The Orchestra

Our Story

For over 30 years, the Australian Pops Orchestra (APO) has presented a unique blend of popular classical and contemporary music to Australian audiences.

The orchestra excels in presenting exciting programs across a broad spectrum of popular music – from Bolero to the Beatles, Gershwin to Tchaikovsky, Strauss waltzes to the classic rhythms of Cole Porter or the haunting melodies of Andrew Lloyd-Webber. From the Sydney Opera House and Arts Centre Melbourne to Rod Laver Arena, the APO has the versatility to produce quality music in any concert venue.

The Australian Pops Orchestra was founded in 1980 by Kel McMillan. An accomplished musician in his own right, Kel inspired innovative interpretations of hundreds of musical masterpieces and brought a fresh approach to the presentation of orchestral music in Australia.  

In 2006, Kel decided to step aside from the APO.  With the orchestra facing an uncertain future, celebrated musician and singer David Ashton-Smith – who would later be awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for his services to music – took over the orchestra, alongside internationally renowned entrepreneur Dr Chris Brendon.

In 2010, David decided to step aside from the APO to concentrate on choral music, and once again the orchestra faced an uncertain future. Dr Brendon had a passion for the wonderful music of the orchestra, but needed a compatriot to bring his vision for the APO to life. This is where Chris’s daughter, Ingrid Ross, joins the story.

Ingrid recalls their conversation: “Do you think you can help me out for a few months?” asked Chris. Seven years and many concerts later, Chris and his daughter Ingrid had become the orchestra’s “dynamic duo”, staging many successful concerts around Australia.

In 2018, Dr Brendon passed away suddenly and, for the first time in many years, there was no Australian Pops Orchestra New Year’s Eve Concert at Hamer Hall.

In 2019, Ingrid caught up with conductor John Foreman over a Lygon Street lunch to discuss the future of the orchestra. With the passing of her father, Ingrid wanted to step aside from the APO but was keen that the legacy of the orchestra be maintained. John agreed to take the reins of the orchestra. 

“The Aussie Pops has been an amazing part of our family for so many years,” says Ingrid. “It is more than just an orchestra entertaining an audience – it is friends (musicians and patrons) catching up each year through the love of music.”

“Dad would be so thrilled John and his team are continuing this beautiful tradition,” she added.

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Our Musicians

Our musicians are some of the very best in the Australian music industry.  The APO management has the strong support, dedication and enthusiasm of our unique 60-piece orchestra.

The Australian Pops Orchestra members are all highly experienced and talented freelance musicians.

Our players are the best in the industry and they know how to deliver legendary performances.  They love the music; they have formed wonderful friendships over many years together with the APO and truly have fun. 

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The Australian Pops Orchestra occupy a special place in the Australian arts landscape… they have grown into thriving and much-loved orchestra that also support and mentor upcoming musicians and artists.

Candida Baker
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SMH

It’s a great asset for this country to have this orchestra. We need more of it.

Marina Prior
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It was one of the few occasions where I actually watched [Dame] Joan [Sutherland] on stage rather than conducting her. I must say it was a wonderful experience.

Richard Bonynge AC CBE
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