Tag Archives: Stephen Layton

Retrospective: Georgian London

Last night marked the final performance of both our Émigré concert series and Spitalfields Music Summer Festival 2015 with our Georgian London concert at Shoreditch Church. Joined by our Principal Conductor, Stephen Layton, choir Polyphony and baritone Ashley Riches, it was a fantastic evening of music by some of classical music’s biggest names, Haydn and Mozart chief among them, who fled to London in the eighteenth century to seek fame and fortune. The whole performance was broadcast live via BBC Radio 3, so don’t forget you can hear it all again for free on BBC IPlayer!

We received some great feedback on the concert, some of which we’ve shared below, along with some of our favourite pics from the evening. But what did you think of the evening? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Either leave us a comment on this post or connect with us on Twitter: @CityLdnSinfonia, Instagram: @cityoflondonsinfonia or Facebook: /cityoflondonsinfonia. Continue reading Retrospective: Georgian London


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!


Shakespeare: Let Music Sound – Booking Now Open!

We’ve recently opened booking for our next London concert series, Shakespeare: Let Music Sound in celebration of Shakespeare’s 450th anniversary.  From musicals to movie adaptations, opera, ballet, jazz rock ‘n’ roll, Disney songs, Broadway and Bollywood, Shakespeare’s poetry have inspired countless musicians and artists across the centuries. Performing in a selection of London’s most atmospheric venues from 8 October to 1 November, we’ll be embarking on an exciting journey through some of the most incredible works for film and theatre inspired by the Bard’s timeless tales.

To view our online brochure, click below or to view our Pinterest page inspired by the series, click here!


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

RETROSPECT: November in Pictures

Remember, remember CLS in November. As we get closer to ‘the most wonderful time of year’, we felt it high time we had a photographic reflection on what City of London Sinfonia has been up to this past month. Highlights this November included a trip up North for a performance at Hull City Hall, returned to St John’s Smith Square for a performance featuring John Adams The Wound Dresser and Mozart’s Requiem and made our debut at London Jazz Festival with the brilliant Gwilym Simcock! As usual, the City of London Sinfonia team have been taking snaps throughout the month; here’s a selection of the best…

Under the Sea

Crash Bang Wallop! returned in November with all things nautical

November 2012 Michael Collins Hull credit Becca

Michael Collins rehearses with the Orchestra for their performance at Hull City Hall

November 2012 Wound Dresser Reh credit Becca

Rehearsing for the Wound Dresser with Roderick Williams and Stephen Layton

November 2012 Gwilym at St James Picc credit Becca

City of London Sinfonia show off their jazz chops with Gwilym Simcock at London Jazz Festival…

Gwilym Simcock recording NOV12 credit Becca Newman

Gwilym Simcock recording credit Becca Newman

And in the recording studio!

L'chaim November credit Gillian Hunter

We visited a number of Jewish Care Homes as part of our Meet the Music L’chaim project

November 2012 Westminster central hall credit Becca

Then rounded the month off with a trip to Broadway for a performance with Ruthie Henshall and Elaine Paige for the Princes Trust.

Images: Becca Newman, Gillian Hunter & Paul Coghlin

Conquering the Antarctic – The People : Edward Wilson



Our Conquering the Antarctic tour celebrates the achievements of Captain Scott, the most well-known of the five-man party that reached the South Pole a hundred years ago in 1912. As the inspirational leader of the team, his personal qualities, courage and charisma were reflected in his journals and letters, which provide a moving picture of the expedition that endures today.

But what of the other four men Scott selected to accompany him to the Pole? They were Wilson, Bowers, Evans and Oates. Over the next four days, we profile the other members of Scott’s team, beginning today with Dr Edward Wilson.


Edward Wilson


Born in Cheltenham in 1872, Edward Wilson was an artist and naturalist, who first joined Captain Scott aboard the Discovery as Assistant Surgeon and Vertebrate Zoologist to the British National Antarctic Expedition (1901-1904). In 1910 he returned to the Antarctic with Scott aboard the Terra Nova as Chief of the Scientific Staff. He was devoted to the study of Antarctic specimens and highly skilled at watercolour painting, particularly at capturing the colours, wildlife and light of the Antarctic.

‘Uncle Bill,’ as Wilson became known to the other explorers, was friendly and affectionate, and succeeded in mastering his temper thanks to a strong Christian faith. Scott selected him for the trek to the South Pole, which delighted him, and he continued his pursuit of scientific discovery even after the pole was reached, stopping with the rest of the team to collect 16kg of geological specimens.

Wilson’s is the last letter thought to have been written by any member of the polar party. Dated March 1912, the letter, written to his friend Reginald Smith, refers to his unfinished book about disease in grouse, his only regret at the time of his death. “We shall make a forlorn effort to reach the next depot but it means 22 miles and we are none of us fit to face it. I want to say how I have valued your friendship … I have no fear of death, only sorrow for my wife and for my dear people. Otherwise all is well. I should like to have seen the grouse book but it is not allowed to me. God’s will be done.” 

It is believed that Wilson died alongside Bowers and Scott in late March 1912. The three bodies were found in their tent by a rescue party the following November.



Conquering the Antarctic – the Scott Centenary Concert Tour

 A celebration in music, words and images

Stephen Layton, conductor
Robert Murray, tenor
Hugh Bonneville, narrator

3-8 February and 3 March 2012


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