City of London Sinfonia is led artistically by Alexandra Wood (Creative Director & Orchestra Leader) and Michael Collins (Principal Conductor).
Alexandra Wood Creative Director & Orchestra Leader
Michael Collins Principal Conductor
Stephen Layton Artistic Director & Principal Conductor
Claire Henry Animateur in Residence
John K Miles Composer / Workshop Leader
Find out more about our leaders below...
Creative Director & Orchestra Leader
Alexandra Wood has won major prizes at International Violin Competitions including Wieniawski, Tibor Varga, Lipizer and Yampolsky. Alexandra graduated from Selwyn College, Cambridge before going on to the Royal College of Music in London, where she was President Emerita Scholar and studied with Itzhak Rashkovsky. She then held the Mills Williams and subsequently the Phoebe Benham Junior Fellowships.
She has given performances for numerous International Festivals (including Cheltenham, Bath, and Aldeburgh) and also in London at the Wigmore Hall, South Bank, Kings Place and live on BBC Radio 3.
As a concerto artist she has performed with orchestras such as the Philharmonia, City of London Sinfonia, and the OSJ. She has given the premiere of violin concertos specially written for her by Hugh Wood (2009) and Charlotte Bray (2010). Leader of Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (with whom she has appeared at Carnegie Hall) she also regularly guest-leads other ensembles including London Sinfonietta, Aurora Orchestra, and Music for Ballet Rambert, and has collaborated with chamber groups such as The Schubert Ensemble and Endymion.
Alexandra has won many prestigious awards including the Worshipful Company of Musicians Medal, Maisie Lewis Award, Wingate Scholarship, Hattori Award and MBF awards. She was selected for the Tillett Trust Young Artists Platform, and won a Star Award from the Countess of Munster Trust.
Her CD of world premiere recordings -Chimera- was described as “splendid” in The Sunday Times, and in BBC Music Magazine as “agile, incisive and impassioned”. In 2009, the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music volume Spectrum for Violin, which she compiled, edited and recorded, was released. She has also recently recorded for NMC- two violin pieces by Oliver Knussen.
Alexandra plays a violin made by Nicolo Gagliano in 1767. This instrument was purchased with generous assistance from the Countess of Munster Trust, Abbado Young Musicians’ Trust and the Loan Fund for musical instruments.
In recent seasons Collins has become increasingly highly regarded as a conductor and in September 2010 took the position of Principal Conductor of the City of London Sinfonia. His success in this role is testament to the natural musicianship and galvanising leadership that is evident in both his playing and conducting. His conducting highlights include engagements with the Philharmonia, BBC Scottish Symphony, Ulster Orchestra, Bergen Philharmonic, Kuopio Symphony, Melbourne Symphony and Hong Kong Sinfonietta.
In 2013, Collins became an Ambassador of Pancreatic Cancer UK, and this season conducted a concert in aid of the charity, given by the Philharmonia Orchestra at London’s Royal Festival Hall.
Michael Collins' dazzling virtuosity and sensitive musicianship have earned him recognition as one of today’s most distinguished artists and a leading exponent of his instrument. At 16 he won the woodwind prize in the first BBC Young Musician of the Year Competition, going on to make his US debut at New York’s Carnegie Hall at the age of 22. He has since performed as soloist with many of the world’s most significant orchestras and formed strong links with leading conductors. Collins also has the distinction of being the most frequently invited wind soloist to the BBC Proms, including several appearances at the renowned Last Night of the Proms.
In 2007, Collins received the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Instrumentalist of the Year Award, placing him amongst past recipients of the award such as Itzhak Perlman, Mitsuko Uchida, Murray Perahia and Sir Andras Schiff. The award was made in recognition of the pivotal role that Collins has played in expanding the clarinet repertoire, commissioning repertoire by some of today’s most highly regarded composers.
Perhaps no clarinettist around today is capable of floating a purer, smoother, more beautifully contoured melodic line than Michael Collins
BBC Music Magazine, April 2014
...superb artistry... his range of colour is fabulous and his sense of line, both as soloist and conductor, ensures that [Stanford’s Clarinet Concerto] unfolds with a kind of effortless eloquence
International Record Review, Nov 2012
Artistic Director & Principal Conductor
Stephen Layton succeeded the late Richard Hickox as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the City of London Sinfonia in September 2010. Founder and Director of Polyphony, Layton is also Music Director of Holst Singers and in 2006 was made a Fellow and Director of Music at Trinity College, Cambridge. His former posts include Chief Guest Conductor of the Danish National Vocal Ensemble, Chief Conductor of the Netherlands Kammerkoor and Director of Music at the Temple Church in London.
Layton guest-conducts widely and works with the Hallé Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, City of London Sinfonia, London Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Singers, Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Latvian Radio and State Choirs, English Chamber Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Queensland Symphony Orchestra. He also collaborates regularly with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Academy of Ancient Music and Britten Sinfonia.
