Tag Archives: Orchestras 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.

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

Month in pictures – September and October

We’ve had two very busy months at CLS. Our RE:Imagine concert series got off to a flying start in September with CLoSer: Debussy, Copland and Dance at Village Underground, and continued at Southwark Cathedral with an atmospheric celebration of the music of one of the most romantic cities in the world, in Venice: Darkness to Light. But that’s not all we’ve been up to so far this autumn. Take a look at some of our highlights of the last two months…

CLoSer: Debussy, Copland and Dance saw us return to the intimate setting of Village Underground with a programme exploring music written for dance from Rameau’s 18th century take on the classical Pygmalion myth to Copland’s evocative Appalachian Spring. The concert opened and closed with two brand new dance interpretations of Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune by choreographer Tony Adigun, one contemporary classical, one urban. Photographer James Berry was on hand to capture the concert as it happened. Take a look at some of his stunning pictures…

Whether you missed the concert, or would just like to relive the evening, you can still watch short highlights on our website.

Our second RE:Imagine concert took us to the magnificent Southwark Cathedral to celebrate one of the world’s most wonderful cities, with Venice: Darkness to Light. Soprano Elin Manahan Thomas and countertenor Alex Potter joined us for JS Bach’s re-imagining of Pergolesi’s Stabat MaterTilge, Höchster, meine Sünden, and Latvian composer Ugis Praulins continued our theme of re-imagining the works of Bach, with his arrangement of movements from the Mass in B minor. Here are some lovely photos of rehearsals by James Berry.

On top of all that, it’s been very busy in the education department, as we returned to Suffolk and Essex for our annual Lullaby Concert tour and workshops with Orchestras Live. We also brought a Very Special Bear’s first concert to Warwick, Basingstoke and Saffron Walden with the help of the excellent Simon Callow, who was an absolute natural at conducting! Take a look behind the scenes to see us wrestling with balloons, and a lovely Paddington Bear card made by one of our younger audience members in Basingstoke!

Our RE:Imagine series continues in the new year with The Viennese Salon in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe, and our next Crash Bang Wallop! family concert will take place on 12 December. We hope to see you there!

Crash Bang Wallop! Let it Snow
Saturday 12 December 2015, 11.00am
Cadogan Hall, 5 Sloane Terrace, London
Tickets: £8 Children, £10 Adults, £30 Family (four tickets)
Box Office: 020 7730 4500 / cadoganhall.com

The Viennese Salon
Sunday 24 January 2016, 2.00pm
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe, London
Tickets: £62 (premium), £15 – 48, £10 (standing)
Box Office: 020 7401 9919 / shakespearesglobe.com

Month in Pictures – July and August

It’s been a busy few months at City of London Sinfonia. In July we announced our new RE:Imagine season, and preparations are in full swing for our first CLoSer event on 22 September. We had another wonderful summer with Opera Holland Park as their Orchestra-in-residence, and were very sorry to finish the season in August. Our community and education work has continued to keep us busy too, as we performed with Orchestras Live in Luton, and at Great Ormond Street Hospital. With all of that going on, it’s amazing we still found time for a trip to Brighton!

This year was our twelfth with Opera Holland Park, where we played Puccini’s Il Trittico, Verdi’s Aida, Delibes’ Lakmé, Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre Re, and a new production of Jonathan Dove’s Flight. You can see more of Opera Holland Park behind the scenes here, or read about horn player, Mark Paine’s experiences. We were lucky to have the wonderful Robert Workman on hand for these wonderful photos.

Our partnership with Orchestras Live took us to Luton in July for the final concert in the Aiming Higher project, which gave young musicians the opportunity to play together and improve their skills. Composer John K Miles, who was commissioned to write the music for the project, told us all about his experiences working with young musicians in Luton. Here are some fab shots of all the groups in action.

We found some pretty cryptic messages during our time at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Remember – keep frogs alive!

It wasn’t all work, work, work this July and August; there’s also been plenty of fun in the office. Our favourite little mascot gave us the seal of approval on our new season, and we even managed to escape to Brighton for a day by the sea. Well, it is summer!

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!

Lullaby Tour Suffolk 2014

During the last week of October, our education team went on a week-long tour of Suffolk and Essex for this year’s Lullaby Concert tour organised in collaboration with Orchestras Live. Beginning in Clacton-on-Sea and ending in Stowmarket, Suffolk, the concerts—presented by Claire Henry, animateur—aimed to bring first time live orchestral music experiences to some of the most under-served areas across England. According to recent figures, we are delighted to say that we reached over 1200 young people in 12 concerts!

Centred on the theme of ‘The Enchanted Forest’, Claire and City of London Sinfonia musicians took the young audience on a musical journey using a combination of music-making and engaging story-telling (which included instruments being stuck on the musicians’ heads, magical jars full of music and a beautiful dancing ballerina!). Performing a range of classical pieces including Debussy’s Prélude à l’aprèsmidi d’un faune and Dukas’ Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the concert was presented in a way that encouraged lots of audience participation and interaction, after a series of workshops in the area.

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As you can see, some of the kids were very cute, particularly when, at the end of each concert, there was also an opportunity for them to have a go on some orchestral instruments!

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A huge thanks to everyone involved and for Paul Coghlin for taking these amazing pictures! To see all of the photos, please visit the Orchestras Live website. To read more about our Meet the Music programme please visit our website.

Like the look of this? Why not try our regular Crash Bang Wallop! family concerts? 

Crash Bang Wallop! Christmas Star 
Saturday 13 December 2014, 12 noon
Cadogan Hall, London
Tickets: £10 Adult, £8 Child, £30 Family of 4

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!