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The CLS team’s 2018 highlights

There have been so many great moments at City of London Sinfonia in 2018. Our team have been reflecting on some of their participation and performance highlights – enjoy the read!

Headway East London
Headway East London

Headway East London

Fiona: Working with members of Headway and CLS musicians, led by Gawain Hewitt, to create music using a range of instruments including music technology to make it an accessible experience for everyone, and resulting in interactive ‘music boxes’ containing music samples from the project that remained at Headway. Headway had seen Gawain speak at a conference about inclusive and accessible music-making so were thrilled when we brought him in to lead the project – and it also linked well with our Modern Mystics concert series. There were some wonderful moments in this project including Waffy, our principal clarinettist, playing her clarinet into the canal and it being recorded on a hydrophone and a performance at Headway EATS (Headway’s monthly supper club) that included a member talking about the science of sound over the top of an improvisation.

Catherine: The project is great! I loved creating music with the members and helping out with the planet installations. There’s such a creative atmosphere there, it was great to see their art room and chat to Headway members.

Bethlem and Maudsley residency in Camberwell and Beckenham

Fiona: Creating music with young people from eight to 18 who are being treated for a broad range of psychiatric illnesses. It’s a highlight as a result of the growing relationship that we’ve established with the school; the number of CLS musicians who have been involved in the creative teams and making music alongside the young people; and the body of work that has been produced in the moment – some of which had been shared in our podcasts and performed at the QEH as part of The Hexagon installation, designed and created by Gawain Hewitt.

October 16, 2018_Reception-QEH_054bw
30 years of participation work celebration at the QEH

St Christopher’s Hospice workshop in Sydenham

Zak: Music is a way of living, and the people in this workshop were testament to that. The term ‘hospice’ comes with connotations of sadness, sickness and loss – but were you to walk into this brightly lit cottage at St Christopher’s, you’d be faced instead with instant new friends who represent a pure, focused way of living. And laughing. Channelling all that into music and hearing their composition lifted me up spiritually, a feeling the whole group must’ve shared.

Creative Primaries in Harrow

Fi: During the sharing of our Creative Primaries project in Harrow, I loved listening to our ensemble play Trisch-Trasch Polka whilst the Year-2 pupils and their parents/carers listened, and some of the children showed their enjoyment by miming playing the violin and dancing.

Zak: In the workshop, John made me feel like a kid again. I felt the sheer joy of learning about music in an immersive and playful way. The way the kids jumped at the chance to compose music, the way they laughed and cheered in unison, that’s how I felt on the inside.

Lullaby Concerts with Orchestras Live

Fi: A memorable moment in the Lullaby Concerts tour in October was when one toddler was so involved, he decided to invade the stage – man, that kid was a fast runner!

City of London Sinfonia.
Bach and the Cosmos: Bach Remixed. Queen Elizabeth Hall. Tuesday 16 October 2018.

Bach and the Cosmos series

Matthew: My highlight of the year was Bach’s Goldberg Variations at the Oxford University Mathematical Institute, with Professor James Sparks, that started our Bach and the Cosmos series. It was one of those moments where years of planning came together and worked perfectly – James was insightful and inspiring in explaining how and why Bach is such a mathematical composer and being so close to our musicians’ incredible playing of the Bach was thrilling. Just as wonderful was the next performance we did of that piece to an audience of older adults and very young children – with some of the latter deciding to wander through the orchestra to listen!

Zak: I’d never heard the B Minor Mass before. But it starts with an epic beginning, as if the heavens were opening, and even more appropriate then that it was in Southwark Cathedral. The beauty of this piece was not only the music, but the way you could actually see the audience thinking about the piece. They could walk around the cathedral whenever they pleased, as if they were admiring a sculpture and wanting to catch the sound from every possible angle, the way that Bach might’ve wanted it.

Catherine: Bach and the Cosmos was my first time seeing a concert at Southwark Cathedral. It’s an amazing venue and I loved seeing everyone move around during the performance and take it all in.

Tasha: Our Goldberg Variations University Tour was amazing. We got to road-trip to Oxford, Cambridge and Bristol, to venues and lecture theatres that the Orchestra had never performed in before. I loved the last concert in Bristol – rather than being on box office, I got to sit at the back of the auditorium and take it all in. Joely, one of our incredible cellists, started the concert with a beautiful solo version of the Bourrée from one of Bach’s Cello Suites before the rest of the strings joined in with Roderick Williams’ arrangement of it. It was such a powerful and moving concert – I definitely had tears at the end, and in between! As a marketer, seeing a brilliantly programmed concert series that you have been working on for the last few months come to fruition, and with great audiences, is incredibly rewarding.

