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.

Concert Focus: Handel’s Messiah

This Good Friday we’re helping the Huddersfield Choral Society celebrate their 175th anniversary with a modern interpretation of Handel’s masterpiece, Messiah.


We thought we’d look in a little more detail at how this great classical masterpiece was put together.


George Frideric Handel composed this most enduring work in London during the summer of 1741. It is often said that he wrote this piece with great speed, completing it in the space of roughly 3 weeks! Whether this is true or not, the resulting work; and in particular the Hallelujlah Chorus, has become one of the most popular and recognisable in Western classical music, and remains so today – people still often stand up during the Hallelujah Chorus!


Messiah is, essentially, a piece of scriptural music that can be appreciated on many different levels both within and outside of the religious world.  An oratorio in 3 Acts, the libretto for Messiah was carefully selected from the Old and New Testaments by Charles Jennens, a literary scholar and editor of the plays of Shakespeare. Rather than debut the work in London, Handel was invited to give the premiere in Dublin which he did on 13 April, 1742.


Throughout the rest of his life Handel made many revisions to his Messiah and even after his death in 1759, other composers – Mozart in particular – continued to do so, adding instrumentation and revising sections as they saw appropriate. In the quest for authenticity this inevitably raises questions over which version of Messiah should be performed at any given time?


In spite of this one thing is certain – Messiah is an iconic composition by a toweringly popular composer, and it’s hard to imagine its presence ever waning. It also just happens to be the signature piece of the Huddersfield Choral Society too!


Don’t miss out on the last remaining tickets for the concert which can be purchased from the Barbican Box Office.


Handel Messiah

22 April 2011, 6pm

Barbican Hall

City of London Sinfonia

Huddersfield Choral Society

Joseph Cullen
Elizabeth Watts soprano
Dame Felicity Palmer mezzo-soprano
Mark Le Brocq tenor
Christopher Purves bass-baritone


Back in the recording studio

We’ve been busy in the recording studio with the orchestra and our Principal Conductor Michael Collins laying down tracks of some of the fabulous music they performed at our recent Cadogan Hall concert. Weber’s Clarinet Concertino and Concerto No. 1 as well as his Horn Concertino and Clarinet Concerto No. 2 have all been recorded for release later this year on our next CD.

Check out a few photos of the recording process below and keep your eyes peeled for the CD when it is released at the end of the year.



CD release in association with CHANDOS.




Out of Office: Robin

Robin Jéquier, our Development Director, gives us a glimpse into one of the ways he spends his precious free time outside of the office and the city.


Very many (too many!) years ago I began organ lessons on a James Binns two-manual organ in a Worcestershire village church, and it was the start of a life-long passion.  Nowadays, one of my favourite Sunday tasks is playing on another James Binns organ coincidentally (and very helpfully) built to the same specs, although this one’s situated in Wiltshire.


Hard at work in Potterne church


One of the questions I face at each service is what kind of ‘quiet piece’ to play as background music during the act of communion. We have a small, enthusiastic choir that sometimes asks me to accompany a communion anthem (for which I get only a few minute’s notice before the service!), otherwise I’m simply required to select  ‘something suitable’ to play.

A few Sundays ago I chose music to evoke the spirit of the changing season. As spring has arrived with its colourful burst of blossom, buds and flowers, I improvised on George Smart’s well known tune for the hymn, Through all the changing scenes of life.


Spring is sprung: Robin and friend


There is a subtle connection between improvised music and Development activity (my role with CLS), in that structure is key. Being inept at making things up as I go along I prefer to plan ahead – which music phrases to repeat and any key changes, thus shaping my improvisation in a systematic way.  Careful planning is equally important in Development – detailed assessment of needs and identifying the most likely sources of support.

However, don’t read too much into the words from line two of Smart’s hymn: “……In trouble and in joy……”

Robin Jéquier

Development Director


Call & Response: Michael Collins

In honour of his very first appearance in London as Principal Conductor of the City of London Sinfonia, Michael Collins sheds some light on a few of his firsts and some of his lasts for good measure.


