Southgate’s symphony

An upcoming concert features a new symphony written by a local composer

Roderick Elmer
Roderick Elmer

Roderick Elmer was born in Southgate and has lived in Enfield since 1987, working as a specialist music teacher in a primary school.

He studied music at Manchester University and now sings tenor for Enfield Choral Society, plays the piano, organ and – for Southgate Symphony Orchestra – the horn. Roderick started composing music at 15 and has had a number of his pieces performed publicly including several with a full orchestra.

In early 2019, a senior member of the orchestra (sadly, now deceased) suggested Roderick write a symphony, providing ongoing encouragement. He jotted down the opening theme when it came to him in church as he was about to play the organ for a service. After a slow start, the pandemic lockdowns in 2020 allowed Roderick more time for composing and the work was completed in January 2021.

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The symphony has four movements. The opening movement acts as a prelude in traditional sonata form, featuring different sections of the orchestra. The second is a scherzo and trio inspired by the Infernal Dance from Stravinsky’s ballet The Firebird. This is followed by a slow movement in memory of the Roderick’s sister, who died in 2018. It references two nursery rhymes that reflect aspects of her life. The finale is a cheerful rondo, ending with the return of the symphony’s opening theme.

Earlier in 2022, Southgate Symphony Orchestra held two open rehearsals of the work, attended by family and friends, but were unable to include it in next season’s programme. Nonetheless, the first performance will be by The Alba Sinfonia, a new locally-based orchestra founded by conductor Derek Holland, dedicated to playing music by local and less-well-known composers, alongside more popular classics.

The concert is taking place this month in Southgate. Other works in the programme are Felix Mendelssohn’s overture The Hebrides; Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1; and Eric Coates’ By the Sleepy Lagoon. Roderick hopes that a good crowd will attend this world premiere in Southgate of a first symphony by a Southgate composer.

The Alba Sinfonia’s performance of Roderick Elmer’s debut symphony takes place at Oakwood Baptist Church in Merrivale, Southgate N14 4TE, on Saturday 24th September from 7pm. Entry is free at the door, with charity donations invited. For more information: