John Rutter conducting

The Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra has announced a special celebratory concert in recognition of the remarkable work by Oxford University’s Covid-19 vaccine team.

The concert was filmed last week at the Sheldonian Theatre and will be livestreamed on the orchestra’s YouTube channel on Friday December 18 at 6.30pm, with clips available at a later date.

Welsh opera star Sir Bryn Terfel joins Merton College Choir to perform the world premiere of John Rutter’s Joseph’s Carol, conducted by the composer, and written in tribute to the Oxford Vaccine Group, the Jenner Institute and the RECOVERY team.

Sir Bryn Terfel at The Sheldonian

The carol narrates the long, weary journey made by Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, reflecting the vaccine programme’s journey from struggle to hope.

“I am delighted to contribute to this celebration, which expresses in music the gratitude we all feel in our hearts. As always, music goes beyond words”

Performed alongside the new Rutter carol are Elgar’s Chanson de Matin, William Henry Monk’s Abide with Me (with Alexander Olleson, Christ Church Cathedral chorister and BBC Young Chorister of the Year finalist 2020), Rodgers & Hammerstein’s You’ll Never Walk Alone (with Jette Parker Young Artist Alexandra Lowe) and Rutter’s Look to the Day, ending with one of the most famous pieces of joy and hope, Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah.

Alexander Olleson

World-renowned violinists Maxim Vengerov and Anne-Sophie Mutter also join the orchestra to pay their own tributes to the programme.

All of this is interspersed with footage from the lab and trials of the treatment and vaccine process, interviews with researchers and performers, and special messages from Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, and the orchestra’s patron, HRH Princess Alexandra.

The concert will be introduced by Classic FM presenter John Suchet, and the popular radio station will also be streaming an exclusive programme in support of the concert on its Facebook page.

Marios Papadopoulos, who founded the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra (originally known as the Oxford Philomusica) in 1998, said: “We are extremely grateful to the researchers, medical staff and volunteers based at the University of Oxford for their tireless work in the search for treatment and a vaccine for Covid-19.

“As the Orchestra in Residence at the University, we offer this concert in celebration of their recently announced achievements and are thrilled to be joined in our message of thanks by a stellar line-up of classical musicians with whom we have worked with closely in the past.”

John Rutter added: “I am delighted to contribute to this celebration, which expresses in music the gratitude we all feel in our hearts. As always, music goes beyond words.”


This special tribute concert is the first in the orchestra’s new Winter Series, which will be streamed in the coming weeks and will include two world premieres. Details will be announced soon.

All of this comes just weeks after the Oxford Philharmonic was awarded £210,639 by Arts Council England as part of the government’s Cultural Recovery Fund. 

Alexandra Lowe

Marios Papadopoulos is “absolutely thrilled” at the award, which will help to secure the survival of the 22-year-old orchestra. 

“Thanks to this funding, we have been able to set in motion our plan for recovery,” he says. “The Spring 2021 season will hopefully include live performances and will allow us to begin to generate income from our box office once again.”

As with all arts organisations, Oxford Philharmonic’s 2020 season – which included an ambitious, year-long Beethoven Festival to mark the composer’s 250th birthday – was brought to an abrupt halt in March. But a busy online presence has helped to keep things ticking over, and Marios is delighted that the orchestra’s work has received official recognition.

“It was incredibly important to us that we keep providing performance opportunities to ensure that our musicians were kept busy,” Marios adds. “We know our audiences miss live music as much as we do, and we’re working hard to make the 2021 season possible.”

Merton College Choir

The vaccine tribute concert will be livestreamed on Friday 18th December at 6.30pm on

For more details about Oxford Philharmonic, visit

For the Classic FM programme, visit



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