Tag Archives: Poulenc

Our 2012/13 Season in pictures

As August draws to a close we reflect back on the year that was at City of London Sinfonia. There’s been national tours, festivals, glittery cowboy hats, audience votes and a heap of fantastic performances by the Orchestra. So as we wish our 2012/13 season a fond farewell we’ve selected eight of our favourite moments to share with you…

September 19, 2012_CLS_039

We kicked off our season with a latin-inspired performance at Village Underground featuring the Katona Twins, and also featuring some very fine tango from our two dancers

Crash Bang Wallop

December 2012 saw our first Crash Bang Wallop! Christmas Special. Animateur Claire Bloor guided the audience through Tchaikovsky‘s Nutcracker Suite and we even received a surprise visit from Father Christmas!

_D8E3844_Clacton Lullaby, high-res, Paul Coghlin (upload).jpg

Ahoy! In Autumn 2012 and Spring 2013 our players donned their sailor hats and took to the high seas for Lullaby – our early years outreach project. Children aged 3-6 across in East Anglia and South East England had the opportunity to try out instruments and sing along to our under the sea-themed performance.


We were joined by jazz titan Tim Garland in February 2013 for CLOSER. Performing Tim Garland’s new composition, Songs to the North Sky, and Schnittke’s Mozart a la Haydn  (as voted for by our audience), the Orchestra whipped up a frenzy of quirky, contemporary music


Ooh La la! In April 2013 we presented our first mini festival, centred around the music of Francis Poulenc and contemporaries. With performances at St Giles’ Cripplegate, Village Underground and Southwark Cathedral, we really got to explore all sides of this fascinating and charismatic composer


In May, we performed a concert with the patients and staff at St Joseph’s Hospice, as part of Dying Matters week, which was the culmination of a series of workshops in which the patients composed and performed new music inspired by their thoughts, experiences and feelings

The first leg of our Faure Requiem Tour was a great success and we had a great time on the road visiting Durham, Derby, Ely and Portsmouth. Here is Stephen Layton, Gabriel Jackson and the Ely Cathedral Choir ahead of their broadcast on BBC Radio 3

Opera Holland Park's resident peacock

And finally, how could we recap our 2012/13 season without a nod to Opera Holland Park, at which we are resident orchestra… Pictured here, a new addition to the Orchestra – the resident Opera Holland Park peacock!

Images: James Berry, Sarah Macdonald, Paul Coghlin, Ruth Mulvey, Becca Newman


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

Poulenc’s Greatest Hits

With our Poulenc Festival opening now less than two weeks away, we wanted something to get us in the mood here at City of London Sinfonia Towers. So we started to compile a “Poulenc Greatest Hits” playlist. We all have our favourite pieces in the office but what we really wanted to know was which Poulenc pieces our audience consider to be the best! After throwing some questions out on Twitter, we received some really great recommendations. So here it is – our top ten Poulenc pieces, as chosen by City of London Sinfonia and our Twitter followers. Have a listen on Spotify and let us know if you agree!

1. Gloria

2. Concerto for Organ in G minor

3. Mouvements perpetuels

4. Flute Sonata – chosen by @sdmilton

5. Trio

6. Suite Francaise Pour Piano D’Apres Claude Gervaise – chosen by @petalumainlndy

7. Trio for brass instruments – chosen by our very own @Amos_Miller! I wonder why…

8. Prelude (Sonata for Piano 4 Hands) – chosen by @dinahwainwright

9. L’histoire de Barbar

10. Sextet

Poulenc Festival
4 – 11 April 2013
St Giles Cripplegate, Village Underground, Southwark Cathedral

Playing London 2013

Our mid season London concerts brochure is now available to view online and includes information and booking details for all our London appearances from March to August 2013. Highlights include our mini festival in April celebrating the life and times of French composer: Francis Poulenc, our final CLoSer concert of series two, and our return as resident orchestra to Opera Holland Park in June. So get those diaries out and pencil in some dates!

