All posts by City of London Sinfonia

We create dynamic and engaging musical experiences for people of all ages and backgrounds, performing throughout London and the UK in concert halls, schools and hospitals, alternative venue spaces and diverse community settings.

What can you experience in Absolute Bird?

Absolute Bird is a London concert series like no other. Sure, we want our audiences to experience incredible live performances of exciting, inspiring and thought-provoking music by our musicians and guest artists, but we also want them to be part of the performances; to help us create sweeping soundscapes of birdsong and nature.

We’re creating a soundscape together—a way of experiencing the music that you wouldn’t normally get.

What’s unique about our concert series?

We’re making the concerts in Absolute Bird unique in a number of ways: there are three very different formats, we’re playing with the space in each of the halls; there’ll be musicians dotted around the place, there’ll be live broadcasts in, and we’re playing very different music right from early medieval music right up to the present day.

At Southwark Cathedral, we’re offering ‘Free as a bird’ tickets that encourage our audience to join in and have fun; to experience live classical music in a nontraditional way. It’s something a bit different; a bit unusual.

Just as we do in the work we might do in a school or a hospital or a care home, where we’re inviting people in those environments to create music with us, we’re inviting the audience to create the experience with us.

How can audiences be part of the performances?

When you turn up on Friday 3 May at the Queen Elizabeth Hall for Sounds of the Outback, one of the first things we’re going to ask you to do is help us create an Australian soundscape. Then, when you turn up to Southwark Cathedral a couple of weeks later for Flocks of Europe, we’re going to ask everyone – audience, musicians, artists, but perhaps not the Cathedral cat – to be flocks of birds.

But “how?”, we hear you wonder. We’ll do all this using recordings of birdsong and calls related to the music we perform in each concert. For Sounds of the Outback, it’s Australian birds from all over the country such as pied butcherbirds, common blackbirds, laughing kookaburras and eastern whipbirds. For Flocks of Europe, it’s flocking birds from the British Isles, including cuckoos, nightingales and hens.

Translating Nature (Friday 24 May) is completely different, and full of variety through its three events. There is a chance to learn, a chance to sit back and relax to a mixed-tape programme, and there’s a chance to do some late-night fun with nightingales. It’s a three-part mini-festival of nature and music.

When are the concerts and where can you book tickets?

You can book your tickets for our Absolute Bird concerts on our website at cls.co.uk or by phone at 020 7621 2800 (Monday-Friday, 10am-6pm). Tickets for Queen Elizabeth Hall performances are also available at the Southbank Centre Ticket Office via their website at southbankcentre.co.uk or on 020 3879 9555.

  • Sounds of the Outback: Friday 3 May 2019, 7.30pm, Queen Elizabeth Hall
  • Flocks of Europe: Wednesday 15 May 2019, 7.30pm, Southwark Cathedral
  • Translating Nature: Friday 24 May 2019, 8pm, Queen Elizabeth Hall
    • Pre-concert Talk with Miranda Krestovnikoff: 7.00-7.40pm
    • (Late night!) Singing with Nightingales Live with Sam Lee: 10.00-11.15pm

CLS presents Absolute Bird

For more information on our May series, you can listen to our podcast on SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other podcast providers. You can also keep up to date at #AbsoluteBird on Twitter or by joining our Facebook events.


Absolute Bird is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, and by David and Molly Lowell Borthwick, The John S Cohen Foundation, Derek Hill Foundation, John Ellerman Foundation and Kirby Laing Foundation.

Advertisements

City of London Sinfonia joins the RSPB’s campaign to celebrate birdsong through music in concert venues, hospitals, schools and day centres

In partnership with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and RSPB President Miranda Krestovnikoff, City of London Sinfonia (CLS) joins the call to celebrate birdsong in music. In their Absolute Bird spring concert series and wider social programme, CLS explores the wondrous sounds of nature at a time of growing environmental threats.

Featuring diverse artists including vocalist and violinist Alice Zawadzki, recorder player Genevieve Lacey, folksinger Sam Lee, and conductors Jessica Cottis and Sian Edwards, the Absolute Bird series culminates in three concerts at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Southwark Cathedral in May 2019 celebrating 800 years of awe-inspiring music.