Recent highlights in Layton’s diary include a performance of Pärt’s Berliner Mass with the Auckland Philharmonia, an appearance with Estonia’s Voces Musicales in a concert celebrating the music of Arvo Pärt in his 80th year, performances of Handel’s Messiah with Sønderjyllands Symphony Orchestra and a tour of the Netherlands with the Netherlands Chamber choir with a programme including Anthony Pitts’ Missa Unitatis. Highlights with CLS included a programme celebrating the romanticism of Venice including Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, a programme journeying though England’s Elizabethan age with celebrated baritone Roderick Williams and Duruflé’s Requiem at Southwark Cathedral. Highlights with Polyphony included an Easter tour of Bach’s St John Passion with the OAE to Frankfurt, Paris and London. The Choir of Trinity College Cambridge also undertook a well-received tour of Australia.
This season’s highlights include performances of Handel’s Messiah with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and Seattle Symphony Orchestra, an appearance with MDR Leipzig Radio Choir and Bach’s Mass in B minor with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Highlights with CLS include a cathedral tour uniting cathedral choristers the length and breadth of Britain with a programme including a new commission by James MacMillan and Handel’s Coronation Anthems.
Stephen Layton’s eclectic discography encompasses a vast range of repertoire, composers and genres. His Hyperion recording of Britten’s Sacred & Profane received both a Gramophone Award and the Diapason d’Or for best choral disc of the year in 2001, and his Hyperion recording of Tormis’s Songs, with the Holst Singers, received a Spanish CD Award in 2009. In the US, Layton was nominated for Grammy Awards in 2006, 2007 and 2012 for his Hyperion recordings of Cloudburst (Eric Whitacre), Lux Aeterna (Morten Lauridsen) and Beyond all mortal dreams (a collection of American a cappella repertoire) respectively. More recently Layton’s disc, The Nightingale, on OUR Recordings, with Michala Petri and the Danish National Vocal Ensemble, was nominated for two 2013 Grammy Awards, and also won a prestigious Echo Klassik award in Germany. In September 2012, Layton received a further Gramophone Award for his Hyperion disc, Howells’s Requiem, with The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge as well as being nominated, in the same choral category, for his Poulenc disc, ‘Half Monk, Half Rascal’ also on OUR Recordings, with the Danish National Vocal Ensemble. Recent releases by Stephen Layton, on the Hyperion label, include a much-anticipated Bach St John Passion recording with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Polyphony, and Handel Chandos Anthems, and Bach Christmas Oratorio, with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and The Choir of Trinity College Cambridge. Also with the Choir of Trinity College he has recently released ‘Northern Lights’ a disc of choral music by Ēriks Ešenvalds and with Polyphony a tribute to Arvo Pärt’s 80th Birthday including two premiere recordings. For Deutsche Grammophon, Layton recently recorded Karl Jenkins Motets with Polyphony. The disc was met with unanimous praise and spent several weeks at number one in the UK Specialist Classical Charts. American Polyphony, his latest release on Hyperion with Polyphony, has met with great praise across the board, reaching No. 1 in the UK Classical Charts and No. 6 in the USA’s Classical Billboard Chart.
Animateur in Residence
John K Miles
Composer / Workshop Leader
John K Miles has composed numerous scores for film and television (BBC1, BBC2, Channel 4, Channel 5 and various independent film production companies), released two solo CDs (‘The Enchanter’ and ‘Trane Ride'), and written prolifically for theatre, jazz groups, world music ensembles, and the classical concert hall. Concert commissions include 'On Golden Cap' written for the opening of the Olympic Sailing in 2012 for 180 voices, vibraphone, strings and percussion, ’The Choice’ written to open The 2014 Bath International Music Festival for Treble Choir and Band and ‘Carnival Suite’ written for City of London Sinfonia and 19 Luton Schools - recorded for Charanga and published by Music Sales in 2015. John has also just completed a set of ‘Carnival Suite Variations’ for City of London Sinfonia and a range of large ensembles, including choir, concert band and jazz band.
As an instrumentalist he’s worked with a range of artists including reggae star Maxi Priest, soulman Geno Washington, UK jazz musicians Alan Skidmore, Tim Garland and Gerard Prescencer, classical luminary Howard Moody and American trumpet virtuoso Terell Stafford at The Barbican Concert Hall, in a sextet formed for the ‘Does It Swing?’ collaboration between The Barbican Creative Learning Division and Jazz at Lincoln Centre in New York.
John has also led many creative music workshop projects, facilitating composition and performance for a range of clients including The London Philharmonic Orchestra, The City of London Sinfonia, ENO Baylis, Anvil Arts, Britten Sinfonia, The Roundhouse, Sinfonia Viva and B Sharp. He is a professor at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama on The Leadership Masters course.