City of London Sinfonia.
WW1 Centenary: Fauré Requiem. Southwark Cathedral. Saturday 10 November 2018.

WWI Centenary concert at Southwark Cathedral

Elaine: At the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, I sang in the performance of the Fauré Requiem at Southwark Cathedral to commemorate the end of World War one. It was intensely moving experience – especially listening to Bill Barclay’s emotive script.

La traviata at Opera Holland Park

Tasha: La traviata at Opera Holland Park was, without a doubt, the best opera production I’ve ever seen live. Lauren Fagan was just incredible as Violetta. There was one point during the first half – during the Sempre libera, I think – where she walked slowly forward towards the audience singing, just completely captivating us and owning the stage. OHP operas really show our Orchestra at their best too.

Concerts at St Paul’s Cathedral

Elaine: The May Organ Gala at St Paul’s included the mighty Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony. When the organ enters in the last movement the sheer noise and exuberance of the organ is thrilling and never fails to make me grin.

Alison: I’d have to say the St Paul’s Christmas concert was a highlight because it was one of my first concerts both in St Paul’s and with the full orchestra, plus it was really lovely getting to join in and have a sing-along. Nothing puts you in the festive spirit like belting out some descants!

Fi: Sitting behind the percussion during Sleigh Bells in the Christmas Celebration was so much fun!

CLS team in December 2018

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Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital School Residency

In 2016, the Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital School invited our musicians to bring their creative, responsive approach to its young people, leading to our current three-year residency. The School, based at two sites in Camberwell and Beckenham, Kent, is attended by young people aged 8-18 from across London and the South East, all of whom are living with severe mental health and psychiatric conditions.

Mental health is a crucial issue for today’s young people with more than one in ten having a diagnosable condition, and more than half of adult mental health problems beginning in childhood. Presenting a broad range of conditions including anorexia and psychosis, the young people at Bethlem and Maudsley need transformational opportunities during a difficult time in their lives. Continue reading Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital School Residency

WWI Centenary: Fauré Requiem

On Saturday 10 November (7pm), we’re holding a WWI Centenary performance of Fauré’s Requiem at Southwark Cathedral, in which the beautiful and consoling music will be interspersed with original readings, written by the Globe’s Director of Music, Bill Barclay. These texts, written to commemorate the end of the Great War 100 years ago, have been drawn from testaments of both people fighting and awaiting the return of loved ones at home.

Joining City of London Sinfonia in this special performance of words and music are narrators Bill Barclay (pictured middle) and Emma Pallant (pictured left), baritone Stephen Whitford (pictured right), conductor Paul Brough, and the choirs of Southwark Cathedral (Girls), All Saints Kingston and St John the Divine Kennington.

Tickets are available via the CLS Box Office online at cls.co.uk and by phone (020 7621 2800; Mon-Fri, 10-6). Tickets are also available on the door on the night of the concert from 6.15pm – subject to availability.

WWI Centenary Faure Requiem

Bach Remixed in pictures

On 16 October 2018, we presented our second performance in Southbank Centre’s newly refurbished Queen Elizabeth Hall. This time, in Bach Remixed, we turned our attention to JS Bach and his love of maths and numbers – the language of the cosmos. Take a look at our performance in pictures, captured beautifully by James Berry Photography.

From Komm, süßer Tod, Epiphoni Consort broke into Knut Nystedt’s contemporary reworking of the piece, Immortal Bach, in surround sound.

Epiphoni Consort
James Berry Photography. Epiphoni Consort in Bach and the Cosmos: Bach Remixed, 2018

Following four performances exploring notions of beauty and creativity in Bach’s Goldberg Variations, Professor James Sparks from the University of Oxford shared his knowledge on geometry, topology and symmetry in relation to Bach’s Musical Offering and Brandenburg Concerto No.3. We also learnt that cup = doughnut.

James Sparks Bach Remixed
James Berry Photography. James Sparks in in Bach and the Cosmos: Bach Remixed, 2018

Baritone Roderick Williams opened the second half by directing Singet dem Herrn, one of Bach’s most famous motets, from within the choir.

Roderick Williams and Epiphoni Consort
James Berry Photography. Roderick Williams and Epiphoni Consortin Bach and the Cosmos: Bach Remixed, 2018

Our audience enjoyed some unexpected and welcomed comedy from our Principal Oboe, Dan Bates, who starred in Roderick Williams’ modern interpretation of Ich habe genug for solo oboe. The end of the piece dovetailed effortlessly into the full cantata – a piece that Roderick champions and which we all delighted in watching.