The Orchestra’s London series supports the release of the RSPB’s Let Nature Sing recording, a specially created track of pure birdsong highlighting the loss of 40 million wild birds and their calls from our skies. The charity is calling on the public to download, stream and share the single to indicate that they are passionate about nature’s recovery, with the aspiration of entering the Charts. The track, to be released on 26 April, was directed by Sam Lee who performs with CLS on 24 May, and co-composed by Bill Barclay, who is currently touring King of Ghosts with CLS and Soumik Datta following their 2017 recording on Globe Music. Continue reading City of London Sinfonia joins the RSPB’s campaign to celebrate birdsong through music in concert venues, hospitals, schools and day centres

Comfortable Classical in pictures

On 12 February 2019, we brought Comfortable Classical to the Albany, Deptford, the first in a series of relaxed lunchtime concerts with our wind and string ensembles. These performances welcome anyone and everyone, and aim to bring you joy and relaxation through classical music and interaction with our musicians. Photographer Suzi Corker captured some beautiful moments in our first concert, presented below.

Our wind section – made up of a flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and French horn – took it in turns to introduce their instruments. Here’s Dan Bates (Principal Oboe) familiarising our audience with the sound of an oboe reed—you’d be surprised how many tunes you could make with just that!

Dan Bates

Some chose to draw what the music sounded like to them and to colour in while they listened. All the music played was based on nature and birdsong.

Colouring

Everyone joined in in some sing-song, and we learnt some great moves from Waffy (Principal Clarinet) to do while singing rounds of a sea shanty.

Audience front row singing

Our audience was free to join our musicians in conversation throughout the performance and to move about when they needed to.

The Albany audience and musicians

Enjoy more of Suzi’s wonderful photos below!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our next Comfortable Classical relaxed concerts take place at Canada Water Theatre on Monday 11 and Wednesday 20 March 2019, 1.30-2.30pm. Learn more >>


From Bingo to BartokOn 25 January 2019, we published From Bingo to Bartok, a free online publication with Orchestras Live and commissioned by the Baring Foundation. The publication details how orchestras are approaching relaxed performances and intergenerational concerts, along with case studies of projects that aim to improve older people’s live with classical music. Read more >>


Be sure to keep up to date with all our activities on Twitter @cityldnsinfonia, and on Facebook and Instagram (@cityoflondonsinfonia). You can also visit our website for information on our wellbeing and education projects, and our upcoming performances.

The influence of Absolute Bird

Our three Absolute Bird programmes in the spring are influencing the majority of the work we’re doing in 2019, challenging and marvelling audiences and project participants alike. As our chairman, John Singer explains in our participation brochure, our artistic programmes – such as Absolute Bird and, previously, Bach and the Cosmos – are not limited to our concert series. We also explore the relative themes, music techniques and pieces from these programmes to enthuse participants’ enjoyment in our daily activities in hospitals, hospices, specialist care centres, care homes and schools.

In Absolute Bird, we’re performing a vast range of birdsong- and nature-inspired repertoire, from medieval rounds and canons such as Summer is icumen in to modern-day naturalistic sounds of the Outback by Hollis Taylor – some of the music being used to inspire multiple age groups in our wellbeing and education projects.

Here is just a taster of how we are using nature, namely birdsong, to inspire creative music-making beyond our concert series this year.

How birdsong is inspiring our projects

In our music-making workshops at St Christopher’s Hospice, patients are drawing inspiration from bird-related classical repertoire such as Couperin’s Le Rossignol en amour (featured in Absolute Bird: Flocks of Europe) and Les coucous benevoles, and excerpts of Stravinsky and Vivaldi to from their own creations of music and word with CLS musicians and workshop leader Sam Glazer.

St Christopher's Hospice visit January 2019
CLS musicians at St Christopher’s Hospice, Jan 2019

The young people at Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital School get to create something a bit special with Sound Artist Gawain Hewitt and CLS musicians this term: they’ll leave a legacy of birdsong-inspired sounds in the form of an interactive sonic tree sculpture. “How?” we hear you gasp. Well, the plan is to create a tree as large as six feet tall to house 24 interactive birds that, when touched, play back music composed during the sessions. “Naturific!” And audience members at our Queen Elizabeth Hall and Southwark Cathedral concerts in May will get to see this in action.

The “nature-niche” continues with members of Headway East London, a centre for survivors of brain injuries, who will create and perform music composed in response to Absolute Bird repertoire during their five-week project in March. Imagine a sonic flotilla of these recorded creations, shaped as river birds, floating down the canal – this is what Gawain is aiming to construct for a Headway EATS event.

