Tag Archives: first time live

John K Miles: First Time Live, Chelmsford

Over January–March, CLS in partnership with Orchestras Live worked with six secondary schools in Chelmsford. Students from Year 7 upwards worked with John K Miles over a series of workshops to devise a new piece to be performed at Chelmsford Civic Theatre on 17 March. Read on as John reflects on the project.

I chose to base the project on The Golden Ratio as it was a potential treasure trove of starting points for creativity. Looking at Leonardo da Vinci’s concept of physical perfection in portraiture versus today’s ’selfie culture’, we discussed The Nature of Beauty, particularly in terms of imperfection being beautiful. The resulting work formed the basis of our libretto. I also used The Golden Ratio as a musical starting point using the first five numbers in The Fibonacci Sequence 0,1,1,2,3 as a basis for rhythmic starting points. We gave particular focus to the ratio between 3 and 2 within a ‘1’. Ultimately all the rhythmic and melodic material referred to these numbers in some way.

The Nature of Beauty was composed in response to creative workshops with 130 open access participants from six Chelmsford secondary schools. The work was done over 3–4 sessions in each participating school. I supplied some musical and narrative starting points to the first session and from there we worked on playing rhythms, composing melodies and writing libretto. In response to these initial workshops I developed the main themes for the piece, which I then took back to workshop 2. From there I completed the piece and the later sessions were focused on rehearsal. The piece was scored for all participants to play alongside City of London Sinfonia.

First Time Live 2017, Chelmsford

The new piece formed the finale of a concert of popular orchestral music chosen by the participants. The concert was also presented by the participants, with input from myself and representatives of Essex Music Hub. The participants came from a range of informal and formal musical backgrounds. Some could read music, others could not. The level of musical experience was varied, but for many it was their first experience of playing with, and listening to a professional orchestra.

Using a creative approach allowed us to work on the balance between bespoke challenge and enjoyment and the outcome was a huge success. The participants performed brilliantly in the final concert and it felt like we’d set them up to succeed in a professional performance context. I hope the schools enjoyed working together to make music alongside a top class professional orchestra! I have personally been very inspired by the possibilities that we began to explore together in this project and I hope to develop this project further in the future.

Watch some of the final performance of The Nature of Beauty in a video filmed and edited by students involved in the project:



Find out more about our educational and community-driven projects in our Meet the Music programme on the CLS website.

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Instrumenta Lincoln – First Time Live

The CLS Education team is really enjoying planning some exclusive concerts with a group of Young Producers in Lincoln. The project is part of Orchestras Live’s ‘First Time Live’ scheme, and will culminate in two concerts with City of London Sinfonia at Lincoln Drill Hall. Here’s a sneak peek at the programme they’ve come up with so far…

They’ve also included Gabriel Prokofiev’s brilliant Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra, which you can watch here.

Retrospective: Aiming Higher, First Time Live, July 2015

Last week City of London Sinfonia travelled to Luton to perform in the final culminatory concert as part of Aiming Higher, an exciting project that aimed to give young musicians in Luton the chance to progress their musical skills and ambition. Building on the success of First Time Live 2 in July 2014, the project provided the opportunity for an even wider range of young music groups to work collaboratively with the musicians at CLS and composer John K Miles as they performed Carnival Variations, a brand new piece composed especially for the project. In this blog post, John gives an overview of his favourite moments throughout the project, his thoughts on why the project was so important and what he, as a composer and animateur, gained personally from the experience.

 

Hi John! So, tell us a bit more about the project – we hear it was gargantuan…

Aiming Higher was superbly ambitious.  It was conceived as a follow up project to Carnival Suite – a piece commissioned by Orchestras Live for City of London Sinfonia and beginner instrumentalists in July last year – now published by Charanga/Music Sales. The project centred on a sequel commission, Carnival Variations, which was a set of five variations based on the original suite, for City of London Sinfonia, Luton Youth Jazz Orchestra, Luton Youth Concert Band, Cantores (Luton female youth choir), and Lady Zia Wernher (special school).  The final programme also included two movements from the original Carnival Suite with students from Foxdell Junior School in Luton.

