Category Archives: Spotlight on…

Interview with Amelia Singer

Ahead of our concert and wine tasting next week, we sat down with founder of Amelia’s Wine, Amelia Singer to explore the fascinating world of music and wine…

What drew you towards wine, and how did you get started in the business?

Wine has always been part of my life. I was practically weaned on it by my father! I have always loved cooking and finding the flavours in food, so it was a very natural fit.

I studied acting at university, but I was very involved with the food and wine society, which I absolutely loved. There are so few young women in the wine industry, I decided I would use my acting training to become the Jamie Oliver of wine! So, I spent the next six years working in wineries all over the world, learning all I could about wine and the business, and two years ago I started Amelia’s Wine.

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Can you tell us a bit about Italian wine?

I adore north east Italy, so preparing the wines for this tasting has been great. One of my favourite wines, which I first remember enjoying with my father, is a classic Amarone. It’s an elegant, robust and reflective red, with dried fruit, chocolate, and smoky flavours. It’s a great wine to savour as it has so many layers; there’s a lot going on, so you can keep going back to it. When it comes to bubbles, rather than a Prosecco, I love a Franciacorta which is also from the region, and is aged longer than Champagne.

How did you go about pairing the wines with the music?

I always go straight to the music and the context and ethos of the programme, and in this case the themes of recreating and re-imagining; playing with the imagination and perceptions and expectations, creating a new way of tasting what you think you know well. I knew the area to focus on, and that I wanted to reflect the idea of darkness to light in the colour spectrum of the wine. I’ve chosen a wine that combines the best of Italy and Germany to complement the Bach in the programme, a bubbly but more serious wine to bring out the Commedia dell’arte themes of Pulcinella, and an elegant, multi-faceted red inspired by Liszt’s The Black Gondola.

What can we expect from the evening?

Something that’s interactive, fun, social, and friendly, with lively, diverse, curious people. You’ll learn something, and hopefully feel confident and empowered, and see the pieces of music and the wine in a new light. I’m really excited about holding the tasting in the intimate space at Bedales.

And finally, what music are you listening to at the moment?

It’s been a very hectic week, so during the days it’s something upbeat. In the evenings I’ve been chilling out to some Jazz with Gregory Porter and Claire Teal.

Tickets for this special wine tasting event at Bedales Wines are limited, so book soon!

Venice: Darkness to Light
Wednesday 14 October 2015, 7.30pm
Southwark Cathedral, London
Tickets £25, £15, £5* (*restricted view)
£5 tickets available for students and 16-25s (pre-register at Box Office / 020 7377 1362


Interview with Ashley Riches

Ahead of our upcoming concert, Georgian London on Tuesday 16 June, we caught up with baritone, Ashley Riches before he joins us to perform Handel’s Dettingen Te Deum at Shoreditch Church. He reflects on his spontaneous decision to become a musician, why Don Giovanni is his favourite piece of music and role to sing, and his long-standing admiration for Polyphony, who joins him and CLS for this exciting concert.


When did you know you wanted to become a musician, and what spurred you on?

Actually, there was never really a moment… I had a training contract with a law firm not far from Spitalfields, but decided to try a year at music college before settling down to a ‘proper job’! Somehow it went well enough that I decided to give it a go. I’m a little bit fatalistic about these things – singing is the sort of career that chooses you, to some degree.

Continue reading Interview with Ashley Riches

An Interview with Emma Pallant…

This week we caught up with actor Emma Pallant before she joins us this Tuesday, along with Richard Hope, for a very special CLoSer concert featuring two 20th-century takes on Shakespeare: Korngold’s Much Ado about Nothing and Shostakovich’s raucous re-working of Hamlet. She features frequently on stage at Shakespeare’s Globe, but you may also recognise her from Holby City or Doctors! Scroll down to read more about her passion for performing, her musical equivalent of a comfort blanket and love for Shakespearean roles.


What first made you want to become an actor?Emma Pallant Colour NEW


I was performing in one way or another right from when when I was very young: I had ballet lessons from the age of three, then was in the usual run of school plays and eventually joined an amateur dramatics youth group.  I think a shift came when I played Isabella in a college production of Measure for Measure probably aged 17 or so.  That experience certainly moved the thought of acting being just something I do to something I want to keep doing.  I found the text incredibly hard to learn, having never had to take on anything like it before. I put my lines on tape and played them over and over again, trying to drum those huge, complex thoughts into my head.  Once I knew them, and I felt I understood something of the dark rhythm in that amazing language, performing it was an enormous thrill, and certainly like nothing I’d ever done before. We must have only done a few performances but I just didn’t want it to end.


