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CBSO woos new audiences with new  'Tuned In' concert format

22 February 2010

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and its music director Andris Nelsons are set to launch a brand new concert format next month: Tuned In, an initiative to encourage more people than ever to enjoy classical music.

The new concerts, on 25 March and 29 April in Symphony Hall, Birmingham, will come with a live 'users' guide' to the music being played.  The aim is to offer an approachable introduction to live classical concerts for new audiences, as well as enhancing the enjoyment of regular concert-goers. Radio 3 presenter Stephen Johnson will take the stage, alongside orchestra and conductor, to share the background stories to the music being performed, and explain how these pieces work.  When he wants to demonstrate how the composer creates a particular sound, the audience will hear it happen live.

 'I hope with our new Tuned In concerts we can help even more people than ever to experience the same deep level of satisfaction that I enjoy so much with this wonderful music,' said Nelsons. The works involved are Stravinsky’s fairytale ballet The Firebird (25 March) and Shostakovich’s mighty Fourth Symphony (29 April). 'One is a journey into a fairytale world, and the other is the product of Soviet politics and the composer’s personal turmoil. All music for me is about everyday life and human beings, or else about taking us to other worlds, and I hope with these pieces we’ve chosen music that demonstrates this perfectly.'

The introductions to the music are very much aimed as a guide rather than gospel.  Johnson is adamant that his role in Tuned In is to help listeners find their own way to the heart of the music. And he makes one particular promise: these concerts will be a jargon-free zone. 'A lot of people are put off classical music by the technical language that surrounds it. With a live orchestra there to demonstrate, you don’t need technical language.  It’s just about helping people connect with the music.'

 Tickets for the CBSO's Tuned In concerts are £20 in all areas and can be booked by calling Symphony Hall Box Office on 0121 780 3333 or online at www.cbso.co.uk

Reading University announces three-day choral conducting course 14-16 April

22 February 2010

The University of Reading’s Institute of Education is running a three-day course in choral conducting on 14-16 April. Tutored by Catherine Beddison, Rebecca Berkley, and Manvinder Rattan, it is aimed at anyone who runs choral groups, whether in schools or in community settings, and includes practical sessions and workshops to ensure a high quality of engagement, widen the repertoire of music and explore sound using a variety of approaches.
There are three levels: Getting Started, Moving On and Advanced. Getting Started is aimed at those who are beginning or who want to brush up on their skills. Moving On is aimed at participants with some experience of conducting. Advanced will involve working with challenging repertoire, selected in advance from the list provided. During the course, participants will work with the team of presenters on a wide variety of activities, including the vocal warm up, choosing repertoire and learning how to build and shape choral sound.
The course is supported by Sing Up and Sing for Pleasure. It costs £195 for all three days inclusive of lunch and refreshments and the venue is the Institute of Education, Bulmershe campus, Reading RG6 1HY.
More information: Tel: 0118 378 8843 Email musiceducation@reading.ac.uk
www.singup.org www.singforpleasure.org.uk

Education underpins Southbank Centre's classical music season 2010-11

20 February 2010

Education projects underpin the 2010/11 classical music season launched yesterday by London’s Southbank Centre and its four resident orchestras, the London Philharmonic, the Philharmonia, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE) and the London Sinfonietta. Season highlights include ‘The World’s most significant Mahler celebration’, a Bartók season, a focus on Helmut Lachenmann, major piano projects with Maurizio Pollini and Lang Lang, and performances directed by Barenboim, Boulez and Rattle as part of the Shell Classic International Series.

The legacy of last year’s sell-out visits by the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra is seen in the return of the Simón Bolívar String Quartet in September 2010 and the Venezuelan Brass Ensemble in February 2011, while the upcoming generation of Venezuelan musicians, products of El Sistema, is represented in the first UK visit by the younger Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra, conducted by another rising star of Sistema, 25-year-old Christian Vásquez. The UK’s own National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain (NYO) receives the accolade of an invitation to join the programme of concerts put together to mark this year’s 50th anniversary of the birth of Mahler and next year’s centenary of his death; performing the composer’s tenth symphony on Easter Sunday, 24 April 2011.

‘We’re looking for ways in which the inspiration of the Venezuelans can be paired with the natural talent of this country to take music education forward,’ said Marshall Marcus, Southbank Centre’s head of classical music, adding that many more of the artists involved in the season would be ‘taking the 77 bus route’ down the road to Lansdowne Estate to work with and perform to the children of In Harmony Lambeth, the Sistema-inspired initiative in which Southbank Centre is a lead partner.

Inspiring and educating the next generation of enthusiasts for classical music was a thread that ran through a presentation that stressed Southbank Centre’s commitment to programming heavyweight repertoire and working collaboratively with some of the world’s most respected artists. Artistic director Jude Kelly harked back to the 2007 re-opening of the Royal Festival Hall after its restoration:. ‘We said then that this is a place that offers the opportunity for young people to think about serious music and what it means to them. Unless schools and young people are converted to classical music, we could be creating a separation from what we love.

‘However, loving serious music isn’t an easy activity. Great art is hard to make and sometimes hard to understand – like the music of Schoenberg which Daniel Barenboim will take us through next season, music you have to return to again and again. Through the consistent presence of young people in our concert hall we want to help them see that there is no division between the music of the present and the music of the past.’ A move in this direction is the innovative concert presentation of Spira Mirabilis, an international ensemble based in Formigine, northern Italy which make its UK debut concert on 5 November with Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ symphony. Described by Marshall Marcus as ‘the greatest young orchestra I can ever remember hearing’, Spira Mirabilis devotes every concert to just one work, which is deconstructed and then put together again.

