Archive for June, 2011

Southbank Sinfonia Talent!

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

Last night I was performing at St John’s Waterloo as a guest of the Southbank Sinfonia – the country’s leading orchestral academy, also described as Britain’s Young Professional Orchestra. And they are spectacular! It is one of the cliches of working with young musicians that they have talent, enthusiasm, and a desire to learn as well as to make music etc etc, and it has become a cliche simply because it is so true. It is a joy – all too rare – to make music in these conditions. You ask them to go home and practise, and the next day it sounds better (presumably they practised…), you ask for a phrasing, and it happens; you suggest they move their bodies more to create a different sound, and they do. There is no cynicism, and they also happen to be extremely talented and able, so it’s possible to make music to a very high standard. We did some improvising, played an arrangement of mine of Piazzolla for cello and strings; the Haydn C major concerto (they have a fine stylistic sense), and then I conducted them through Tchaikovsky’s Serenade. Well, I say conducted, although that may be a rather creative use of the verb: I have only conducted once before, in Hong Kong last year, so I am pretty new to it, and it is a measure of their willingness to make music that they could interpret my windmill-like beat and actually sound quite coherent! For me it was a privilege to be with them, and I wish them all luck in their musical futures – a heart-warming experience, to the musical core.

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London Improvisers Orchestra

Monday, June 6th, 2011

I had the honour of sitting in and playing with the London Improvisers Orchestra last night at Cafe Oto. This is a really remarkable collective of very experienced musicians, dedicated to improvised music, and all engaged in a search for new and imaginative ways to play and conduct improvised music. The ywork with conductors who do ‘conductions’ using a series of hand signals that convey various messages (sustained chord here; staccato note here; loop whatever you’re doing here, etc), and there was some truly thrilling music. It’s rare to be on stage for 2 hours and not experience any sense of stress, nerves that compete with music, ego, competition, and all those things that are so prevalent in the music profession but are really nothing to do with the true spirit of music. There was an abundance of listening, respect, fun, imagination, healthy irreverence, and, well, music. Check them out at any opportunity – they play Cafe Oto on the first Sunday of each month, and there’s a little bio of them here. I shall steal some of the ideas from them for my concert with the Southbank Sinfonia on Thursday.

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