Garry Walker


"Garry Walker conducts with a dark intensity that brings out both the score’s violence and its extraordinary moments of ecstatic lyricism."

Tim Ashley, The Guardian

"The orchestra, under the music director designate Garry Walker, play with a suppleness and generosity that makes the score soar."

Rebecca Franks, The Times

"Conducted by Garry Walker, the score is executed with aplomb."

Louise Lewis, British Theatre Guide

"The score is vividly and virtuosically played under Garry Walker’s impeccable direction."

Richard Morrison, The Times

Download full biography

Scottish-born Garry Walker is the Music Director of Opera North, a position he was appointed in the 20/21 season following the huge success of an impressive and powerful Billy Budd and a double bill of Gianni Schicchi & The Rite of Spring. His conducting of Martinů’s The Greek Passion and Bizet’s Carmen in the 19/20 season was also widely acclaimed. Also, for Opera North he has conducted Rigoletto, Tosca and most recently Mozart’s iconic Requiem, which was reimagined in a powerful double bill alongside a new commission by Neo Muyanga bringing together Opera North, Phoenix Dance Theatre and South African partners Jazzart Dance Theatre and Cape Town Opera.

The 23/24 season sees Garry conduct the orchestra of Opera North in concert repertoire including Dvořák 9, Gulda cello concerto, Gershwin and ending the season with Mahler 1 and Strauss Four Last Songs. His opera productions for that season include Falstaff and Albert Herring and he will make his debut with Opera Australia conducing Tosca.

A natural leader, Garry has previously held the positions of Chief Conductor of the Rheinische Philharmonie Koblenz from 17/18 until the 21/22 season, Permanent Guest Conductor of Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Principal Conductor of Paragon Ensemble, and Artistic Director of Conducting at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Garry is an outstanding musician whose particular strengths lie in the classical period, Mahler, Sibelius, Dvorak and music of the 20th and 21st centuries. During his tenure as Chief Conductor of the Rheinische Philharmonie Koblenz, his many wide-ranging performances have encompassed programmes of Ades, Beethoven, Bartók, Britten, Berio, Brahms, Dvořák, Haydn, John Williams, Kodály, Mahler, Mozart, Prokofiev, and many more. Together Garry and the orchestra made their Amsterdam Concertgebouw debut in 2018, resulting in an immediate re-invitation, and a closing concert in 2022 to commemorate the end of his tenure.

In the UK Garry Walker has worked with all the BBC orchestras, Hallé, London Philharmonic, London Sinfonietta, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Philharmonia, City of Birmingham Symphony and National Youth Orchestra of Scotland. Chamber orchestras have included the Britten Sinfonia, Manchester Camerata, Royal Northern Sinfonia, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra and Academy of St Martin in the Fields. His regular appearances at the Edinburgh International Festival have included notable performances of Mahler’s Second Symphony, Kurtag’s Stele, and MacMillan’s The Quickening, all with the RSNO.

Further afield Garry has worked with orchestras including the Aalborg Symfoniorkester, Gothenburg Symphony, Dortmund Philharmoniker, Orchestra dell’Opera di Roma, Orchestre Philharmonique de Luxembourg, Musikkollegium Winterthur, Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin, and Orchestra della Toscana. Garry has worked often in Australasia, having conducted the Adelaide, Melbourne and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras as well as Auckland Philharmonia. In North America he has worked with the Utah Symphony, Pacific and Asheville Symphony Orchestras.

Other operatic highlights outside of Opera North include David McVicar’s acclaimed new production of Britten The Turn of the Screw and Raskatov A Dog’s Heart for English National Opera, Cimarosa The Secret Marriage for Scottish Opera, Janacek The Cunning Little Vixen and the critically acclaimed world premiere of Sawer The Skating Rink for Garsington Opera, the world première of Stuart MacRae’s opera The Assassin Tree and Britten’s Curlew River for the Edinburgh International Festival. For the Linbury Studio, Royal Opera House he revisited the MacRae and conducted Poulenc La Voix Humaine.

On the continent he has conducted The Curlew River for Lyon Opera, and a new production by Calixto Bieito of Hosokawa Hanjo at the Ruhr Triennale.

Amongst the many international soloists with whom Garry Walker has collaborated are Maxim Vengerov, Sarah Chang, Jonas Kaufmann, Truls Mørk, Mischa Maisky, James Ehnes, David Geringas and Branford Marsalis.

His discography includes works by Havergal Brian and Matthew Taylor on Toccata Classics, Edward Harper on Delphian and Dvorak on Sony.

This biography is for information only and should not be reproduced.


Opera North, October 2023

…the engine-room of this sparkling evening was Garry Walker’s orchestra. Anyone who could wrest their attention away from the high jinks on stage would have found it hard to keep a smile off their face at what was going on in the pit.

Martin Dreyer, Opera Magazine


Opera North, September 2023

Opera North’s music director Garry Walker is in the pit. He and the orchestra surpass themselves in a reading of the score in which both the wondrous detail of the composer’s invention and his sheer musical wit are superbly realised.