In five RFH recitals between January and May 1011, Maurizio Pollini will take audiences on a personal journey through the entire piano repertoire starting with Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1 and concluding with Beethoven, Schumann and Stockhausen. Lang Lang will be in residence for ten days in May which will include a massed young pianists event and the launch of a new award for young pianists in addition to a recital, a chamber music concert with Mischa Maisky and Vadim Repin, and a concerto.

The Philharmonia will perform 44 concerts at Southbank Centre. Principal conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen’s major project for the year will be ‘Infernal Dance: Inside the World of Béla Bartók’, a follow-up to ‘Vienna City of Dreams’ that will feature semi-staged performances of some of Bartók’s most important stage works. The season will also include Tristan and Isolde as devised by Salonen and opera producer Peter Sellars against a backdrop of films by video artist Bill Viola. Salonen describes the collaboration, premiered in Los Angeles in 2004, as ‘one of the great experiences of my artistic life’. The Philharmonia’s contribution to the Mahler season is all ten symphonies and four orchestral song cycles over ten concerts, conducted by Lorin Maazel.

LPO principal conductor Vladimir Jurowski spoke eloquently about his discovery of Mahler in his father’s record collection at the age of 15, and how he had waited until the age of 37 before feeling he was ready to conduct music that meant so much to him; he is still only part way through his plan to conduct the symphonies in the order of composition. This season he will conduct Nos 1, 3 and 4 while the LPO plays 5, 6 and 9 with Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Japp van Zweden and Christoph Eschenbach respectively. In his role as principal artist with the OAE Jurowski will conduct a concert that frames Mahler with the music of his direct predecessors, Liszt and Wagner.

Mahler’s third symphony will be performed by Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmoniker, as part of their unprecedented week-long residency at Southbank Centre and the Barbican in February 2011. Augmenting the Mahler performances will be a series of events exploring the composer’s continuing impact on the word today, curated by Norman Lebrecht.

Full listings and dates for the season will be published in April.


National Youth Orchestra to headline Varèse 360 festival at London's Southbank Centre

17 February 2010

The National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain (NYO) is to headline the Southbank Centre’s Varèse 360 festival in its largest ever incarnation. The orchestra will field a 175-strong ensemble to perform Varèse’s gigantic Amériques on 18 April at the Royal Festival Hall, as part of a weekend of concerts that will showcase the composer’s output in its entirety. 17-year-old NYO violinist James Wicks said, ‘Playing Varese is a unique musical experience – the sound worlds that surround you are incredible. I’m thrilled that the NYO are going to be headlining this festival and am very excited to be a part of it. The size of the NYO will add yet more excitement, and indeed volume, to what is already going to be one of the highlights of my year.’

The Varèse 360 festival is part of the Southbank Centre’s larger Ether festival, dedicated to cross-arts experimentation and innovation. To this end, the NYO’s performance will be accompanied by a visual installation by Cathie Boyd, a director who specialises in the visual staging of music. According to NYO Director of Communications James Murphy, the installation promises ‘not to intrude, but to concentrate the listener.’

The NYO will use the 18 April concert to unveil its new stage attire, which will remain a closely-guarded secret until the day itself. Players currently perform in smart black; Murphy was prepared to reveal that the colour would not change but that the new costume would ‘capture a bit more of the teenage spirit’. Putting careful thought into presentation is part of the NYO’s commitment to innovation, which, says Murphy, means asking questions such as ‘Will concerts always look and feel the way they do now, and should the NYO lead the way for change?’

The orchestra will perform more music by Varèse alongside works by Debussy on 16 April at The Sage Gateshead (TSG), as part of TSG’s Brave New Worlds festival which explores the two composers’ connections. All under-25s can get £5 tickets for this concert, and there are a number of similar tickets available for the Royal Festival Hall concert. Both concerts will be conducted by Paul Daniel. Visit the websites for more information and to book.




John Woolrich appointed to run Dartington International Summer School

16 February 2010

Composer John Woolrich has been announced as the new artistic director of Dartington International Summer School, in succession to Gavin Henderson who steps down in August at the end of this year's summer school and festival.

Founded in 1953 at Dartington Hall near Totnes, Devon, the event is held over five weeks in July and August and attracts more than 1,600 music-makers annually from across the globe for its programme of masterclasses, workshops and concerts, catering for all ranges of ability, from beginners and amateurs to conservatoires students and professional musicians. 'It was at Dartington that my group, the Composers Ensemble, was given time, space and encouragement to experiement and develop, so I really do appreciate how important the opportunities are that the summer school provides to participants, both in terms of structured playing and learning, as well as the non-structured opportunities, presented by chance meetings and informal networking amongst some of the world’s most promising musicians,' said Woolrich, who has been associated with Dartington for 25 years. He founded the Composers Ensemble in 1991, is artistic associate of the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, and has been associate artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival since 2004.

Woolrich has been appointed to Dartington on a three-year contract for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons, and will start work alongside Gavin Henderson in March this year. The 2010 will celebrate Henderson's 26-year term as artistic director, and the enormous impact he has had on countless artists, composers and participants.

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