What has your favourite role been?


I think the Shakespearean roles have been the biggest challenges, and the greatest joys, to play. The texts are so rich, there always seems to be something new to mine from them however many performances you do. If I was pressed to choose my favourite I’d have to say Jaques in As You Like It because the experience was different from any other classical role I’ve played: although Jaques is written as a man I was given the opportunity to play the role as a woman, Mistress Jaques. There was a real freedom in making something new from an iconic role. That level of ‘creating’ a character is often quite hard to find with Shakespeare as you’re performing in the shadow of everyone who has come before you.


Are you musical? / Do you play any instruments?


I don’t think I could be called musical, but I have a few modest musical skills. I can play the piano a bit and get a few notes out of a flute (if forced!). Music is an integral part of theatre and in various productions I’ve been in I’ve had to turn my hand to a rather eccentric collection of instruments to feed into the play’s musical landscape – ocarina, tambourine, guitar, recorder, handbells, dulcitone and various bits of percussion, as well as singing.  I wasn’t particularly proficient at any of them, but I always enjoy having a go. I used to play in a steel band at my junior school and I loved that, that was enormous fun. There’s something about making music collectively that’s immensely satisfying so I’m lucky I occasionally get to do that as part of my job.


What is the most played piece on your iPod?


It’s probably something I’ve known for a long time so I’d have to say a solo guitar piece by Pat Metheny, “Solo from More Trains”. When I was a student I used to go to music shops at weekends and spend a few hours at the listening posts, searching for new music and this piece was on one of those ‘found’ albums. I wouldn’t say it was my favourite piece of music but I’ve known it for years: as soon as I hear those first few notes I’m taken right back to the time I bought it. It’s my musical equivalent of a comfort blanket!


What is your favourite cake?


I don’t eat wheat so my choices are limited, but I love a good lemon polenta cake!



Tickets are still available to see Emma Pallant narrate alongside City of London Sinfonia at Village Underground for CLoSer this Tuesday! BOOK NOW


CLoSer: The Entertainments
with City of London Sinfonia, Michael Collins, Richard Hope and Emma Pallant
Tuesday 21 October, 7.30pm
Village Underground, Shoreditch
Tickets (includes free drink), £15, £7.50 (concessions), £5 (students and 16-25s, no free drink, pre-register at / 020 7377 1362.

An Interview with Richard Hope

This week the team at CLS got the chance to catch up with actor Richard Hope before he joins us this Wednesday, along with Emma Pallant, for a very exciting performance of Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Southwark Cathedral. Aside his extremely impressive resumé, we loved his enthusiasm for music, subtle humour and thoughts on cake (always a very important subject!). Check out the interview here:


What first made you want to become an actor?richard hope

At school someone bet me £5 that I couldn’t get into the National Youth Theatre and at the interview, having done my speeches, Michael Croft asked me that very question. I told him I would win £5 (worth about £100 now) and he said: “You’re in!” I was with them for five years and doing drama was a great way to meet girls. I have always respected the written word and how hard it is to bring it alive from the page. To be able to share that and enjoy it has stayed with me. My first TV job was with Sir Laurence Olivier who encouraged my work and my recounting of appalling jokes.


What has your favourite role been?

For stage maybe Levin in Anna Karenina which toured the world for years with many revivals . Helen Edmundson has an amazing ability as a writer to distil the essence of the story . I also did War and Peace playing Pierre at the National which ran for four and a half hours….. and we did matinees twice a week. For TV it has to be Morty in The Riff Raff Element written by Debbie Horsfield who has just adapted the new BBC series of Poldark…. or playing Ford Prefect in HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy with Ken Campbell directing (and encouraging me to be dangerously mad as I struggled to fly in space in a harness above the audience!). Recently I really enjoyed playing Elizabeth 1 in the UK premiere of Orlando….. I had the wig and dress with fairylights.


Are you musical? / Do you play any instruments?

I was always told at school I couldn’t sing and sort of gave up. I had to do songs in shows and then found myself doing Max Kellerman in Dirty Dancing at the Aldwych. I love music and admire the precision of dancers and musicians. I play the triangle and I have mimed with a harmonica on film.

What is the most played piece on your iPod?

It Keeps Rainin’ by Fats Domino closely followed by We Can’t be Friends by Lorene Scafaria. This week listening to Tower of Song by Leonard Cohen.


What living person do you admire most of all?

My kids. Namely, having to pick them up in the rain after surviving the Reading Festival and their tent catching fire.