Recently, our participation dream-team met with vocal leader and workshop facilitator Jessie Maryon Davies to get the creative juices flowing for our summer term Creative Primaries projects in Tower Hamlets and Harrow. There are lots of possibilities for bird-related stories and repertoire for pupils and our musicians to collaborate on in Key Stage One classrooms, so watch this space for their new music.

Creative Primaries Dec 2018 Suzi Corker
Primary schools engaged in Bach and the Cosmos in Dec 2018 (image: Suzi Corker)

We’re in the thick of creative music sessions at University College London Hospital (UCLH). In the first session this term, guitarist Jack Ross led the session with clarinettist Mel Henry and CLS Violin Clare Hayes, trying out some trios with bass clarinet, violin and guitar. They based the session on the story of a little chick, about which, with the help of our musicians, the young people created an original piece in response. Staff were loving it and people were passing by the classroom often – hopefully it brightened up their Monday morning!

Where else are we using birdsong?

The subjects of nature and birdsong are also at the centre of our Comfortable Classical concerts in February and March at the Albany, Deptford, and Canada Water Theatre. Our wind and string ensembles are going to be playing and introducing the music in three relaxed lunchtime performances for anyone and everyone, from young children to older adults. Audience members are also encouraged to take up other relaxing activities (such as drawing, colouring or knitting!) while listening to the music.


Be sure to keep up to date with all our activities on Twitter @cityldnsinfonia, and on Facebook and Instagram (@cityoflondonsinfonia). You can also visit our website for information on our wellbeing and education projects, and our upcoming performances.

“From Bingo to Bartok”: Creative and Innovative Approaches to Involving Older People with Orchestras

On 25 January 2019, we published “From Bingo to Bartok”: Creative and Innovative Approaches to Involving Older People with Orchestras, a free online publication with Orchestras Live and commissioned by the Baring Foundation.

Co-edited by our very own CEO Matthew Swann and Orchestras Live CEO Sarah Derbyshire, From Bingo to Bartok illustrates some of the best examples of orchestral work engaging older people from many classical music organisations around the UK.

The publication’s case studies cover projects in communities where classical music is supporting older people living better lives and meeting the challenges of health and loneliness – about which Matthew says:

“These projects show how orchestras can bring huge societal benefit in an area of growing need. They also show how these same projects can deliver enormous artistic and organisation benefits to orchestras through developing the skills of our musicians, creating performance opportunities and opening income streams.”

Download From Bingo to Bartok

You can view our own case studies in chapters five and seven, detailing our approach to sharing music experiences with older people in care homes and to intergenerational concerts through Relaxed performances.

Find out more about our Wellbeing work

The CLS team’s 2018 highlights

There have been so many great moments at City of London Sinfonia in 2018. Our team have been reflecting on some of their participation and performance highlights – enjoy the read!

Headway East London
Headway East London

Headway East London

Fiona: Working with members of Headway and CLS musicians, led by Gawain Hewitt, to create music using a range of instruments including music technology to make it an accessible experience for everyone, and resulting in interactive ‘music boxes’ containing music samples from the project that remained at Headway. Headway had seen Gawain speak at a conference about inclusive and accessible music-making so were thrilled when we brought him in to lead the project – and it also linked well with our Modern Mystics concert series. There were some wonderful moments in this project including Waffy, our principal clarinettist, playing her clarinet into the canal and it being recorded on a hydrophone and a performance at Headway EATS (Headway’s monthly supper club) that included a member talking about the science of sound over the top of an improvisation.

Catherine: The project is great! I loved creating music with the members and helping out with the planet installations. There’s such a creative atmosphere there, it was great to see their art room and chat to Headway members.

Bethlem and Maudsley residency in Camberwell and Beckenham

Fiona: Creating music with young people from eight to 18 who are being treated for a broad range of psychiatric illnesses. It’s a highlight as a result of the growing relationship that we’ve established with the school; the number of CLS musicians who have been involved in the creative teams and making music alongside the young people; and the body of work that has been produced in the moment – some of which had been shared in our podcasts and performed at the QEH as part of The Hexagon installation, designed and created by Gawain Hewitt.

October 16, 2018_Reception-QEH_054bw
30 years of participation work celebration at the QEH

St Christopher’s Hospice workshop in Sydenham

Zak: Music is a way of living, and the people in this workshop were testament to that. The term ‘hospice’ comes with connotations of sadness, sickness and loss – but were you to walk into this brightly lit cottage at St Christopher’s, you’d be faced instead with instant new friends who represent a pure, focused way of living. And laughing. Channelling all that into music and hearing their composition lifted me up spiritually, a feeling the whole group must’ve shared.

