Tag Archives: CLS Minis

The Inclusive Orchestra: relaxed performances

Written by Zak Hulstrom, CLS Development Manager

CLS prides itself on having a ‘seriously informal’ approach, which means we play high-quality music, but we think people should have the freedom to enjoy the concert as they please: grab a drink, use their phones, cough, or clap between movements. Our approach works and has grown in popularity. Young people (aged 16-25) made up a surprising proportion of our audience at our Modern Mystics concerts in autumn 2017 (25%).

We’re beginning to realise that this approach works well for anyone, including people living with dementia, who would enjoy having the freedom to get up, talk, clap, or enjoy a break in the quiet space outside the concert hall.

What makes a concert ‘dementia-friendly’?

I often get asked this question, and it’s not a complicated answer: it’s no different to a regular concert. When we are putting together a dementia-friendly concert, we are primarily focused on accessibility around the venue. Can audience members find the toilet, the café and the concert hall with relative ease? Is there a volunteer nearby who can answer questions?

In December 2017, we presented our first ‘dementia-friendly’ concert at St John’s Smith Square. In preparation for the performance, we sought answers from other like-minded organisations who already have experience engaging people living with dementia: The Alzheimer’s Society, Southwark Dementia Action Alliance, Dementia Friends, Shakespeare’s Globe, Royal Academy of Art and The Young Vic.

One of the important steps was having The Alzheimer’s Society audit the concert venue. They showed us all the many ways we could improve access to St John’s Smith Square, and we were delighted by the sheer number of considerations. We were “delighted” because addressing the issues meant we could be more confident about promoting this concert as dementia-friendly. For example, some of the issues they discovered were dark patches on the floor, which, to some people, can appear as holes in the ground or wet patches. Likewise, colours on signs, the chairs and tables must be carefully selected so that the contrast is highest and objects can be differentiated more easily. Signs must also be clear in content and within line of sight as you navigate the venue.

Our team in the office and many of our musicians are trained as Dementia Friends. We’ve participated in a taster course to better understand the many kinds of dementias and how they can affect people in different ways. From losing memory, which is what most people associate with dementia, to visuo-spatial difficulties and emotional changes, there is no such thing as one dementia. We can’t recommend it highly enough to become a Dementia Friend, so that you can learn small ways to help other people.

How are we putting our learning into practice?

Our concerts should be as welcoming as possible. Our first dementia-friendly concert could have been better, as it was held in December, on a dark, windy and rainy evening. We have already considered some solutions, and so our next round of relaxed concerts will be held in CLS Minis in April 2018 – in a much warmer month, and during the day.

Performance dates:

All seating is unreserved. Tickets are just £5 at the CLS Box Office (online or by phone, 020 7621 2800) and the Albany Box Office (17 April only). Standard tickets are £10, and we offer a free companion seat for wheelchair users and people with limited mobility. Tickets will also be available on the door (subject to availability).

You can read more about our Relaxed Lunchtime Performances on Facebook and Twitter, or by visiting our website.


Following our first dementia-friendly concert in December 2017, Zak was given the opportunity to speak more about this and represent CLS at a British Council conference in South Korea. You can read more about his time there in our The Inclusive Orchestra: CLS visits South Korea blog post.

Zak on dementia-friendly concerts

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Music and mindfulness in a busy world

In today’s world, we need time to stop and focus. We need time that doesn’t involve being bombarded with the deafening noise of work and noise pollution; to have a break from social media and other things that are supposed to make our lives better, but quite often make our minds overly busy and stressed and tired.

In our Music and Mindfulness concerts, CLS violinist and mindfulness practitioner Ann Lovatt (referred to as Ann Morfee elsewhere) and the musicians of City of London Sinfonia are there to give you a “magic hour” of peace and calm.

Previously, audience members at Modern Mystics: The Fruit of Silence experienced a mindful meditation with Ann before listening to the beautiful music of Arvo Pärt and Peteris Vasks performed in Southwark Cathedral. We also took Music and Mindfulness to a place of work, to help city workers start their day with positive and focused minds.