 

We understand you were in charge of the commission… how did you go about composing it?

All the material took its starting point from the Brazilian rhythm Afoxe as taught to me by my good friend Adriano Adewale, a master Brazilian drummer living in London.

The variation for City of London Sinfonia was a straightforward commission produced in the traditional way – composer tearing hair out, drinking tea, questioning, singing, problem solving and eventually notating…

The four subsequent variations for the Youth Ensembles were written and built through a creative workshop process with the young musicians in Luton; I made several visits to each group with CLS’s wonderful Projects Coordinator, Pia Luck and up to four musicians from the orchestra, all over the space of three months.

“The variation for City of London Sinfonia [involved me] tearing my hair out, drinking tea, questioning, singing, problem solving and eventually notating…”

And what did the different creative sessions involve?

The first sessions with the different groups were mainly creative; introducing the material to the young musicians and then composing collaboratively.  I then took all the ideas the kids suggested on board went away and wrote most of the music, again in the traditional way (tea… hair…)

The second sessions consisted mainly of tweaking; playing the music I’d composed back to them and taking on any feedback.  I then took away the music and added, expanded, modified and wrote the orchestral parts for CLS.  I also, where possible, connected the groups. The choir, for example, was written into the piece for Luton Youth Jazz Orchestra.

The third session was essentially a rehearsal for everyone to play the piece.  We then had one final rehearsal ahead of the concert day with all the groups together in the same room.

And why, in your opinion, do you think the project was so successful?

The fantastic thing about this way of working, is that it allowed me to get to know the groups in an organic way – what they did well, what might challenge them, and what they might enjoy.  It facilitated a set of bespoke variations that had a connection to all the performers (including young musicians and members of CLS) and that also the groups (hopefully) felt some ownership of.

“The fantastic thing about this way of working, is that it allowed me to get to know the groups in an organic way – what they did well, what might challenge them, and what they might enjoy.”

It also allowed the participants to work alongside top professional orchestral musicians, not only in the final concert but throughout the process.  This fostered a meaningful connection between the orchestra and participants and created a rare learning context for all concerned.  The rich mix of participants, genres, ages and experience was very special (and at this point I’d like to mention the fantastic tutors at Luton Music Hub, Kerry Watson, Julia Fraser, Nick Ridout, Simon Router and Adam Cowburn who have brought these ensembles up to such a high standard!).  One of the key components of this project has been the connection to meaningful pathways to young musicians during/post project and it is inspirational to see such dedication, expertise and continuity in a music service!

 

What do you feel that you have gained on a personal level from this project?

On a personal level this was a unique opportunity to write bespoke pieces for ensembles across a variety of genres, bound together by the aesthetic of a world class classical chamber orchestra.  The resulting music drew on Classical, Jazz and World Music –  shaped by a world where information and access to global music are at the touch of a button.  Ironically the musical landscape can (at times) feel stylistically and demographically fragmented and this project was a golden opportunity to bring different genres, styles and a huge range of musicians together.

Apart from ‘traditional’ ensembles, we also worked with the students at Lady Zia Werner special school, and I learnt a lot from this experience.  Their variation ended up being programmed as the final ’showstopper’ and a great way to bring all the ensembles together.  It highlighted not only the educational value these projects have but also the deeper way music can connect and inspire people across generations, experiences and communities.

“[Our work with Lady Zia Werner special school] highlighted not only the educational value these projects have but the deeper way music can connect and inspire people across generations, experiences and communities.”

 

A huge thank you to Orchestras Live, Royal Opera House Bridge, The Mix, and The UK Centre for Carnival Arts for supporting this ambitious far-reaching project.

 

Retrospect: First Time Live in Harlow

Organised in partnership with our long-term partner Orchestras Live, First Time Live – Youth is an innovative orchestral touring initiative set up in 2013. It brings orchestral music into the lives of young people aged 10 to 14 across England, many of whom have little or no engagement with the arts.

