Tag Archives: meet the music

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).

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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…

Podcast: Animal Antics KS1 Project

It’s not often that our musicians get to be bumblebees, chickens and horses stuck in mud, but they got to do just that in our ‘Animal Antics’ themed KS1 concerts in May 2017.

The project, in partnership with Tower Hamlets Arts & Music Education Service and Harrow Music Service, saw schoolchildren engage in a series of fun, creative workshops with our fantastic Animateur in Residence, Claire Henry, before experiencing live orchestral music for the first time. The concerts introduced the children to instruments, with our musicians illustrating the story through musical excerpts, and gave them the chance to join in with rhythms, dictate changes in the music, and sing along to their own songs, created in the workshops – all to help the orchestra escape from the mud!

Our Key Stage 1 music projects this year have been made possible with generous support from the Aldgate and Allhallows Foundation, AM Spurgin Charitable Trust, Bernarr Rainbow Trust, Childhood Trust, Derek Hill Foundation, D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust and donors of the Big Give Christmas Challenge.

Listen to our Animal Antics podcast, featuring conversations with musicians, Claire Henry, children, and representatives from schools and music education hubs, available on SoundCloud.

You can also watch/listen on YouTube.

We’ll be releasing a new podcast every month, giving you insight into our performances, collaborations and projects throughout the year, so follow us on SoundCloud and keep an eye out!

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.

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.

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

Crash Bang Wallop! The Musical Party

We return to Cadogan Hall on 31 October for our Crash Bang Wallop! family concert, The Musical Party, and it’s certainly got us in the party mood! To celebrate, we’ve put together a playlist of the pieces we’ll be performing, so you can have a little listen before the concert…

So don your favourite party outfit and join us on Saturday 31 October for a fun-filled musical celebration. The concert starts at 11am, but why not come along for some great pre-concert creative activities from 10am? Meet the musicians, try your hand at the conductor’s baton, visit the Percussion Zoo, and make lots of fun crafts.

We look forward to welcoming you to our party!

Crash Bang Wallop! The Musical Party
Saturday 31 October 2015, 11am
Pre-concert activities from 10am
Cadogan Hall, 5 Sloane Terrace, SW1X 9DJ
Adults £10, Children £8, Family £30 (for 4 tickets)
Box Office cadoganhall.com / 020 7730 4500

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…

Month in Pictures – October and November!

This Autumn has been a jam-packed season for us at CLS, with our concert series, Shakespeare: Let Music Sound, and lots of education work, including our Lullaby concert tour and Youth Takeover project in association with Orchestras Live in Spalding (we recently worked out that the Orchestra spent an astonishing 86 days in the community this quarter!). In other news this season, we are delighted to have announced Dame Felicity Lott as our new Patron and were thrilled to have her perform two private recitals for CLS Friends at Blain|Southern, preceding her involvement with our outreach projects in Tower Hamlets and Harrow during the next coming weeks. For some of our favourite moments from the time so far, just scroll down!

 

Our Autumn concert series, Shakespeare: Let Music Sound, celebrated Shakespeare’s 450th anniversary through a variety of concerts weaving together play text, live acting and music inspired by the Bard himself. Some of our favourite snaps from the season can be found below, including pre-concert naps, the watchful eye of the Bard himself and the remains of our  librarian’s (slightly hectic!) preparations for our performance of Shostakovich’s Hamlet at Village Underground. To find out more about our next concert seasons, Émigré visit our website.

 

A highlight of our Autumn programme was Last Train to Tomorrow, a performance to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Kindertransport, presented by our friends at the Association of Jewish Refugees at the Roundhouse. A number of the Kinder (the name given to the survivors of the Kindertransport) were in attendance at the concert, as was HRH The Prince of Wales, who has long championed their cause. The audience consisted of the Kinder’s own children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and other supporters.

 

On 12 November we hosted an exclusive CLS Friends event at Blain|Southern art gallery with CLS leader, Alexandra Wood, Principal Conductor and clarinettist Michael Collins and Dame Felicity Lott. As her first public performance with us as CLS Patron, Felicity was on brilliant form and we hope those of you who joined us enjoyed the evening! Alongside some comedic arias and repertoire by Spohr, the headline piece was Schubert’s Shepherd on the Rock, a piece that Michael and Felicity first performed together 30 years ago!

 

As part of our longstanding partnership with Orchestras Live, our education team were in Spalding last month working alongside Youth Takeover, a group of young producers resident at South Holland Centre to present a concert based on a unique concept. Working with CLS musicians and composer John K Miles, local young musicians and bands curated a concert calledLifetime – redefining the concert experience’. It was fantastic project to be involved in, and the culminatory concert on 26 November was brilliant. A huge well done to all involved!

 

Our education team have been all around the country this term, with our Lullaby concert tour to Suffolk in October, workshops with Freshwater’s Academy,  and lunchtime concerts at St Thomas’ hospital, London. As you can see, some of the props went slightly crazy at times, and even made their way into the office!

 

A Little Taste of Chef Claire’s Musical Soup

May has been a busy month for the education team here at the City of London Sinfonia with our ever-popular Crash Bang Wallop! family concert at Cadogan Hall on 17 May and various KS1 outreach projects in Tower Hamlets and Harrow. In this blog post, we’ll be giving you a taste of what these projects have been about, with everything from insect sandwiches to musical instrument soup. 

Led by the CLS education team and animateur-in-residence Claire Bloor, our family concerts and education projects are designed to provide an easy and accessible introduction for 3-7 year olds to classical music and instruments of the orchestra. In this series which was all about food, Claire plays a chef whose task it was to cook up the most extravagant musical concoction. A combination of musical flavours (attained from the musicians playing into the pot!), different cuisines (represented by repertoire from around the world) and the audience’s own culinary contributions (in the form of ‘recipe songs’ and ‘dishes of the day’), Chef Claire’s musical soups by the end of the concerts were certainly…..  eclectic! Sharing is caring so in this post, we’ve included some pictures, some (hilarious) lyrics to some of the recipe songs the kids composed as well as some exemplary “Dishes of the Day” from our Crash Bang Wallop! family concert. Enjoy!

N.B. We do not recommend trying any of the recipes included in this post at home. 

 

Recipe Songs

♪ This is the special of the day, but it takes like the floor!
A mixture of slugs and smelly pants and arm pits – yuck yuck! ♪

♫ Something is wrenching on my tongue and it feels an ant.
I fit in some bread and it’s very cold, it’s an ant sandwich! ♫

♪ Slimy, disgusting, super gross. Revolting as well.
Slug-tastic dinner for you to try, it’s gooey and cold. ♪

♫ Pea jelly makes you very ill, it is lumpy and raw.
Water and spice add character but it’s not very nice. ♫

♪ Kiara has made you a nice surprise, taste it – bleurgh bleurgh!
It’s sticky and jagged, it’s horrible and it smells like poo! ♪

♫ I can feel an ant on my tongue, there’s some custard as well.
Everything is mouldy – I feel sick. Pass the bucket right now! ♫

♪ Spiders and webs will make you squirm, so will wiggly worms.
Add in some really smelly pants, it’s an insect sandwich. ♪

♫ Snails and slugs with rotten eggs, they smell stinky and gross.
Ants and potatoes and mash it up. Wait there’s one on my teeth. ♫

Dishes of the Day!

Keep your eyes out for more details for our next Crash Bang Wallop! family concert, ‘Magic and Mischief’ on Saturday 1 November. Booking opens beginning of July!