Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra

The Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra (YSO) is an orchestra based in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. It was first active from its establishment in 1947 until its demise in 1955, and then revived in 2021. Initially based in the Leeds Town Hall, it is now based at Yeadon Town Hall, on the outskirts of Leeds. Maurice Miles was the orchestra's Principal Conductor, followed by Nicolai Malko.


The Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra performed at the Royal Albert Hall in March 1950

The orchestra – YSO – was founded in 1947 by the West Riding of Yorkshire. Funding for the YSO was unique as it was achieved from a multiplicity of local authorities, with notable support from the Leeds Corporation which funded the YSO with £40,000 a year to keep it going with a strength of 50 musicians. Its initial principal conductor was Maurice Miles who remained with the orchestra well into the next decade. The inaugural season of 120 concerts included 60 in Leeds. Over thirty 20th century British works were featured in the season. By 1950, Miles was suggesting to a County Borough of Leeds councillor that the orchestra perform at the Royal Albert Hall.[1]

In March 1950, the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra gave a performance at the Royal Albert Hall.[2]

At Harewood House on 11 April 1950, Miles reportedly "conducted a section of the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra before a large and appreciative audience in which the Princess Royal and the Earl and Countess of Harewood were present".[3] Harewood House was the home of both the Princess, an early supporter of the orchestra[4] and her son George Lascelles, 7th Earl of Harewood, patron of the orchestra.[5][6]

Attending the YSO soirées at Harewood House was Richard Noël Middleton, one of the orchestra's founders. Middleton was the great-grandfather of Catherine, Princess of Wales.[7][8][9]

In May 1951, the orchestra performed at the Royal Festival Hall.[10][11]

Maurice Miles championed the music of British composers in many of his YSO programmes and directed a Festival of British Music in Leeds in 1951 (Festival of Britain year). He had won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London where he came under the tutelage of conductors such as Sir Henry Wood and Julius Harrison. Miles left his post in Yorkshire to become principal conductor of the City of Belfast Orchestra and in 1966 became the inaugural conductor of the Ulster Orchestra.[12]

In 1953, the film score for Engineers in Steel was composed and recorded by the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Maurice Miles. The film was about "An introduction to the English Steel Corporation group of companies"; history and activities, examples of their work."[13]

In 1954, Norman Del Mar was conductor of the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra.

Nicolai Malko, the chief conductor of the Chicago-based Grant Park Orchestra, returned to England in 1954, to take up the post of chief conductor of the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra, which he held for only one season, 1954–1955, before the orchestra, essentially supported by the rate-payers of Leeds, was disbanded. BBC Radio dramatised in 2014 the YSO's history and demise as Death of an Orchestra featuring Alan Bennett.[14] The orchestra was also the feature of the sequel BBC Radio programme Birth of an Orchestra, which followed the journey of David Taylor as he created the Yorkshire Young Sinfonia (YYS).[15]

2021 revivalEdit

In 2021, local Yorkshire-based conductor Ben Crick and Leeds-based concert promoter Jamie Hudson resurrected the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra, re-employing professional musicians whose musical careers have been paused during the COVID-19 crisis. The orchestra's home is Yeadon Town Hall and the orchestra will be playing a number of engagements throughout Yorkshire, including performances at Harewood House.[16]

