Tag Archives: Michael Collins

Retrospect: The Fruit of Silence

Our audience members created their own spiritual and spatial journeys through music, architecture and visuals in the first concert of our Modern Mystics series on 9 November. As someone on Twitter put it, we treated them to ‘a sonic full body massage’.

There were people exploring Southwark Cathedral as our musicians and Epiphoni Consort took up different positions to perform; meditating to the tranquil music on cushions, pews and chairs, and leaning against the architecture while admiring Jack James’ stunning projections.

Take a look at some of the fantastic photos from the night, taken by Kaupo Kikkas.

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Join us for more immersive experiences in The Book of Hours at Village Underground on 22 November, and The Protecting Veil at St John’s Smith Square on 2 December.

All images © Kaupo Kikkas.

Tell us about you Modern Mystics experience

If you’ve been to any or all of our Modern Mystics concerts, we would love to hear about how much you enjoyed them! You can write a review on our Facebook page or on Google tweet us @CityLDNsinfonia, or send us an audio recording to info@cls.co.uk which we can feature in one of our podcasts.



Plan your event night – Sketches of Miles

Our next CLoSer event, Sketches of Miles, 6 April at Village Underground is here, and we are so excited! Whether you’re new to CLoSer or a veteran, we have put together a few things you might like to know. 

About the event

This CLoSer event features the music of Miles Davis, re-imagined for chamber orchestra as the City of London Sinfonia is joined by the legendary jazz-classical crossover artist Gwilym Simcock and the virtuosic vocals of Cleveland Watkiss. Alongside Miles’ music, we’ll also hear an arrangement by Gwilym of a work by Bach, the latest in our Bach RE:Imagined series.

Our CLoSer series is a wonderful way to unwind with great music and great company in an informal and intimate setting. Check out the great blog our Chief Executive penned for a fantastic insight into the CLoSer atmosphere.

Continue reading Plan your event night – Sketches of Miles

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!


The Life of a Concerts Manager…

Today we say a very sad goodbye to our amazing Concerts Manager, Becca Newman. Being the person in the office with the most contact with the players and (not by complete coincidence!) the one with the funniest, most bizarre stories, we asked her to write  a quick blog post about some of her favourite memories from her time here at CLS. From ironing Hugh Boneville’s shirt to singing naughty songs about toilets, the following is definitely recommended reading for anyone seeking an insight into the real life of a Concerts Manager and/or a quick Tuesday afternoon giggle! 


I’ve been asked to look back on my three and a half years at City of London Sinfonia and share some of my experiences with you. I’m not sure where to start – it’s been rather eventful!

In my time here, we’ve moved the office from Tower Hill to Brixton (and bemoaned the loss of our local Pret, but discovered the amazing culinary experience that is Brixton market), gained a new fantastic leader in Alexandra Wood, welcomed three babies and a lively adopted daughter within the Orchestra’s administration team, weathered three seasons of al fresco opera at Opera Holland Park, and gained rather more grey hairs than I would like to admit!

You don’t notice time passing when you’re busy and having fun, so reflecting on my time as Concerts Manager has come as a bit of a shock when I realise how much has changed since I started. There are some concerts that have become an annual event and help to punctuate the time – Opera Holland Park, the summer orchestral masses, Remembrance Service and Messiah at St Paul’s Cathedral and City of London Festival’s lovely lunchtime recital series in the new year. Then there are some of the crazier external private hire concerts that will stick in my mind for various reasons: managing Elaine Paige and Ruthie Henshall at a Gala Concert; two BBC Proms; and the Symfunny concert in aid of Parkinsons UK at the Royal Albert Hall where Armstrong and Miller sang their naughty song about train toilets accompanied by massed choirs BBC Singers, London Symphony Chorus and Brighton Festival Chorus, who gallantly tried not to corpse whilst singing some very naughty words!(C) James Berry

Other surreal and memorable moments often feature our Education Concerts, in particular, dressing up as an elf and wheeling Claire Henry (dressed as a Christmas tree) across Cadogan Hall stage in a giant box on wheels! I don’t think I’ll ever forget the epic Scott of the Antarctic Tour, a concert inspired by the memory of those who travelled to the most inhospitable and cold place on Earth, where we then got snowed in on the M11 on the way home after one of the concerts! I’ve ironed Hugh Bonneville’s shirt. I’ve spent 15 minutes lying on an orchestra pit floor underneath the Principal Cello with my arm in the air and holding a torch on their music as their stand light had broken and they couldn’t read it. I’ve even lent Simon Russell-Beale my iPad!

