George Vass, conductor
Described by BBC Radio 3 as ‘the saviour of contemporary classical music’ and having commissioned over 300 new works, English conductor George Vass studied at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and the Royal Academy of Music; he was appointed Music Director of the Bushey Symphony Orchestra in 1985.
Vass made his professional conducting debut at St John’s Smith Square, London in 1979. As Artistic Director of the Regent Sinfonia of London and more recently Orchestra Nova, he has appeared at many of the UK’s major concert halls and festivals.
As a guest conductor he has worked with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the Bournemouth Symphony, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Royal Scottish National and Ulster orchestras, London Mozart Players, Malmö Opera Orchestra, the Choir of Royal Holloway, Merton College Oxford, the Bath Camerata and Schola Cantorum Oxford. He has made over thirty commercial recordings for Dutton, Champs Hill, Guild, Lyrita, Naxos, Resonus Classics, SOMM and Toccata Classics and has broadcast for BBC Radio 3 and Channel 4 television.
Founder Artistic Director of Nova Music Opera, he premiered Thomas Hyde’s That Man Stephen Ward (Hampstead and Highgate Festival, 2008; revival, Nova Music Opera, 2015) and, for Nova Music Opera, new chamber operas including: Sally Beamish Hagar in the Wilderness (2013), Stephen McNeff Prometheus Drown’d (2014), Cecilia McDowall Airborne (2014), Charlotte Bray Entanglement (2015), Joseph Phibbs Juliana (2018), Britten/Luke Styles Awakening Shadow (2021) and Julian Philips Looking West (2022). He has also conducted Britten Curlew River (Hampstead and Highgate Springfest, 2009; Nova Music Opera, 2013) and Holst Savitri (Nova Music, English Music Festival, 2010).
Over the last 35 years he has commissioned and premiered new work from a huge range of eminent composers, among them Martin Butler, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Gabriel Jackson, Paweł Łukaszewski, David Matthews, Paul Patterson, Robert Saxton, Peter Sculthorpe, Huw Watkins and Hugh Wood. In October 2017 he was presented with a BASCA Gold Badge Award marking his support for the UK song writing and composing community.
A great advocate of community music-making, Vass is currently Music Director of Bushey Symphony Orchestra, St Albans Choral Society, enjoys associations with Blaze Ensemble and the Royal Tunbridge Wells Symphony Orchestra and has also worked at the Dartington International Summer School.
Recent highlights include the premiere of Julian Philips’ Looking West at the Ryedale Festival, together with three acclaimed recordings for Resonus Classics: the Sibelius Violin Concerto with Fenella Humphreys and the BBC NOW, a disc of past Presteigne commissions with the Presteigne Festival Orchestra and Joseph Phibbs’ chamber opera Juliana with Nova Music Opera.
George Vass is an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music, served the British Arts Festivals Association as chair from 2014 to 2018 and is a Governor of the Royal Society of Musicians.
Martin Smith leader
Martin Smith was an Exhibitioner at the Royal College of Music Junior Department and a scholarship winner at the Royal Academy of Music, where he studied violin and conducting. He began his career as a member of the Duke String Quartet, appearing with them throughout Britain and Europe. He currently performs with the Cirrus String Quartet and the Primavera Ensemble. With Cirrus he has just released a CD of previously unrecorded works by the distinguished violinist and composer W H Reed, a friend of Elgar.
Martin has worked with many of the country’s foremost chamber orchestras, including the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and the English Chamber Orchestra; he has been a member of the London Mozart Players for many years, and is currently one of the Directors of the orchestra. He also leads New London Sinfonia and Orchestra Nova, and has appeared widely as guest leader and guest principal. With Orchestra Nova he has led many premières and première recordings of music by British composers. He has made solo appearances around the UK and also in France, Germany, Holland and the United States.
Martin also has a career as a conductor. He has appeared with the London Mozart Players, and has led orchestral workshops for them and for ESTA. He was appointed conductor and artistic director of Enfield Chamber Orchestra in 2008 and of the Richmond Orchestra in 2016, and is increasingly in demand as a guest conductor.