Category Archives: CLS Behind the Scenes

A day in the life of an Education Trainee…

Ever wondered what life is like on our Education team? During our December Key Stage 1 project, our education trainee, Hannah Rankin (a postgrad student at the Royal Academy of Music), kept a log of all the things she was getting up to. From Freddie the Frog to Michael Jackson (who apparently composed Greensleaves, according to one of our participants!), here’s an insight into the exciting activities that Hannah got up to while working on the Key Stage 1 project, and what she thought about them!

 Key Stage 1 concert outline:

This concert is about a Christmas tree that wants to get out of the pot and dance. The children need to help her by singing songs with suggestions of how she can get out and tapping various secret rhythms on her pot. In between attempts to free her, CLS players play various pieces of music to make up a concert for the children to listen to, with the aim of allowing the children to experience orchestral music. To conclude, the tree does get free of the pot and meets a ballerina who teaches her to dance.

During my time working on this project, I have learnt quite a few things:

1. It is possible for a group of 6 year old children to sit through an hour long concert of music and singing.

2. Never underestimate the imagination of a child, or where their answers are going to take you.

3. Children have very good memories, for people and especially in relation to music.

One of the most interesting aspects of the project was the different responses to music in all of the schools. The last school that we worked with have done projects with CLS before and we were working with the same classes as last time. The children remembered Claire as soon as she came in and when we started working on the differences between major and minor through two different songs, I was amazed to see the children had remembered those phrases and knew the words and actions that they had learned in reception. They also remembered all the words to a song about Freddie frog which I thought was amazing!

The second school had never taken part in any musical projects before and so everything was new to them. However, they were quick to pick up ideas and were really engaged.

By the end of the Key Stage 1 project, the children in all the schools had learnt about orchestral instruments, the difference between major and minor, composed a song, learnt how to find the pulse and how to clap rhythms. It would be interesting to return to the schools in a couple of months to see how much the children remember. If it was a different person leading the workshop, would they remember it as easily?

Working with Claire Bloor was brilliant! She is very enthusiastic and manages to keep the children’s attention and teach them in a fun and interesting way. I’ve learnt that it is possible to teach important information like major and minor keys just by adding a rhyme or an action. Learning is much more fun if you use a character such as Freddie our friendly wooden frog whom the children loved!

Another skill I learnt from Claire was to be quick thinking when it came to suggestions or answers from the children. The children had great imaginations! When we were learning about who composed Greensleeves, the best suggestions we had were Michael Jackson and God, which were very funny but also quite relevant suggestions. Some of the actions for the songs the children created were great as well – Gangnam style, mum and dad actions and ‘tying balloons to the tree to get the tree out’ were my particular favourites.

The whole project was a great success in my eyes as the children remembered all of their songs and actions but were also engaged during the musical interludes. Personally as a bassoonist it was very nice to hear lots of children at the end tell me ‘I liked the violin, Miss, but the bassoon is still my favourite!’

As long as the children were interested in the instruments of the orchestra, the project will be a success as orchestral concerts will no longer seem like an unknown. Who knows, maybe this project will inspire children to take up a musical instrument or attend a concert in the future…

And here are some responses from our wonderful workshop participants…

picture 2Picture 1picture 3picture 4

Find out more about our Meet the Music education programme by visiting our webpage!


2013 – The year that was at City of London Sinfonia

It’s that time of year when we look back at the year that was and forward to the year that will be! We asked some of the City of London Sinfonia team what their own personal CLS highlight of 2013 was…


CLOSER: The New Babylon, 23 October 2013
‘A packed house for The New Babylon at CLoSer. More people than we could deal with (almost) for Shostakovich’s silent film
Matthew Swann, Chief Executive


Outreach project at St Joseph’s Hospice, May 2013
‘The Hospice Harmony project at St Joseph’s Hospice, Hackney with John K Miles and a CLS quartet,  one of the most moving projects I’ve been a part of.’
Gillian Hunter-Gibbs, Educations Manager


The Fauré Requiem Tour 2013
‘Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme of Tallis being played in 10 cathedrals by our fantastic string players – moved me to tears every time.’
Matthew Swann, Chief Executive

Crash Bang Wallop

Crash Bang Wallop! Christmas Special, December 2013
‘Pushing Claire Bloor across the Cadogan Hall stage in a custom made box whilst wearing an elf hat!’

Becca Newman, Concert Manager


Lullaby Tour, Autumn 2013
‘Watching the musicians throw themselves into the ‘Mad Professor’ tour with Claire Bloor – their outfits and hair styles got madder each day!’

