Project Archive 2007-08
Our biggest project during the 2007-08 season was with young people at Fenland Junction Pupil Referral Unit. Joined by workshop leader Simon Gunton and Britten Sinfonia string trio Manon Derome, Kate Musker and Julia Vohralik, the young people learned to use music technology to compose, record and edit their own sounds. The final outcome of the project was a fantastic piece entitled “The Choice”: a short film following Mike, a young runaway who gets mixed up with all the wrong sorts of people… The images, music and storyline for the piece were all put together by the young people. We are currently working on similar projects with two more PRU’s in and around Cambridge.
In the Autumn of 2007, eight Britten Sinfonia musicians were regular visitors to Bedwell Children’s Centre, where they introduced some of Stevenage’s youngest citizens to the fun of making music. Part of a nationwide scheme coordinated by the Association of British Orchestras, the project aimed to encourage and teach practitioners and musicians to use music effectively with this age group, and to inspire young children to enjoy taking part in music. Feedback from both the Children’s Centre and the musicians indicates that these aims were achieved: almost all of those involved wanted to carry on using the musical techniques and ideas they had developed during the project.
Our annual Cambridge University Composers’ Workshop once again provided an absorbing insight into the compositional process, as some of Cambridge’s most talented young composers had their music workshopped by Britten Sinfonia musicians and conductor / composer James MacMillan.
The workshop kicked off with Julian Revie’s Impulse, a frenetic exploration of rhythmic and harmonic motifs, pushing at the limits of instrumental ranges and techniques. This was followed by Oliver Rudland’s The White Devil, written originally as an overture to a play and retaining a strong filmic quality. Peter Matthew’s Chamber Prelude was next, bringing a more Romantic sound world with moments of great beauty in the instrumental writing. After a break for lunch, we heard James Keay’s A Song - ironically titled because, as James explained, the music was often the antithesis of cantabile writing, making clever use of poet William Blake’s ideas of horizontal and vertical motion. And finally came Daniel Rollison’s Octet, a fugal piece with echoes of Hindemith and Bartók.
These five very different pieces demonstrated that we have much to look forward to from these young composers. And the composers themselves found the process to be invaluable:
“Thank you! I cannot overstate how valuable this is for us - really tremendous!”
If you missed the workshop, you can hear extracts from all of the pieces, as well as interviews with the composers, in our SinfoniaCast.
On Saturday 9 February 2008 we held the first in what we hope will be a series of workshops exploring the connections between music and visual arts. The Saturday Drawing group at Kettle’s Yard gallery in Cambridge was joined by oboist Nicholas Daniel and artist Auriol Herford to explore techniques and concepts common to both art forms.
The workshop began with breathing exercises, helping the participants to experience the intense connections between movement, breath and body which are so important to wind players. The artists then moved on to a series of quick drawings made in response to Nicholas’ performances of one of Benjamin Britten’s Metamorphoses after Ovid. As he reported afterwards, the drawings, often starkly beautiful, the sounds of charcoal on paper and the atmosphere of concentrated creativity in the room all influenced Nicholas’ playing as he repeated the piece. Watch video on YouTube
Britten Sinfonia’s performances of Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite during the spring of 2008 provided the perfect stimulus for work with primary schools. St George’s and The Oratory schools in Birmingham, as well as Willingham Primary School in Cambridgeshire, all had workshops with Julian West and Britten Sinfonia musicians which introduced the children to Ravel’s fantastical music and the fairytale subjects which inspired it. As well as learning their own version of Ravel’s Fairy Garden music, the children composed their own musical responses to popular stories including Tom Thumb and Beauty and the Beast. Willingham Head Teacher Jo Brearley told us that it had been “a wondeful experience and one to be repeated!” and her pupils summed it up with one word: “Brilliant!”
Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite was the inspiration for a number of events during the 2007-08 season. Our “Insight into Stravinsky” event in Cambridge, at which lecturers Ryan Wigglesworth and John Hopkins gave a musically-illustrated introduction to Stravinsky’s neo-classical output, was hugely popular with concert audiences. For pupils at St Thomas More School in Peterborough, however, it was the commedia dell’arte characters which really fired the children’s imaginations. Making masks to represent Pulcinella and friends, learning about how the different characters moved, and putting together a musical drama based on Stravinsky’s music, the children accomplished a huge amount during the week: congratulations to all involved!
Southampton, Norwich and Cambridge
24 - 27 September 2015
American pianist Jeremy Denk joins Britten Sinfonia to direct a vibrant programme of music from two of history’s greatest composers, J. S. Bach and Stravinsky