The New Westminster Symphony Orchestra began in early World War I days, and is one of the oldest community orchestras on the West Coast of North America. The NWSO held its first concert on February 16, 1915 (see images of concert brochure). By 1920 the NWSO had presented 18 concerts, some of which are shown in the Historical Photo Gallery on the NWSO website. The original NWSO performed until 1935 when it was disbanded due to financial difficulties.
During World War II, two main groups provided classical music in New Westminster. The Royal City Concert Orchestra, under the direction of Frank Harris and sponsored by the YMCA, began in 1939. C.J. Littlewood organized the New Westminster String Ensemble, which became the T.J. Trapp Orchestral Class with the addition of woodwinds and brass in 1940. These orchestras merged in 1942 under the shared conductorship of Messrs. Harris and Littlewood, and continued as the Royal City Concert Orchestra until 1944. In September 1944 the New Westminster Civic Orchestra was established, and performed its first concert on June 10, 1945 with 35 musicians.
NWCO - 1944The NWCO performed several concerts each year until 1962 when, due to declining audiences, the NWCO did not perform again until 1965. The New Westminster Civic Orchestral Society met annually from 1962 to 1965 to keep the NWCO alive, and some of the NWCO’s musicians performed in local ensembles, including the Royal City Orchestra under conductor David Jennings. The NWCO resumed performances in 1965 and was renamed the New Westminster Symphony Orchestra in 1972.
2014-2015 is the 71th year of musical performances and 100 years since the February 1915 debut of the original New Westminster Symphony Orchestra.
The New Westminster Symphony Society (NWSS) is an all-volunteer organization that administers the operations of the NWSO. The NWSS is a registered charitable organization under the Income Tax Act (number 88915 6790 RR0001), and became a registered non-profit society in 1958.
Reference Sources: The Canadian Encyclopedia – Encyclopedia of Music in Canada; New Westminster Museum and Archives