George Hall, The Stage ★ ★ ★ ★

It’s conducted with superlative skill by Opera North music director Garry Walker, fulfilling his observation of its “almost soufflé-esque lightness” with delicacy and poise, and some highly spirited tempi. Keeping everything together, voices and orchestra, in that manner is both difficult and immensely rewarding, but he and they did it with barely a moment’s falter.

Robert Beale, The Arts Desk ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Conductor Garry Walker drives the Opera North Orchestra vigorously, and coaxes some delicate sonorities from the wind in the wonderfully scored third act

Nicholas Kenyon, The Telegraph ★ ★ ★ ★

And, bubbling along through the whole opera, the Opera North orchestra supplies outstandingly vibrant, witty and detailed playing under Garry Walker’s direction.

Richard Morrison, The Times ★ ★ ★ ★


Opera North, January 2023

In the pit Garry Walker conducts a tremendously persuasive orchestral performance: not just thunderous in the climaxes but also full of beautiful things from, for example, solo clarinet and cello. A riveting evening.

Richard Morrison, The Times

Conductor Garry Walker presides over a performance of remarkable intensity, never stinting on the power of percussion and brass in one of the loudest and most dramatic Toscas you will hear

Ron Simpson, The Reviews Hub

“Garry Walker’s orchestra was a character in its own right…One could only admire the way Walker’s orchestral punctuation, especially in Act 1, was so tautly disciplined.”

Martin Dreyer, Opera Magazine

In the pit, Garry Walker drew a strong and vibrant account of the score, making sure the drama was in the pit as much as on-stage

Planet Hugill

The playing from the Orchestra of Opera North conducted by Garry Walker is, as ever, outstanding.

Yvette Huddleston, Yorkshire Post

it’s Opera North’s music director Garry Walker who grabs the ear with an interpretation of urgency and incipient horror. He begins with a shock as an abrupt blackout trip-wires Puccini’s baleful ‘Scarpia’ motif in a crash of sound, and the tension never lessens thereafter.

By Mark Valencia, Bachtrack

VERDI Rigoletto

Orchestra of Opera North (January 2022)

…Opera North achieves its customarily high musical standards. Garry Walker conducts very idiomatically, and the wind writing, in which Verdi achieved such breakthroughs, is particularly well played.

Martin Kettle, The Guardian ****

…conductor Garry Walker ensures good rapport between pit and stage.

Richard Morrison, The Times

As usual, the Opera North Chorus impressed, with terrific ensemble singing and tightly choreographed action, and the orchestra was relentlessly on top form under conductor Garry Walker.

Richard Wilcocks, Bachtrack *****

Under Garry Walker the orchestral playing, always polished and pointed, really catches fire after the interval.

Rob Simpson, The Reviews Hub

Saturday's premiere of Femi Elufowoju Junior’s provocative new staging of Rigoletto was dedicated to Opera North star tenor Rafael Rojas. Last week’s sad news of the acclaimed 59-year-old singer’s death seemed to ignite principals, chorus and orchestra already supercharged by the presence on the conductor’s podium of Garry Walker, Opera North’s music director. Such was the crackle of electricity coursing through this performance.

Geoffrey Mogridge, Ilkley Gazette

As for the music on opening night (January 22) it was mostly distinguished, led by a sharply etched reading by Opera North’s orchestra under its excellent Music Director Garry Walker and with a handful of exemplary solo performances on stage.

Mark Valencia, Musical America

Garry Walker conducted the whole thing in one single, restless sweep. The brass roars its curse, and Walker flexes and ebbs with his singers. Then he pings straight back on course; sleek and relentless. It hurtled by: the Leeds crowd was (as usual) slow to warm up, but by the end they were on their feet.

Richard Bratby, The Spectator

MAHLER Resurrection Symphony

Orchestra of Opera North (October 2021)

The performance by the Orchestra of Opera North was by turn thrilling, terrifying and uplifting. Garry Walker, the Music Director of Opera North, seems to have inherited from his distinguished predecessor, Richard Farnes, the ability to marshal huge forces with minimum fuss, to express great emotional intensity while keeping a precise grasp of detail.

Rob Simpson, The Reviews Hub

Opera North music director Garry Walker at the helm of the massed forces, revealed his absolute mastery of the architecture of this great work.

Geoffrey Mogridge, Ilkley Gazette

Bizet's Carmen

Orchestra of Opera North (October 2021)

Bizet’s tuneful score is punchily played by the Opera North orchestra, conducted by Garry Walker.

Rebecca Franks, The Times ****

Garry Walker gets his music directorship off to a good start, whipping the orchestra through Bizet’s glorious tunes and getting real richness from the strings especially.

Erica Jeal, The Guardian ****

Under Garry Walker the orchestra has the necessary fire and delicacy.

Ron Simpson, The Reviews Hub

Garry Walker’s pacing and balance of this and every dramatic confrontation is impeccable. Walker and the Orchestra of Opera North makes Bizet’s glorious musical score sounds as if the ink had barely dried.