Ann Lovatt
CLS violinist Ann Lovatt in a King of Ghosts recording session (c) Pete le May.

How do live music and mindfulness work together?

Mindfulness is a practice that encourages you to step out of autopilot. It allows you to reconnect with your body and your breath; to become more aware of stresses and to enable you to step back from stress and its causes. Meditation is a proven method of reducing stress, and music is also proven to have therapeutic effects, as well as the power to excite, to calm and to the reach the myriad of emotions in between.

When preparing for a mindful music session, Ann looks in depth at the music – for example, the structure, context and how the instruments might be used. In each session, she hopes to highlight aspects of the music which allow some insight or reflection appropriate to the practice of meditation. Throughout the mindfulness session, Ann bears all the musical factors in mind and references the chosen piece of music before it is performed live by CLS musicians.

The inclusion of a short mindful meditation within a live performance aims to enhance the listeners’ experiences of the music being performed, bringing an immediate sense of wellbeing to complement that which comes through the music alone.

Where can I experience Music and Mindfulness?

In April 2018, our strings, brass and woodwind sections will take it in turns to perform lunchtime and evening miniatures at various venues in our CLS Minis series. These include three Music and Mindfulness concerts in Deptford, Mile End and Marble Arch.

Performance dates:

All seating is unreserved. Tickets start from £5 (for students and 16-25s with the CLS 5IVER ticket scheme) at the CLS Box Office and the Albany Box Office (17 April only). Standard tickets are £10, and we offer a free companion seat for wheelchair users and people with limited mobility. Tickets will also be available on the door (subject to availability).

Listen to the CLS podcast

Want to know more before you try it out? Ann Lovatt talks more about the benefits of music and mindfulness in our Spring Season podcast: available for download on Apple Podcasts and SoundCloud.

Your guide to CLS Minis

Lots of good things come in mini packages: cars, ice creams, iPads (to name a few). CLS Minis is our version in orchestral music, featuring six short chamber concerts with programmes focusing of different sections of the Orchestra: strings, brass and percussion, and woodwind.

The series of miniatures focuses on mental health and wellbeing and features three programmes curated and performed by CLS musicians. For each programme, there will be a relaxed performance during the day (1.30-2.15pm) and an evening performance with an additional mindful meditation (7-8pm).

Relaxed Lunchtime Performances

The Relaxed Lunchtime Performances are for everyone and aim to provide comfortable environments for people who are perhaps living with dementia, their carers or another invisible disability associated with age. These 45-minute concerts are great opportunities for those who may not be able to attend evening concerts to visit some great venues and watch some fantastic live music in the middle of the day. In these performances, there is no judgement; you can come and go if you need to do so, and you can be confident that the performers are aware of people with those conditions attending the concerts. It is a wonderful way for people to enjoy music that they perhaps loved when they were younger, but don’t get the opportunity to now.

Performance dates:

All seating is unreserved. Tickets are just £5 at the CLS Box Office (online or by phone, 020 7621 2800) and the Albany Box Office (17 April only), and we offer a free companion seat for wheelchair users and people with limited mobility. Tickets will also be available on the door (subject to availability).

Music and Mindfulness

In the early evening, our orchestra sections will perform the same programme as they did earlier in the day but with an added dimension: with a mindfulness meditation integrated into the concert. During the mindful music sessions, CLS violinist Ann Lovatt (referred to as Ann Morfee elsewhere) gives audience members something to focus on, or to watch or listen out for in the performance of the music. Experiencing live music alongside a meditation is so powerful and helps bring an immediate sense of calm and wellbeing at the end of a working day. It enables you to tune out of the outside world and just listen to the music; to just be in the moment.

Performance dates:

All seating is unreserved. Tickets start from £5 (for students and 16-25s with the CLS 5IVER ticket scheme) at the CLS Box Office and the Albany Box Office (17 April only). Standard tickets are £10, and we offer a free companion seat for wheelchair users and people with limited mobility. Tickets will also be available on the door (subject to availability).

Listen to the CLS podcast

Find out more about our CLS Minis series with CEO Matthew Swann and Ann Lovatt on our podcast: available for download on Apple Podcasts and SoundCloud.