Category Archives: CLS Behind the Scenes

Things we’ve been listening to this week…

Our sad songs post on Tuesday got us thinking about what music we’d been playing recently. It’s been a week of headphones in the office, as everyone’s busy preparing for our new RE:Imagine season. But what’ve we all been listening to? After a very quick and entirely unscientific survey, here is this week’s somewhat eclectic CLS playlist…

PL: I’ve been listening Stan Getz – The Bossa Nova Albums (trying to prolong a holiday feeling…!)

 

AL: I’ve had Tomasz Stańko Quartet’s ‘Song for Sarah’ on repeat this week. It’s beautifully melancholy, and takes me back to fantasies of sequined gowns and smoky jazz clubs.

 

ZH: Chicago-based rapper Mick Jenkins has a new album Wave[s] and it’s very good.

PM: This week I’ve been mostly listening to ‘I Get Along Without You Very Well’ by Chet Baker. It’s a jazz standard that I’d never heard before until the recent John Wilson Orchestra prom, where Seth MacFarlane sung in the style of Frank Sinatra at a packed out late night concert.

 

MS: This has been a week of ‘concentrating on papers and presentations’ music on headphones, so Palestrina, Bach, Electronica, and some good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll. And of course the BBC Proms…

 

GHG: I haven’t been listening to much music lately, but with a fussy baby comes a lot of walking, so I’ve been doing lots of listening to podcasts to keep me entertained. These are a few of my favourites:

This American Life: A great podcast with a different theme each week and a variety of stories on that theme.

Scummy Mummies: A comedy podcast on parenthood, co-hosted by a good friend of mine

The Moth Podcast: Storytelling podcast with fantastic real life stories

Serial/Undisclosed: I loved the popular Serial podcast about the case of Adnan Syed so much that I’ve been listening to a follow-on podcast called Undisclosed which is following the story as it continues to unfold

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Month in Pictures – July and August

It’s been a busy few months at City of London Sinfonia. In July we announced our new RE:Imagine season, and preparations are in full swing for our first CLoSer event on 22 September. We had another wonderful summer with Opera Holland Park as their Orchestra-in-residence, and were very sorry to finish the season in August. Our community and education work has continued to keep us busy too, as we performed with Orchestras Live in Luton, and at Great Ormond Street Hospital. With all of that going on, it’s amazing we still found time for a trip to Brighton!

This year was our twelfth with Opera Holland Park, where we played Puccini’s Il Trittico, Verdi’s Aida, Delibes’ Lakmé, Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre Re, and a new production of Jonathan Dove’s Flight. You can see more of Opera Holland Park behind the scenes here, or read about horn player, Mark Paine’s experiences. We were lucky to have the wonderful Robert Workman on hand for these wonderful photos.

Our partnership with Orchestras Live took us to Luton in July for the final concert in the Aiming Higher project, which gave young musicians the opportunity to play together and improve their skills. Composer John K Miles, who was commissioned to write the music for the project, told us all about his experiences working with young musicians in Luton. Here are some fab shots of all the groups in action.

We found some pretty cryptic messages during our time at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Remember – keep frogs alive!

It wasn’t all work, work, work this July and August; there’s also been plenty of fun in the office. Our favourite little mascot gave us the seal of approval on our new season, and we even managed to escape to Brighton for a day by the sea. Well, it is summer!

A dive into the CLS Education archive…

Founded in 1988, we are proud that our education and outreach programme, Meet the Music  was one of the first to be established by a UK orchestra. This week we took a dive into our photo archive, and found some amazing pictures of some projects we were involved in back in the late 80s and early 90s. We hope you enjoy the pictures as much as we did!

Continue reading A dive into the CLS Education archive…

CLS Earworms

Here in the CLS office, there is always at least one person humming or singing a musical phrase on an endless loop, whether it’s the office phone ring tone (we’ve recently changed it one called ‘jazzy night’ and it’s lethal…) or a piece we performed in a recent project / concert.

In this blog post we’ve collected some of these brain-melting melodies that go round and round our minds on a daily basis… You may need this ‘cure for earworms’ after you’ve finished reading!