Looking after our conductors and soloists has been a privilege and a pleasure. I’m lucky: I get paid to meet and talk to my childhood heroes and idols! To name a few, I’ve worked with the likes of Sarah Connolly, Richard Rodney Bennett, Roddy Williams, Stephen Layton, Michael Rosen, the Hilliard Ensemble, Dame Felicity Lott and of course, our amazing Principal Conductor and clarinettist Michael Collins. One thing I’m thankful for however is I won’t be finding any more forgotten bananas, mushed up in the bottom of my bag, that I’ve bought for Michael and forgotten to give him pre-concert!

One reassuring constant though has been the unfailing support from a terrific bunch of musicians. Life as a freelance performer is incredibly busy. It involves a lot of juggling work, home life, commitments to many different organisations, working in a different venue / city every day, and not to mention transporting yourself, your instrument and your concert clothes around with you pretty much constantly. Simply for managing the aforementioned tasks, and before they’ve even begun to play, I feel they deserve a hearty round of applause (although some musicians are better at remembering their concert clothes than others…!)  Rehearsals and concerts are always made easier by such welcoming and warm players – and CLS are very lucky to have such musicians.  We talk a lot about the CLS family, and they really are like a family (or in some cases, actually are family. I’ve only recently discovered two of our regular extra violins are actually brother and sister despite working with them for three years!). The musical world is really very small, and I know that even though I will miss working with them as CLS, I will definitely be seeing many of them again in other orchestras and organisations – including my new home at the Royal Opera House! So, to my CLS family, if you ever find yourselves with time to spare in Covent Garden, please do call in for a cuppa and a catch-up!


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!

Retrospective: CLoSer and the Quartet for the End of Time

We don’t know about you but we’re still buzzing from last week’s CLoSer at Village Underground. Featuring one of the most profound and important works of the 20th century, Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, the concert showcased not only the poignancy of its original composition (the work was composed during Messiaen’s imprisonment in Stalag VIII Prisoner-of-War camp in Gorlitz) but also Michael Collins and our Principal Players’ extraordinary playing. With birdsong on entry, atmospheric lighting inspired by Messiaen’s synaesthesia and fascinating “talking programme notes” to begin, this was truly a night to remember!

“I could think of nowhere I’d rather have been… and with no better company” – David Nice, ArtsDesk

As usual, we got our fantastic photographer James Berry to take a few snaps of the concert which we thought we’d share in this post, along with some of our favourite comments from our Twitter page.


Our next CLoSer event will be The Entertainments in October with a programme featuring two re-imaginings of Shakespeare’s plays: Korngold’s incidental music for Much Ado About Nothing and Shostakovich’s outrageous re-working of Hamlet. Tickets, including £1 early bird tickets for a limited period only, are on sale now!


Commission Crowd… help us commission a piece of new music!

Commission Crowd

We are embarking on a crowd funding campaign to support a new piece of music, written by jazz pianist Gwilym Simcock, and we need your help!

This year, City of London Sinfonia has commissioned a brand new piece of music from jazz pianist and composer, Gwilym Simcock, which will be part of the UK-wide New Music Biennial 2014 and featured at Glasgow UNESCO City of Music in August 2014. On a Piece of Tapestry has been commissioned especially for our Principal Conductor and renowned clarinettist, Michael Collins, piano and orchestra and will be performed across the UK, culminating in a London premiere at Cadogan Hall on 1 May 2014. Taking inspiration from his jazz and classical roots, Gwilym’s new piece will feature spoken word and improvisatory elements that will make for an exciting new piece of orchestral music for City of London Sinfonia to perform.

Building on the success of last year’s Gabriel’s Angels campaign, which saw over 100 people contribute to a new commission by Gabriel Jackson, we need our audience to club together and help support our commission and London premiere of this fantastic new work by Gwilym Simcock.

A little bit about Gwilym Simcock…
Gwilym Simcock is one of the most gifted pianists and imaginative composers on the British scene.  Able to move effortlessly between jazz and classical music, he can, at times, inhabit both worlds and has been described as stylistically reminiscent of Keith Jarrett, complete with ‘harmonic sophistication and subtle dovetailing of musical traditions’ as well as being a pianist of ‘exceptional’, ‘brilliant’ and ‘dazzling’ ability.

