Tag Archives: community

The influence of Absolute Bird

Our three Absolute Bird programmes in the spring are influencing the majority of the work we’re doing in 2019, challenging and marvelling audiences and project participants alike. As our chairman, John Singer explains in our participation brochure, our artistic programmes – such as Absolute Bird and, previously, Bach and the Cosmos – are not limited to our concert series. We also explore the relative themes, music techniques and pieces from these programmes to enthuse participants’ enjoyment in our daily activities in hospitals, hospices, specialist care centres, care homes and schools.

In Absolute Bird, we’re performing a vast range of birdsong- and nature-inspired repertoire, from medieval rounds and canons such as Summer is icumen in to modern-day naturalistic sounds of the Outback by Hollis Taylor – some of the music being used to inspire multiple age groups in our wellbeing and education projects.

Here is just a taster of how we are using nature, namely birdsong, to inspire creative music-making beyond our concert series this year.

How birdsong is inspiring our projects

In our music-making workshops at St Christopher’s Hospice, patients are drawing inspiration from bird-related classical repertoire such as Couperin’s Le Rossignol en amour (featured in Absolute Bird: Flocks of Europe) and Les coucous benevoles, and excerpts of Stravinsky and Vivaldi to from their own creations of music and word with CLS musicians and workshop leader Sam Glazer.

St Christopher's Hospice visit January 2019
CLS musicians at St Christopher’s Hospice, Jan 2019

The young people at Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital School get to create something a bit special with Sound Artist Gawain Hewitt and CLS musicians this term: they’ll leave a legacy of birdsong-inspired sounds in the form of an interactive sonic tree sculpture. “How?” we hear you gasp. Well, the plan is to create a tree as large as six feet tall to house 24 interactive birds that, when touched, play back music composed during the sessions. “Naturific!” And audience members at our Queen Elizabeth Hall and Southwark Cathedral concerts in May will get to see this in action.

The “nature-niche” continues with members of Headway East London, a centre for survivors of brain injuries, who will create and perform music composed in response to Absolute Bird repertoire during their five-week project in March. Imagine a sonic flotilla of these recorded creations, shaped as river birds, floating down the canal – this is what Gawain is aiming to construct for a Headway EATS event.

Recently, our participation dream-team met with vocal leader and workshop facilitator Jessie Maryon Davies to get the creative juices flowing for our summer term Creative Primaries projects in Tower Hamlets and Harrow. There are lots of possibilities for bird-related stories and repertoire for pupils and our musicians to collaborate on in Key Stage One classrooms, so watch this space for their new music.

Creative Primaries Dec 2018 Suzi Corker
Primary schools engaged in Bach and the Cosmos in Dec 2018 (image: Suzi Corker)

We’re in the thick of creative music sessions at University College London Hospital (UCLH). In the first session this term, guitarist Jack Ross led the session with clarinettist Mel Henry and CLS Violin Clare Hayes, trying out some trios with bass clarinet, violin and guitar. They based the session on the story of a little chick, about which, with the help of our musicians, the young people created an original piece in response. Staff were loving it and people were passing by the classroom often – hopefully it brightened up their Monday morning!

Where else are we using birdsong?

The subjects of nature and birdsong are also at the centre of our Comfortable Classical concerts in February and March at the Albany, Deptford, and Canada Water Theatre. Our wind and string ensembles are going to be playing and introducing the music in three relaxed lunchtime performances for anyone and everyone, from young children to older adults. Audience members are also encouraged to take up other relaxing activities (such as drawing, colouring or knitting!) while listening to the music.


Be sure to keep up to date with all our activities on Twitter @cityldnsinfonia, and on Facebook and Instagram (@cityoflondonsinfonia). You can also visit our website for information on our wellbeing and education projects, and our upcoming performances.

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“From Bingo to Bartok”: Creative and Innovative Approaches to Involving Older People with Orchestras

On 25 January 2019, we published “From Bingo to Bartok”: Creative and Innovative Approaches to Involving Older People with Orchestras, a free online publication with Orchestras Live and commissioned by the Baring Foundation.

Co-edited by our very own CEO Matthew Swann and Orchestras Live CEO Sarah Derbyshire, From Bingo to Bartok illustrates some of the best examples of orchestral work engaging older people from many classical music organisations around the UK.