Continue reading CLS Earworms

Retrospective: Aiming Higher, First Time Live, July 2015

Last week City of London Sinfonia travelled to Luton to perform in the final culminatory concert as part of Aiming Higher, an exciting project that aimed to give young musicians in Luton the chance to progress their musical skills and ambition. Building on the success of First Time Live 2 in July 2014, the project provided the opportunity for an even wider range of young music groups to work collaboratively with the musicians at CLS and composer John K Miles as they performed Carnival Variations, a brand new piece composed especially for the project. In this blog post, John gives an overview of his favourite moments throughout the project, his thoughts on why the project was so important and what he, as a composer and animateur, gained personally from the experience.

 

Hi John! So, tell us a bit more about the project – we hear it was gargantuan…

Aiming Higher was superbly ambitious.  It was conceived as a follow up project to Carnival Suite – a piece commissioned by Orchestras Live for City of London Sinfonia and beginner instrumentalists in July last year – now published by Charanga/Music Sales. The project centred on a sequel commission, Carnival Variations, which was a set of five variations based on the original suite, for City of London Sinfonia, Luton Youth Jazz Orchestra, Luton Youth Concert Band, Cantores (Luton female youth choir), and Lady Zia Wernher (special school).  The final programme also included two movements from the original Carnival Suite with students from Foxdell Junior School in Luton.

 

We understand you were in charge of the commission… how did you go about composing it?

All the material took its starting point from the Brazilian rhythm Afoxe as taught to me by my good friend Adriano Adewale, a master Brazilian drummer living in London.

The variation for City of London Sinfonia was a straightforward commission produced in the traditional way – composer tearing hair out, drinking tea, questioning, singing, problem solving and eventually notating…

The four subsequent variations for the Youth Ensembles were written and built through a creative workshop process with the young musicians in Luton; I made several visits to each group with CLS’s wonderful Projects Coordinator, Pia Luck and up to four musicians from the orchestra, all over the space of three months.

“The variation for City of London Sinfonia [involved me] tearing my hair out, drinking tea, questioning, singing, problem solving and eventually notating…”

And what did the different creative sessions involve?

The first sessions with the different groups were mainly creative; introducing the material to the young musicians and then composing collaboratively.  I then took all the ideas the kids suggested on board went away and wrote most of the music, again in the traditional way (tea… hair…)

The second sessions consisted mainly of tweaking; playing the music I’d composed back to them and taking on any feedback.  I then took away the music and added, expanded, modified and wrote the orchestral parts for CLS.  I also, where possible, connected the groups. The choir, for example, was written into the piece for Luton Youth Jazz Orchestra.

The third session was essentially a rehearsal for everyone to play the piece.  We then had one final rehearsal ahead of the concert day with all the groups together in the same room.

And why, in your opinion, do you think the project was so successful?

The fantastic thing about this way of working, is that it allowed me to get to know the groups in an organic way – what they did well, what might challenge them, and what they might enjoy.  It facilitated a set of bespoke variations that had a connection to all the performers (including young musicians and members of CLS) and that also the groups (hopefully) felt some ownership of.

“The fantastic thing about this way of working, is that it allowed me to get to know the groups in an organic way – what they did well, what might challenge them, and what they might enjoy.”

It also allowed the participants to work alongside top professional orchestral musicians, not only in the final concert but throughout the process.  This fostered a meaningful connection between the orchestra and participants and created a rare learning context for all concerned.  The rich mix of participants, genres, ages and experience was very special (and at this point I’d like to mention the fantastic tutors at Luton Music Hub, Kerry Watson, Julia Fraser, Nick Ridout, Simon Router and Adam Cowburn who have brought these ensembles up to such a high standard!).  One of the key components of this project has been the connection to meaningful pathways to young musicians during/post project and it is inspirational to see such dedication, expertise and continuity in a music service!

 

What do you feel that you have gained on a personal level from this project?

On a personal level this was a unique opportunity to write bespoke pieces for ensembles across a variety of genres, bound together by the aesthetic of a world class classical chamber orchestra.  The resulting music drew on Classical, Jazz and World Music –  shaped by a world where information and access to global music are at the touch of a button.  Ironically the musical landscape can (at times) feel stylistically and demographically fragmented and this project was a golden opportunity to bring different genres, styles and a huge range of musicians together.