As part of this project, more than 100 pupils from five secondary schools in Harlow, Essex took part in a series of workshops led by City of London Sinfonia musicians and music leader John K Miles this February. They worked together to create a collaborative piece for performance: Transition, which focused on the different transitions one might make in life, in particular the journey from primary to secondary school. Together with the young musicians, the orchestra performed in two orchestral concerts – one for an audience of primary school groups and the other for parents, carers and the general public.

Continue reading Retrospect: First Time Live in Harlow

Month in Pictures – January and February!

We have had a fantastic start to the year here at CLS as momentum has built preparing for our long-awaited Émigré concert series, not to mention a wealth of other concerts and projects, including First Time Live in Harlow and the first two lunchtime concerts as part of City of London Festival’s Free Winter Concert Series at St Andrews Holborn. Just scroll down to see some of our favourite moments from the last couple of months, as well as our Chief Executive, Matthew Swann’s recent adventures in Tokyo, Japan.

Last Wednesday (25 February) we had a fantastic turn-out for the first concert of the series, CLoSer: To and From Buenos Aires which explored a range of tango music composed by Piazzolla, Golijov and Bartók. We received some great audience feedback, which you can check out on our previous blog, and don’t forget that the performance is available to watch for free on our YouTube channel until Thursday 5 March! Continue reading Month in Pictures – January and February!

Month in Pictures – August and September!

The last couple of months at CLS have seen the opening of our Shakespeare: Let Music Sound series this week, lots of education and community work (including the start of our Lullaby project with young children in Derbyshire), but mainly lots of burgers and lots of cake. Scroll down for some of our favourite moments!

 

In August, we headed off to Glasgow with Gwilym Simcock and our Principal Conductor and clarinetist, Michael Collins to perform Gwilym’s On a Piece of Tapestry in the City of Music at the UNESCO Commonwealth Games with New Music Biennial.

 

After our final performance at Opera Holland Park this Summer, our Concerts Manager, Becca had the glorious job of getting the scores ready to send back to the publishers. She found some hilarious markings in the parts, including an enlightening comment from the horn section making sure certain instrumentalists were still awake!

 

This beautiful picture was taken by our Chief Operating Officer, Elaine during a morning walk, marking the beginning of Autumn with low mist and frost. Get those woolly jumpers ready!

autumn arrives with mist and frost

 

Our musicians have been up and about doing lots of education and community work this month, including workshops for our Lullaby concert tour in Derbyshire (the picture where the musicians are wearing numbered hats!), First Time Live 2 legacy project in association with Orchestras Live and some concerts and workshops in Jewish Care homes as part of L’Chaim.

 

On Wednesday we opened the first of our Shakespeare: Let Music Sound Autumn concert series with a performance of Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Southwark Cathedral with Holst Singers, baritone Neal Davies and actors Richard Hope and Emma Pallant. Here are some of our favourite snaps, if you want to see more, check out our Facebook page!

 

The team at CLS has had a bit of a change over the last few months as we’ve said a sad goodbye to our Development Manager, Ruth Mulvey and a temporary farewell to our Education Manager, Gillian who went on maternity leave. This, of course, along with the recent appointment of Nancy Hitzig, our new Philanthropy and Enterprise Manager, have been great excuses for cake, a cheeky game of ‘Guess the Baby’ and a new CLS tradition: Burger Friday!

 

In other news, our Marketing team have been talking about our CLS FIVER scheme for students and 16-25s at London Freshers Fairs, our Chief Executive, Matthew Swann, had an accident on his bike (for the record, this is not a “favourite moment”, just a memorable one!) and Elaine’s cute dogs, Dolly and Archie, spent a day lending a very helpful paw in the office!

Month in Pictures – Summer Season!

Summer 2014 has definitely been one of the best for us here at City of London Sinfonia. With open-air opera, concerts in East London warehouses (as part of the Spitalfields Music Summer Festival) and tons of education and community work in hospitals, care homes and primary schools, we have so many favourite memories and moments we’d love to share with you! Read on for the latest edition of our Month in Pictures blog, featuring some of our best snaps from the Summer months.