Creative Primaries in Harrow

Fi: During the sharing of our Creative Primaries project in Harrow, I loved listening to our ensemble play Trisch-Trasch Polka whilst the Year-2 pupils and their parents/carers listened, and some of the children showed their enjoyment by miming playing the violin and dancing.

Zak: In the workshop, John made me feel like a kid again. I felt the sheer joy of learning about music in an immersive and playful way. The way the kids jumped at the chance to compose music, the way they laughed and cheered in unison, that’s how I felt on the inside.

Lullaby Concerts with Orchestras Live

Fi: A memorable moment in the Lullaby Concerts tour in October was when one toddler was so involved, he decided to invade the stage – man, that kid was a fast runner!

City of London Sinfonia.
Bach and the Cosmos: Bach Remixed. Queen Elizabeth Hall. Tuesday 16 October 2018.

Bach and the Cosmos series

Matthew: My highlight of the year was Bach’s Goldberg Variations at the Oxford University Mathematical Institute, with Professor James Sparks, that started our Bach and the Cosmos series. It was one of those moments where years of planning came together and worked perfectly – James was insightful and inspiring in explaining how and why Bach is such a mathematical composer and being so close to our musicians’ incredible playing of the Bach was thrilling. Just as wonderful was the next performance we did of that piece to an audience of older adults and very young children – with some of the latter deciding to wander through the orchestra to listen!

Zak: I’d never heard the B Minor Mass before. But it starts with an epic beginning, as if the heavens were opening, and even more appropriate then that it was in Southwark Cathedral. The beauty of this piece was not only the music, but the way you could actually see the audience thinking about the piece. They could walk around the cathedral whenever they pleased, as if they were admiring a sculpture and wanting to catch the sound from every possible angle, the way that Bach might’ve wanted it.

Catherine: Bach and the Cosmos was my first time seeing a concert at Southwark Cathedral. It’s an amazing venue and I loved seeing everyone move around during the performance and take it all in.

Tasha: Our Goldberg Variations University Tour was amazing. We got to road-trip to Oxford, Cambridge and Bristol, to venues and lecture theatres that the Orchestra had never performed in before. I loved the last concert in Bristol – rather than being on box office, I got to sit at the back of the auditorium and take it all in. Joely, one of our incredible cellists, started the concert with a beautiful solo version of the Bourrée from one of Bach’s Cello Suites before the rest of the strings joined in with Roderick Williams’ arrangement of it. It was such a powerful and moving concert – I definitely had tears at the end, and in between! As a marketer, seeing a brilliantly programmed concert series that you have been working on for the last few months come to fruition, and with great audiences, is incredibly rewarding.

City of London Sinfonia.
WW1 Centenary: Fauré Requiem. Southwark Cathedral. Saturday 10 November 2018.

WWI Centenary concert at Southwark Cathedral

Elaine: At the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, I sang in the performance of the Fauré Requiem at Southwark Cathedral to commemorate the end of World War one. It was intensely moving experience – especially listening to Bill Barclay’s emotive script.

La traviata at Opera Holland Park

Tasha: La traviata at Opera Holland Park was, without a doubt, the best opera production I’ve ever seen live. Lauren Fagan was just incredible as Violetta. There was one point during the first half – during the Sempre libera, I think – where she walked slowly forward towards the audience singing, just completely captivating us and owning the stage. OHP operas really show our Orchestra at their best too.

Concerts at St Paul’s Cathedral

Elaine: The May Organ Gala at St Paul’s included the mighty Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony. When the organ enters in the last movement the sheer noise and exuberance of the organ is thrilling and never fails to make me grin.

Alison: I’d have to say the St Paul’s Christmas concert was a highlight because it was one of my first concerts both in St Paul’s and with the full orchestra, plus it was really lovely getting to join in and have a sing-along. Nothing puts you in the festive spirit like belting out some descants!

Fi: Sitting behind the percussion during Sleigh Bells in the Christmas Celebration was so much fun!

CLS team in December 2018

Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital School Residency

In 2016, the Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital School invited our musicians to bring their creative, responsive approach to its young people, leading to our current three-year residency. The School, based at two sites in Camberwell and Beckenham, Kent, is attended by young people aged 8-18 from across London and the South East, all of whom are living with severe mental health and psychiatric conditions.

