The London Gay Symphony Orchestra was founded in May 1996 by a group of friends led by Robin Gordon-Powell, also its first conductor. The orchestra rapidly grew in size and in October 1996 we gave our first performance as a full symphony orchestra at the Drill Hall in London, says Richard Souper.

Like many lesbian and gay groups, the orchestra was formed to give people the opportunity to do something they enjoyed in a friendly and supportive environment without the fear of encountering prejudice. The orchestra has always been as much a social group as a musical one, and to our knowledge is the only orchestra of its kind in Europe or indeed the world. Since 1999 the orchestra has had a regular home at St John?s Church Waterloo and has appointed Peter Crockford as its Musical Director.

We present a season of four concerts a year within which we seek to support lesbian and gay talent. This includes premiering new works both by members of the orchestra and more established composers. In October 1997 the orchestra gave the UK premiere of Wilfred Joseph?s ?Mortales? and the world premiere of his Violin Concerto with the American violinist Michael Davis, who also premiered the Benjamin Frankl Violin Concerto in May 1999.We have always sought to perform with a range of soloists including celebrities Rosalind Plowright and Jimmy Somerville, established artists, such as David Roblou and Diana Ambache, and piano duettists Markham and Nettles. We also work with up and coming young performers like cellist Jamie Walton.

We have ventured further afield and have performed with other lesbian and gay music groups in Birmingham and Manchester. Most recently, in November 2001 at the GLAM Music Festival in Brighton we performed a piece written for the occasion by local composer Matthew Pollard. We have also taken part in Mardi Gras and Glasgay, and even made the odd film and television appearance.

The orchestra works closely with other lesbian, gay and HIV charities to help raise money and awareness. At the annual World Aids Day concert, for example, a charity is invited to attend each concert to recruit members, publicise its activities and raise money through donations.

Now in our sixth year, we are always glad to see new faces, be it in the orchestra or in the audience. In April this year we will give the world premiere of the ?Troilus? Concert Overture by Richard Sisson (perhaps better known as one half of Kit and the Widow), together with music by Walton and Elgar.

Richard Souper is Orchestral Manager of the London Gay Symphony Orchestra. t: 020-8809 5518; w: http://www.lgso.ndirect.co.uk