Three violinists, Pamela Bell, Robert Tulloh and Aimée Cottam, had the idea to form a new orchestra for Bristol, under the baton of award-winning composer and conductor William Goodchild. So in 2016, the Bristol Symphony Orchestra (BriSO) burst onto the classical music scene as an exciting new orchestra, made up of dynamic and talented players from across the region, and quickly established itself as a leading ensemble in the Southwest.
Now led by Principal Conductor, Robert Weaver and supported by Associate Conductor Dave Ransom, BriSO strives to reach a wide audience with exciting and innovative programmes that draw on the orchestra’s versatility and exceptional musicality. BriSO champions symphonic music as a living art form and aims to create performances that delight the spirit, engage the mind and spark the curiosity of our audiences. Artistry, community and joy are at the heart of who BriSO are and what they do. Pamela remains a director of the orchestra, and leading duties are shared with Aimée Cottam and Vickie Medland.
Recent highlights include performances with world renown soloists such as violinist Jennifer Pike and soprano Rebecca Evans, cross-genre collaborations with internationally acclaimed jazz artists such as Andy Sheppard and Get the Blessing, as well as world premieres of compositions by living composers.
The 2023/24 season sees BriSO return to St Georges on 4 March with a thrilling programme featuring Tchaikovsky's emotionally charged Rome and Juliet Fantasy Overture, Sibelius' stirring 5th Symphony and Richard Strauss' epic tone poem Death and Transfiguration. This forms part of the orchestra's wider exploration of the tone poems of Richard Strauss - noted as the high point of program music in the latter part of the 19th century, extending its boundaries and taking the concept of realism in music to an unprecedented level - with a plan to culminate in a performance of his Alpine Symphony in 2024 (featuring no less than 8 on-stage and 12 off-stage horns). BriSO also plans to continue their collaboration with living composers with a celebration of Bristol-based composer John Pickard's 60th birthday next year.
The orchestra is managed by Simon Bowles and has a dedicated committee made up of players from the orchestra who give up their free time to ensure the smooth running of the orchestra, in addition to three talented leaders, Andrew Weaver, Aimée Cottam and Vickie Medland.
Robert Weaver (Principal Conductor)
Recently appointed Assistant Conductor of the Bath Philharmonia, one of the leading professional orchestras in the South West, Robert Weaver is establishing himself as a commanding presence on the podium. Known for his innovative programming and high-calibre interpretation of a wide range of repertoire, Robert has conducted the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, St Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic, Trondheim Soloists and London Symphony Chorus, and worked with soloists including Tasmin Little, Nicola Benedetti, Peter Donohoe and Guy Johnston. Committed to promoting new music, Robert has performed works by a number of contemporary composers including John Pickard, Anthony Payne and Oliver Knussen.
A violinist by training, Robert studied with Duncan Riddell, leader of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and has performed under the baton of renowned conductors such as Sir Colin Davis, Sir Mark Elder, Sir Charles Mackerras, Robin Ticciati and Richard Hickox OBE, and in several international music festivals including Aldeburgh, St Endellion and the BBC Proms.
Robert studied conducting with Lev Parikian and Alexander Polyanichko and has participated in masterclasses with Colin Metters, Martyn Brabbins and Mark Heron. Robert read medicine at the University of Bristol where he was recipient of the Vice-Chancellor's Scholarship for artistic talent. He was awarded the Dean’s Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Music, Art and Drama, recognising his contribution to the musical life of the university as music director of the Bristol University Chamber Orchestra and leader of the Symphony Orchestra.
Robert is an alumnus of the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme and National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.
David Ransom (Associate Conductor)
David Ransom (born 1984) is a horn player and conductor, based in the Bristol area. David studied at the Royal College of Music from 2002 onwards as an Associated Board scholar, where he specialised on the French Horn. Upon the completion of both his undergraduate and postgraduate qualiﬁcations at the Royal College, he went on to build up a busy freelance career as an orchestral horn player. David also began his conducting studies whilst in London, where he learnt with Neil Thompson and Patrick Bailey. During this time, he was involved in masterclasses given by Bernard Haitink, Andrew Litton and Vladimir Ashkenazy.
He currently works as a professional orchestral horn player, and has freelanced with many of the UK’s leading orchestras, including the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, English National Ballet, BBC Concert Orchestra and various others. He has worked under many notable conductors in his career to date, including Valery Gergiev, Richard Hickox, Sir Roger Norrington and Vladimir Jurowski. He has been involved in a variety of recordings for both Radio 3 and Classic FM that have included broadcasts as part of the Proms, and has played in a variety of commercial recordings in recent years.
