The Orchestra

Imperial College Symphony Orchestra is Imperial College’s flagship orchestra, performing to the very highest standard. ICSO is rightly regarded as one of the best university orchestras in the UK, becoming “University Orchestra of the Year” in 2008 and being described by a member of the panel, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Principal Bassoon Daniel Jamieson, as “sounding like a professional orchestra”.

Since its establishment in 1948 the orchestra has flourished under the acclaimed professional conductors, and is currently conducted by Oliver Gooch. ICSO boasts around eighty players and is run by a committee of fourteen full-time students. The orchestra performs in venues both on and off Imperial College’s campuses, regularly hosting its spring term concerts in Cadogan Hall, home of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Memorable highlights include a children’s concert with Professor Lord Robert Winston, performing excerpts of Bizet’s Carmen with four world-renowned opera singers and a performance of Dvořák’s Cello Concerto with BBC Young Musician 2012 Laura van der Heijden to a sold out Cadogan Hall. As well as giving performances with soloists who are students at Imperial College London, ICSO often has the opportunity to work with highly respected professionals, including Charles Owen, Raphael Wallfisch, Andrew Zolinsky, Michael Thompson, Bernard Roberts and Lara Melda.

ICSO made its first television appearance in Christmas 2002, featuring in an episode of Channel 4’s “Faking It”, in which conductor Richard Dickins was given the task of transforming punk singer Chris Sweeney into a maestro capable of conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The documentary won a BAFTA award and the Golden Rose award at the Montreux Festival. In October 2003, ICSO spent two days at the Royal College of Music filming for Professor Robert Winston’s BBC documentary series, “The Human Mind”.

The orchestra has also enjoyed several successful international tours. These have included tours to Spain, South Africa, Italy and most recently, Czechia. Past highlights have included the opportunity to participate in the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival and performing in the world famous Sibelius Hall in aid of UNICEF on a tour to Helsinki in September of 2014. Last year, the orchestra combined with the Imperial College Sinfonietta to tour in Czechia. Based around Prague, but exploring venues across the country, the tour was the first to go ahead since the COVID pandemic and was thoroughly enjoyed by members of both orchestras.

Our Conductor

Imperial College Symphony Orchestra is currently conducted by Oliver Gooch. An inspiring and charismatic musician, Oliver Gooch is highly regarded by colleagues, critics and audiences alike. Antonio Pappano created a position for him at the Royal Opera House as the first Associate Conductor (Vilar) and he has since made his Royal Opera debut with them on tour in Australia with Haydn’s ‘L’Isola Disabitata’. He also received a Southbank Sky Arts Award nomination for the world premiere of Heart of Darkness in the Linbury.

“Oliver Gooch, conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, approaches the score with a blend of command and flexibility, never short-changing the grand emotional climaxes”

GEORGE HALL, The Guardian

Mr Gooch is rapidly establishing a reputation as a conductor of considerable versatility in a wide range of symphonic and operatic repertoire. Following his appointment by Sir Antonio Pappano as the first Associate Young Artist at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 2003, his conducting career to date has seen collaborations with many of the major UK orchestras, including the LSO, Philharmonia, BBC Symphony, Halle, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House and northern Sinfonia. He has also continued to have a fruitful relationship with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, as a regular guest conductor. Further afield, he has made highly acclaimed debuts with the Queensland and Tasmanian Symphonies in Australia, Ne Work Sinfonietta, Orchestra i Pomeriggi Musicali in Milan, and Orchestra della Toscana. He has an ongoing relationship with Italy’s major touring company, Associazione Lirica e Concertistica Italiana (AsLico).

He remains committed to nurturing new talent. He spearheaded the development of two Young Artist Programmes, one for Mid Wales Opera and, most recently Iford Arts’ New Generation Artists, and initiative to identify and support young singers, directors, designers, costume designers and conductors in the early stages of their careers. He has also conducted and presented a number of community operas as Artistic Director of Music at Bray, in partnership with the Windsor Festival, including Noye’s Fludde, The Happy Prince, The Little Sweep, Amahl and the Night Visitors and Saint Nicolas. He was also invited to conduct performances of Noye’s Fludde with over five hundred school children for the North Wales International Festival in St Asaph’s Cathedral in 2015. He has received further recognition for his desire to take opera into new places. His resurrection of the 18th century ballad opera, Inkle and Yarico by Samuel Arnold in Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum, was produced alongside the anniversary of the Act to abolish the salve trade, broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

Oliver received his training at Cambridge University, Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the National Opera Studio. He studied conducting at the Tanglewood Festival under Robert Spano and Seiji Ozawa, and was subsequently nominated for the prestigious Rolex/Mentor Protégé Arts Initiative in Geneva, under Sir Colin Davis. In 2006 he was awarded a prestigious Clore Fellowship, a programme designed to nurture new generations of cultural leaders, and in 2007, he was elected the youngest Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.