CLS credit Benjamin Ealovega


Composer Profile: Francis Poulenc

Our mini Festival in April 2013 celebrates the life and times of one of the most charismatic and influential French composers of the 20th century: Francis Poulenc. Often pigeon holed as the “playboy” of French music, we’ll be shedding new light and fresh perspective on this complex composer, in the 50th anniversary year of his death. To start things off, here’s a brief look into the man behind the music together with some rather fetching snaps!

Name: Francis Jean Marcel Poulenc

Birth and death: Born in 1899 and died in 1963 at the age of 64

Nationality: French

Background: The son of an amateur pianist and French business man, Poulenc showed an early aptitude for composition, gaining praise from the likes of Stravinsky from the age of 18, but was refused entry to the Paris Conservatoire on the grounds that his music wasn’t good enough. Despite this blow, Poulenc soon became an important figure in the cafe culture of 1920s Paris, where his music provided a backdrop to the lavish parties of Cristian Dior, Coco Chanel, F. Scott Fitzgerald and may other young, hip and fashionable icons.  Alongside a successful career in ballet, orchestral and chamber composition, Poulenc also possessed a colourful private life which is often thought to be reflected in his vibrant and diverse compositional style.

Breakthrough moment: In 1936 Poulenc was profoundly affected by the death of his fellow composer and friend, Pierre-Octave Ferroud. As a result, he was led to visit a religious shrine where he experienced a life-changing transformation that awakened his dormant Catholic faith. After this point, Poulenc produced mostly liturgical compositions, such as his seminal Gloria, that many believe to be the greatest music of his career.

Young PoulencA young, dapper-looking Poulenc. Nice hat! ©2013 www.poulenc.fr

Poulenc with dog on rockApparently Poulenc was a dog lover. Her is a very picturesque snap of Poulenc on a rock with his canine pal. ©2013 www.poulenc.fr

Poulenc on bridgePoulenc the dandy. Here he is posing for the camera…

Poulenc on ridePoulenc having fun at the fair. © Collection Francis Poulenc

Poulenc and DogMan’s best friend – Poulenc and his beloved pup. ©2013 www.poulenc.fr

Find out more about our Poulenc Festival and book tickets online

CLoSer Interview: Holst Singers

We caught up with Will Davies from the Holst Singers, our Guest Artists at our next CLoSer concert, to find out more about this extraordinary choir.

Holst Singers, what are the origins of the choir and its name?
We were founded in 1978 under Hilary Davan Wetton, but for almost two decades have been conducted by our Musical Director Stephen Layton, who has shaped and nurtured the celebrated sound we make. I believe our name was actually taken from the Holst Room at St Paul’s Girls’ School where we originally rehearsed in the early days – so I guess we are named after the composer, but not directly!

How many singers in the choir? What’s the average profile of a Holstie? (if there is such a thing!)
We have a core of about 40 singers who are the ‘regulars’, who you’ll catch performing at most concerts. I’m not sure there is an ‘average’ Holstie! I suppose most of us are graduates with a chapel choir background, so Oxford and Cambridge feature fairly heavily in the choir’s make-up. Outside of that, we’re a very varied bunch, a whole range of ages and occupations. Without wanting to sound too cheesy, the thing that unites us all is music. I think we’re in a unique position as an institution– we’re one of the nation’s top-flight choirs, but we work entirely as a self-run amateur outfit, with no subscription fees or anything like that. It means that everyone involved is there to concentrate on the music-making; it works really well for us.

What is it like working with CLS Artistic Director Stephen Layton?
In short, truly inspiring. He’s one of the world’s greatest choral conductors, and it shows. He always seems to know exactly what he wants to achieve with the music, from the broad sweep of a piece to the subtle nuances. What’s great is that he knows how to get us to produce the performance he wants; he works us hard, but it’s always worth it for the end result.


