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Announcing The OUO 2024 Tour

The Oxford University Orchestra (OUO) is pleased to announce that we will be embarking on a cultural exchange tour of Northern Italy in March 2024, giving performances in Milan, Bergamo, Cremona, Bologna, and Parma. The tour, taking place in 9th week of Hilary Term, will involve 60 members of OUO alongside guest conductor Cayenna Ponchione-Bailey. On tour, the orchestra will be performing in some of the most prestigious theatres and concert halls in Italy, presenting repertoire that underpins the musical heritage of Italy and the UK. The orchestra will also take part in some outreach opportunities, including a chamber music concert in a care home in Milan, and a rehearsal open to middle and high school students in Cremona.

OUO is renowned for its excellence as the University’s premier student ensemble. For decades, it has offered top-class opportunities to talented players, impressing audiences from the University community, the Oxford area, and beyond. As the flagship ensemble of the Oxford University Music Society (OUMS), OUO selects its instrumentalists from the very best the University has to offer, including many former members of the National Youth Orchestras (Great Britain, USA, Wales, and Scotland) and BBC Young Musician finalists. OUO alumni have also gone on to work with professional orchestras including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and the Halle in the UK as well as Cairo and Adelaide Symphony Orchestras overseas.

On tour, the orchestra will travel across various cities in the regions of Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna, giving concerts in universities, opera houses, churches, and concert halls. OUO will perform in the concert season of Orchestra UNIMI, a professional orchestra based at the Aula Magna of the University of Milan, as part of the centenary celebrations of the Milanese university. The orchestra will also give a concert in the monumental Basilica di S. Maria Maggiore in Bergamo – where Italian opera composer Donizetti is buried! – in the memorial week of Covid-19. Bergamo was one of the most affected cities in Italy and our concert will be dedicated to the victims of the pandemic. We are very excited that we have been invited to perform as part of the concert season of the stunning 18th-century opera house, Teatro Ponchielli, in Cremona – the city of luthiers, home to the Stradivari collection! The tour will also involve a collaboration with the choir of the University of Bologna, Collegium Musicum Almae Matris at the beautiful Auditorium Manzoni. The tour will end with a performance at the Auditorium Paganini in Parma, a stunning modern concert hall designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano.

During the trip, the orchestra will take part in two outreach concerts. Firstly, a chamber music concert in which the orchestra will split up into chamber groups and perform to the elderly community of the Casa di Riposo per Musicisti Giuseppe Verdi, a care home for retired musicians opened by composer Giuseppe Verdi, who is – together with his wife – buried there! Secondly, the orchestra will rehearse Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet to an audience of middle and high school students as part of the project ‘Oltre I Banchi’ (Beyond the Desks) at the Teatro Ponchielli in Cremona before our concert there.

The Oxford University Orchestra have programmed a thrilling programme of music that our players will love and bring the audience on a journey across the cultural history of Italy, the U.K., and Europe more widely. Our main programme will open with Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet; this overture-fantasy was based on Shakespeare's play of the same name and represents the tie between one of the Italian public's favourite composers and one of Britain's most famous exports. Unlike Tchaikovsky, Ruth Gipps is a name which is rarely heard in Italian concert halls but we are thrilled to be introducing our audience to this excellent and underappreciated 20th century British composer's 2nd Symphony. OUO presented this piece to our Oxford audience in November 2021 and it was a firm orchestra and audience favourite, we are sure that our Italian audiences will agree! The showpiece of our concert will be another audience and orchestra favourite but from a much more well-known composer: Brahms' 2nd Symphony. We will finish the evening with an encore tribute to the music for which our host country is most renowned: Italian opera. 

In addition to this programme, OUO has commissioned a new 5-minute work to Italian composer and recent Oxford DPhil graduate, Giulia Monducci, dedicated to the Italian tour. Monducci is an exceptional and exciting young composer who's work has been performed at a number of international festivals and won multiple awards worldwide. We are thrilled to be collaborating with Giulia, celebrating the Oxford-Italian connection which she embodies, and to be giving the world premiere of her work at one of our tour concerts (to be finalised). 

The anticipation and excitement for this tour is such that it is already being picked up by local media outlets.


If you are interested in hearing OUO in action before we arrive in Italy, we will be performing Strauss’s Alpine Symphony along with works by Lili Boulanger and Gabriela Ortiz at the Sheldonian Theatre on Saturday the 10th of February at 7:30pm, with our Principal Guest Conductor: Natalia Luis-Bassa. Buy your tickets here.

If you would like to support the OUO tour to Italy, we would be incredibly grateful for your generosity. You can donate by clicking here or getting in touch with Sarah at to find out more, including about sponsorship opportunities.

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