THE ACADEMY of ST OLAVE’S – History

The Academy was founded in 1978 by Charles Macdonald, Organist and Director of Music at St Olave’s Church, with local headmaster-violinist, Robin Gilbert.

History of the Orchestra

The Academy was founded in 1978 by Charles Macdonald, Organist and Director of Music at St Olave’s Church, in conjunction with local headmaster-violinist, Robin Gilbert. The reason was to raise money for essential work to be done on the very fine organ at the church.

The first concert was given on 8 January 1978 and was preceded by a brief article in the Evening Press :

First Concert Press Article

The Academy today is a chamber orchestra which may number between 10 and 45 players depending on the requirements of the programme. Our repertoire ranges from music of the seventeenth century to that of the present day; from Corelli and Purcell through Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven to Stravinsky, Britten Messiaen and John Tavener.

A few years ago we commissioned a piece from Ralph Bateman. The result was Ragnarok, an overture which uniquely combined the forces of the Academy along with the bells of St Olave’s Church. Our programmes are usually a mixture of the familiar with the less well-known and over recent years the orchestra has attracted a good deal of favourable comment both for the enterprising nature of the programmes as well as for the high standard of playing. We are the only regularly scheduled chamber orchestra in York (outside the University).

Until 2009 the Academy and St Olave’s Church had the same Director of Music. When John Hastie retired as conductor of the Academy of St Olave’s, it enabled the Academy players to choose their Director of Music for the first time. Alan George was appointed to the post. Keith Wright subsequently became Director of Music of St Olave’s Church in 2011. 

The orchestra’s concerts for each of our musical directors are listed in this History section of the website, together with biographies and poster images (where available).