First ever BBC Radio 3 New Generation Jazz Artist, winner of the Perrier Award, BBC Jazz Award 2005 and Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize nominee in 2011, Gwilym has worked extensively throughout Europe with the cream of British and international jazz artists including Steve Swallow, Adam Nussbaum, Steve Rodby, John Taylor, Norma Winstone, Dave Holland, Kenny Wheeler, Lee Konitz, Bill Bruford’s Earthworks, Bob Mintzer and Bobby McFerrin.

How can you get involved?
This February, we’ll be launching the Commission Crowd; a campaign to help raise the £2,000 needed to make our London premiere of Gwilym Simcock’s new piece happen. New music is at the heart of what we do and you’ll be able to support the performance by donating any amount online, from £5 to £500.

How does it work?
You can support the Orchestra by donating online (click the orange link at the bottom of the page). Everyone who donates will have their name printed in our Cadogan Hall programme, with additional benefits available at different levels of donation, from limited edition badges to invites to meet Gwilym and Michael!

Click here to donate to Commission Crowd and support Gwilym Simcock’s new commission for Michael Collins and City of London Sinfonia!

Our next London Season launches

Our next London season is fast approaching and we’ve got a jammed packed programme which sees the return of favourites CLoSer and Crash Bang Wallop!, alongside our Hot Tunes Cold War concert series beginning in September as well performances of perennial favourites: Mozart’s Requiem and Handel’s Messiah. As always we’ve got a fantastic array of guest artists lined up too including: jazz pianist Gwilym Simcock, baritone Roderick Williams, soprano Elin Manahan Thomas and singer/songwriter Mara Carlyle.

Find out where you can see us and what’s on in our new online brochure:

online London Season brochure
online London Season brochure

Retrospect: April in Pictures

April was a busy month for us. With our ongoing Meet the Music programme, our season two CLoSer finale and of course our attempts to Frenchify London with our Poulenc Festival, we have been kept on our toes! Here we look back at the last month through a few of our favourite snaps..

Our Poulenc Festival kicked off on the 4th April at St Giles' Cripplegate with Poulenc the Poet, which focused on the composer's affinity for woodwind. Here, our fabulous woodwind sextet rehearses with Michael Collins before the concert.
Our Poulenc Festival kicked off on the 4th April at St Giles’ Cripplegate with Poulenc the Poet, which focused on the composer’s affinity for woodwind. Here, our fabulous woodwind sextet rehearses with Michael Collins before the concert.
The next concert in the festival was a CLoSer special, where the Village Underground was transformed in a 1920's Parisian Café.
The next concert in the festival was a CLoSer special, where the Village Underground was transformed in a 1920’s Parisian Café.
This concert also paid tribute to Poulenc's contemporary Erik Satie. His Gymnopédies No. 1-3 were performed beautifully by Antoine Françoise.
This concert also paid tribute to Poulenc’s contemporary, Erik Satie. His Gymnopédies Nos. 1-3 were performed beautifully by pianist, Antoine Françoise.
The star of the show, Derek Welton, perfectly encapsulated Poulenc's lighter sider with a vivacious performance of his childhood composition, Rapsodie nègre.
The star of the show, Derek Welton, perfectly encapsulated Poulenc’s lighter sider with a vivacious performance of his childhood composition, Rapsodie nègre.
The finale of the festival took place in Southwark Cathedral, featuring Poulenc's Organ Concerto, performed by Peter Wright. Here Stephen Layton leads a rehearsal in front of a few early bird audience members.
The finale of the festival took place in Southwark Cathedral, featuring Poulenc’s Organ Concerto, performed by Peter Wright. Here Stephen Layton leads a rehearsal in front of a few early bird audience members.
Chilling backstage: Our Chief Executive, Matthew Swann with Antoine F and Michael Collins
Our Chief Executive, Matthew Swann with Antoine Françoise and Michael Collins on BBC Radio 3’s InTune
On 24th April, we performed a lunchtime concert at Guy's and Thomas'  Hospital, part of our Meet the Music wellbeing outreach programme.
On 24th April, we performed a lunchtime concert at Guy’s and Thomas’ hospital, part of our Wellbeing through Music outreach programme.
Images: James Berry, Alex Marshall, Anna Jessiman and Gillian Hunter

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.