Geoffrey Mogridge, Ilkey Gazette the pit the ever-excellent Opera North orchestra sounds splendid in Garry Walker’s first production as music director, relishing Bizet’s superb orchestration and giving exactly the right rhythmic lift to this great, immortal score.

Nicholas Kenyon, The Telegraph

Garry Walker’s orchestra covers all bases beautifully, with lovely detail, punchy vivacity, gorgeous delicacy in the Flower Song and elsewhere…

Robert Thicknesse, Opera Now ****

Triumph over Tragedy: Britten, Elgar, Shostakovich

Orchestra of Opera North (September 2021)

Walker guided the orchestra expertly through those mighty crescendos that suddenly grow from hushed strings and then die away just as suddenly; the orchestra showed off its solo power in the fun of the Scherzo; and the brass and percussion battered us into submission in a breath-taking final movement.

Rob Simpson, The Reviews Hub

… the music director and his seventy five players basked in the glow of a Huddersfield Town Hall audience clearly delighted by their return after an absence of eighteen months. Opera North’s 2021-22 Kirklees Orchestral Concert Season opened with Britten’s Suite of English Folk Tunes ‘a time there was’. Guy Johnston was the deeply expressive soloist in Elgar’s gloriously autumnal Cello Concerto and Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony ended the concert on a triumphal note.

Geoffrey Mogridge, Ilkley Gazette

Martinu's The Greek Passion

Opera North (September 2019)

[…] in his first production since being named Opera North’s music director designate, Walker held the potentially stark and sprawling score together tautly, bringing out Martinů’s trademark radiance. The styles move from mystery play via folk opera to even grand opera, and encompass Greek Orthodox chant, speech song and plain dialogue; whether shaping the wedding chorus that sets words from the Song of Solomon or allowing the accordion solos their space, Walker relished the entire patchwork.

Opera Magazine

Conducting was Garry Walker, now the company’s Music Director Designate. It is a welcome appointment. He is an excellent musician who has yet to receive the recognition he deserves. His account of Martinů’s great work fully realised its intensity and dramatic power. The Greek Passion, both in production and performance, is one of Opera North’s finest achievements.

Anthony Arblaster, Opera Now

Garry Walker conducts with a dark intensity that brings out both the score’s violence and its extraordinary moments of ecstatic lyricism.

Tim Ashley, The Guardian

Walker, in his first production since being named Opera North's music director designate, holds the potentially stark and sprawling score together tautly, bringing out Martinů's trademark radiance.

John Allison, The Telegraph

The orchestra, under the music director designate Garry Walker, play with a suppleness and generosity that makes the score soar.

Rebecca Franks, The Times

Martinů's luminous, eclectic score is handsomely conducted by new Music Director Garry Walker.

Graham Rickson, The Arts Desk

With the excellent Chorus and Orchestra of Opera North on superb form under the company’s principal conductor-designate, Garry Walker, a Scottish musician whose Billy Budd in Leeds a year or two back confirmed him as a talent for years to come, this Greek Passion transcended the obstacles of text and staging to provide a vivid, intense musical experience.

Mark Valencia, Musical America

This is another excellent performance under the baton of Garry Walker.

Dawn Smallwood, The Reviews Hub

Sawer's The Skating Rink

Garsington Opera (July 2018)

Garry Walker and the Garsington Opera Orchestra deliver it all with panache.

Mark Valencia, WhatsOnStage

Conductor Garry Walker and the Garsington Opera Orchestra kept everything coherent, purposeful and slick

Charlotte Valori, Bachtrack (5*)

Praise to for the wonderfully vital and responsive Garsington Opera Orchestra under Garry Walker; translucent textures, rhythmic brio – especially in the jaunty dance sections. There is also great intensity when needed.

Alexander Campbell, Classical Source (5*)

[…]conducted deftly by Garry Walker and making the keenest impact in a surprisingly vivid acoustic.

Paul Driver, The Sunday Times

Conducted by Garry Walker, the score is executed with aplomb.

Louise Lewis, British Theatre Guide

Garry Walker’s conducting is first rate.

Andrew Clements, The Guardian

Sawer’s intriguing score, excellently conducted by Garry Walker.

Sam Smith, MusicOMH

The score is vividly and virtuosically played under Garry Walker’s impeccable direction.

Richard Morrison, The Times

As conducted by Garry Walker, Sawer’s score is a beguiling patchwork of colours and effects.

Michael Church, Independent

Under Garry Walker's expert guidance the orchestra drew a wide range of colours and textures from Sawer's score, giving as thrilling and committed performance as the singers on stage and making the piece really count.

Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill

Garry Walker conducts the orchestra with panache.

Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph

Garry Walker conducts the Garsington Opera Orchestra in a taut and cohesive performance.

George Hall, The Stage

As the story builds, so does the soundworld, from the chilly spareness of strings alone to the full force of the Garsington Opera Orchestra [...] and conducted with pace and precision by Garry Walker.

Claudia Pritchard, CultureWhisper (5*)

These photos are available to be downloaded.
Right click on a desired image and select the "Save Link As" option.