Singers of Warminster; Director of Music at St John the Evangelist, Horsham. He is also a Visiting Teaching Fellow at the University of Edinburgh where he has been undertaking doctoral studies researching Estonian choral music. Cole is the newly appointed Chorus Master to the Haslemere Musical Society. His first work with HMS will be Haydn’s The Creation to be performed at Haslemere Hall on 2 March 2019. We are very much looking forward to working with Cole.

Orchestra Leader: Tom Horn

Tom began learning the violin from a very early age and has played with various youth orchestras in Kent, the Channel Islands and London. Most notably Tom was leader of the London Schools Symphony Orchestra, which enabled him to work with world-renowned artists such as Thomas Sanderling, Alexandre Markov and Robbie Coltrane. Whilst studying Music and Acoustics at Southampton University he became heavily involved in the music scene around the city. He played with every orchestra in Southampton and led and conducted both of the university orchestras, as well as setting up and directing the Concerto Ensemble. As a soloist Tom performed a number of works with various orchestras including all the Vivaldi Seasons, The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams, Shindler’s List by John Williams, Tzigane by Ravel and both the Mendelssohn and Bruch violin concerti. Tom is looking forward to performing Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy with the Haslemere Orchestra next year. Tom now has a career as a violin teacher and freelance, playing in and around London. He teaches for the Buckinghamshire music service and conducts the Aylesbury Youth Orchestra, with whom he has been invited to play at the Music for Youth festival in Birmingham two years running. After the success of the Haydnathon last year where Tom performed all 104 symphonies, he is in the planning stages of a similar challenge with the Mozart Symphonies next year. He continues playing and conducting with various orchestras and ensembles across the South East and is now enjoying experimenting as a jazz violinist.

Rehearsal Pianist: Clive Osgood

After completing his undergraduate studies at Bangor University, Clive Osgood undertook an MA in Musicology at the University of Cardiff. He was then awarded an organ scholarship at Salisbury Cathedral before training to be a teacher in London. He is currently completing a doctorate in composition at the University of Surrey. He is the Director of Music at St Bartholomew’s Church, Haslemere. His compositions include instrumental, chamber and choral music as well as musicals. In 2006 his anthem Do not Fear was performed on the Sunday Worship programme on Radio 4. His other recent compositions include a setting of the Stabat Mater and a piano quintet. He has had music performed in several Cathedrals including St Paul’s and Westminster Abbey and is currently working on a string quartet.  Clive is currently working on a commission for HMS.