Mental health is a crucial issue for today’s young people with more than one in ten having a diagnosable condition, and more than half of adult mental health problems beginning in childhood. Presenting a broad range of conditions including anorexia and psychosis, the young people at Bethlem and Maudsley need transformational opportunities during a difficult time in their lives. Continue reading Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital School Residency

WWI Centenary concert in pictures

On Saturday 10 November 2018, we held a performance of words and music at Southwark Cathedral​ in commemoration of 100 years since the end of World War I. City of London Sinfonia also gave this performance in memory of their founder Richard Hickox CBE, who died 10 years ago in November.

Bill Barclay, narrator
Bill Barclay in WW1 Centenary: Fauré Requiem. (c) James Berry Photography

All the words narrated by Bill Barclay and Emma Pallant were collaged specifically for our concert, by Bill, from hundreds of memoirs and letters written by survivors of the Great War, including soldiers, officers, doctors, factory workers and family members. These documents can be found in the Imperial War Museum.

Baritone Stephen Whitford delivered expressive solo lines in the Offertoire and Libera me, and Southwark Cathedral Girls’ Choir sang the Pie Jesu prayer, originally written for solo soprano. Combined with Fauré’s orchestration and chamber textures, realised in this instance by conductor Paul Brough, these passages produce the special atmosphere of the Fauré Requiem, which enables the music to serve as a prayer for the dead to receive eternal rest.

Also featured in this commemorative performance were All Saints Kingston and St John the Divine Kennington choirs.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All images © James Berry Photography for City of London Sinfonia, 2018.

WWI Centenary: Fauré Requiem

On Saturday 10 November (7pm), we’re holding a WWI Centenary performance of Fauré’s Requiem at Southwark Cathedral, in which the beautiful and consoling music will be interspersed with original readings, written by the Globe’s Director of Music, Bill Barclay. These texts, written to commemorate the end of the Great War 100 years ago, have been drawn from testaments of both people fighting and awaiting the return of loved ones at home.

Joining City of London Sinfonia in this special performance of words and music are narrators Bill Barclay (pictured middle) and Emma Pallant (pictured left), baritone Stephen Whitford (pictured right), conductor Paul Brough, and the choirs of Southwark Cathedral (Girls), All Saints Kingston and St John the Divine Kennington.

Tickets are available via the CLS Box Office online at cls.co.uk and by phone (020 7621 2800; Mon-Fri, 10-6). Tickets are also available on the door on the night of the concert from 6.15pm – subject to availability.

WWI Centenary Faure Requiem

Bach Remixed in pictures

On 16 October 2018, we presented our second performance in Southbank Centre’s newly refurbished Queen Elizabeth Hall. This time, in Bach Remixed, we turned our attention to JS Bach and his love of maths and numbers – the language of the cosmos. Take a look at our performance in pictures, captured beautifully by James Berry Photography.

From Komm, süßer Tod, Epiphoni Consort broke into Knut Nystedt’s contemporary reworking of the piece, Immortal Bach, in surround sound.

Epiphoni Consort
James Berry Photography. Epiphoni Consort in Bach and the Cosmos: Bach Remixed, 2018

Following four performances exploring notions of beauty and creativity in Bach’s Goldberg Variations, Professor James Sparks from the University of Oxford shared his knowledge on geometry, topology and symmetry in relation to Bach’s Musical Offering and Brandenburg Concerto No.3. We also learnt that cup = doughnut.

James Sparks Bach Remixed
James Berry Photography. James Sparks in in Bach and the Cosmos: Bach Remixed, 2018

Baritone Roderick Williams opened the second half by directing Singet dem Herrn, one of Bach’s most famous motets, from within the choir.

Roderick Williams and Epiphoni Consort
James Berry Photography. Roderick Williams and Epiphoni Consortin Bach and the Cosmos: Bach Remixed, 2018

Our audience enjoyed some unexpected and welcomed comedy from our Principal Oboe, Dan Bates, who starred in Roderick Williams’ modern interpretation of Ich habe genug for solo oboe. The end of the piece dovetailed effortlessly into the full cantata – a piece that Roderick champions and which we all delighted in watching.

City of London Sinfonia.
James Berry Photography. Ich habe genug with Roderick Williams and City of London Sinfonia in Bach and the Cosmos: Bach Remixed, 2018

All images in this blog post are © James Berry Photography for City of London Sinfonia, 2018. You can view more photos of this concert below and learn more about how our Bach and the Cosmos series unfolding on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.