ESO is an ambitious non-professional orchestra bringing quality concerts to the heart of Chelmsford, and it is my great pleasure to be their Music Director. Together we aim to deliver top-class performances of full-scale symphonic repertoire ranging from established classics to lesser-known pieces that deserve more exposure. Players in the orchestra are hugely committed and I’m constantly amazed by their passion and precision. ESO regularly works with top soloists and local professional musicians whose performances are exhilarating and inspirational. Each year the orchestra engages with local young people through a series of events and workshops aimed at encouraging the next generation of musicians and music lovers. Essex has a rich cultural past and, with the help of ESO and you as our audience, we hope to ensure that the future is just as bright. 

Robert Hodge, Music Director, ESO

Tom Hammond – A Tribute

Everyone at the Essex Symphony Orchestra was devastated to hear the tragic news just after Christmas of the death of Tom Hammond.  Tom was our Music Director from 2009-2019 and during that time he truly became a friend to the Orchestra, as well as being an inspiring conductor.  Rehearsals always benefited from Tom’s perceptive music making and he communicated with precision, encouragement, humour and kindness just what was needed to improve our performance.  

During his tenure Tom significantly developed the Orchestra both technically and in our musical horizons.  His programming was creative and well-considered and he challenged us with both lesser known works and through the introduction of new composers.   The musical partnership which Tom developed with our leader Philippa Barton was inspiring and resulted in concerto appearances which were particularly popular with both the orchestra and our audiences.  

The music of Sibelius was of huge significance to Tom and he programmed a number of works, eagerly sharing his deep knowledge and love of this work with us players.   With Tom’s encouragement we worked with a number of contemporary composers, including taking part in the Adopt a Composer scheme which saw the Orchestra broadcast on BBC Radio 3,  commissioning a new work Storr from Matthew Taylor for the Orchestra’s 60th anniversary in 2012 and performing Lost Lanes, Shadow Groves, by Tom’s great friend James Francis Brown,  featuring clarinet soloist Emma Johnson, in 2019.  

Tom was a born communicator and he delivered a series of highly popular pre-concert talks which our audience loved for their musical insight, technical knowledge and warm humour.  These skills came into their own in the annual schools concerts and children’s musical workshops which Tom initiated and delivered to over three thousand Essex children, inspiring the next generation of performers and audiences.  Perhaps this, above all else, will fittingly be the lasting legacy of Tom’s time as our Music Director.

Everyone at ESO feels honoured to have had such a long, happy and fruitful partnership with Tom.  Many players will hugely miss the close personal friendships which developed and have continued after Tom moved on to pursue his many, varied and always brilliant other musical adventures and projects.   With Robert and Philippa we will plan a suitable musical tribute for our March concert and in the meantime we will miss, and remember with great affection, a wonderful man and musician.

Anne Rushton, Chair, ESO Jan 2022


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