What was the first performance you attended? It was Rimsky Korsakov’s Scheherazade with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. It was a Sir Robert Mayer Concert for Children.

How did your very first audition go? It was for the Royal College of Music Junior Department. I was so nervous that my fingers shook all the way through, but they still let me in.

When and where was the first time you performed in London? I played at a Youth Makes Music concert when I was 10 at the Royal Festival Hall to 3000 people playing a Brahms Sonata.

Who was your first mentor/inspiration? On the clarinet it was Thea King from a very early age. I went to see her and asked for her autograph then carried on to study with her. On the piano it was and still is Martha Argerich, and I have been lucky enough to play with her on several occasions.


How was your first time stepping into conductor’s shoes? It seemed a natural progression from the clarinet as I had been doing a lot of directing from the instrument.

What was the last piece of music you listened to? John Adams’ Atomic Symphony.

When did you last feel truly challenged? I suppose whenever I walk on the platform it is a challenge as I am trying all the time to make the experience the very best, not just for me but for the audience as well.

Who was the last person to offer you some sage advice? Actually it was my 12 year old son who told me not to worry so much and take it easy!!

Michael will be conducting and performing at Cadogan Hall on Thursday 7 April, 7.30pm. Box Office: 020 7730 4500.


Have a listen to our Concert Playlist to hear all the pieces that will be performed on the night.

Spotlight on Carolyn Sampson

 We’re really excited to be joined by talented UK soprano Carolyn Sampson for our concert next Thursday at Cadogan Hall. 

Carolyn’s career straddles both the classical and operatic worlds and she has already performed at some of the most prestigious venues in the UK and around the world, including Glyndebourne, the London Coliseum, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and Carnegie Hall, New York. 

She has performed alongside some of the most renowned orchestras and ensembles including the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, The English Concert, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestras.


We’re delighted that she is joining us to perform American composer Samuel Barber’s serene and luscious rhapsody for voice and orchestra, Knoxville: Summer of 1915. First performed in 1948, the piece is a nostalgic remembrance of a childhood past, written against the backdrop of a world torn apart by war and suffering. 

Have a listen to our 7 April Concert Playlist to hear all the pieces that will be performed on the night.

Thursday 7 April, 7.30pm
Cadogan Hall, London
Box office: 020 7730 4500

Concert Focus: Clarinet in Concert

Michael Collins makes his London debut as our new Principal Conductor at Cadogan Hall on 7 April. It’s an exciting opportunity for Michael to further solidify his presence on the conductor’s podium and at the same time remind us all of what makes him such a special musician.  Indisputably one of the leading clarinettists of his generation, Michael will take command of a programme that is full of virtuosic works, journeying from Weber’s Classical Europe to Barber’s evocative 20 Century America.


Carl Maria von Weber composed his Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in 1811 and it has since become a staple in the clarinet repertoire. Commissioned by King Maximilian I of Bavaria and written specifically for Weber’s friend Heinrich Barmann, this concerto is set over 3 movements, adopting a standard fast-slow-fast pattern that allows the soloist to express their remarkable range.



Joining us for the concert is exciting UK soprano, Carolyn Sampson. Equally at home on the concert and opera stages, Carolyn has enjoyed notable successes in the UK as well as throughout Europe and the US. In 2011 she makes her debut with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra as well as giving recitals at Wigmore Hall and Carnegie Hall in New York. 


Carolyn will be performing Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915. This serene and luscious rhapsody for voice and orchestra premiered in 1948 with Eleanor Steber (who commissioned the piece) and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Barber set the music to excerpts from James Agee’s short story Knoxville, which conveys his childhood remembrance of an earlier, simpler era, free of the unrest brought on by the ravages of war.


Both of these pieces, along with the rest of the concert programme, can be found in our Concert Playlist.


