Tag Archives: CLoSer

Let’s keep creativity close-by

By Matthew Swann, CLS Chief Executive

MatthewheadshotThere has been a lot of talk in recent years and months about musicians and artists of all hues finding it more and more difficult to survive in London. This has prompted the Deputy Mayor for Culture to announce dedicated “Artist Zones”, where artists and organisations would be given help to purchase unused spaces. A great idea, but I think we can go further…

Some context. Music venues are closing across the country, but especially in the capital, where a conservative estimate suggests that a third of London’s gig venues have closed in the last 10 years. The low earnings that afflict many artists and musicians, especially those starting out, are incompatible with London rents, let alone mortgages. Conversely, part of what has made London a magnet for so many people and so much investment is the incredibly diverse cultural offerings available. We see this in microcosm as bold, risk-taking artists establish themselves somewhere cheap and forgotten like Shoreditch was 20 years ago, only to be priced out as those who want a slice of vicarious ‘cool’ follow them. The artists get chased north up the Kingsland Road into Dalston, then east into Hackney, now south into Peckham. Even in Peckham, young artists and local populations are being squeezed out as more vicarious cool is sought. Decades ago the same happened to Soho and Notting Hill – once down at heel but culturally vibrant, now beyond the means of artists beyond a handful of outlier megastars.

Classical music is by no means immune. The CLS office is in Brixton, having moved from (a very grotty and cheap) office in the City five years ago because Central London was beyond our reach. Now Brixton is becoming too expensive – in Autumn 2018 we will likely have to look further afield for office space. Our landlords have seen what is happening in the centre of London, have invested in the building’s infrastructure and are attracting bigger companies who can pay higher rents.

Just as bands and visual artists are losing performance spaces, so is classical music. Already, one of our favourite venues has had to hike its hire fees in a bid to keep up with rents. One church we would love to perform in more, close to one of the ‘cool’ areas above, has seen its commercial potential and priced itself beyond what we think is reasonable. Affordable venues are all oversubscribed. Rehearsal venues are a particular issue, in that London simply does not have enough of them of a big enough size, and they are very expensive. It is even becoming an issue for our Meet the Music programme. Our education team have spent the last few days desperately trying to find a suitable, and importantly, available and affordable, East London venue for a schools project later in the Autumn. At a time when so many London orchestras, including our own CLoSer series, are attracting new, young and cross cultural audiences, we are in danger of becoming victims of our own success as the venues we champion fall to encroaching speculative development.

If all this sounds like a moan, it’s not meant to be. One of London’s joys is its ever shifting cultural tectonic plates. When I first moved to Camberwell in South East London a dozen years or so ago, telling people I lived there usually elicited a sharp intake of breath. Neighbouring Peckham was a no go zone after dark. Brixton a generation ago was a by-word for inner-city violence. Now, I can drink cocktails on top of the multi-story car park in Peckham, and take my kids to the cinema on its ground floor. Brixton is a by-word for outstanding food (and home to CLS towers!). Camberwell is the epicentre of scruffy artistic chic. Problems and poverty still remain in those areas and in many ways are more entrenched, but there are opportunities which did not exist 10 years ago.

But like the Mayor’s office I do think that we need to guard against London gaining investment but losing its creative soul. The Deputy Mayor’s “Artist Zones” are a great idea, but require capital investment and a long term leveraged commitment which doesn’t suit everyone. I think we can go further, and help both artists and businesses at the same time.

It’s been mooted before, but why don’t we create an English Heritage style Grade system for cultural venues, preventing them from change of use and unsustainable rent hikes. The business of development and investment could continue around them, still benefitting from having creativity nearby  that would otherwise up sticks for the next cheap and forgotten area of London. But let’s extend this to rehearsal rooms, artists workshops, independent theatres, the lot. Any venue that has been in continuous use for creating music, art, etc for five years is protected. That way artists and musicians are not constantly pushed around, and eventually out, of London.

Second, any new office development in much widened “artist zones” has to provide at least 5% of its space to non-profit creative organisations either free of charge or well under market rates. Then the music, performing arts and visual arts organisations (and Orchestras!) that fuel London’s creative infrastructure, and in turn fuel investment, can concentrate on empowering artists, rather than spending exponentially increasing portions of their budgets on rent

I think that businesses and investors stand to benefit as much from these ideas as artists and the organisations that support them. Some businesses already understand the benefits of keeping creative organisations in their developments, but unilateral altruism isn’t going to solve the problem.