Gillian Hunter-Gibbs, Education Manager


CLOSER: Tim Garland, February 2013
‘The audience vote for February’s CLOSER. It was really exciting to see which piece the audience would choose and it was definitely a close call towards the end – there were only a few votes in it. The Schnittke sounded spectacular in Village Underground and it was great that our audience was able to have an input in the programming.’
Steph Ramplin, Development and Marketing Assistant

Cathedrals October 2013 054

The Fauré Requiem Tour 2013
‘For me, it has to be our epic ten-date national cathedrals tour which saw the Orchestra and Artistic Director working and performing with the cathedral choirs and organists in Durham, Ely, Portsmouth, Derby, Coventry, Guildford, Exeter, Chester, Southwell and Liverpool. A wonderful chance to take music (including a brand new commission from Gabriel Jackson) to new audiences around the country and for cathedral musicians to work with a professional orchestra thanks to our tour supporters Friends of Cathedral Music, Arts Council England and the Foyle Foundation. Watch this space for the next instalment in 2015/16…!’
Ruth Mulvey, Development Manager

Elaine cathedral pic

Chester Cathedral, The Fauré Requiem Tour 2013
Sitting behind / underneath the organ pipes in Chester Cathedral during the Cathedrals tour. I could see the second orchestra for the RVW but got the full effectof the organ in the Poulenc – amazing !’
Elaine Baines, Chief Operating Officer

The Great Enormo credit James Berry

Arnold’s Grand, Grand Overture at Brighton Festival, May 2013
‘My favourite moment for the year has got to be a personal one. Once a year my concert management services are required and I am let out of the office. At this concert in Brighton I could finally tell people the adoption service had found us a little girl because everything had been agreed, yet despite my excitement Elaine (Chief Operating Officer) still let me loose with a gun for the Arnold Grand, Grand Overture!’
Jacqui Compton, Librarian

Coming up in 2014…
Natural / Supernatural Festival
Spring 2014

October in Pictures

After a manic October, we’ve finally had a chance to catch our breath and bring you the highlights from the past month. In the last four weeks, we’ve completed the second leg of our Fauré Requiem Cathedrals tour, enjoyed some stunning orchestral jazz in our Hot Tunes/Cold War series, watched 1920s Soviet propaganda and traversed the Suffolk coast with our Lullaby concert tour. From Village Underground in Shoreditch, to Paddy’s Wigwam in Liverpool, our seemingly nomadic musicians have battled falling trees, gale-force winds and, er, really bad traffic jams.


Ok, so this was technically September, but the impressive Queen Elizabeth Hall in the Southbank Centre played host to Music from across the Iron Curtain, the first concert of our Hot Tunes/Cold War series.


Our Hot Tunes/Cold War series explored music influenced by the political events leading up to and during the Cold War, examining the development of jazz culture from the early 1920s and its effect on classical music against the backdrop of the turbulent political events of the mid-20th century.

Cathedrals October 2013 004

Our Cathedrals tour began in Coventry’s epic Cathedral, with Stephen Layton conducting the Orchestra and the Cathedral choir.

Cathedrals October 2013 054

The beautiful Guildford Cathedral was the location of the first of two Come and Sing events, which offered singers the opportunity to sing Tallis’ majestic Spem in Alium.


We returned to the ever-atmospheric Village Underground for the next installment of our CLoSer series: a screening of Kozintsev’s The New Babylon with the Orchestra providing the score.

017_D8E0033_Lullaby Concert, Ipswich, Oct 2013_LOW-RES (P Coghlin)

Our musicians react in a measured and mature way to Haydn’s Symphony No. 94 (the “Surprise” Symphony) during our Lullaby tour.

The Lullaby Tour October 2013

We are incredibly proud of our Meet the Music outreach initiatives, one of which is our Lullaby Concerts tour which occurs twice a year.  Lullaby concerts bring classical music to children in areas where live orchestral music is a rarity. This series is run in partnership with Orchestras Live, and provides an interactive way of introducing young children (typically under 6) to classical music.

I’m sat in a town hall in Suffolk jam-packed with preschool children and their parents, when a labcoat-clad Claire Bloor appears astride an orange spacehopper, wearing a single yellow glove and brandishing a long green balloon. Moments like this are wonderful reminders that working in the arts is exciting, surreal and, crucially, fun.IMG_0855

The theme of October’s tour was “The Mad Professor” and featured Claire, our wonderful Animateur in Residence, playing the part of an eccentric scientist who tries to build instruments for the Orchestra members. However, this was not just a children’s show with an orchestra in the background. The Orchestra themselves are always complicit in the fun; they have costumes of their own and spend the concert teasing Claire and larking around for the children’s amusement. Claire, seemingly, has boundless energy, making the children (and adults) laugh with delight as she took them through the musical programme. The fact that she is nothing more than a labcoat-wearing blur in eighty percent of the photos I took of her is a further testament to her dynamism (rather than to my poor photography skills).