Principal conductorsEdit


  1. ^ Morley, P. (2013). The North. Bloomsbury. Retrieved 19 September 2021. ...Miles suggested that a visit to London's Royal Albert Hall would be a prestigious...
  2. ^ Concert Programs. 1 – Royal Albert Hall – 6 March 1950: Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra with Denis Matthews (piano), conducted by Maurice Miles (with notes, photographs and a list of the orchestral ensemble).
  3. ^ "Leeds Reception to Lord and Lady Harewood". The Yorkshire Post / Yorkshire and Evening Post. Yorkshire, England. 23 November 1949. p. 1 [Front page of The Yorkshire Post – 23 November 1949]. Archived from the original on 8 February 2021. Retrieved 25 September 2018. Chatting informally for nearly two hours with a large gathering of ...the Princess Royal wore rose pink velvet.....Among others presented were ...Sir William and Lady Cartwright...Mr R. Noel Middleton (Leeds Musical Festival Committee)...Mr Philip Fox (Leeds Director of the B.B.C.)....Y.S.O. concert – ...chairman of the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra Committee had a long chat with the Earl and Countess regarding the orchestra, and invited them to attend the Saturday performance. They both expressed much interest in the orchestra and said they would like... Yorkshire Post 11 April 1950...A Concert by Members of the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra at Harewood House...Before a large and appreciative audience, in which the Princess Royal and the Earl and Countess of Harewood....Mr Maurice Miles conducted a section of the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra...
  4. ^ "Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer THE PRINCESS ROYAL". Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer Yorkshire, England. 23 April 1949. Retrieved 19 September 2021. The Princess Royal, with a party of four, will attend the concert of the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra at...
  5. ^ B., E. (20 February 1950). "Significant Choice for Y.S.O. concert". Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. Retrieved 11 April 2019. [page 1/front page] – The Earl of Harewood has agreed to be patron of the concert, and he and the Countess have promised to attend.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ "Bradbury". Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. Yorkshire, England. 21 March 1949. Archived from the original on 8 February 2021. Retrieved 24 November 2018. ....besides visit Leeds yesterday, the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra's concert at Leeds Town Hall on Saturday night was devoted to the music from the operas of Mozart and Puccini. Among the audience was the Earl of Harewood.
  7. ^ "JOINT MUNICIPAL ORCHESTRA – Civic Heads Discuss Yorkshire Scheme. The Yorkshire Post learns that there is a possibility of large new orchestra". Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. Yorkshire, England. 21 February 1946. Retrieved 26 November 2018. ....private meeting in Leeds yesterday attended by Lord Mayors, Mayors or other high civic officials of Leeds, York, Hull, Dewsbury, Halifax, Harrogate, Huddersfield, Keighley and Wakefield, and Mr. R. Noel Middleton
  8. ^ "Valerie Middleton". Yorkshire Post. 23 September 2006. Retrieved 31 October 2016. Kate's great-grandfather, Richard Noel Middleton, was a solicitor, a founder of the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra...
  9. ^ "Princess Mary, Countess of Harewood". National Portrait Gallery, London. Retrieved 16 May 2021. On 27th July 1927, at the Headingley Cricket Ground, near Leeds, Princess Mary was photographed as guest of honour at a garden party...Their niece, Olive Middleton (nee Lupton) was also photographed as one of the dignitaries in the procession walking behind Princess Mary. Olive had been on the Princess's fundraising committee for the Leeds Infirmary and her husband, Noel Middleton, had co-founded the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra with both the Princess and her son George Lascelles as patrons...Noel Middleton had attended soirees at Harewood House
  10. ^ "The Manchester Guardian Weekly". 2 August 1951. Retrieved 19 September 2021. ...Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra played recently at the Royal Festival Hall
  11. ^ Concert Programs. 3 – Royal Festival Hall – 23 May 1951: Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra with Mewton-Wood (piano), conducted by Maurice Miles, given as part of the Festival of Britain (with historical and descriptive notes, including a list of the orchestral ensemble and photographs).
  12. ^ Kennedy, Ciaran (2014). A Desert for the Arts: Orchestral Provision in Belfast, 1945–81. McClay Library, QUB: PhD thesis, Queen's University Belfast.
  13. ^ British Film Institute BFI Film Synopses ENGINEERS IN STEEL http://ftvdb.bfi.org.uk/sift/title/15552?view=synopsis
  14. ^ "BBC Radio 4 – Death of an Orchestra".
  15. ^ "Birth of an Orchestra – BBC Radio 4". BBC. Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  16. ^ "Revival of Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra 66 years after it was disbanded can give 'cultural voice' to region". Yorkshire Post. JPIMedia. Retrieved 29 May 2021.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

The Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra: A Post Mortem (1) by Joseph E. Potts. The Musical Times, Vol. 97, No. 1357 (March 1956), pp. 132–133. Published by: Musical Times Publications Ltd. Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/937250

External linksEdit