“Artist Zones” are a great idea, but let’s go further and benefit everyone by keeping creativity close.

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Retrospective on CLoSer: Sketches of Miles

We do things differently here at CLS, and on Wednesday 6 April we lived up to our promise to surpise with a concert of the music of Miles Davis – CLoSer: Sketches of Miles.

For this, the final CLoSer concert in the RE:Imagine series, we were joined by the exceptional talents of Gwilym Simcock and his trio, vocalist Cleveland Watkiss and – in a last-minute addition – saxophonist Tim Garland.

Relive the experience

Checkout the highlights video below and some beautiful photos from the concert by the wonderful James Berry along with your reactions from Twitter. Just tweet us at @CityLdnSinfonia to let us know what you thought!

Photos by James Berry:

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Read the review by Schmopera:

Last night’s concert at the Village Underground will go into the books as one of the most memorable shows we’ve seen yet.” – Schmopera

From Twitter:

 

 

 

Join us for the season finale

Paris Reflected
Wednesday 20 April, 7.30pm

The sounds of Paris are reflected across the centuries in this finale of the season. Providing the centrepiece to the programme is Duruflé’s Requiem setting based on ancient plainsong melodies, preceded by Fauré’s Pavane with its ancient dance forms and Ravel’s tribute to the earlier French composer, Couperin. Composer Charlotte Bray provides the final instalment in our ‘Bach RE:Imagined’ series.

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Plan your event night – Sketches of Miles

Our next CLoSer event, Sketches of Miles, 6 April at Village Underground is here, and we are so excited! Whether you’re new to CLoSer or a veteran, we have put together a few things you might like to know. 

About the event

This CLoSer event features the music of Miles Davis, re-imagined for chamber orchestra as the City of London Sinfonia is joined by the legendary jazz-classical crossover artist Gwilym Simcock and the virtuosic vocals of Cleveland Watkiss. Alongside Miles’ music, we’ll also hear an arrangement by Gwilym of a work by Bach, the latest in our Bach RE:Imagined series.

Our CLoSer series is a wonderful way to unwind with great music and great company in an informal and intimate setting. Check out the great blog our Chief Executive penned for a fantastic insight into the CLoSer atmosphere.

Continue reading Plan your event night – Sketches of Miles

Pick of the Week – 26 February

What’s been happening in the arts this week? As part of our blog series, Pick of the Week, we’ve picked our favourite stories, interesting exhibitions and most thought-provoking debates we’ve seen and heard this week.

Proms composer Anna Meredith has formed a band and is playing in clubs

Exasperated at working for months on a work only to have it seldom performed, Meredith has formed a band, saying  “I don’t want to write music that people are enduring just to get to the Elgar in the second half”. Her first album, Varmints is released on 4 March on Moshi Moshi.

Scientists have created three-armed cyborg percussionists (yes, really).

It’s a brave new world as scientists have unveiled a robotic third arm that percussionists can attach to their shoulder that plays along – allowing them to perform rhythms that are totally beyond plain old two-armed humans. What’s more is that they’re now working on a version that can READ YOUR MIND.

People are reading their teen diaries in public for fun

Americans have been doing it for years, and now it’s coming to the UK. Art? Self-indulgence? Therapy? ‘Mortified’ is certainly how we’d feel!

China has banned “weird” architecture 

After a spate of fake White Houses, Eiffel Towers and ‘strangely shaped’ buildings that make the Walkie Talkie look positively bland, the Chinese government has banned ‘weird’ architecture.

And finally… Is this the happiest conductor on the planet?

Maestro Joseph Olefirowicz radiates energy in this performance of  Bob Wright and Chet Forrest’s Opera ‘Kismet’.

Retrospective on CLoSer: Song of the Earth

Our RE:Imagine series continued in style last night as Village Underground transformed into London’s most intimate and relaxed concert venue for CLoSer: Song of the Earth. The elegance of Johann Strauss distilled for salon orchestra and Bach’s Toccata and Fugue (arranged by up-and-coming young composer Luke Styles) set the scene. Storyteller Rachel Rose Reid enthralled the audience before we heard Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde. Mezzo-soprano Anna Huntley and Tenor Gwilym Bowen took centre stage as all the mastery of Mahler’s epic symphony, concentrated into an ensemble of just 15 world-class musicians.

The concert was live-streamed online – checkout the highlights below and some beautiful photos from the concert by the wonderful James Berry along with your reactions from Twitter. Just tweet us at @CityLdnSinfonia to let us know what you thought!

