About Us

The orchestra was formed in January 1992 and performed its first ever concert on Valentine’s Day of that year in The Forum at Alton College.  The orchestra’s first conductor was Martin Read, Head of Music at the college.

In 1995, Graham Cross took over the baton, appointing David Budd as Assistant Conductor in 2005.   Graham still holds the position of ‘Conductor Laureate’ and is happy to conduct on occasion when he comes back to the UK from his home in France.Change of Conductor

Graham Cross hands over the baton to new Conductor David Budd in 2006

Our Conductors – ‘The only orchestra in Hampshire with two conductors?!’

David Budd

David Budd

David Budd became Principal Conductor in October 2006 when Graham Cross decided to retire after many happy and successful years seeing the orchestra go from strength to strength.

I was very fortunate to take over from Graham just before the first ‘Last Night of the Proms’ concert on 14th July 2007. As it was Bastille day, we decided to have a bit of a French theme by kicking things off with the can-can, and the ‘prom theme’ has stuck ever since.’ DB

‘Little did I realise (..) that I would later find myself on the podium in the best position to understand not only the importance of the Leader of the orchestra, but also the very special relationship that exists between Leader and conductor. I discovered the importance of this relationship very early on in my time as a conductor of ACO. I had the good fortune to have the support and guidance of Mac Newton, who encouraged and advised me during my apprenticeship, and, amazingly, tolerated my frequent mistakes and at times dubious musical interpretation. One of the hardest things about conducting is trying to convey to the players how you want something to sound. I am still trying to hone that skill.’ DB (CODA June 2012)

David had begun his conducting career back in December 2003 and has been involved in music making, both vocally and instrumentally in Alton for some years.  David has enjoyed just over 10 years as Principal Conductor of Alton Concert Orchestra, sharing his time between the back row (Trumpet), alongside his son Nick, and the podium.


Chris Gardner 

Chris Gardner

Chris Gardner, son of the composer John Gardner, began his musical training at the Royal College of Music Junior Department where he studied timpani, percussion, clarinet and piano, and then at Sussex University where he took a degree in music. Most of his working life was spent at the Performing Right Society, where he had a number of jobs including that of IT Director. Musical activity took an increasingly back seat as his professional career developed, but as retirement came in sight, from about 2007, he began easing himself back into musical disciplines.

Not only is Chris joint conductor of the Alton Concert Orchestra, he often plays piano for other local choirs and performing groups such as AODS, as well as conducting Cantique chamber choir since 2010.  He is a versatile musician, working as a composer, timpanist, accompanist, conductor and occasional clarinettist. His Te Deum was performed by the Holybourne Singers in October 2015 and he regularly writes music for Alton’s Last Night of the Proms in the Alton Public Gardens. These works have included Fiesta Telefonica for mobile phone (performed by the town mayor) and orchestra, A Hampshire Suite for country dance band and orchestra, and his latest, Dances of the British Isles, were performed at the 2015 concert.  Last year saw the first performance of Brightest and Best of the Sons of the Morning, at the annual Wonder of Christmas Concert in Alton Maltings, written in memory of Mac Newton and dedicated to everyone who has been involved in Alton’s Wonder of Christmas concerts.

Meanwhile, the orchestra continues to flourish under the combined forces of David Budd and Chris Gardner’s musical direction.  We enjoy playing together in a relaxed and friendly environment and are always keen to tackle ever-more challenging music.

We welcome new members, especially string and brass players.

If you would like to know more, please go to the Contact Us page or click here.


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