The Orchestra of the Swan

We caught up with the clever people at the Orchestra of the Swan and found an uncompromising force for good committed not only to performing great music, but creating adventurous original work, pushing boundaries and championing the therapeutic power of music for all.

A brilliant orchestra? Yes, that’s a given but the Orchestra of the Swan is so much more. In addition to supporting local community projects, they’re also selling out venues, climbing the Classical Music charts and enjoying radio play on 6 Music and Radio 3, not to mention over 10 million digital streams globally.


Founded in 1995 and based at the Warwick Schools Foundation, the orchestra has always been committed to promoting accessibility and inclusivity. Believing in the therapeutic power of music, the orchestra delivers activities for people with dementia, visual impairment, PTSD and a range of mental health issues. They run a regular dementia friendly café as well as performing family concerts introducing young audiences to music in a relaxed and engaging way.

Under the artistic direction of David Le Page, this multi-faceted orchestra enjoys pushing boundaries, blending genres and popping up in venues you might not expect to see or hear an orchestra.


Their upcoming project, Bhangra Symphonica is a great example. The orchestra is collaborating with Bhangra rock band, Kissmet in a gig at Birmingham’s Town Hall which promises to be thrilling.

Founded by Ron and Buzz Singh, Kissmet’s sound reflects the brothers’ experience of growing up in multicultural Britain. Described as a fusion of the traditional Punjabi folk dance music, Bhangra and Rock, Kissmet’s influences include classical Hindi and Punjabi as well as The Clash and Led Zepellin. It’s rousing, uplifting and unique – a sound that might just make you weep in the very best of ways.

The combination of Bhangra and classical strings might sound a bit bonkers but it works. David says “As far as we are aware this remarkable collaboration is first of its kind! The creation of Bhangra Symphonica, blending two totally different musical genres is such an exhilarating experience which will challenge and excite us as artists and performers.”

Then there’s the Night Owl concerts that are intimate cabaret-style gigs more akin to jazz than the confines of classical performance. Creative lighting, staging and narration create a more rounded engaging experience. It’s innovative and unexpected, where audiences can expect to hear anything from Bach to Radiohead.

There’s also a new touring series called Swan Projects – the first of which titled Earthcycle focuses on the impact of climate change. It features Vivaldi’s Four Seasons as well as jazz, baroque and folk to keep audiences on their toes. In partnership with the Stratford Literary Festival, the orchestra has created a series of podcasts to accompany Earthcycle featuring environmental journalist George Monbiot and audio producer Madeleine Finlay. Along the same climate emergency theme, the orchestra has produced a Nurture Nature video aimed at primary schools, that tackle the topic in a creative age-appropriate way.


Adapting to Covid, the orchestra began producing digital mixtapes which have been hugely successful and continue to gain critical acclaim and airplay. The mixtape albums which feature music ranging from Bowie to Bach have been nominated for Gramophone awards as well as achieving healthy streaming numbers. The albums are supported by seven themed digital concerts inventively staged aimed at contemporary audiences.

The orchestra performs in forty-five concerts per year collaborating with celebrated guest conductors and solo artists. This feeds into the desire and commitment to new work. The orchestra has worked with composers such as Roxanna Panufrik and Huw Watkins to produce over 70 premieres.

There’s a core of musicians that make up the regular orchestra plus administration staff and composers, musicians and artists who come in on a project-by-project basis. Partnering with local organisations such as Stratford Play House, Birmingham Conservatoire, the Armed Forces and Coventry University, music education is at the core of the orchestra’s ethos and a commitment to provide as many schools as possible with access to professional high-quality musical and performance experiences.

The orchestra runs at a financial loss despite Arts Council funding which is hard. Selling out the RSC helps of course, but more of that would be very welcome. While the orchestra is making a name for itself beyond the Midlands travelling isn’t easy particularly across Europe thanks to you know what which is frustrating. The digital output solves this problem in part but there’s nothing like live performance.

BLENDING GENRES: If you haven’t experienced the Orchestra of the Swan yet, Bhangra Symphonica would be a wild and most enjoyable introduction. There are tickets available at the time of writing. Date: June 8, 2024 Venue: Town Hall, Victoria Square, Birmingham Tickets: Visit