Canterbury Orchestra was founded in 1954, initially as Canterbury Orchestral Society. Twins Douglas and Seymour Gaywood worked with the organist at Canterbury Cathedral, Douglas Hopkins, to establish an orchestra in Canterbury.  The first concert took place on May 28th 1954 at the Cathedral Chapter House, conducted by Douglas Hopkins with Christopher Peto leading the Orchestra  The programme included Beethoven's First Symphony and Mozart's Piano Concerto in A minor  K488.

The Gaywood family owned a confectioner's, baker's and restaurant on Canterbury's Sun Street, shown here in around 1902.


Andrew Lowen in discussion with soloist Katherine TinkerThe Orchestra has worked with many conductors, the longest serving being David Goodes and John Hursey.  The present Musical Director, Andrew Lowen, took over in 2007. Andrew has steered the orchestra through some challenging and interesting repertoire whilst steadily expanding our audience base.


The Orchestra has worked with many first-class soloists. Some have been well-established in their careers, and these include Jack Brymer, Ian Crowther and Tony Coe. Others have been young soloists at the start of their careers, and working with them has lent a certain sparkle to our concerts.

Recent soloists have included Ana Vandepeer (violin), Christopher Weston (piano), Laura MacDonald (cello), and Jamie Phillips (trumpet). Jamie has gone on to forge a career as a conductor, and in 2021 made his debut at Glyndebourne Opera House.


As an orchestra at the heart of the community, we have worked with a range of arts organisations over the years. These include Dance Whitstable, Sittingbourne Orpheus & Bearsted Choral Societies, the choir of Sir Roger Manwood School and Lees Court Music.

We have also raised funds for charities, including Parkinson's  UK Canterbury & District Branch, Save the Children and The Rotary Club of Herne Bay.


The Orchestra moved from its original home, the Chapter House, to the old Marlowe Theatre in St Margarets Street where it remained until 1977. We have also been hosted by St Edmunds School and King's School as well as Christchurch University and St Peter's Methodist Church. Our Summer 2017 Martime Prom Concert saw us relocating to the suitably salty St Mary's Arts Centre in Sandwich.

Our current venue is the prestigious Colyer-Fergusson Hall at the University of Kent