City of London Sinfonia.
James Berry Photography. Ich habe genug with Roderick Williams and City of London Sinfonia in Bach and the Cosmos: Bach Remixed, 2018

All images in this blog post are © James Berry Photography for City of London Sinfonia, 2018. You can view more photos of this concert below and learn more about how our Bach and the Cosmos series unfolding on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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The only way is up: Bach, Singet and B Minor Mass

Written by Andrew Dickson (Bass, The Epiphoni Consort)

Singing Bach is a little like mountaineering, I sometimes think. Not only is Johann Sebastien Bach (JSB) the greatest musician of all time (sorry, Mozart), but no other composer requires so much energy and concentration to rehearse, or so much balance and nerve to perform. The arcing lines and dancing rhythms, the switches from darkest tragedy to wild joy, the sheer muscular athleticism and dexterity required… you can ascend to dizzying heights, but only if you use all your muscles, including some you didn’t know you had. It’s upwards, always upwards.

To make things even more challenging, we in the Epiphoni Consort are scaling two pinnacles of the repertoire in CLS’s Bach and the Cosmos series. The first is the 1727 double-choir motet Singet dem Herrn (Sing Unto the Lord), with its delicate balance between exuberance and pathos, which we sing with the superb baritone Roderick Williams. The second is the real biggie – the mightiest, meatiest choral piece of them all: the Mass in B Minor, sometimes described as the summation of JSB’s career, in which we’re conducted by one of the greatest Bach interpreters alive, John Butt. As one of my fellow singers commented at a rehearsal the other night, “there really are a lot of notes”. Not so much mountaineering as marathon mountaineering, if that’s a thing.

Of course, it’s also a pleasure, and none of us would be doing it if it weren’t. Singet I first sang at university, and it’s a delight to reencounter it (though it’s more fiendish than I remember: apparently I’m not as athletic as I was). As well as drilling those notes, we’ve spent a long time focusing on the Lutheran text, which is deeply poignant, especially during the chorale section in the middle of the work: “Gott weiß, wir sind nur Staub. Gleich wie das Gras vom Rechen, Ein Blum und fallendes Laub…” (“God knows we are but dust. Just as the grass that is mown, a flower or falling leaf…”). Singing it is a powerful experience.

The B Minor Mass I first heard in my teens (in that legendary John Eliot Gardiner recording), but I’ve never actually sung it before – more reason our concert on Saturday feels special. This work, which Bach assembled from a collage of cantata movements he’d composed in Leipzig, was intended to show off his skills and catch the attention of a new employer across in Saxony. In that way, I suppose, it’s the greatest job application of all time. (Not that it worked: Bach spent the rest of his life grinding away in Leipzig.)

The Mass is utterly encyclopedic: from elaborate fugues and dizzying double-choir counterpoint to the simplest, slenderest solo arias and plainchant. Singing it, you feel like you’re exploring the furthest reaches of Bach’s architectural imagination. The way he builds the opening cries of “Kyrie”, like placing the great foundation stones of a cathedral, to the filigree of the Sanctus, where we in the bass section sing a joyous, swaying melody that descends through the octaves while the higher voices make shimmering patterns up in the heavens. Encyclopedic though it is, after a while you don’t see the individual textures or effects: you just feel the heft of the whole structure, its solidity and profundity. That, too, is rather moving.

As I hope is clear, it’s tricky, learning to keep your head at these altitudes, but it’s also hugely rewarding. Hopefully we’ll make it all the way to the top.

Bach and the Cosmos: B Minor Mass

The Epiphoni Consort perform Bach’s B Minor Mass with City of London Sinfonia, John Butt, Roderick Williams, Joanne Lunn, Rowan Pierce, Robin Blaze and Charles Daniels at Southwark Cathedral on Saturday 20 October 2018, 7.30pm. Tickets available via the CLS Box Office online, on the phone (020 7621 2800; M-F, 10-6) or on the door.

Beethoven: Artist to Hero

Comment by Matthew Swann, CLS CEO

Nowadays, we’ve got a very good idea of the artist as hero: an individual who creates what he or she wants to and is very much their own manager. But it wasn’t always the case. Until the eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, it was very much the case that artists – particularly musicians and composers – were considered part of a servant class. They were artisans; they were producer of things for the upper classes to consume and they weren’t necessarily in control of their own artistic vision.

Beethoven was the man that changed that. He looked at political, military and leadership heroes throughout his life – particularly Napoleon Bonaparte, leader of the French Revolution and later self-declared emperor. Through a series of events where Beethoven fell out of love with Napoleon, for all intents and purposes, he decided that true heroism came from the artist.