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Forthcoming concerts

We hope you can join us at a concert soon – for full listings visit cls.co.uk/whats-on

The next concert in our RE:Imagine series is The Great English Songbook  when we will be journeying through England’s Elizabethan age and Shropshire countryside with baritone Roderick Williams on 9 March at Southwark Cathedral.

We are next back at Village Underground for CLoSer: Sketches of Miles on 6 April when  we will transport you to New York as we explore the musical marriage of the legendary trumpeter Miles Davis and composer/arranger Gil Evans.

The Great English Songbook
Wednesday 9 March 2016, 7:30pm
Southwark Cathedral, London, SE1 9DA
Tickets £25, £15, £5* (*restricted view)
cls.co.uk / 020 7621 2800

CLoSer: Sketches of Miles
Wednesday 6 April 2016, 7.30pm
Village Underground, London, EC2A 3PQ
TICKETS: £15 (includes a free drink)
cls.co.uk / 020 7621 2800

CLoSer with Rachel Rose Reid

The next CLoSer concert of our RE:Imagine series is just around the corner on Wednesday 17 February. CLoSer: Song of the Earth features Mahler’s epic song of despair Das Lied von der Erde, which  was originally written for a vast orchestra. We perform the piece in a salon arrangement by Schoenberg, written for the Society for Private Musical Performances, which performed scaled-down versions of new music to interested Viennese citizens. (Read more about the twentieth century Viennese cultural landscape here). 

Das Lied von der Erde shows Mahler at his most turbulent and hopeless, reeling from three personal tragedies. We’re so pleased that storyteller Rachel Rose Reid will be on hand to navigate Mahler’s emotional turmoil with us in a specially-commissioned introduction to the piece.

We asked Rachel what we can expect from her story

“It will be lyrical prose which summons Gustav and Alma to us so we can comprehend a little of the context of the composition. Mahler wrote to a friend that he thought this might be his ‘most personal piece’.

“My work is to build a bridge between Mahler, writing this piece, and ourselves, listening to it over a hundred years later.

“Mahler is sitting in nature, where he always sat for inspiration, but not permitted to explore it. Inside a marriage but not at home in his marriage. Inside his society but not at home in society. His music is a place he can inhabit. Meanwhile, Alma struggles to fit in also, with social roles, with grief, with marriage. She struggles with Mahler’s music – in her diary she writes that there are just two pieces of his she really loves. And then she adds, in pencil ‘and the Song of the Earth’.”

Take a look at some of Rachel’s other work…

If you missed Rachel Rose Reid on The Verb earlier this month, celebrating national storytelling week, you can still catch up

Join us on Wednesday for CLoSer: Song of the Earth with storytelling introduction. Can’t make it? The event will be live-streamed on our YouTube channel.

CLoSer: Song of the Earth
Wednesday 17 February 2016, 7.30pm
Village Underground, 54 Holywell Lane, EC2A 3PQ
Tickets £15 (includes a free drink), £5 students / 16-25s
Box Office cls.co.uk / 020 7621 2800

Mahler, Schoenberg and superstitions

The world of classical music has seen quite a few characters in its time. From composers prone to violent tantrums (Beethoven, Lully) to singers seemingly out of touch with reality (Florence Foster Jenkins), eccentricities abound. Mahler and Schoenberg, who come together in CLoSer: Song of the Earth, were both fervently superstitious…

Mahler and the Curse of the Ninth

The Curse of the Ninth referred to the ill-fated composers who died after writing their ninth symphonies, before completing a tenth. For Mahler, it was Beethoven who embodied this, though he did not refer to it as a ‘curse’. To say that Mahler was spooked by the idea is an understatement; he so feared dying after composing a ninth symphony, he forwent numbering what would have been his ninth, naming it Das Lied von der Erde and subtitling it instead Symphony for Tenor, Alto and large Orchestra. But Mahler’s preoccupation with his own mortality as he was writing Das Lied von der Erde is understandable – his life had descended into turmoil. Just one year earlier he suffered three great traumas: he lost his position as Director of the Vienna State Opera; his eldest daughter, Maria, contracted scarlet fever and died; and a doctor diagnosed him with a fatal heart condition.

In a twist of irony though, believing that he had cheated fate, he numbered his next symphony his ‘ninth’ and died leaving his ‘tenth’ incomplete.

