About Us




Peter Fender had two wonderful holidays in the town of Scicli in south-east Sicily in Autumn 2013 and Easter 2014, having been captivated by the TV series Sicily Unpacked and the Sicilian detective drama, Inspector Montalbano.  He then decided he wanted to put on a concert in the town and was introduced to Marcello Giordano Pellegrino.  Marcello is a fine local musician – a tenor, pianist and teacher – who also runs Skenè Management which, amongst other things, organises concerts.  Marcello organised and promoted the hugely successful first concert in Summer 2014 in the courtyard of Villa Penna, against the backdrop of the town’s stunning panorama.  That year the concert was performed by The Angel Orchestra from London, with a few friends and relations.  Such a good time was had by all that Peter decided to continue the format and took over the organisation for 2015, creating a special orchestra for the event, the South London Sinfonietta (Peter lives in South London).  One of the pleasures of performing in a Mediterranean climate in Summer is that concerts are always in the open air: subsequent concerts were held in the Cloisters of the Town Council Atrium in Modica (2015), the amphitheatre of the Stone Museum in Sampieri overlooking the sea (2016 & 2017) and then back to Scicli, to the Cloisters of the Carmine Convent (2018).  After a ‘year off’ in 2019 the 2020 concert will again be in Scicli.  See the Gallery for pictures of these concerts and courses.

Another important local musician is Girolamo Manenti.  Girolamo is a clarinetist, bass clarinetist and conductor and he has in recent years taken the lead in the organisation of our concerts, assisted by Marcello Pellegrino.

Along the way we have made a great friend in Massimo Borgese.  Massimo is the proprietor of Scicli B&B, in which Peter has always stayed in Scicli. Massimo organises accommodation for a large part of the orchestra.  He is wonderfully gregarious and helpful and knows absolutely everything and everyone in Scicli!



Here are some comments from some of the many people who have been on the course:

“Probably one of the best courses of its kind.  Wonderful music in a fabulous location.   The emphasis is on fun, good food, relaxation, and great music” – RC, double bass.

“I love this course.   Playing good music is always enjoyable, but to do so in such a beautiful place, with good weather pretty much guaranteed – what could be better?  Beautiful beaches, history, art, amazing scenery, wonderful food. Interesting people to meet and play music with, but your own space too. I will definitely be going again.” – LH, oboe

“Taking my cello to Scicli was a fabulous experience. Rehearsing in the morning and going on trips in the afternoon, swimming in the warm sea from lovely clean, uncrowded beaches, culminating in performing to hundreds of people who seemed to arrive from nowhere in an amphitheatre overlooking the sea. What could possibly be better?  The town is so beautiful – all those world heritage churches, and the thrill of recognising scenes from Montalbano.” – SJ, ‘cello

“Music course with a difference: Not too serious, good music, good wine, good food, good friends and good fun.” – MM, horn


Who’s Who


Peter Fender, conductor
Peter Fender, conductor

Peter began his musical career as an early music specialist, playing the violin regularly with groups such as the Academy of Ancient Music, the Sixteen and the Hanover Band.  More recently his focus has shifted towards conducting.  In 2007 he formed the orchestra Philharmonia Britannica, keen to create interesting juxtapositions by mixing music with other art forms – such as acting, poetry, dance, comedy or video.  He is also currently the musical director of The Angel Orchestra, Camden Philharmonia, Mid Sussex Sinfonia and the 6 Centuries Chamber Choir.  Aside from his native England he has conducted across Europe.  Known for his innovative programming, he has conducted many works by unjustly neglected female composers (Ethel Smyth, Amy Beach and Louise Farrenc amongst others).  He is delighted that The Angel Orchestra, from 2019, will perform at least one work by a woman in each of its concerts.

Having studied conducting with Peter Stark and Michael Rose, Peter regularly leads conducting workshops – from days introducing conducting to non-musicians to advanced classes with full orchestra.

Peter has written a wide variety of works (orchestral, choral, chamber, songs, solo piano) and has released two CDs of his music.  As an arranger and editor he has worked on music by composers such as Ethel Smyth, Imogen Holst, Monteverdi and Haydn. Full details of his musical activities (plus a short film about him) are on his website. Peter feels that a year is not a proper one unless it contains at least two trips to Italy …


Jessica O'Leary
Jessica O’Leary, leader

Combining performing, teaching, examining, writing, mentoring, adjudicating and editing, Jessica has a persuasive portfolio career. Jessica has recorded and toured internationally as a professional violinist and member of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields and Principal 2nd violin of the Orchestra of St. John’s for twenty-five years.

Jessica is passionate about playing and teaching music in a variety of styles and has worked with Madonna, Led Zeppelin, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Opera House.

She regularly presents seminars and is a string consultant and examiner for ABRSM. Her Best of Grade 1-5 violin books are a series of current and past exam pieces and her series of Violin Studies are also published by Faber.

Coming from a family of innovative string teachers who were the first to start the Suzuki method in Europe, Jessica played in the Cork, Irish and European Youth Orchestras before moving to London to take up a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music where she had chamber music lessons with the Amadeus String Quartet. She is Head of Strings at Eltham College, London and taught violin and viola at Junior Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London for fifteen years. She has been a tutor on National Youth Orchestra Outreach days, works with the Autistic society and regularly plays chamber music.