THE Academy of St Olave’s chamber orchestra will celebrate their 40th anniversary with a special gala concert in the medieval church of St Olave’s, Marygate, York, on June 23.

Each piece in the 8pm programme has been chosen to mark a significant feature of the long-running orchestra. For example, the concert will open with a particular favourite of the York musicians: Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture, famously inspired by the composer’s visit to Fingal’s Cave off the coast of Scotland in 1829.

In the Academy’s early concerts, it became the norm to perform a movement of William Boyce’s Symphony No. 4 as an encore, and so the orchestra will pay homage to its origins as a Baroque chamber group by returning to this piece in its entirety.

Another longstanding tradition is the opportunity for members to perform solo repertoire. Clarinettist Lesley Schatzberger and bassoonist Isabel Dowell will play Richard Strauss’s playful Duet-Concertino for clarinet, bassoon, strings and harp. The evening will conclude with Beethoven's 8th Symphony, in recognition of the Academy specialising in his compositions through the years.

John Bryan, erstwhile conductor of the York Chamber Orchestra, will be the conductor on June 23. This professor of music at the University of Huddersfield has a long association with the Academy of St Olave’s through his wife Josie, a violist in the orchestra.

"It is a great honour to have been invited to conduct this fantastic ensemble as it celebrates its 40th anniversary, and I am thrilled to be able to present such a dynamic and varied programme for this gala concert," he says. "The Strauss, in particular, is a beautiful piece, surprisingly little heard, and this is a rare opportunity to hear it performed in York with two talented soloists."

Chair Christine Smith reflects on the orchestra's past and present. "As a founding member, I am delighted to see the orchestra continuing to thrive. I don’t think any of us taking part in that first concert 40 years ago could have realised what a significant position the orchestra would come to hold in the city’s cultural life four decades later. I am also pleased that several founding members and former directors are able to return to celebrate with us at this special gala concert.”

The Academy of St Olave’s was founded in 1978 as a Baroque ensemble for 14 players by Charles MacDonald, then organist and director of music at St Olave’s church, in tandem with headmaster and violinist Robin Gilbert. The orchestra has since enlarged and now tackles wide-ranging works by composers as diverse as Corelli and Messiaen.

The first concert was organised to raise money for essential work on the church organ, and history almost repeats itself at this month's concert, when funds will be collected for repairs to the historic church.

Tickets cost £14, concessions £13, students/children £5, at, from Visit York in Museum Street, on 01904 550099 or at the door.