Our Hero Worship concert at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall follows that journey and Beethoven’s own realisation, at the same time, of his growing deafness. It’s a journey of how Beethoven realises that the artist is becoming the hero, and all the anguish and that realisation is presented in his Third Symphony.

As well as collaborating with Brett Dean, a wonderful composer in his own right, Cambridge historian and music-lover Sir Christopher Clark will bring phenomenal insight to our performance. He’ll elaborate on the historic significance of this change: the change from an artist perceived as a servant – an artisan at the beck and call of the upper classes – to someone who drives artistic, creative and philosophical thinking themselves.

Hero Worship at the Queen Elizabeth Hall

Listen to Matthew talk more about Beethoven and our performances on our Spring Season podcast (available on SoundCloud and Apple Podcasts).

Want to be further enlightened (pun intended) on Beethoven’s historical significance? Come to Hero Worship on Tuesday 8 May 2018 (7.30pm) at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. Tickets available at cls.co.uk (including CLS 5IVER for students and 16-25s) and southbankcentre.co.uk.

Looking forward with CLS

We’re looking forward to so many wonderful performances and participation projects this year. Some of which, as you’ll have seen and heard about already on Instagram, has already had a creative and positive impact on our musicians and workshop participants.

In our first 2018 podcast (available for download on SoundCloud and iTunes), you’ll hear from Alexandra Wood and our team about what they’re looking forward to this year, including working with people at Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital School (whose music features in our podcast!), learning more about mental health, Ariadne auf Naxos at OHP, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi coming out on DVD.

“In this world, there’s so much clutter: constant noise, texts, emails our mobile phones. We constantly need to be on our toes, ready to act. It’s wonderful to take time just to exist, to breathe, and to have space.” – Alexandra Wood

What are you looking forward to this year, or even this week? Whatever it is, take the time to just enjoy it.

 

Highlights: Modern Mystics Season Launch

On Thursday 5 October, we held a special event to launch our Autumn Season at West London Synagogue. The venue was all dressed up for Sukkot with its beautiful and colourful sukkah, complete with water fountains and hanging fruit, and this Jewish holiday tradition certainly set the scene for our Modern Mystics Season Launch. Here’s how the evening unfolded…

Our famous comfy cushions, used in our seriously informal concert series, took pride of place in our reception.

Our guests and team gathered under the Synagogue’s stunning structure for drinks, nibbles and chats.

John Singer, our chairman, started off proceedings in the Sanctuary by introducing the premiere of our new short film (produced by Media Trust), which is now live on YouTube.

Chief Executive Matthew Swann hosted an inspiring panel discussion with Alexandra Wood (Creative Director and Leader), Jessica Cottis (Conductor, The Book of Hours), Fiona Lambert (Director of Participation) and Claire Henry (Animateur in Residence) about our Autumn Season. Topics included our Modern Mystics trilogy (starting on 9 November) and our Autumn Participation projects, including our Lullaby Concerts with Orchestras Live and our new three-year collaboration with Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital.

Our string quartet exemplified the Synagogue’s incredible acoustics with a performance of Summa by Arvo Pärt, featured in the first concert of our Modern Mystics series – The Fruit of Silence at Southwark Cathedral.

The performance ended in that beautiful silence our panel had spoken so eloquently about, before we headed back to the reception for more delightful conversation.

What a way to launch our Autumn Season!

Tweets about the night

 


Find out more about our Modern Mystics series: The Fruit of Silence (9 November, Southwark Cathedral), The Book of Hours (22 November, Village Underground), The Protecting Veil (2 December, St John’s Smith Square).

Learn more about our Participation programme: Growth through Music (Lullaby Concerts), Wellbeing through Music (L’Chaim, Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital).

Opera Holland Park 2017: Kát’a Kabanová and Zazà

We had an incredible 2017 Season, our fourteenth season as Orchestra in Residence, at Opera Holland Park. And just like with the first two operas, and all British open-air productions, the wind, rain and thunder threatened to overthrow performances in the second half of the Season – but to no avail. Here’s what some of the critics had to say about Kát’a Kabanová and Zazà…

WhatsOnStage (★★★★★) described Kát’a Kabanová as ‘Janáček’s most richly coloured and disturbingly flavoured score’ – with which conductor Sian Edwards agreed in our Views From The Pit podcast. Edwards, in her Opera Holland Park debut, was given full credit by the media, with Seen and Heard International exclaiming that ‘it was Sian Edwards’ conducting that lit the night up, inspiring the City of London Sinfonia to unheard-of heights’, and The Stage (★★★★) adding that ‘she and the City of London Sinfonia convey the score’s atmospheric power with incisive eloquence’.

