Our History

1971 Orchestra founded by Richard Hickox as the Richard Hickox Orchestra

1971 First commission: Fancies by John Rutter

1973 The Orchestra performs Messiah, its first BBC Promenade concert at the Royal Albert Hall

1975 First recording: Bach Masses in G major and G minor for Argo

1979 Richard Hickox Orchestra changes its name to City of London Sinfonia (CLS) to reflect closer links with the City of London

1982 Barbican Centre opens and CLS performs its first series of concerts in the new hall

1988 Education & Community Programme established

1990 Six performances of Britten A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Sadler’s Wells, followed by recording for Virgin Classics

1991 CLS celebrates its 20th anniversary with a Gala concert at the Barbican in the presence of HRH The Princess of Wales, raising funds jointly for Cancer Relief MacMillan Fund and the Orchestra

1994 World première of John Tavener The Apolcalypse at the Proms

1995 Diana Burrell appointed as CLS’s first Composer-in-Association

1995 CLS performs at the 50th anniversary of the signing of the UN Charter in the Houses of Parliament in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen, Prime Minister John Major MP and UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali

1995 CLS celebrates the 50th anniversary of the composition of Britten Peter Grimes with a concert-performance of the opera at the Barbican Hall and a recording for Chandos Records

1997 CLS wins Royal Philharmonic Society Large Ensemble Music Award for its outstanding contribution to musical life in the UK, with particular commendations for its Education & Community Programme and its commitment to new music

1997 CLS wins Opera Grammy Award for its recording of Britten Peter Grimes conducted by Richard Hickox

1997 Alasdair Nicolson appointed as CLS’s second Composer-in-Association

1998 Education & Community Programme launches Music for Children at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, London

1999 CLS appoints Marin Alsop as Principal Guest Conductor

2000 CLS gives world premiere of John Tavener’s Fall and Resurrection at St. Paul’s Cathedral in the Presence of HRH The Prince of Wales

2000 CLS reconstructed Offenbach’s lost pantomime Dick Whittington performed in the Mansion House as part of the City of London Festival

2001 CLS celebrates 30th anniversary with a Gala concert at the Barbican and a new opera, ICE, written by Alasdair Nicolson, for local singers and musicians and CLS

2001 Groundbreaking visits to Chelsea and Westminster hospitals and visits to the wards

2001 CLS secures an exciting future as MMC – the parent company of Marsh, Putnam Investments and Mercer – come on board as Principal Sponsors. We were privileged to perform in the memorial service at Southwark Cathedral for the 358 MMC employees who died in the world trade centre disaster.

2002 Douglas Boyd appointed as Associate Conductor

2003 UK tour of Schaffer’s Amadeus (including additional material provided by Peter Schaffer) with live orchestra on stage and actors

2006 Outdoor concert in Dubai for second anniversary of the founding of the Dubai international finance centre in presence of Emirates Royal Family

2008 Death of Richard Hickox

2009 Appointment of Stephen Layton (Artistic Director and Principle Conductor) and Michael Collins (Principal Conductor)

2009-11 Orchestra in residence at Cartagena International Music Festival. CLS was joined by leading musicians from the Columbian National Symphony Orchestra and the Bogotá Symphony Orchestra. We also took part in education projects as part of this residency.

2011 Launch of CLoSer series, our surprising and moving informal concert series at Village Underground

2012 Scott of the Antarctic tour featuring original photographs from the Scott Polar Research Institute collection and extracts from Scott’s own diaries performs in venues, including St David’s Hall Cardiff and Symphony Hall Birmingham.

2012 Alexandra Wood appointed as Leader

2013 Poulenc Festival profiles French composer in his 50th Anniversary year

2013 Hot Tunes Cold War series launches CLS’s new themed programming, with performance at Southbank Centre’s The Rest is Noise festival

2013 Cathedrals Tour of 10 cathedrals around the country including a live BBC Radio 3 broadcast from Ely cathedral

2014 Natural/Supernatural series (March-May) exploring works inspired by both the Natural and Supernatural world with a particular focus on Sir John Tavener

2014 Tour of new work On a Piece of Tapestry by Gwilym Simcock as part of the PRS New Music Biennial

2014 Shakespeare: Let Music Sound series (October-November) exploring works inspired by Shakespeare’s plays

2014-15 Meet the Music grows to unprecedented levels of activity in schools and hospitals, reaching more than 14,000 in a year

2015 Emigre series (February – June) exploring the often epic journeys travelled by composers throughout history

2015 Tour to Mexico with British Council, performing in Leon, Guadalajara and Mexico City

2015-16 RE:Imagine series

2016-17 Folk Tunes Tall Tales with Sam Lee, Simon Russell Beale and Dame Janet Suzman

2017 Alexandra Wood appointed as Creative Director

2017 Our London Modern Mystics trilogy encouraged audiences to move around the performance space and experience music in different ways.

2017 We started an initial three-year residency at Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital School, now called Sound Young Minds.

2018 May saw our first performance at the newly refurbished Queen Elizabeth Hall and our debut performance with composer and violist Brett Dean.

2018 Our Bach and the Cosmos series travelled to universities and London venues with three unique, ‘seriously informal’ programmes of Bach’s music.

2018-19 We celebrated 30 years of our Participation programme; of transforming lives through music.

2019 From Bingo to Bartok, a free publication with Orchestras Live and The Baring Foundation, was published online in January.

2019 Our Absolute Bird programme informed all participation and performances, culminating in a three-part concert series at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall and Southwark Cathedral, as well as our Dawn Chorus sound sculpture, consisting of music made by young people at Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital School.

2019 CLS toured Dobrinka Tabakova’s Centuries of Meditation to nine cathedrals around the UK in October.

2020 At the Royal Philharmonic Society Awards in November, City of London Sinfonia won the Impact Award for Sound Young Minds and were also runner-up in the Ensemble category.

2020 In response to the pandemic, CLS launched ‘Comfortable Classical at Home’ to enable audience to enjoy classical music from the safety of their homes

2020 CLS launched its ‘Restore and Revive’ series, a series of socially distanced concerts at Southwark Cathedral

2021 CLS celebrated its 50th birthday with the ‘Origin’ Series at Southwark Cathedral, which included commissions by Huw Watkins, Dobrinka Tabakova, Cheryl Francis-Hoad, and Donghoon Shin

2021 The Orchestras in Healthcare report, co-authored by CLS, Orchestras Live and the Association of British Orchestras, was published.

2022 CLS was named a Southwark Music Hub partner

2022 CLS returned to the Village Underground with a series of three concerts

2023 CLS and the London Review of Books performed their first collaboration, ‘Britten v. Auden: Perfection, of a Kind’

2024 CLS celebrates its 20th season as the Resident Orchestra at Opera Holland Park

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This is City of London Sinfonia.

Who we are
City of London Sinfonia on stage at Cadogan Hall


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