SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA OF SRI LANKA

ARCHIVE: BRIEF HISTORY

The Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka (SOSL) is one of the oldest orchestras in South Asia.

Its origins go back to the 1930s when, three Danish brothers named Wagn living in Ceylon as Sri Lanka was then known, started a small orchestra. Ceylon was under British colonial rule at that time and there were players of various nationalities performing in this orchestra.

In 1958, the Symphony Orchestra of Ceylon was formed with the support  of the Arts Council, which helped in planning and organizing but did not provide any funds. The Orchestra was managed by a Players' Committee elected annually from the playing membership and performed three concerts a year on average. Foreign embassies helped out by providing music and arranging for well-known soloists from overseas to perform with the orchestra.

In 1971 when Sri Lanka became a republic, the orchestra retained its logo (SOC), and changed its name to the Symphony Orchestra of Colombo. In 1991, the management structure of the orchestra changed. A Board of Governors was elected by the players mainly from among leading public figures in business and professional circles. The Governors were lovers of classical music and came forward to support the orchestra in an honorary capacity. The Board took care of raising funds and managing the logistics, leaving the Players' committee free to to concentrate on artistic development. Along with this change the orchestra was renamed as the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka (SOSL).

The SOSL has had an enduring interest in nurturing and developing young talent, commenced the Junior Symphony Orchestra (JSO) in 2010, with a view to developing a high level Sri Lankan orchestra of young musicians and the hope that the best of these would graduate to perform in the SOSL. The JSO commenced with a string orchestra at inception, and in 2011, added woodwind, brass and percussion to become a full orchestra.

In 2010, with the sponsorship of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Colombo, the orchestra embarked on a special project - one that aims to take western classical music to areas outside Colombo. These Outreach programmes continued in 2011, and are ongoing.

The SOSL promises its loyal audience that it will continue this proud tradition, and put on four or more concerts every year, giving audiences the opportunity to hear live concerts of western classical music here in Sri Lanka.