Apart from ‘traditional’ ensembles, we also worked with the students at Lady Zia Werner special school, and I learnt a lot from this experience.  Their variation ended up being programmed as the final ’showstopper’ and a great way to bring all the ensembles together.  It highlighted not only the educational value these projects have but also the deeper way music can connect and inspire people across generations, experiences and communities.

“[Our work with Lady Zia Werner special school] highlighted not only the educational value these projects have but the deeper way music can connect and inspire people across generations, experiences and communities.”

 

A huge thank you to Orchestras Live, Royal Opera House Bridge, The Mix, and The UK Centre for Carnival Arts for supporting this ambitious far-reaching project.

 

Opera Holland Park so far…

We’re nearly to the end of this year’s season at Opera Holland Park and hasn’t it been a good one! In this post we’ve collected some of our favourite photos from our stint in the pit at our favourite open-air opera festival (nope, we’re not biased at all…), press quotes and tweets. And don’t worry – there is still time to catch a show before the season is over… just check out their website at operahollandpark.com for more information on their current productions.

Pics

The productions this year have been fantastic – it’s been great to be involved. Below our some of our favourite pictures of the various shows that have been on, including Jonathan Dove’s Flight, Verdi’s Aida and Puccini’s Il Trittico.

Continue reading Opera Holland Park so far…

Month in Pictures: May and June

The last two months at City of London Sinfonia have certainly been busy ones, with some sad ‘lasts’ and exciting ‘firsts’ of many projects and programmes. Back in May our residency at Opera Holland Park began with some fantastic productions of Puccini’s Il Trittico and Jonathan Dove’s Flight, while our Émigré concert series ended on a high with Georgian London at Shoreditch Church on 16 June. Towards the end of last month, the orchestra also went on a five-day tour of Mexico with our Principal Conductor, Stephen Layton and cellist Matthew Barley (you can read more about the trip on this blog post). In education news, we were delighted to put on another of our popular family concerts, Crash Bang Wallop! at Cadogan Hall and several KS1 projects in Tower Hamlets and Harrow with the wonderful New York composer and musician, Ljova. 

Our Georgian London concert on 16 June marked the end of our Émigré concert series with a programme of music by Handel, Mozart, JC Bach and Haydn in the beautiful surroundings of Shoreditch Church. Below are a few photos taken from our Twitter followers of the rehearsals and concert. You can read more about the concert in our most recent blog post, Retrospective: Georgian London, and don’t forget you can listen to the whole thing online for 30 days on BBC IPlayer!

Continue reading Month in Pictures: May and June

Ursula Leveaux appointed Principal Bassoon

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Ursula Leveaux as our new Principal Bassoon.

 

Ursula studied in London, Amsterdam and The Hague and enjoys a busy and diverse career which includes being a member of the Nash Ensemble and Principal Bassoon of the Academy of Ancient Music. She also held the position of Principal Bassoon with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra from 1987- 2007. Continue reading Ursula Leveaux appointed Principal Bassoon

CLS Ten Pieces

The recent announcement of the BBC’s new list of Ten Pieces for secondary schools got us thinking about which pieces most inspired us to get into classical music at a young age. In this blog post and as a tribute to the project, each member of CLS staff shared the piece of music that stood out for them as a child, combining to make CLS’s own Ten Pieces! Is there any piece that particularly inspired you?

Find out more about the BBC Ten Pieces project here. City of London Sinfonia is a Ten Pieces champion, supporting the project and incorporating the pieces into our education programmes.   Continue reading CLS Ten Pieces

Retrospective: CLS in Mexico

Last week CLS musicians and a few members of the executive team packed their bags and jetted off to the beautiful country that is Mexico for a 5-day orchestral tour. Joined by our Artistic Director and Principal Conductor, Stephen Layton and cellist Matthew Barley, we visited the towns of León, Guadalajara and Mexico City, performing a uniquely British programme of Vaughan Williams, Warlock and John Tavener. In celebration of such a brilliant trip, we thought we’d share some of our favourite moments, photos and tweets. 

The first concert of the tour took place in the Teatro del Bicentenario in León. Known as the ‘Shoe Capital of the World’, it’s well-known for its leather markets. The Teatro del Biecentario was a beautiful venue the audience were particularly struck by Dan Bates, our Principal Oboe, who performed Vaughan Williams’ Oboe Concerto. Photos taken by (c) Arturo Lavín. Continue reading Retrospective: CLS in Mexico