What is your favourite cake?

Dundee Cake as it reminds me of Christmas and sometimes has a dash of Guinness.


Tickets are still available to see Richard Hope narrate alongside City of London Sinfonia at Southwark Cathedral this Wednesday! BOOK NOW

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Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
with City of London Sinfonia and Holst Singers
Wednesday 8 October, 7.30pm
Southwark Cathedral, London Bridge
Tickets, £25, £15, £5 available from / 020 7377 1362

(Free pre-concert talk from 18:30 in the retrochoir. Book tickets for the pre-concert talk here)


What’s on my iPod – Gwilym Simcock

We’re so happy to be joining Gwilym Simcock again for two performances of his fantastic new work On a Piece of Tapestry this summer. In advance of this exciting collaboration, we asked him what the top 5 tracks were on his iPod. Why not get yourself in the ‘Gwilym mood’ and listen to the playlist we compiled too?!


Well with the 1st selection I’m already cheating! I’m going to pick Henri Dutilleux’s Symphony No. 1. I absolutely love this piece of music, mainly because it has a beautifully expansive harmonic palette and sublime orchestration throughout. It evokes such strong emotions every time I listen to it. I guess technically it would be 4 tracks but hopefully you’ll forgive me that!

Next I’m going to chose ‘Minute By Minute’ by the Doobie Brothers. I had to arrange this for a vocal group I musically direct and it turned me on to just how fantastic Michael MacDonald’s voice is. A short track but a great one!

Thirdly ‘Do I Do’ by Stevie Wonder. I was played this track whilst I was in residence at the Edinburgh festival, probably about 15 years ago. I was there for a month and I just couldn’t stop listening to it the whole time, and recently I rediscovered it again. Such a great positive groove!

Next, ‘A Real Embrace’ by Mike Walker, a good friend and wonderful Guitarist from Manchester. We co-lead a band called The Impossible Gentlemen, and he is one of the most warm, giving musicians I’ve ever played with. This quality is in abundance in this fantastic, beautiful track

Finally, ‘3 Views of a Secret’ by Jaco Pastorius, the legendary American electric bassist. This is, I think, my favourite tune ever, from his great album Word Of Mouth. Wonderfully compelling sound world and a great simple melody underpinned by a flowing, weaving harmonic sequence underneath that really takes you on a journey through the course of the track.



Gwilym Simcock: On a Piece of Tapestry
Saturday 5 July, 17.00pm
Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre
Entry is free (ticketed) BOOK NOW

Gwilym Simcock: On a Piece of Tapestry
Saturday 2 August, 1.30pm
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Strathclyde Suite
Entry is free (unticketed). Click here for more info


Composer Profile: Valgeir Sigurðsson

Known as the founder of Bedroom Community recording label and for his eclectic, boundless approach to composition, Valgeir Sigurðsson has worked prolifically as a producer, composer, musician, engineer / electronic programmer and mixer. Whilst developing his own particular brand of artistry and ear for sonic experimentation, he has an extensive collaborative history with international artists, including Björk, Brian Eno and Nico Muhly. In advance of the world premiere of his brand new work, No Nights Dark Enough on Tuesday 17 June with the composer himself on electronics, conductor Hugh Brunt and the City of London Sinfonia, we thought we’d take a deeper look into this extraordinary musician, starting from the very year in which he was born!

Valgeir Sigurdsson infographic

No Nights Dark Enough
Tuesday 17 June, 8.00pm – 10.00pm
Village Underground, Shoreditch
Part of the Spitalfields Music Summer Festival 
Tickets: £15 unreserved

Tickets still available. BOOK NOW!


Information on Valgeir Sigurðsson taken from Faber Music.


John Sessions to join CLS at Cadogan Hall on 1 May!

We are delighted to announce that British actor and comedian, John Sessions will be joining us at Cadogan Hall on 1 May for our Natural / Supernatural concert series finale! Known for his comedy improvisation in Whose Line Is It Anyway? and as a panellist on QI, John will be reading two poems by George Santayana that were inspiration for Gwilym Simcock’s brand new work, On a Piece of Tapestry.










Natural / Supernatural
Thursday 1 May 2014, 7.30pm
Cadogan Hall

Mozart –  Overture from The Magic Flute
Gwilym Simcock – On a Piece of Tapestry (London premiere)

Gwilym Simcock – Cumbrian Thaw
Beethoven – ‘Pastoral’ Symphony No. 6 


Matthew Barley, Brazil and “the stuff of music”

banner for blog copyOn Thursday 10 April, the City of London Sinfonia is embarking on a journey around South America with innovative cellist, Matthew Barley. Taking inspiration from his own travels and musical experiences in Brazil, Matthew has arranged music by some of the most well-known South American songwriters ready for a debut performance with the City of London Sinfonia. In anticipation of this exciting cultural event, we asked Matthew to give us an insight into life and music in Brazil as well as the songs featured in the concert.

