150 years of Music-Making

For the 150th anniversary celebration Beethoven 9th weekend click here

St Georges Orchestra rehearsing in the 1950s


The story began in 1862 when St Georges and District Orchestral Society was founded in the ‘new town’ of St. Georges. 1862 was the year that both Delius and Debussy were born.

A few years later the new orchestra amalgamated with the local choral society to become St Georges and District Choral Union and St Georges Orchestral Union. We know this from the names and dates stamped on music in our library. From the start the orchestra gave concerts and accompanied local choirs. In 1962 New Zealand operatic soprano Dame Joan Hammond took part in the orchestra’s centenary concert.

A few years after the new town of Telford was formed the orchestra changed its name to Telford Light Orchestra and later our current name.

The size of the orchestra has varied widely over the years:  in the 1930s the orchestra could muster eighteen first violins, as well as its full complement of other orchestral instruments; it later shrank to just five members, but its fortunes have substantially revived since then!  

For many years the orchestra performed regularly at the Majestic Ballroom (now demolished) in Wellington. For much of that time the orchestra was directed  by William (Billy) Shuker, only the fourth conductor in over 100 years. More recent conductors have included George Raxter, John Phillips, Ruth Matthews, Michael Davey and local composer Rory Freckleton.

Oldest Continuous Amateur Orchestra in the Country?

We have tried to find an older continous amateur orchestra – so far without success. There are older choral societies, and both the Hallé and the Royal Liverpool professional orchestras are a few years older. There are also amateur orchestras formed before ours which have been disbanded and reformed, but at the moment we claim to be the oldest continous amateur orchestra in the country. If you think otherwise, let us know!

William Shuker

Billy Shuker stands out as the most dedicated of the orchestra’s members. He became conductor in  1918 and continued for the next 65 years.

William Shuker (left) celebrating 50 years as the orchestra’s conductor.
Here Sir John and Lady Barbirolli present him with a gift to mark the
occasion. He went on to conduct for another 15 years!