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

Ross studied at Harrow School, and later at  Christ Church, Oxford from where he received an MA in Modern History (1993), an MSt in Music (1994), and a DPhil in French opera (1998) awarded the Donald Tovey Prize. He studied with conductors including Sir Charles Mackerras, Ernst Schelle, Victor Feldbrill and Alan Hazeldine, and was a finalist in the 1998 BBC Philharmonic Conducting Competition.

Since graduating he has conducted over 1,000 works in eighteen countries throughout Western and Eastern Europe, North America, Africa and Asia, and in Westminster Abbey and leading UK concert halls including the Royal Festival Hall and St. John’s, Smith Square, London, Symphony Hall, Birmingham and the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, where he performed Beethoven’s 9th Symphony for the 350th anniversary in 2014. 

In 2013 he gave the first orchestral concert at Sri Lanka’s new national performing arts venue, the Nelum Pokuna Theatre, Colombo, with the Commonwealth Festival Orchestra. He is music director of the Oxford Opera Company, the Christ Church Festival Orchestra, and from 2006 the Sidcup Symphony Orchestra. Previous positions include with Oxford University Sinfonietta and St Albans Symphony Orchestra.

Ross has conducted numerous first performances of new works, including by composers such as Tunde Jegede, Philip Sheppard and Geoffrey Álvarez, at London’s Saatchi Gallery, and for Queen Elizabeth II on Commonwealth Day at Westminster Abbey. In June 2016 he gave the first performance of the opera Love Hurts, composed by Nicola Moro with libretto by Lisa Hilton, at Milan’s Piccolo Teatro. 

Ross is also a director of global classical music production company and consultancy Ulysses Arts

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

Cole Bendall’s work as a conductor and vocal coach has been lauded across the United Kingdom. He directs the Reid Consort, a pre-professional vocal ensemble based in Scotland, the Surrey County Youth Choir, and a number of choral societies across the South of England. 

Recent career highlights include conducting the Transylvanian State Philharmonic Choir in the Dima International Choral Conductors Competition (2018, Top 16), conducting the Rundfunkchor Berlin in concert (Verdi Te Deum, selected as part of International Masterclass for Young Conductors), assisting Gregory Batsleer with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra Chorus, master classes with Gijs Leenaars, Simon Carrington, Jonathon Heyward and others.

In recent years, Cole has worked with Byre Opera, North London Chorus, the British Sinfonietta, the Universities of Scotland Symphony Orchestra, St Andrews Chamber Orchestra and university ensembles in St Andrews, Aberdeen and Edinburgh.

In 2017, he was awarded the Andrew Potter Bursary for emerging conductors by the Association of British Choral Directors. In addition to his conducting work, Cole is a Teaching Fellow at the Centre for Open Learning at the University of Edinburgh, coaching musicianship, music history and performance.
Cole studied at the University of Aberdeen and the University of Edinburgh where he is nearing completion of his PhD thesis on the choral music of the Estonian composer, Veljo Tormis. In 2018, Cole was awarded support from the Help Musicians UK Transmission Fund.


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.