In Brazil, music is a way of life, and is spiritually connected to many people through their religion in a way that is unfamiliar for Europeans – and even in a non-religious sense, as you walk the streets of Rio de Janeiro, you see how music is so deeply embedded in their life. There are bands busking that people would pay good money to hear in a London jazz club and the music is so completely absorbed into the body that it is inextinguishable from dance – this is most obvious in the Carnival. All of this music expresses a love that is rare – a love of “the stuff of music”…

The first song in Thursday’s programme, Ela e Carioca by Caetano Veloso (possibly familiar to some ears through its feature in the Pedro Almodovar film Talk to Her) is a yearning love song – the sort of song that nobody does quite as well as the Brazilians. Beatriz by Chico Barque is similarly love-fuelled, with extraordinary lyrics about a young student who falls completely and hopelessly in love with a tightrope walker from a circus. So many popular love songs around the world are cliché-ridden and based around a very small number of chords, Beatriz, however, has over 20 chords and a fabulously unpredictable melodic line. Mantequeira Range by Paulo Jobim & Rolando Bastos and Milonga del Ángel by Astor Piazzolla – the great Argentinean genius of Nuevo Tango – are both instrumental pieces originally. They are both such wonderful pieces and fit in perfectly in this context.

Águas de Março (‘The Waters of March’) by Antonio Carlos Jobim is a song about the floods of water that cascade down the mountains of Rio in March. The lyrics are a list of the bits of litter and bric-a-brac that the water carries with it, making it a truly fascinating piece of music. Many think of Jobim as the greatest song-writer of all time, and many think of Águas as Jobim’s greatest song, so it’s not hard to see how highly the song ranks in Brazilian repertoire. I have played many of these songs with Brazilian musicians, and their love for their music, and the very natural way they play, is infectious.

Matthew Barley, March 2014

Want to know more? Come and hear Matthew Barley’s arrangements played alongside John Tavener’s profound The Protecting Veil on Thursday 10 April at Christ Church Spitalfields. Meanwhile get ready and listen to our playlist of the songs featured in the concert and other South American hits!

The Protecting Veil Thursday 10 April 2014
7.00 – 8.45pm
Christ Church Spitalfields, Commercial Street, E1 6LY
Ticket prices: £25, £18, £10*restricted view BOOK NOW

Concert will also be performed at The Apex, Bury St Edmunds on the 5 April.


18-25 or a STUDENT?? Sign up to our 5IVER scheme to get exclusive access to £5 ticket on a wide selection of CLS concerts! To sign up and gain access to all the benefits CLS FIVER has to offer, fill in the form on our website! Feel free to contact Chloe at for more info.CLS FIVER copy

Commission Crowd… Catching up with Gwilym Simcock

Commission Crowd
With our Commission Crowd campaign now in full swing, with all your generous donations going towards the commission and performance of Gwilym’s new piece, On a Piece of Tapestry, we wanted to take this opportunity to sit down with Gwilym and discuss his music, the new commission and more. We have made a great start to our campaign but still have a little way to go if we want to reach our target of £2,000 by 1st May. To donate towards this commission, become a patron of music AND a Commission Crowdfunder, follow the purple link below the video. Here’s what Gwilym had to say when we caught up with him last month…

Click here to donate to Commission Crowd and support Gwilym Simcock’s new commission for Michael Collins and City of London Sinfonia!


Natural / Supernatural, Thursday 1 May, 7.30pm 

Cadogan Hall, SW1X 9DQ

Michael Collins conductor/clarinet
Gwilym Simcock piano
City of London Sinfonia 

Tickets still available, for more information or to book tickets click here

Composer Profile: Sir John Tavener

Known for his extensive output of religious works, including The Whale, The Lamb and The Protecting Veil, John Tavener is a firm favourite amongst music lovers. In advance of our Tavener Celebration as part of our Natural / Supernatural festival, we thought we’d take a look at the man behind the music…

Tavener info graphic copy

Want to know more? Come and hear Sir John Tavener’s music performed live at our Natural / Supernatural festival!

Natural / Supernatural
27 March – 1 May
Cadogan Hall, Village Underground, Christ Church Spitalfields, Southwark Cathedral