What a year! There have been so many brilliant moments at City of London Sinfonia in 2019. Take a look at our animation and read some of our team’s highlights below (and feel free to tweet us yours!).

2019 highlights

Some team highlights

Alison: My highlight has to be the Soumik Datta King of Ghosts tour earlier in the year. It was great to get out of London and visit some fab cities and their venues. Everyone had such a great time working together and there was always something new to enjoy in the music in every performance.

Fi: In the spring, I visited our friends at Headway East London for the launch of a sound installation that they had created with Gawain Hewitt and a group of CLS musicians. They’d not only created and recorded some music but had also designed these amazing oversized rubber ducks with punky, personalised designs. The speakers sat on the ducks’ backs and the installation was launched on the canal out the back of Headway’s building, which I watched from the terrace – it wasn’t long before the group started singing and playing instruments in celebration. Such a wonderful atmosphere.

Ellie: The Absolute Bird concerts (May) stick out for me. I loved working with Jessica Cottis and Genevieve Lacey was amazing on recorder. As a relative newcomer to CLS concerts, the Southwark Cathedral concert (Flocks of Europe) was a real insight into the ‘relaxed’ style of concert our orchestra are so good at, and the final concert in the series (Translating Nature) with Sian Edwards and Alice Zawadzki was brilliant. Playing the birdsong on phones was a great idea and Alex Wood’s Lark Ascending was outstanding.

Fiona: Highlight no.1 for me was getting an email from Joely (principal cello) when she was on tour with another orchestra in southeast Asia to say that she and Becky (cello) had decided to go into a hospital over there and use all the things they’d learned on our Room to Room Music project with the patients there. No language needed. It was so amazing to hear that skills they’re developing on our projects are travelling with them around the world. No.2: Showing the Dawn Chorus sound sculpture (made by Gawain Hewitt) in a Uniqlo Late at the Tate Modern was really rewarding. We saw people’s faces light up when they discovered that the music inside it was made by young people from Bethlem & Maudsley Hospital School. And thirdly, all the different people we’ve met from Lewisham as part of Comfortable Classical and Age Against the Machine. From 0-100!

Emily: The first CLS event I attended after joining the team this autumn was a fundraiser for our care homes project, Room to Room Music, and it was a great introduction to both how incredible our players are and how important the participation work is. It’s so wonderful to see the musicians so invested in the participation work and the benefit it has on the community.

Tasha: My highlight (or many highlights rolled into one) has to be our The Fruit of Silence Cathedrals Tour in October. As a marketer, I’m not usually “allowed” out on the big national tours but being the box office manager for this tour meant that I was able to hit the road with the orchestra and hear and experience all nine performances. At the end of each concert, so many audience members came up to me expressing the sheer happiness that these nontraditional, relaxed, thoughtful concerts had brought them. Exeter Cathedral: there’s something really special about that place, and the quality, meditative performances by our brilliant string players doubled that specialness. Hearing Arvo Pärt’s Fratres performed so beautifully in the choir was very emotive, and it gave me time and space to reflect. There were definitely some happy tears.

Our 2019 in brief

Earlier in the year, we partnered with some incredible artists and organisations to bring about some live orchestral screenings. The UK premiere of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt – Live in Concert took place at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, working with composer Stuart Hancock again for the first time since the score’s recording, and March-May saw some of the Orchestra embark on a six-date UK tour of live orchestral screenings of an Indian film with our friend Soumik Datta. We also launched a new publication with the Baring Foundation and Orchestras Live called From Bingo to Bartok, focusing on creative approaches to live music for older people.

In the spring and summer, birdsong and nature took over, everywhere – in our London concert series (Absolute Bird) and our wellbeing and education projects, including creative sessions with animateur/guitarist Jack Ross and patients at University College Hospital School, Jessie Maryon Davies at eight schools in Harrow and Tower Hamlets (Creative Primaries), and Gawain Hewitt with members of Headway East London and young people at Bethlem and Maudlsey Hospital School. Our musicians also explored nature in our Comfortable Classical relaxed concerts, which have run throughout the year in partnership with the Albany, Deptford. And what’s more is that a lot of the music created in those projects live on through sound installations and recordings, thanks to our brilliant artists and animateurs!

After another wondrous summer of masses at St Paul’s Cathedral, operas at Opera Holland Park and a night of techno with Derrick May, our The Fruit of Silence and storytelling/spoken word programmes became our inspiration for our Autumn Season. We travelled around the UK on tour with meditative, present-day music and performed with award-winning authors and actors in our London series. CLS musicians returned to St Christopher’s Hospice, Sydenham, creating some new pieces alongside outpatients and animateur Sam Glazer. John Webb led children in Tower Hamlets and Harrow primary schools on an exploration of Sinbad the Sailor’s stories and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, and CLS musicians spent five days at Otto Schiff Care home in North London with our Room to Room Music project – a member of staff there told us: “I really loved the cheekiness and playfulness [of the musicians’ interactions with the residents], which link with non-verbal, universal methods of communication. We’re meeting the residents’ needs.”

We finished the year on a high note, with the first work-in-progress concert of a new, intergenerational show, The Maple Tree, performed by Leader Alexandra Wood and principals Joely Koos, Katherine Spencer and Dan Bates at Canada Water Theatre.

And now, onwards to 2020…