Michael Collins: Clarinet in Concert


City of London Sinfonia

Michael Collins conductor/clarinet

Carolyn Sampson soprano 


Weber Clarinet Concertino

Mozart Aria: Ah, lo previdi

Weber Clarinet Concerto No. 1

Barber Knoxville: Summer of 1915

Copland Appalachian Spring

Five things you never knew about Jemima Puddleduck

It’s our first Crash Bang Wallop! family concert of the year tomorrow, which sees Stephen McNeff’s fantastic The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck performed. In honour of this we’ve put together our top five Jemima Puddleduck facts.

1. Jemima also appears in another Beatrix Potter book, The Tale of Tom Kitten. 

2. She’s over 103 years old, as the book was first published in 1908. 

3. The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck is the twelfth in the Beatrix Potter series.


4. It’s set at Beatrix Potter’s farm Hill Top in the Lake District, which you can still visit today.

5. Jemima Puddleduck is the second most popular character in terms of spin-off merchandise, after Peter Rabbit.


Hope to see you at Cadogan Hall tomorrow!

The CLS team 

Crash Bang Wallop!
Saturday 26 March 12.00pm
Cadogan Hall, London 



Concert Focus: Crash, Bang, Wallop!

You can tell one of our big Crash, Bang, Wallop! family concerts is fast approaching when the CLS office turns into a full time craft production zone! Right now our photocopier is running non-stop, producing brightly coloured musical word searches and colouring sheets and we’re busily laminating signs and gathering up percussion instruments for all of our pre-concert activities on Saturday.


Saturday’s concert at Cadogan Hall is based around stories and nursery rhymes, with some pieces written by our very own presenter, James Redwood, and our grand finale will be The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck by Stephen McNeff.  Also on the programme is a brand new piece by a young composer, 17 year old Joaquim (Quim) Badia Arumi. Quim is currently in his final year at the Purcell School for Young Musicians and will next year be continuing his studies at the Royal College of Music. The piece he has written is called Armentier and is written for solo piano and flute with orchestra. 


Quim told us: “Armentier was written in August 2010 in a little village called Armentera, in Costa Brava in Spain. It’s a mixture of up-beat music and calm, lyric writing. I wanted to explore the different textures of both the flute and the piano and how they can convey different characters.”


The multi-talented Quim will be playing the solo piano part and will be joined on stage by fellow Purcell School pupil, flautist Charlotte Ashton.  Both Quim and Charlotte are also part of the pupil-led Impulse Outreach group at the Purcell School and have toured the country giving workshops and concerts to schools and communities.    

If you’d like to join us and hear Quim’s piece, as well as Jemima Puddleduck and much more, the last few tickets for Saturday’s concert are available at the Cadogan Hall box office on 020 7730 4500.

Gillian Hunter

Education Manager

Out of Office: Elaine

This is one of the many new features we’re introducing to our blog over the coming months. First up is Out of Office, where you’ll find out what CLS musicians and staff get up to away from the office and the music.


Elaine Baines, our General Manager, tells us about the pressures and parallels of dog showing at the phenomenon that is Crufts.


I’m honoured to be owned and managed by a smooth fox terrier called Balengro Woodland Venture – otherwise known as Archie. Saturday morning saw us trotting round Ring 7 at Crufts, the greatest and most exciting dog show in the world.


You would be surprised how much orchestra concerts and dog showing have in common! Both require a lot of preparation: you have to be dressed right, know how to behave in the ring, practice one’s moves for hours, keep an eye on the audience (judge), and try and give the performance of your life! And then the dog needs washing, grooming, and persuading to get out of bed at 3am to travel to Birmingham.



Musicians strive for the most perfect interpretation and performance of a work, while dog breeders try for their ideal smooth fox terrier. My ideal smooth terrier would be one that doesn’t try and savage the wheels off every wheelie bin it sees and bite the ankles of men in hi-viz jackets!  In the meantime I’ll have to make do with Archie!


Thankfully the fox terrier judge was wearing a dark suit and sober tie so his ankles survived and we got a 4th place in post graduate dog!


Elaine Baines

General Manager