Norrington started his career singing tenor. In 1962 he formed the Schütz Choir (later the Schütz Choir of London). From 1969 to 1984, he was conductor (music director) of Kent Opera. In 1978 he formed the London Classical Players and he conducted them until 1997. From 1985 to 1989 he was Principal Conductor of the Bournemouth Sinfonietta. From 1990 to 1994, he was music director of the Orchestra of St. Luke's. In 1998, he became principal conductor of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra. He became Artistic Advisor of the Handel and Haydn Society in 2006.
He conducted the Last Night of The Proms for the first time on 13 September 2008.