IMG_0839I caught up with Claire, Gillian (our Education Manager) and our musicians in between concerts, to ask them about what Lullaby means to them and find out about their own childhood experiences of classical music.

AJ: Why is it important to introduce very young children to classical music?
Gillian Hunter: Kids this age don’t have any preconceptions about genres of music, nor are they old enough to worry about what is ‘cool’ – all they hear is music. This is an opportunity for them to be exposed to high quality playing of real repertoire in an environment they wouldn’t normally expect to find it!

AJ: What’s the best thing about Lullaby?
Mark Paine: It’s a lot of fun for the kids, and they get to see exactly how these instruments are actually played – it teaches them about the mechanics of it.

AJ: Is the transition from formal concert playing to these more informal children’s concerts difficult?
Susan Dorey: Not at all! We are, after all, entertainers, and this is just another element of working in the entertainment business!IMG_0857

AJ: What were your first experiences of classical music?
MP: Hearing the pipe organ in church, and being told my legs were too short to play!

CB: When I was five, a girl in my school assembly played the flute and I thought it was the most beautiful thing (probably because it was shiny). I pestered my parents for one and they gave me a recorder instead, which I promptly turned on its side. Eventually they bought me a real flute!

MP: Initially my school in Australia didn’t have a music programme until a new music teacher arrived and wanted to start an orchestra. He gave me a horn to take home over the weekend to try out. By Monday I had figured out how to play a scale and the rest, as they say, is history.

GH: My first experience was a bit mad – my parents signed me up for the Suzuki violin program before I was born! It was so oversubscribed that you had to get in there early to get a place.075_Thurrock, Lullaby Concert_high-res (Paul Coghlin)

AJ: What’s been your favourite Lullaby moment to date?
MP: Talking to the fish during the April 2013 tour.

CB: This tour, it’s when the new instruments come on and I get really excited. Last time, it was wearing flippers and kicking my legs in the air!

But don’t just take our word for it! Have a look at our video from one of last week’s concerts to get a sense of the fun for yourself.

More information about our Lullaby tours, upcoming events, our Community and Education work and our Community Partners can be found on our website.

Education Preview: What’s coming up in 2013/14?

With the start of our 2013/14 season fast approaching, Steph caught up with our Education Manager, Gillian, to talk about all the exciting projects we have coming up. If you would like to know more about any of the projects discussed in this video, please keep an eye on our Education webpage for regular updates…

We hope you enjoyed the preview and do keep your eyes peeled for our next live broadcast!

You can donate to this life enhancing programme of events online via our JustGiving page. Every donation of any amount helps towards delivering Make the Music so please follow the link below and find out more:

Donate with JustGiving

The Score: Beth Randall

It’s time for another edition of our quick fire round, The Score, where we delve into the secret passions of our players. This time it’s the turn of the brass section and our horn player, Beth Randell.

Beth and her fellow horn players in action
Beth and her fellow horn players in action

Favourite composer
I LOVE Bach. Funny that because there is infrequent use of the horn in most of his compositions…

Favourite opera
I am not very keen on opera as a genre but my favourite is Cosi fan Tutte by Mozart.

Favourite instrument (other than your own!)
At heart I am a frustrated double bass player.

Favourite venue:
My fave venue is Carnegie Hall in New York.

Favourite cake:
I like chocolate. I don’t like cake! Don’t tell the concerts team!

image: James Berry

Month in Pictures: June 2013

The arrival of June meant one thing here at CLS Towers; a return to the capital’s favourite opera festival: Opera Holland Park. The season started on Tuesday 4 June with a double bill of Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci with the Orchestra receiving some great reviews. The park’s resident peacocks have been in action stalking the orchestra pit and terrorising a few musicians too!

Opera Holland Park's resident peacock
Opera Holland Park’s resident peacock puts in an appearance

On Saturday 15 June we took Mr Enormo Biggins’ fun filled theme park to the Idea Store, Whitechapel as part of our CLoSer partner’s Spitalfields Music’s Summer Festival.

Our brass boys at the Great Enormo
Our brass boys at the Great Enormo concert

We were joined once again by children’s poet Michael Rosen as he helped guide young ears through the sounds of the Orchestra.

The Great Enormo at Spitalfields Music Summer Festival

The Great Enormo

On 23 June we joined our Principal Conductor, Stephen Layton, and a whole host of talented choirs at the Voices Now Festival at the Roundhouse, for the world premiere of City Songs; a new commission by Eriks Esenvalds, featuring Grammy Award winner Imogen Heap.

The Orchestra perform with our Principal Conductor, Stephen Layton, at Voices Now Festival, Roundhouse.

 Voices Now Festival, Roundhouse

We also had time to squeeze in a Meet the Music lunchtime concert at Guys Hospital in London, in partnership with Breathe Arts Health Research.