The publication’s case studies cover projects in communities where classical music is supporting older people living better lives and meeting the challenges of health and loneliness – about which Matthew says:

“These projects show how orchestras can bring huge societal benefit in an area of growing need. They also show how these same projects can deliver enormous artistic and organisation benefits to orchestras through developing the skills of our musicians, creating performance opportunities and opening income streams.”

Download From Bingo to Bartok

You can view our own case studies in chapters five and seven, detailing our approach to sharing music experiences with older people in care homes and to intergenerational concerts through Relaxed performances.

Find out more about our Wellbeing work

L’Chaim: Living Music

This August, we set off on another of our successful L’Chaim tours around care homes in North London, offering concerts for Jewish residential homes in partnership with Jewish Care.

The houses were originally set up to provide sheltered housing for elderly Jewish Holocaust survivors or refugees. Each home has a shared space where residents come together to socialise and our concerts help to bring people together in these spaces, helping to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness amongst the older people.

A string quartet from CLS visited seven different homes, playing a specially programmed concert of classical favourites, lighter popular songs and arrangements of Jewish melodies. The audiences varied in size but staff told us that many residents hear and appreciate the music from their own rooms – some of the audience were so enthusiastic that they couldn’t resist the urge to get up and dance to some of the Klezmer tunes.

We were also lucky enough to hear thoughts and stories from residents in a few of the homes over a cup of tea and cake – it was a privilege to get to know the residents and we’re looking forward to our next tour in November.

Want to know more about our L’Chaim projects? Watch our L’Chaim, Living Music video.


With older people, Holocaust survivors and those who are facing bereavement, our music-making helps to keep memories alive and minds active. Learn more about our Wellbeing through Music projects…

A dive into the CLS Education archive…

Founded in 1988, we are proud that our education and outreach programme, Meet the Music  was one of the first to be established by a UK orchestra. This week we took a dive into our photo archive, and found some amazing pictures of some projects we were involved in back in the late 80s and early 90s. We hope you enjoy the pictures as much as we did!

Continue reading A dive into the CLS Education archive…

Catch up with Meet the Music

Flashback: Meet the Music
Making a racket at one of our Lullaby workshops

It’s been an extremely hectic time for our Education team and musicians over the last couple of months, with numerous Meet the Music activities taking place. Here’s a flavour of what’s been going on…

Last weekend saw the success of another much-loved Crash Bang Wallop! concert at Cadogan Hall and while the leitmotifs of Stephen McNeff’s Squirrel Nutkin still  rattle around our heads, we are already looking ahead to the turn of Little Red Riding Hood when we return on the 11th May. In the mean time, however, our Meet the Music education team’s schedules are far from quiet…

First Time Live participants from the last project in Luton
First Time Live participants from the last project in Luton

This week sees our musicians partake in their final workshop for First Time Live at Harlow, which will culminate in the production of a concert on 21st March, completely engineered by Harlow’s finest, budding orchestra managers and composers! Under the expert guidance of our presenter, John K. Miles, and principal conductor, Michael Collins, our role in this project enables a group of brave young teenagers, who live in areas lying in the bottom 20% for levels of arts engagement, an opportunity to access, and be a part of, a live orchestral concert experience.

Turning our attention to a slightly younger audience, our Lullaby programme will this week be making a final visit to Clacton-on -Sea. Thanks to generous funding from Barnardo’s, we are able to take a quintet of musicians into three nurseries in Jaywick this Friday, followed by two interactive family concerts on Saturday, featuring excerpts from The Nutcracker and including our very own young ballerina! Next stop will be Purfleet and Under the Sea!

CLS Quartet performs at St Joseph's Hospice
CLS Quartet performs at St Joseph’s Hospice

But we don’t just take care of the little people… as part of our Wellbeing through Music programme, we also have an upcoming visit to the residents of St Joseph’s Hospice, Hackney, next week. We are excited about developing more opportunities to work with St Joseph’s over the next few months, including a potential composition project we have in the pipeline. We will also be performing at Guy’s Hospital on the 24th April (a lunchtime concert open to the public) and our players continue their  weekly visits to the children and families of Great Ormond Street Hospital and Evelina Children’s Hospital, bringing music as respite to those who need it the most.

Find out more about our Meet the Music Programme.