Abingdon and District Musical Society consists of a large mixed voice choir and a full symphony orchestra – both led by professional musicians. The choir has about 70 singers and the orchestra around 40 regular members which are augmented as required for concerts by guest musicians. Each year, the society gives two concerts with mixed choral and orchestral works, an orchestral concert, a choral concert and a charity Christmas concert.
The aims of the Society are to foster public knowledge and appreciation of the art of vocal and instrumental music and to encourage and develop local amateur musical talent both choral and instrumental.
Abingdon and District Musical Society is registered as a charity, number 229073.
Conductor and Musical Director – Alexander Walker
“The essence of conducting is to free the expressive power of the music, bringing to life the vision of the composer.“
Alexander Walker‘s career has taken him all over the world. In the UK, he has conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in both concerts and the recording studio, conducting the prestigious Elgar Birthday concert with them in Malvern in 2011. He recently made a highly successful debut with the English Chamber Orchestra at London’s Cadogan Hall and he has also conducted the City of London Sinfonia, the BBC Philharmonic (with a concert broadcast on BBC Radio 3) and the New Queens Hall Orchestra in the UK.
In Moscow he is a regular guest conductor with the legendary Russian State Symphony Orchestra, as well as with Symphony Orchestra New Russia (Music Director: Yuri Bashmet), the Russian Philharmonic and Musica Viva, conducting concerts at Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Hall, International Performing Arts Centre and elsewhere. International appearances have included concerts with Prague Philharmonia in the Dvořák Hall of the Rudolfinum, the Belgrade Philharmonic, Belgrade Strings (broadcasting on National Television with them), the George Enescu Philharmonic, Bucharest, North Hungarian Symphony Orchestra and Wrocław State Symphony Orchestra. Highlights of recent seasons have included a performance of Britten’s War Requiem to mark the 70 years since the invasion of Poland in Lublin, Poland and the first ever production in Turkey of an opera by Benjamin Britten, conducting The Turn of the Screw for the Istanbul State Opera. He also recently conducted the first production of Julian Grant’s new opera Prophet and Loss for Oundle International Festival. His pioneering recordings of orchestral music and music for violin and orchestra by Ignatz Waghalter and first two CDs of symphonies by Havergal Brian on Naxos with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra New Russia have won both critical and popular acclaim.
Alexander Walker studied with Ilya Musin at St. Petersburg Conservatoire and has since performed throughout the former Soviet Union where many of his concerts have been broadcast on National television and radio. He was Principal Guest Conductor of the Voronezh State Symphony Orchestra from 1999-2004. He is a regular guest conductor with the Mikkeli and Lappeenranta City Orchestras in Finland, and of the Esbjerg Ensemble and the Vestjysk Symfoniorkestret in Denmark as well as many orchestras throughout Poland, the Balkans, Turkey and Romania.
He works regularly at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, touring with the Royal Ballet to the Bolshoi and Mariinsky Theatres in Russia, throughout the USA including to the Metropolitan Opera and Kennedy Center, as well as to Singapore, Korea, Japan and Turkey. In addition to conducting performances at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has conducted Swan Lake for Finnish National Opera, Cinderella for Scottish Ballet, Romeo and Juliet for Northern Ballet Theatre, and a production of The Nutcracker for the Norwegian National Opera in Oslo. His operatic repertoire includes the major operas of Verdi, Puccini and Mozart and Tchaikovsky as well as Tobias and the Angel, Carmen, Rusalka, Tristan und Isolde, Verbum Nobile (Moniuszko), A Life for the Tsar, Ariadne auf Naxos, and Gli Equivoci nel sembiante, Le Postillon de Lonjumeau (Adam), and Paradise Moscow. Companies he has worked for have included Opera North, Grange Park Opera, English Touring Opera, Oundle International Festival, Bampton Classical Opera, Chelsea Opera Group, European Chamber Opera, Opera de Baugé, London City Opera and the Ukrainian National Opera in Odessa.
He was awarded the Elgar Medal in 2017, the highest honour bestowed by the Elgar Society for the work to promote the British composer especially abroad. He teaches conducting at Trinity Laban Conservatoire and also teaches at the Royal Academy of Music.
Leader – Kate Bailey
Kate Bailey began her violin studies with Pamela Spofforth at the age of nine and was an early member of Pro Corda, where she gained a love of chamber music. While reading music at University College, Oxford, she studied with David Ogden and Emanuel Hurwitz, and then went on to study with Erika Klemperer at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
She is a founder member of The Holywell Ensemble (formed in 1984), a flexible chamber group renowned for its committed and evocative performances of British chamber music on CD and in the concert hall, which was described by the BBC Music Magazine as “one of the most important chamber music groups on the British musical scene.” She also plays in the string quartet OXUS, specialising in approachable contemporary works such as Steve Reich’s Different Trains and Elvis Costello’s The Juliet Letters.
Kate lives in Oxford, and leads various orchestras and chamber orchestras around the area. She is also a freelance orchestral player and has performed a number of concertos, including Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with The Holywell Ensemble and Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola with ADMS.
Accompanist – Andrew Knowles
Andrew Knowles MA FRCO was educated at Chetham’s School of Music and at Lady Margaret Hall, where he was organ scholar. After the post of organist of the Cavaillé–Coll organ at St Michael’s Abbey, Farnborough, he taught at Worksop College and then at the School of St Helen & St Katharine. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists. For 13 years he was the organist, and later Director of Music, at the Oxford Oratory. In 2013 he founded the Abingdon Piano School which has pupils of all ages who learn at a pair of Bechstein grand pianos, a harpsichord by Andrew Garlick, a house organ and a clavichord. He is a keen gardener, linguist and motorcyclist.
>> 19 November 2018: Daily Info review by Andrew Bell of Brahms Symphony no 1 and Haydn The Creation
>> 16 June 2018: Daily Info review by Andrew Bell of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis
>> 19 March 2016: Oxford Mail preview by Nicola Lisle of ADMS’s 70th anniversary concert
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Our virtual video
The ADMS choir and orchestra met virtually while we couldn’t meet or give concerts. Members of the orchestra produced this video in Spring 2021. It was not as easy as it looks or sounds to listen to a backing track in headphones, and video yourself while attempting to play a 6-minute part perfectly! But we’re proud of the final result and hope you enjoy our performance. (See if you can spot some nutcrackers behind one of the players!)
Night Poem, by Geoffrey Bushell, commissioned for the 70th anniversary of the Abingdon and District Musical Society. Performed by ADMS on 19 March 2016, conducted by Alexander Walker.