The original Oxford University Wind Orchestra was formed in 1974 to stand alongside the symphony orchestras of Oxford University. At first its numbers were small, but it soon grew in popularity, providing a much needed opportunity for wind and brass players to perform in Oxford. At its peak, OUWO was active in commissioning original works from renowned composers such as Alan Ridout. However, the burden of the orchestra’s organisation fell solely upon the conductor and the workload eventually became unmanageable. OUWO declined and finally disbanded in 1995.
In its current incarnation, OUWO was re-founded in 1996 by a dedicated committee of freshers and members of the defunct precursor in order to provide an opportunity for Oxford’s many wind and brass players to perform music beyond the standard symphony orchestra repertoire. Many of these early OUWO alumni who have (officially!) left Oxford are now active in running the Oxford Reunion Wind Orchestra.
The first conductor was an American named E. Bradley Strauchen (recalled by one former member as “loopy but enthusiastic”) and the reformed Wind Orchestra gave its first performance with an ambitious programme including Shostakovich’s Festival Overture, Walton’s Crown Imperial and Grainger’s Lincolnshire Posey.
Since then OUWO has gone from strength to strength, performing works ranging from Bach to Bernstein, from chamber music to concertos, and across a range of genres including wind band staples such as those of Vaughan Williams, Holst and Grainger, arrangements of orchestral masterworks such as Scheherezade, film music favourites, and challenging original pieces by contemporary composers including Paul Hart, Gordon Jacob, John Adams and David Maslanka.
Recently OUWO had the distinction of being invited to travel to the South of France to perform at the La Croix Valmer festival, giving a number of extremely well-received performances. In Hilary Term 2007 OUWO gave a joint concert with the Augustana College Symphonic Band from Illinois, USA, on their concert tour of the UK.
The last few years have been particularly busy for OUWO. In addition to the traditional termly concerts, the orchestra has established an annual exchange concert programme with Cambridge University Wind Orchestra, and has successfully competed in the National Concert Band Festival for two years running – performing in national finals in Glasgow and London. But the most exciting recent development is a relationship with the Tel Aviv University Wind Band, who invited us to a tour of Israel in March 2012. This was an absolutely fantastic ten day trip, where OUWO members were shown great hospitality and friendship, a whistle-stop tour of some fascinating sites, and shared in the occasional concert…!