Following his years at the Royal College of Music, David initially specialised in Period Instrument performance. He studied for a short time in France as part of the Jeune Orchestre de l'Abbaye, learning from the stylistic experience of conductors including Philippe Herreweghe and FrancoisXavier Roth. This in turn led to freelance work with leading period orchestras in the UK including the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Gabrieli Consort.
David has maintained regular conducting experience over the last few years, working predominantly with youth orchestras in the Bristol area, and has frequently conducted symphonic programmes at St. Georges in Bristol. David was recently appointed Bristol Symphony Orchestra’s Associate Conductor.
Andrew has been privileged to study with Duncan Riddell, Leader of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, a pupil of Nicolas Roth, who himself studied under Béla Bartók. Andrew’s violin is a copy of the 1733 Guarneri del Gesu, by London award winning violin maker, Tibor Szemmelveisz.
Alongside reading medicine at Southampton, Andrew led the University Symphony Orchestra, Sinfonietta and played in the City of Southampton Orchestra. He has also performed in many leading orchestras, including the Young Musicians Symphony Orchestra, Sinfonia Cymru, London Mahler Orchestra, London Shostakovich Orchestra and Rehearsal Orchestra. Some of his orchestral highlights include a Mahler Symphony cycle, playing Also sprach Zarathustra under Sir Mark Elder and performing the Brahms Requiem with Sir Colin Davis. He has been privileged to work with renowned soloists David Owen Norris, Tasmin Little and Ann Murray.
Andrew has also developed a keen interest in chamber music, having played in several quartets. He was selected to play in a masterclass with the Wihan Quartet at St George’s. He has gained valuable experience during music courses, most notably one with the previous concertmaster of the London Symphony Orchestra Hugh Maguire. More recently he has enjoyed playing duets with his wife and also a cycle of the Brahms sonatas with his late father-in-law.
Vickie was taken to Saturday music classes from toddlerhood, and was fortunate to benefit from free tuition at Swindon Young Musicians. At the age of 7, she attended an orchestral concert and immediately announced that she "wanted to be that one that plays at the front". The dye was cast, and she took up the violin soon afterwards. She developed a keen interest in chamber and orchestral playing in her teenage years, participating in Pro Corda and National Children's Orchestra, and Co-leading the National Schools Symphony Orchestra. During A-levels she studied at the Junior Royal Academy of Music where she led the winning quintet in their chamber music competition. She later went to Bristol University to study medicine, whilst making music with the University Singers, leading the Cabot Quartet and Bristol University Symphony Orchestra under the stewardship of John Pickard.
Vickie has been playing with Bristol Symphony Orchestra since May 2017, having had an extended break from playing after university to focus instead on being a junior doctor, and, more recently, a mother. She recommenced playing on the instructions of her brother (former principal trumpet, Peter) who informed her one weekend that he had submitted an application on her behalf! Victoria works as an obstetrics and gynecology registrar locally, and in her spare time loves cooking, horsing around with her sons and walking in inclement weather. She is enjoying playing again immensely and thanks you for listening.
Aimée began learning the violin at the age of 8 and has played in a wide variety of contexts and ensembles ever since, ranging from recording sessions to live musical theatre. Aimée's orchestral experience includes leading the Nottingham Youth Orchestra and playing in Nottingham Philharmonic Orchestra, the University of Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra, Bristol Classical Players and playing with and leading Bristol Metropolitan Orchestra. Aimée is a co-founder of Bristol Symphony Orchestra and is delighted to have the opportunity to lead BriSO through 2020.
Pamela Bell is the director and co-founder (2016) of Bristol Symphony Orchestra. Prior to playing with the orchestra, she was the leader of Bristol Metropolitan Orchestra (2010-2015). As well as leading the youth orchestras she played with, she has performed with Bristol Classical Players, Bristol Opera and The London Lawyers’ Symphony Orchestra. Prior to re-locating to Bristol from London in 2005, she was the musical director for Newham Schools Orchestra and is the founder of Kuumba Youth Music (now Kuumba Youth Orchestra). Pamela is a commercial lawyer working in-house. She is passionate about music..."Music is my sanctuary and, having the opportunity to create and share my passion for it, is truly a privilege and a treasure."