Gustav-Mahler-Kohut

Schoenberg and 13

Like Mahler’s, Schoenberg’s great superstition was also numbers-based. A life-long triskaidekaphobe, Schoenberg went out of his way to avoid the number 13. It has been suggested that he even went as far as deliberately misspelling his opera Moses un Aron as the correct spelling resulted in the title being 13 letters long. His fear came to a head on Friday 13 July 1951, when Schoenberg was 76 years old. Not only was the date Friday 13, but the digits in his age also added up to 13. Schoenberg spent the day in bed, fearing the worst was to happen, and just before midnight it did. His wife, Gertrud, recalled  “about a quarter to twelve I looked at the clock and said to myself: another quarter of an hour and then the worst is over. Then the doctor called me. Arnold’s throat rattled twice, his heart gave a powerful beat and that was the end”.

Arnold_schönberg_credit_man_ray
Schoenberg, by Man Ray

 

Delve deeper into Mahler’s mind on 17 February and explore his life and emotions as he was writing Das Lied von der Erde. Storyteller Rachel Rose Reid joins us for a new commission based on Mahler’s turbulent relationship with his wife, Alma.

CLoSer: Song of the Earth
Wednesday 17 February 2016, 7.30pm
Village Underground, 54 Holywell Lane, EC2A 3PQ
Tickets £15 (includes a free drink), £5 students / 16-25s
Box Office cls.co.uk / 020 7621 2800

1900s Vienna – a who’s who

With the first of our two Vienna-inspired concerts, The Viennese Salon, almost upon us, we take a look at just some of the key cultural players living in the city in the early years of the 20th century…

 

Richard Strauss, born in Germany in 1864, was descended from a musical family; his father, Franz was one of Germany’s leading horn players. Between 1919 and 1924, Strauss was musical co-director of the Vienna State Opera, where he concentrated on staging new productions, particularly of works by Wagner and Mozart. Strauss returned to Vienna during World War II, after falling foul of the Nazi regime in Germany. It was during this second stretch in Vienna that Strauss wrote his last opera Capriccio, a meditation on the values of art. In it the Countess Madeleine must choose between two suitors, one a composer and one a poet, representing the argument over which is the more important art form, music or poetry.

Gustav Mahler, like Strauss, was influenced by the works of Wagner. When he took up his position as director of the Vienna Court Opera 1897, Vienna had newly elected a conservative, anti-Semitic mayor and the city was in a state of mounting tension. Mahler had to prove himself as Germanic enough, having been born to Jewish parents in Kaliště, a village in the Bohemian part of the Austrian Empire (in the present-day Czech Republic). He converted to Catholicism to secure the role, and staged Wagner’s opera Lohengrin and the Ring Cycle early into his appointment. Mahler remained with the Opera for 10 years, during which time he continued to compose, writing five symphonies and numerous other works. Growing anti-Semitism in Vienna and politicking within the Opera itself eventually forced Mahler out, and he left Vienna in 1907.

Mahler_conducting_caricature 1901
Gustav Mahler conducting, 1901

Arnold Schoenberg was a native citizen of Vienna. He was born in 1874 into a Jewish family, but like Mahler converted to Christianity in the hopes of avoiding the growing anti-Semitism spreading through Vienna at the turn of the century. In 1918 he founded the Society for Private Musical Performances (Verein für musikalische Privataufführungen), in which he presented salon-scale performances of new music to interested members of Viennese society. The programmes for these performances were repeated, both applauding and booing and criticism in the press were forbidden so as to give greater importance to individuals’ understanding the music.

Gustav Klimt was a founding member and the first president of the Vienna Secession, a group of painters, sculptors and architects who broke away from the Viennese art establishment in the last years of the 19th century. The artists were opposed to the conservative ideologies of the Vienna Künstlerhaus, and set about creating an organisation which was more forward-looking, and embraced many styles of art. Under Klimt, the movement took inspiration from naturalism, symbolism and other contemporary movements, including art nouveau and arts and crafts, particularly the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The Secession building, built under Klimt’s leadership, bears the movement’s motto above its doors:

‘To every age its art, to every art its freedom’.

 

Gustav_Klimt_Adele Bloch Bauer 1907
Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer by Gustav Klimt, 1907

Sigmund Freud was a prominent member of Viennese society, a pioneer of psychology and psychoanalysis. Freud, like Schoenberg and the secessionists, sought to break free from the conservative thought of previous centuries. His theories, particularly on the unconscious mind and the expressive nature of dreams, had a profound effect on artists and musicians alike.  Following his wife’s affair, Gustav Mahler sought Freud’s help. Freud observed that Mahler’s domineering personality and prohibition of his wife’s composing has contributed to the situation. Alma Mahler had been a promising musician and composer, but was forced by her husband to abandon her musical pursuits. Following Freud’s advice, Mahler began to encourage and support his wife’s music making and relations between the two began to improve.

