A year in the life of Britten Sinfonia Academy

On Sunday 6 September 2015 a group of 30 young musicians got together for their first day of Britten Sinfonia Academy (BSA) 2015-16. With three quarters of the musicians new to the ensemble, we improvised, played games and rehearsed Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony. Over 10 months later the passionate and thriving ensemble, now all good friends, will be playing their last concert together of the year to include that same symphony. This group have worked hard all year, explored a variety of repertoire spanning a breadth of musical styles and grown and developed as an ensemble and as individual musicians. To celebrate an amazing year they will be performing their own At Lunch concert as part of Britten Sinfonia’s 2015-16 series – At Lunch Five in Norwich, on Thursday 30 June, and Cambridge, on Friday 1 July.

BSA pic 1 1516

“I cannot stress enough how lucky I feel to be able to play alongside professionals and individuals of such high standard, who all share the same love for music.”
Katie, violinist BSA 2015-16

Ahead of the upcoming concerts we want to take a little look back over the past year and celebrate the achievements of this delightful, talented and passionate group of young musicians by looking at some of our favourite moments.

“It is so difficult to pick a highlight from the BSA year! All the time I have spent with the group has been really fun and it has been exciting to watch the group grow. One of my favourite things this year would have to be the concert at the Barbican where we played Vivaldi and Stravinsky – it was an exciting performance and the enthusiasm and commitment from everyone was so thrilling!
And my second highlight is lunchtimes?! I really enjoy the breaks we have in rehearsal days where everyone relaxes together eating whatever food they’ve thrown into their bag from the fridge that morning, and then sharing cake (hooray!), football, and general nattering. It’s such a lovely collection of people!!”
Ali Reid, Britten Sinfonia violin

“My favourite moment was performing at the Barbican with Nicola Benedetti. It was one of the most amazing opportunities BSA has given me. She was really inspiring and gave fantastic advice alongside our regular professional coaches to make it a thoroughly enjoyable experience in a wonderful venue.”
Lucy, 2nd year in BSA on violin and viola

BSA pic 2 1516
“It is the young people we have the good fortune to get to know over a BSA season who make it all worthwhile. My favourite moment this season was about half-way through the year, there was a particularly shy lovely individual who played with a very beautiful, very musical and very small sound. Course 4 was three days of rehearsing Louis Andriessen’s Workers Union. This astonishing, relentlessly pulsing piece is 20 minutes of intense, gritty, ugly fortissimo requiring absolute and unfailing concentration. This is not pretty music, it is not dainty, softly spoken, polite Cambridge music. This is raw, rude and unapologetic. This piece was performed in the Barbican foyer the following weekend where it was met with enthusiastic applause from curious and intrigued passers-by. Our vibrant young players looked happy but exhausted as they filed off the stage past me. At the back of the group, someone was looking far from wrung out – she was bouncing and flushed. Brandishing her instrument at me she said, “That was f….” she stopped herself and amended “That was just AWESOME!”
Jen, Creative Learning Director 

“This year has been incredible fun, and the breadth of opportunities and repertoire has been extraordinary! In particular learning Louis Andriessen’s Workers Union for our performance in the Barbican was informative and incredibly enjoyable, and it introduced me to Andriessen’s work which I have since grown to love more and more.”
Morgan, 2nd year in BSA, clarinet

“What’s really struck me throughout my year working with the fantastic young people of the Britten Sinfonia Academy, is the level of creativity, enthusiasm, and commitment within the group. A particular memory that comes to mind was a morning rehearsal session with composer Kenneth Hesketh, where the players were invited to share their own short compositions on a given theme/style. Not only was I hugely impressed by the sensitivity, imagination and musicality of the work being shared, but I was also struck by the supportive, appreciative and very respectful environment created by every member of the group. That was a very special moment for me and I feel very optimistic about the future of the arts knowing that such a positive, professional culture is being cultivated in these young players who are the upcoming generation.”
Jamie, BSA Trainee Mentor, bassoon

“This was my second year and whilst it was really sad to see some of the older members move on to start University, or live overseas, it surprised me how quickly the new group gelled as an ensemble, which is great because we’ve done some amazing and challenging projects this year and I’ve really enjoyed every course. In particular I really enjoyed the focus on contemporary repertoire at the beginning of this year and I have found the rehearsals for the new commission by Kenneth Hesketh exciting, especially when he participated in one of our rehearsals as it was great to clearly see his intentions of how the movements are to be played in order to have the effect he wants us to create, I’m really looking forward to the concerts in a few weeks time!”
Aimée, 2nd year in BSA, viola 

The young musicians of Britten Sinfonia Academy for 2015-16 have worked so hard all year – always with eagerness, fearlessness, determination and passion. We look forward to finishing the year with two amazing concerts and hope to see you there!
Emily, Creative Learning Assistant


Tickets are still available for At Lunch Five, featuring music by Philip Glass and Beethoven, and world premieres from Kenneth Hesketh and BSA member Jasper Eaglesfield, performed by Britten Sinfonia Academy. Hear it in Norwich St Andrew’s Hall on Thursday 30 June 1pm, and Cambridge West Road Concert Hall on Friday 1 July 1pm. Click here for more information and booking.