What’s the range of the choir’s repertoire? Do you enjoy performing newly-commissioned work, or prefer more established repertoire?
We love getting our teeth into a wide range of repertoire. I suppose we have a reputation for performing works in the very loose category of ‘unjustly neglected a cappella gems’ – works by Baltic composers like Tormis and Ešenvalds for instance, or the Russian Orthodox music on our Ikon recordings. We’re also actively involved in performing new commissions, from premiering Tavener’s Veil of the Temple to working with Imogen Heap on her soundtrack to The Seashell and the Clergyman.

Talk us through the pieces you’re performing for CLoSer.
We’re performing two pieces, Stravinsky’s Mass and Immortal Bach by Knut Nystedt. The Stravinsky is a great work. It’s quite severe, almost bleak at times, but beautiful with it. It’s scored for choir and a fairly small wind ensemble, and you get these wonderful moments of sparse, dissonant instrumental writing with the choir almost chanting the text, especially in the Credo. That’s probably the most challenging movement for us – not because it’s particularly difficult musically, but because he treats the text in a really counterintuitive way. Instead of setting it in the ‘usual’ way (accented and inflected as one might speak it, with expression) he produces a sort of muttering mantra; it’s this kind of ‘march of belief’, which is surprisingly tricky to get your head around at first.

Immortal Bach is really interesting – Nystedt takes the first two lines of the chorale Komm, süßer Tod and deconstructs them. You hear the unadulterated chorale first and then you hear it transformed, by dividing the choir into separate groups who sing each phrase of the chorale at different speeds, coming together at the cadence points before continuing onwards. It’s a bit tricky to explain without a choir on hand to demonstrate, but it’s very effective – the result is this fantastic smeary collage of Bach.

What do you hope the audience take away from your performance on 29 February?
I hope they get an impression of how the human voice can speak powerfully to you, in unexpected ways. I think the thing that connects the music we’ll be performing is that neither piece uses voices conventionally, to wring emotion from words or to make you say, “Oh, what a lovely tune”. The Nystedt is in a sense just the application of a simple mathematical rubric to a Bach chorale, and the Stravinsky is ascetic, austere music; and yet both produce this captivating atmosphere.

What would the Holst Singers desert island discs be and why?
Ah, now this is going be tricky. I’d have trouble enough doing my own, letting alone trying to speak for the whole choir – I’m inevitably going to get lynched when they see this! “How could you miss out Spem in alium?!” Ah well, here goes…
I think we need something early in there. Let’s have Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli, because it’s pretty damn fit, especially the way the Kyrie kicks off; I could listen to that soaring-and-descending motif go round and round all day. It would be rude not to have anything Slavic on the island, let’s cram the Rachmaninov Vespers in the bag too. Last one… we need something English in there too. This’ll be a controversial one, but let’s go for the Vaughan Williams Shakespeare Songs. The middle movement is the sexiest thing ever. Wait. We get a full set of sheet music for these on the island too, right?!

CLoSer: Spirit of the Voice
Weds 29 February, 7.30pm
Village Underground, Shoreditch

Poulenc Suite Francaise
JS Bach French Suite
Poulenc Le Bal Masque
Nystedt Immortal Bach
Stravinsky Mass

CLoSer in words and pictures

Our first CLoSer concert at Village Underground on the 22nd November was a huge success with a packed audience enjoying the venue, music and fantastic musicianship on show. We thought we’d share with you some of the best photos from the night and what the audience had to say:

 “The first CLoSer programme was like a substantial sandwich: hot crusty wholemeal bread on the outside with something sweeter in the middle.” 


“Great performance – loved the informal setting and the mixed audience!” 


 “The orchestra played on all my emotional strings.” 


“I loved the sense of excitement, the bar, the lighting, the chatter and the informal approach of the musicians and conductor. Acoustics were great too.”


 “Give us more!!”

The next concert in the series focuses on vocal music by Bach, Poulenc and Stravinsky with Guest Artists the Holst Singers and our Principal Conductor Stephen Layton.

Wednesday 29th February, 7.30pm,
Village Underground,

Tickets: £15 (includes a free drink)
Box office: 020 7377 1362/spitalfieldsmusic.org.uk

Images: Clare Parker