Brecknock Sinfonia/Leader



There is no membership fee.

Players do not rehearse regularly. Each of the four concerts a year has a rehearsal on the day, and one string rehearsal during the week before. There is a list of players who play with us regularly, and from this, people who are available, and where a vacancy exists are invited.

Because there is so little rehearsal time and yet the concerts are at a very high standard, players need to be confident at sight reading and used to performing. If you would like to be considered for a place at one of our concerts please contact Sonia Hammond or any member of the Committee.

The final decision on players for each concert is made by the committee.

We are very grateful to everybody who has played with us, and hope you would wish to play with us again. Use the "Contact Us" page to do so.

Conductor: Michael Bell

Michael Bell was born in Neath. After graduating at Cardiff University Michael formed Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra and has conducted the orchestra since CPO's inaugural concert in June 1982.

With Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra Michael has conducted a wide range of works most notably Mahler's Symphony No. 2 "Resurrection", Richard Strauss's "An Alpine Symphony",Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring", Elgar's Symphony No. 1 and Rachmaninov's Symphony No. 2. Michael is also a great enthusiast of film music and each year since 1994 has conducted CPO in an annual series of "A Night at the Movies" at venues throughout South Wales.

In addition to conducting Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra, Michael has written reviews and articles for the Western Mail and given talks at St David's Hall and to Cardiff Recorded Music Society.

In February 2010 Michael was invited to conduct the Brecknock Sinfonia at Brecon Cathedral. With the orchestra he has conducted symphonies by Mendelssohn, Brahms, Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert, and is the orchestra's regular conductor.


Leader since 2007, Laurence Kempton left the orchestra in 2018.   We are very grateful to Laurence for his leadership, and for the many hours of work in preparing all of our concerts.  His shoes will be very difficult to fill.   In the meantime, the orchestra will be working with guest leaders.

Principal Cello: Sonia Hammond

Sonia Hammond currently lives near Hay-on-Wye, and enjoys performing and walking in the hills in the area.  As a student at the Birmingham School of Music (now the Birmingham Conservatoire) she gained a BA first class Honours degree in Music together with a handful of diplomas, all with distinction.   This was followed by postgraduate studies at the Royal College of Music in London.   While still in Birmingham Sonia was invited to play for the Eurythmy School in Botton Village, North Yorkshire.   Thus began an enduring association with Camphill communities.   This has generated many and varied chamber music performances.

Since moving to the Welsh Borders in 2006 Sonia has given recitals with pianists Roger Nichols, and James Joseph.   She is the Castalia and Peregrine String Quartet's cellist, and also Principal Cellist of both the Brecknock Sinfonia and St Woollos Players.   She is also a key member of Radnor Improvisers.   Previous improv work has included workshops in the Mayor's office in Timbuktu and at Gwernyfedd High School. Sonia recorded her first solo CD, Bach's Suite No 1 for Solo Cello, in March 2014.

Sonia joined the London Cello Orchestra for their tour in South Korea in July 2017.

She is half of the improvising duo Beresford Hammond, who have released two critically acclaimed albums, The Science of Snow in 2014 and Each Edge of the Field in 2017. In 2015 they were joined by Carolyn Hume to create the Beresford Hammond Hume Trio , this collaboration culminated in the equally critically acclaimed The Lightning bell with Judie Tzuke making a guest appearance.


Founder: Mark Foster

Mark Foster studied at the Royal College of Music in London where he was both scholar and prize winner before joining the London Symphony Orchestra as one of its youngest members, playing the horn. He was later invited to be a founder member of the Philharmonia Orchestra where he played for some of the world's finest conductors.

He gave up Orchestral playing in order to further his musical studies holding various teaching and organist's posts. During this period Mark became more involved with conducting and on many occasions appeared with the London Mozart Players, the city of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and several other orchestras both in this country and abroad.

In 1992 he was appointed conductor of the Monmouth Choral society, which he left in 1April 2005. And in 1998 was awarded the National Federation of Music Societies'Sir Charles Groves Prize in honour of his long and tireless work on behalf of music in the community.

He died after a short illness on 4th July 2007, and the following concert on 27th July was dedicated to him.