The History of the Folkestone & Hythe Orchestral Society

The roots of the orchestra go back to the Folkestone Municipal Orchestra, which was established in the early 1920s. However, the Society was founded in its current form in 1961, and has developed considerably over the last 54 years to the orchestra that we have today.

The orchestra’s records date back to 1961, in which year it gave its inaugural public concert under its newly formed name: The Folkestone & Hythe Orchestral Society in the Radnor Park Congregational Church (now the United Reformed Church), with just 20 players under the direction of Mr Alan Hall.

The orchestra has been very fortunate to have been under the directorship of many experienced conductors and leaders over the years, these being:



Mr Alan Hall - 1961 – 1962

Mr John Belcher - 1963 –1967

Mr Edward Tomlin - 1967 – 1976

Mr Gerald Pfaff - 1969 – 1974

Mr Michael Foad - 1977 – 1996

Mr Duncan Lord - 1982 – 1995

Mr John Ware OBE - 1996 – 1997

Mr John Watson - 1997

Mr David Leeke - 1998

Mr James Fehr - 1998

Mr Danny Fajardo - 1998 – 2002

Mr Graham Harvey - 2002 – 2007

Mr Andrew Lowen - 2004 - 2014

Mr Rupert Bond - 2014 - 

Mrs Joan Crook - 1961 – 1973

Mr John Pardoe - 1973

Mr Roy Green - 1974 – 1976

Mrs Clare Mackay - 1977 – 1978

Mr Jack Tompsett - 1979 – 1989

Mr John Moore - 1989 – 1991

Mr Eric Sokell - 1991 – 1999

Miss Floriane Peycelon - 2000 -

Some of the music has certainly been challenging for the players, but they generally rise to that challenge by putting in a lot of hard work to achieve a satisfying result at the concert performance.  There has also been a progression of very experienced players, leaders and some first class soloists who have adorned the stage to perform with us.

Some of our most memorable concerts have been:

  • 26th November 2011 - Leas Cliff Hall. This has to go down as one of our best concerts ever, being hugely succesful both musically and financially. The event was in celebration of the orchestra's 50th Anniversary, where we were joined by the Folkestone Choral Society and played to a capacity audience. The highlight of the evening was a superb performance of Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No.2 by the world renowned pianist: Freddy Kempf and what a privilege it was for us to perform this fantastic work with him.
  • 19th March 2011 – United Reformed Church. An all Beethoven programme attracted a capacity audience to this concert which started with the orchestra leader: Floriane Peycelon giving her first, and superb, performance of Beethoven’s violin concerto with the orchestra accompaniment offering intense sensitivity. This was followed by Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 with the orchestra setting a remarkable standard in this truly exciting work. Much credit goes to all members of the orchestra and it’s Conductor: Andrew Lowen for their hard work in achieving such a successful concert.
  • 12th July 2009 - Saga Pavilion. We decided to stage this Summer concert on a Sunday afternoon. The orchestra achieved a tremendous result with exciting performances of Ravel's Bolero and the entire Planet Suite by Holst. Both these works required full orchestration and the effort given by all concerned made us justly proud.
  • 16th December 2006 – Saga Pavilion. The finale to this very festive concert was an enchanting performance of Howard Blake’s ‘The Snowman’ with a ‘Walking in the Air’ solo by Thomas Lowen; Head Chorister at Canterbury Cathedral, plus full narration.
  • 10th July 2004 – Saga Pavilion. This concert was indeed memorable for two reasons; the first being an exceptional performance by our orchestra leader: Floriane Peycelon of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto and secondly, the supporting charity: The Meningitis Trust, which helped our first violinist: Derek Kemp on his way to raising an amazing total of £4,500 for this charity by undertaking a 285 mile cycle ride across Northern Thailand which he successfully achieved some four months later.
  • 4th December 2002 – Saga Pavilion. John Perkins came and played his arrangement of the Ashokan Farewell with us, which is still a very popular favourite on Classic FM.
  • 9th December 1998 – Leas Cliff Hall. This was our first concert with our new conductor: Danny Fajardo who was a regular violinist with the Bournemouth Royal Philharmonic and the BBC Symphony Orchestras.
  • 2nd December 1992 – Leas Cliff Hall. We were absolutely delighted when the celebrated violinist: Joji Hattori, winner of the 1989 Yehudi Menuhin Violin Competition, agreed to perform the Tchaikovsky violin concerto with us. This was memorable in as much as the expectancy of such a fine player did not necessarily include the fact that we were just an amateur orchestra. This required a full understanding between the soloist, conductor and orchestra which was indeed, far more demanding.
  • 28th March 1990 – Leas Cliff Hall. During one of many performances with us, Anup Kumar Biswas, the outstanding and charismatic Indian cellist unfortunately had a string break during his performance of the Dvorak cello concerto, Undeterred, Anup left the stage and repaired his string in record time to continue what was a truly outstanding performance, that was also captured on video.
  • 13th March 1989 – Southlands School, New Romney. Our soloist: Robin Morrish arrived for the concert, but forgot to bring his violin! Fortunately, our viola player: Mrs Marianne Sutlciffe lived in nearby Dymchurch and was able to travel home and collect her violin and return in time for Robin to give a splendid performance of the Brahms violin concerto on her ‘first class’ instrument.
  • 20th November 1984 – Leas Cliff Hall. We were extremely delighted to have, as our soloist, the young and very talented Dutch violinist: Isabelle van Keulen who was runner-up in the first 1983 Yehudi Menuhin Violin Competition and then went on to win the 1984 European Young Musician of the Year. Isabelle also played the Beethoven violin concerto with us.
  • 28th November 1979 – Girls Technical High School. This was perhaps a turning point in the standard of soloists we started to engage when we had Ken Lawrence from the RPO perform the Beethoven violin concerto.
  • 10th June 1971 – Leas Cliff Hall. Our Conductor: Gerald Pfaff was taken ill at the last minute and Edward Tomlin had to take the rostrum at the eleventh hour.

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