ORIGINALLY set up by Charles Macdonald, organist of St Olave’s, and Robin Gilbert, a local headmaster, their first concert of baroque music in 1978 raised funds to restore the church’s organ.

In the intervening years, the Academy of St Olave’s has, true to its founders’ vision, expanded into a symphony orchestra, and they celebrated their 40th anniversary with a gala concert under guest conductor John Bryan.

Richard Strauss’s late Duet-Concertino was given a rare outing. The excellent soloists Lesley Schatzberger (clarinet) and Isabel Dowell (bassoon) duetted conversationally and affectionately, with finesse and authority.

If the Academy strings seemed somewhat reticent—the accompaniment demands a more succulent sound—this ambitious performance nevertheless coherently presented Strauss’s tricky score.

Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture exuded a maritime feel, successfully evoking the ocean swell. The orchestra negotiated the scurrying figurations adeptly, exciting but never flustered.

In Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony they caught something of the work’s humour and sheer contrariness, as in the extraordinary orchestration of the third movement’s trio. In both Beethoven and Mendelssohn, woodwind contributions were splendidly rhythmic and graceful.

The Academy’s early repertoire was represented by Boyce’s Symphony No. 4 from 1760s' London. In this conventional, but never predictable, music, no idea outstays its welcome. Its gentle syncopations in the opening allegro were shapely and stylish, strings here idiomatically warm, and the horn calls in the charmingly brief central movement were pleasingly rustic.

An enjoyable evening — and whoever baked the interval’s delicious 40th celebration chocolate cake deserves commendation too!