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!
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!