Classical Source (★★★★★) loved Zazà, Leoncavallo’s ‘curious’ opera, in which ‘City of London Sinfonia and Peter Robinson was on fine form, relishing the music, and particularly well-managed were the off-stage banda and choral moments’, and the Daily Express (★★★★) thought ‘City of London Sinfonia under conductor Peter Robinson brings out the lushness of the score’. Despite Zazà not quite hitting the mark with The Times, other papers such as The Telegraph (★★★★) and The Guardian (★★★★) had plenty good to say about the new production, giving full praise to Peter Robinson’s ‘sensitive conducting’ of ‘Leoncavallo’s skillful orchestration’.

More from the press

Kát’a Kabanová

WhatsOnStage: ‘The belting City of London Sinfonia assails the ear with immaculately dosed helpings of romance and horror; and together with the OHP Chorus, whose members personify Kát’a’s paranoia in movement director Clare Whistler’s mime work, they respond rousingly to Sian Edwards’s rhapsodic conducting…’

The Stage: ‘Making her company debut in the pit, conductor Sian Edwards understands its complex style perfectly, and she and the City of London Sinfonia convey the score’s atmospheric power with incisive eloquence.’

The Spectator: ‘Sian Edwards conducted, and it was baleful, headstrong, ecstatic and raw…’

The Arts Desk: ‘Conductor Sian Edwards leads a well-paced account, nuanced but with no holding back at the searing climaxes… Rather than leitmotifs for the characters, Janáček employs different moods in the music to depict each, and Edwards did an excellent job of delineating these separate styles. She deserves much credit for the success of this revival, as does the entire cast for the compelling musical drama they make of this ensemble piece.’

Classical Source (★★★★): ‘Sian Edwards draws some powerful, idiomatic playing from the City of London Sinfonia, and she is a natural when it comes to releasing Janáček’s fleeting tenderness and realising his extraordinary powers of musical characterisation.’

Opera Today: ‘Sian Edwards drew precise, taut playing from the City of London Sinfonia…’

MusicOMH (★★★★): ‘Sian Edwards’ conducting is excellent, while all of the principals succeed in filling the large tented auditorium to good effect.’

Zazà

The Telegraph: ‘Peter Robinson’s sensitive conducting honours the evanescent fragrances of Leoncavallo’s skillful orchestration…’

The Guardian: ‘Conductor Peter Robinson gets the tricky mix of glitz, sadness and sensuality exactly right.’

Evening Standard (★★★): ‘Conductor Peter Robinson delivers a rousing and, when necessary, raucous orchestral commentary.’

Daily Mail (★★★★): ‘This superb Zazà readily shows off many similar magic moments… There’s some truly beautiful music here, especially for the orchestra.’

Daily Express: ‘The City of London Sinfonia under conductor Peter Robinson brings out the lushness of the score and the Opera Holland Park Chorus supplies backstage bustle, while Louise Winter portrays dipsomaniac mother Anaide.’

The Independent (★★★★): ‘Peter Robinson’s expert conducting is a reminder that Leoncavallo was a resourceful orchestrator as well as a dependable librettist.’

The Stage (★★★★): ‘The City of London Sinfonia’s authoritative playing of Leoncavallo’s appealing and impassioned score under Peter Robinson’s vital baton sets the seal on this worthwhile re-launch.’

Bachtrack (★★★★): ‘Leoncavallo’s score is opulent, rich and melodious throughout, and Robinson conducts it with plenty of accent and a fair degree of precision.’

The Spectator: ‘The strings sweep upwards, the horns surge, and Leoncavallo’s Zaza throws itself into your arms.’

Planet Hugill: ‘…under Peter Robinson’s direction the City of London Sinfonia drew out the beauties of Leoncavallo’s rather luxuriant score.’

From Twitter

CLS to perform in Grenfell Tower memorial performance at Opera Holland Park

Following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in Kensington in June, there will be a memorial performance of Verdi’s Requiem held at Opera Holland Park on Tuesday 1 August in aid of the Rugby Portobello Trust, to raise funds for the community. Our musicians, along with the Opera Holland Park Chorus, soloists and conductors, will be donating their time to raise funds for those affected and to support our friends at Opera Holland Park.

The tragedy happened just a mile away from the venue and Opera Holland Park has been directly affected, with a member of their stage team still missing and a number of their community projects taking place in that community. On 23 June, our musicians and the cast of Opera Holland Park’s production of La rondine performed an encore of ‘Bevo al tuo fresco sorriso’ in loving memory of their friend and colleague.


We are pleased to say that the event is sold out and are extremely grateful for your support. Read more about the event, or just donate…