The Oberon Symphony Orchestra is a dynamic, London-based ensemble of young professional and semi-professional musicians. We are passionate about performing a wide range of classical music to the highest standard while making our rehearsals and performances as much fun for the players as possible. Every concert is preceded by three intensive rehearsals spread over the course of a week at the beautiful St James's Church, Sussex Gardens (two minutes' walk from Hyde Park and Lancaster Gate station) and is followed by celebrations well into the early hours.
We originally grew out of a group of graduates who played together as students in the Oxford University Philharmonia Orchestra. Even then, we were conducted by Samuel Draper and led by Matt Bain, both of whom have since added a music college degree and years of professional musical experience to their CVs. After leaving university in 2007 or thereabouts, we dreamt about the possibility of forming an ensemble in London where we could continue to play together, while drawing in talented musicians from all walks of life. Amongst our players you will find a large contingent of BBC staff, along with architects, university professors, teachers, doctors and Buddhist preachers - to give a random sample.
Since forming in 2012, we have aimed to give three to four concerts a year. As opposed to many other orchestras, our members do not pay subs: instead we survive on our concert proceeds. One of our key aims is to promote an inclusive, supportive and sociable atmosphere amongst our players. If you would like to know more (or have a record contract to offer!) please get in touch.
The Oberon Symphony Orchestra is run jointly by a committee, which is currently comprised of Hannah Nepil, Sam Draper, Sophia de Saram, Bruno Bower and Tom Fotheringham.
Hannah Nepil (violinist, founder member)
Hannah is a classical music journalist who, a few years ago, was commissioned to write an article about the best amateur orchestras in London. As a conscientious researcher, she set herself the task of playing in all of them. But since there are over 100 in London alone, she failed miserably and managed only 25. Still, it was enough to convince her that nothing quite matched the orchestra she had in mind. She wrote the article but realised that the only way to find the orchestra she really wanted to join was to make it herself. She was lucky enough to have a group of friends from her student days, with whom she used to play in her university orchestra, who were of the same mindset. The first challenge was to find a pretty church with a willing vicar. Then there was the matter of the players. Then all that was left was to decide on the name. She personally liked 'the Happy Orchestra for Cool People' (HOCP). But after some animated discussions, they landed on the Oberon Symphony Orchestra instead. Now her job is to pester potential players, plague the church about dates and pray to God that the tuba doesn't cancel. She plays the violin too.
Samuel Draper (conductor, founder member)
Samuel was born in London into a family with a continental refugee background (his mother is the grand-daughter of the Jewish-German philosopher Walter Benjamin). He trained as a doctor, reading medicine, physiology, and the history and philosophy of science at University College, Oxford, where he was also Organ Scholar.
Whilst at Oxford, Samuel was first able to indulge his developing passion for conducting, which had arisen out of his orchestral experiences as a horn player, and was conductor of the Oxford University Philharmonia from 2005-2006, directed a performance of Mozart's C minor Mass, and founded the Oxford Sinfonia Eroica, with whom he has performed a series of concerts centering on the symphonies of Beethoven.
Unable to resist the lure of music, after completing his medical studies Samuel went on to study as a post-graduate scholar with the HR Taylor Trust Award for Conducting at the Royal College of Music in London with Robin O’Neill and Peter Stark. He has acted as assistant on projects with Esa-Pekka Salonen, Vladimir Jurowski and John Wilson, and studied historical performance practice with Sir Roger Norrington.
Samuel was awarded the Bob Harding Bursary for Young Conductors, working with the Havant Orchestras from 2009-2011, and was a prize-winner in the International Conductors’ Competition 2009 with the Kammerphilharmonie Graz at Weiz, Austria.
Currently conductor and founding member of the Oberon Symphony Orchestra in London, earlier this year Samuel gave with them the UK première of George Enescu’s Fourth Symphony, as realized by Pascal Bentoiu, to much critical acclaim, and has also given the UK première of Rued Langgaard’s long-neglected Fourth Symphony. He recently made his Portuguese debut with the Orquestra Clássica do Sul and joined the music staff at Grange Park Opera in 2016 as assistant conductor for Verdi’s Don Carlo, working with Gianluca Marcianò and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Other orchestras that Samuel has conducted include the Nürnberger Symphoniker, Oxford Philomusica, Berlin Sinfonietta, Suffolk Sinfonia, Corinthian Chamber Players, New Professionals, Croydon Youth Orchestra, English Schools’ Orchestra and BBC Ariel Orchestra. Samuel has also recently taken up the post of organist at St Mary’s Church, Rotherhithe, where he plays the beautiful historic organ built by John Byfield.
Samuel has performed in the Philharmonia Orchestra’s City of Dreams, Vienna 1900-1935 series, assisted on a production of Die Zauberflöte at the Britten Theatre and conducted in the pit for contemporary dance at the Oxford Playhouse. Championing new music as well as old, he has given premières of works of several composers, including Charlotte Bray, Rachel Lockwood, and Luís Soldado. Samuel has organized many occasional orchestral and chamber projects, including the SATOROTAS Project commemorating the 125th birthday of Anton Webern, performances of Mahler's First Symphony at the Amaryllis Fleming Hall, RCM, and an evening of string works at Wotton House.
Samuel is grateful for the generous musical advice of Gerhard Markson, the late Sir Charles Mackerras, and Bernard Haitink, with whom he has studied the music of Mahler, one of his great passions.
Sophia de Saram (cellist, founder member)
Having spent six years masquerading as a music student, Sophia nonetheless managed to convince Oxford University that she had, in actual fact, spent sufficient time up at the hospital to warrant a medical degree and she graduated as a doctor in 2010. Back in London, she found it difficult to commit to orchestras with weekly rehearsals given the somewhat erratic, often nocturnal, lifestyle. The solution appeared in the welcome form of friends of hers from university who were keen to set up an orchestra with a short, intensive rehearsal period. Aside from playing the cello, Sophia’s main role is to supplement the energy levels of the orchestra with a supply of caffeinated beverages and baked goods.
Bruno Bower (oboist)
Bruno Bower was born in London in 1987. He read music at Oriel College, Oxford, studying composition with Robert Saxton and oboe with Celia Nicklin. He went on to obtain a Postgraduate Diploma on oboe from Birmingham Conservatoire, and a Masters in Musicology from King’s College London. He is now in the second year of a PhD at the Royal College of Music, engaging in critical readings of nineteenth-century programme notes. His studies are supported by a Lucy Ann Jones and a Douglas and Hilda Simmons Award, as well as an AHRC Doctoral Studentship.
Tom Fotheringham (violist)
Having heard that "music is as important to architecture as the thickness of the walls", Tom spent six years dismantling pianos, pouring concrete, drawing and making models through the night, graduating with a distinction from the MArch programme at Edinburgh University in 2011. He has worked for leading architectural practices in London, Edinburgh and Zürich and has taught in the design studios at Edinburgh & East London Universities. The relationship between music and architecture is a long-standing theme in his work, and his final project (an urban scale design to improve the acoustic landscape of Marseille) was exhibited in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 2013. He has worked at Stanton Williams Architects since 2011, and was project architect for the refurbishment and redisplay of the Waddesdon Bequest Gallery at the British Museum. Tom is responsible for Oberon's graphic design. He is also co-founder of the London City Orchestra.