Blaues_Selbstportait schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg, self portrait 1910

 

 

The Viennese Salon
Sunday 24 January 2016, 2pm
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe, Bankside, SE1 9DT
Tickets £62 (premium), £15 – £48, £10 (standing)
Box Office shakespearesglobe.com / 020 7401 9919

CLoSer: Song of the Earth
Wednesday 17 February 2016, 7.30pm
Village Underground, 54 Holywell Lane, EC2A 3PQ
Tickets £15 (includes a free drink), £5 students / 16-25s
Box Office cls.co.uk / 020 7621 2800

Our year in pictures – 2015

It was quite a year at CLS. We began 2015 with our Émigré series, full of music by composers who travelled the globe looking for fame and fortune, new artistic experiences, or just a safe place to call home. We did some travelling of our own when we visited Mexico in the spring, before setting up camp once again with Opera Holland Park over the summer. This autumn saw the beginning of our RE:Imagine series, which explores composers’ new interpretations and perspectives on existing works. Take a stroll with us down memory lane and see some of our highlights from 2015…

With the help of some brilliant cat gifs, we channelled our inner dancers for the tango-inspired CLoSer: To and From Buenos Aires. We also reminded ourselves just how weird cats can be!

The real dancers who joined us for the concert were brilliant, though!

 

In April, Russian-born New York composer and violist Ljova joined us for a special residency. He delighted us all with his beautiful blend of classical music, Russian folk, Klezmer and jazz, reflecting his own émigré roots. In anticipation of his arrival, we all thought up our favourite viola jokes…

Continue reading Our year in pictures – 2015

Month in pictures – September and October

We’ve had two very busy months at CLS. Our RE:Imagine concert series got off to a flying start in September with CLoSer: Debussy, Copland and Dance at Village Underground, and continued at Southwark Cathedral with an atmospheric celebration of the music of one of the most romantic cities in the world, in Venice: Darkness to Light. But that’s not all we’ve been up to so far this autumn. Take a look at some of our highlights of the last two months…

CLoSer: Debussy, Copland and Dance saw us return to the intimate setting of Village Underground with a programme exploring music written for dance from Rameau’s 18th century take on the classical Pygmalion myth to Copland’s evocative Appalachian Spring. The concert opened and closed with two brand new dance interpretations of Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune by choreographer Tony Adigun, one contemporary classical, one urban. Photographer James Berry was on hand to capture the concert as it happened. Take a look at some of his stunning pictures…

Whether you missed the concert, or would just like to relive the evening, you can still watch short highlights on our website.

Our second RE:Imagine concert took us to the magnificent Southwark Cathedral to celebrate one of the world’s most wonderful cities, with Venice: Darkness to Light. Soprano Elin Manahan Thomas and countertenor Alex Potter joined us for JS Bach’s re-imagining of Pergolesi’s Stabat MaterTilge, Höchster, meine Sünden, and Latvian composer Ugis Praulins continued our theme of re-imagining the works of Bach, with his arrangement of movements from the Mass in B minor. Here are some lovely photos of rehearsals by James Berry.

On top of all that, it’s been very busy in the education department, as we returned to Suffolk and Essex for our annual Lullaby Concert tour and workshops with Orchestras Live. We also brought a Very Special Bear’s first concert to Warwick, Basingstoke and Saffron Walden with the help of the excellent Simon Callow, who was an absolute natural at conducting! Take a look behind the scenes to see us wrestling with balloons, and a lovely Paddington Bear card made by one of our younger audience members in Basingstoke!

Our RE:Imagine series continues in the new year with The Viennese Salon in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe, and our next Crash Bang Wallop! family concert will take place on 12 December. We hope to see you there!

Crash Bang Wallop! Let it Snow
Saturday 12 December 2015, 11.00am
Cadogan Hall, 5 Sloane Terrace, London
Tickets: £8 Children, £10 Adults, £30 Family (four tickets)
Box Office: 020 7730 4500 / cadoganhall.com

The Viennese Salon
Sunday 24 January 2016, 2.00pm
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe, London
Tickets: £62 (premium), £15 – 48, £10 (standing)
Box Office: 020 7401 9919 / shakespearesglobe.com