 

On 17 July, we were joined by 570 young musicians to perform a new piece based on ‘Carnival’ they had collaboratively composed during previous workshops with composer John K Miles and Orchestras Live. Here are some of pics of both the rehearsals and culminatory concert, including the pBone section of the Orchestra which we thought was especially brilliant (and colourful!)

In fact, we loved the pBones so much that we even decided to buy one of our own! Here is our Chief Executive, Matthew Swann trying it out earlier this week (they’re not just for kids, apparently!).

Earlier in July, we visited Great Ormond Street Hospital for some workshops and afternoon concert with some of the young patients. For the some of the children who were unable to leave their wards, the hospital set up a live-stream on their internal computer systems so that they were able to join in too.

Back in June, we are proud to have participated in Spitalfields Music Summer Festival! The Orchestra joined Icelandic composer and electronic musician Valgeir Sigurðsson for a melancholic programme of John Dowland, Thomas Adès, Arvo Part and world premiere of Valgeir’s new work No Nights Dark Enough at Village Underground, Shoreditch.

As Orchestra-in-Residence at Opera Holland Park, we are now on the last 2 productions of the open-air festival: Norma and Adriana Lecouvreur. Last Sunday, some of the musicians joined them for their Family Open Day, introducing the audience to life at the opera behind the scenes. Here are some pictures from the day, where we were conducted by the world’s youngest conductor (!). If you haven’t already been, do pop along to see a performance before it finishes on 9 August!

Our last Crash Bang Wallop! concert, The Fantastic Feast at Cadogan Hall was a real success back in May. The Concerts Team had some great fun making all the props, including slugs and pizzas – here are some of our favourites:

As part of our work in Jewish residential homes across London with our L’Chaim: Living Music project, we visited Holocaust Survivors Centre earlier in the season for a series of interactive concerts.

Co-produced with Orchestras Live, we were joined by our animateur-in-residence Claire Bloor for a series of younger years Lullaby workshops and concerts based on Tchaikovsky’s ever-popular Nutcracker Suite in Bolsover, Derbyshire. A ballerina joined us for the final concert, and I think it’s fair to say that the friendly geese next door to the concert venue wanted to as well!

Retrospect: The Last Month in Pictures

As we approach the Easter holiday weekend, we take a look back at the last month in what has been an inspiring winter of music, despite the miserable weather! Here’s what we have been getting up to in February and March…

CLoSer CLoSer

Our first CLoSer of the year took place at Village Underground featuring Schnittke’s Moz-art à la Haydn, the winner of our social media audience choice. Saxophonist Tim Garland also performed Kancheli’s Night Prayers and new piece, Songs to the North Sky.

CBW 2 9 Mar 2013 Becca Newman

We also returned to Cadogan Hall for 2013’s first Crash Bang Wallop! concert, which this time focused on Stephen McNeff’s musical retelling of the Tale of Squirrel Nutkin. Here the orchestra rehearse before the children arrived for their day of craft and music making!

First Time Live EBaines

FTL Harlow

We took another successful First Time Live project to Harlow, performing in Harlow Leisure Zone after a series of workshops with 11-14 year-olds, giving them the chance to not only experience live orchestral music, but create it!

COLF feb concert credit becca newman

As part of the City of London Festival, our series of lunchtime winter concerts continued. Here our viola soloist, Fiona Bonds, rehearses in St. Andrews Church, Holborn, where she performed Woolrich’s Ulysses Awakes.

Lullaby Thurrock credit Gillian Hunter

Our animateur in residence, Claire Bloor, performs in our Lullaby concert series in Purfleet. To find out more about our education and welfare projects, read our Meet the Music blog.

Steve and Becky low res

It’s not all hard work: Steve and Becky, two of our players, enjoy some friendly competition on their lunchbreak!

Images: James Berry, Becca Newman, Gillian Hunter, Paul Coghlin & Elaine Baines

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.