Our musicians

“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life” Berthold Auerbach

The Sussex Symphony Orchestra is an eclectic mix of both professional and amateur players. Music teachers, full-time players and students sit next to financial advisors, writers, office managers and engineers.

What we have in common is our love of live classical music and our ability to perform to the highest standards on just one rehearsal.

If you live or work in Sussex and would like to join the Sussex Symphony Orchestra, find out more here.

Here are some of our musicians:

Sophia Bartlette (leader)

Sophia first began learning the violin with her mother at the age of five. She started performing in concerts and competitions soon after and subsequently became a member of the National Children’s Orchestra and RCM Junior Department. Her studies were then split between the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff where she attained a Distinction and then the Royal College of Music in London where she completed a further Post-Graduate course in performance.

She studied with violin professors Dona lee Croft and John Stein and won the Ernst Hughes award for great achievement. She took part in master classes with Ivry Gitlis, Dorothy Delay and the Brodsky Quartet. Sophia led the Symphony and Chamber Orchestras and also directed the Millennium Ensemble.Sophia was also a founding member of the Cardiff Bay Chamber Orchestra.

Sophia is a regular soloist with the Musicians of All Saints Orchestra and leads the Nelson Quartet which performs primarily in the South East. She is a busy freelance violinist and works with pianist and composer Amoret Abis. They regularly play at festivals and like to devise interesting and conceptual programmes particularly including female composers. At the 2019 Brighton fringe she worked with London based guitarist Sebastian Goodwin-Day, performed Gypsy music through the ages at Komedia.

Sophia works with various artists and has performed on the Graham Norton show, Glastonbury festival and many others. She enjoys string arranging and records as a session musician.

Sophia is Head of Strings at Roedean School and is passionate about her job. She loves to conduct and enjoys creating the chamber music programme and performance events. 

She runs her own specially devised music courses for children in Brighton and Hove “Music is Fun”. Sophia lives in Rottingdean with her two children and two dogs.

For more info

Helen Beckingham (principal bassoon)

Helen Beckingham (prinicpal bassoon)

Helen Beckingham (prinicpal bassoon)

I’m not a full-time musician. I work as a copywriter and mix this with freelance playing around Sussex. I’m often asked why I started playing the bassoon. Actually, it was curiosity.

When I was 9 years old my primary school music teacher, Mr Green, told me that I should play the bassoon. He said, “I think it would suit you”. I didn’t know what a bassoon was so I asked my dad, and he played me the beginning of Mozart’s Requiem. I was hooked.

I first met Mark in a woodwind section, about 25 years ago when the SSO was a mere glint in his eye. We were playing Stravinsky’s “Pulcinella”, Mark was playing 1st oboe and I seem to remember he went very purple. I’m proud to say that I played at the first ever Sussex Symphony Orchestra concert in Hove Town Hall on the 28th January 1993. I love playing with this orchestra. We have a unique character, a truly distinctive sound and a superb woodwind section (OK, I may be biased). Most importantly, the SSO has the most wonderful man at the front waving his arms around with skill, humour and love. I’m proud to call him my friend.

Finally, I just want to say that the bassoon is without doubt the coolest instrument in the orchestra. I get to play some of the juiciest tunes in the classical repertoire on the most sonorous and flexible of instruments; and nothing can describe the joy, or the unique reedy “razz”, of playing ‘ffff’ alongside 2 bassoons and the filthy beast that is the contra bassoon.  Thank you, Mr Green. You were right.”