Rehearsing for our lunchtime concert at Guys Hospital, London
Rehearsing for our lunchtime concert at Guys Hospital, London
Images: James Berry, Rebecca Newman, Gillian Hunter-Gibbs, Voices Now Festival

Month in Pictures: May 2013

After a jam-packed May, we’ve finally had time to sit down, catch our breath and bring you another edition of Month in Pictures. Last month, we were on the road visiting cathedrals up and down the country as part of our Fauré Requiem Tour and we’ve loved meeting new audiences in Durham, Ely, Portsmouth and Derby. Bring on the next leg of the tour in October! It’s also been a busy month for our Education Team with Little Red Riding Hood’s Crash Bang Wallop!, our ongoing Key Stage 1 project in Tower Hamlets and the culmination of our workshops at St Joseph’s Hospice as part of Dying Matters week. And if that’s not enough, there’s been a new arrival at the office in the form of our Chief Operating Officer’s adorable puppy, Dolly! If you were at Crash Bang Wallop! on 11 May, you’ll know who we’re talking about…


There’s an impostor in the office! Not really – it’s just the Big, Bad Wolf gearing up for our workshop in Tower Hamlets


And here he is entertaining the masses with some fine musical accompaniment from the City of London Sinfonia Brass Quintet


Air Trombone: our Tower Hamlets project participants show you how it’s done

Buggy Park CBW credit ALEX

Buggy park at Cadogan Hall. Must be another Crash Bang Wallop!

Ely Cathedral choristers with our Principal Conductor Stephen Layton and composer Gabriel Jackson

Stephen Layton, Gabriel Jackson and the wonderful choristers at Ely Cathedral

Ely Cathedral, 'the Ship of the Fens', our second stop on the Tour and the venue for our BBC Radio 3 broadcast

Ely Cathedral in all its glory!

Choir and Orchestra in concert at Derby Cathedral

Choir and Orchestra in action at Derby Cathedral

DOLLY!! Credit Steph

Dolly the puppy (future City of London Sinfonia mascot?)


Volunteers, patients and City of London Sinfonia musicians perform a brilliant concert for us at St Joseph’s Hospice

Retrospect: April in Pictures

April was a busy month for us. With our ongoing Meet the Music programme, our season two CLoSer finale and of course our attempts to Frenchify London with our Poulenc Festival, we have been kept on our toes! Here we look back at the last month through a few of our favourite snaps..

Our Poulenc Festival kicked off on the 4th April at St Giles' Cripplegate with Poulenc the Poet, which focused on the composer's affinity for woodwind. Here, our fabulous woodwind sextet rehearses with Michael Collins before the concert.
Our Poulenc Festival kicked off on the 4th April at St Giles’ Cripplegate with Poulenc the Poet, which focused on the composer’s affinity for woodwind. Here, our fabulous woodwind sextet rehearses with Michael Collins before the concert.
The next concert in the festival was a CLoSer special, where the Village Underground was transformed in a 1920's Parisian Café.
The next concert in the festival was a CLoSer special, where the Village Underground was transformed in a 1920’s Parisian Café.
This concert also paid tribute to Poulenc's contemporary Erik Satie. His Gymnopédies No. 1-3 were performed beautifully by Antoine Françoise.
This concert also paid tribute to Poulenc’s contemporary, Erik Satie. His Gymnopédies Nos. 1-3 were performed beautifully by pianist, Antoine Françoise.
The star of the show, Derek Welton, perfectly encapsulated Poulenc's lighter sider with a vivacious performance of his childhood composition, Rapsodie nègre.
The star of the show, Derek Welton, perfectly encapsulated Poulenc’s lighter sider with a vivacious performance of his childhood composition, Rapsodie nègre.
The finale of the festival took place in Southwark Cathedral, featuring Poulenc's Organ Concerto, performed by Peter Wright. Here Stephen Layton leads a rehearsal in front of a few early bird audience members.
The finale of the festival took place in Southwark Cathedral, featuring Poulenc’s Organ Concerto, performed by Peter Wright. Here Stephen Layton leads a rehearsal in front of a few early bird audience members.
Chilling backstage: Our Chief Executive, Matthew Swann with Antoine F and Michael Collins
Our Chief Executive, Matthew Swann with Antoine Françoise and Michael Collins on BBC Radio 3’s InTune
On 24th April, we performed a lunchtime concert at Guy's and Thomas'  Hospital, part of our Meet the Music wellbeing outreach programme.
On 24th April, we performed a lunchtime concert at Guy’s and Thomas’ hospital, part of our Wellbeing through Music outreach programme.
Images: James Berry, Alex Marshall, Anna Jessiman and Gillian Hunter