Staff Highlights from 2016

As 2016 draws to a close the Britten Sinfonia management team look back on some of their highlights of the year;

Hazel Terry (Concerts co-ordinator)
My genuine highlight was probably the moment of relief when I finally had all the players’ visas for tour to China after going to the visa centre about 5 times!

Musically, my highlight was probably the Inaugural Resident Orchestra concert at Saffron Hall and particularly hearing the Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis which is one of my favourite pieces!

Standing in the middle of an empty Royal Albert Hall whilst the orchestra were rehearsing for the Prom was pretty special too as I’m so used to being in it when it’s full!

Jen House (Creative Learning Director)
2016, for the first time, saw Britten Sinfonia Academy accept two Composer Members. My 2016 highlight is short, sweet and represents all the reasons I get up in the morning and look forward to going to work.

Having made special arrangements for the composer members to go back stage at the Barbican Hall after Britten Sinfonia’s performance of Steve Reich’s new work “Pulse”, the following day, a glowing 16 year old bundle of excitement came bounding up to me at rehearsal. “Don’t shake my hand Jen, it’s unwashed! In fact, don’t EVER shake my hand again, as of last night, it will remain unwashed, forever!”

As he bowled off, his father rolled his eyes and whispered “He shook Steve Reich’s hand last night, thanks for making the arrangements, we’re never going to hear the end of it!”

David Butcher (Chief Executive)
Picking an end of year favourite concert is always horribly difficult as there’s been such variety (well, that’s what we do) with a huge range of collaborators, music, venues and locations… how to choose? Adès or Andriessen? Beijing or Bristol? Couperin or Clyne? etc.   But let me go for Jacqueline Shave’s 10th anniversary concerts back in April.  See, I then get the Balkan bonkers of a Bartok string quartet movement; a sublime Mozart piano concerto (and an equally sublime Ben Grosvenor); the discovery of a new work (Elena Langer’s Story of an Impossible Love ), oh, and a string masterpiece: Strauss’ Metamorphosen for 23 solo strings.  The latter was the highlight though, particularly in the gleaming acoustics of Milton Court: one of those moments when a technically brilliant and prepared performance takes flight into something, well, transcendent.  Jackie put in a huge amount of thought and preparation for this piece with fervent ideas about style, speeds, textures and the rehearsal process… and it all took flight in a spellbinding performance, viscerally charged as it celebrated her 10 years with the orchestra.  The musicians played their hearts out for her and got to the very core of this great (tragic) work, with stunned silence at the end, bowed heads, and a few tears, where no one dared clap.  I doubt I’ll hear a better performance…  Our friends at Radio 3 broadcast it, so I really must look into releasing it on disc, but you had to be there.

Milly March (Marketing Assistant)
I only started working with Britten Sinfonia in October, but I’ve had some great experiences in my two months here. My highlight of the year (other than getting my job) was the premiere of Gerald Barry’s Alice’s Adventures Under Ground at the Barbican. I don’t consider myself an opera aficionado, but it really blew me away – almost to the point of speechlessness. It was, as I was promised it would be, absolutely bonkers, and I thought that the orchestra were really on top form that evening. For me one of the best things about that performance was the fact that the audience seemed to really enjoy it and seeing their laughter and enjoyment of even the most surreal moments meant that it was really something to be proud of being a small part of.

Nikola White (Artistic Planning Director)
So, favourite concert of 2016?  That would be the one I didn’t actually attend – no, really, stay with me on this! For once, I’d been more organised in my domestic life than my professional, and had booked my summer holiday early.  I carefully avoided our BBC Prom date, as I was desperate to be at the Royal Albert Hall for that, with it being such a high profile gig and the prequel to our Beethoven Cycle with Thomas Adès .  However, planning concerts is never really that straightforward (I really should know this by now), especially when the very best soloists and conductors are involved, and lo and behold, the date was moved to slap bang in the middle of my hols. I bravely took this on the chin (well, it’s not All About Me) and headed off for sunny Nice, knowing that all was in order back at the ranch for a stonking Prom performance.

On the evening of the Prom, I was determined to listen in, but fearing the worst as the gite-owner had let us know he was decidedly “anti-internet” and my daughter had already experienced  severe wifi-withdrawal symptoms.  However, hunched over the rustic kitchen table, trying not to eat any more baguette, I managed to tune in just in time – the wonders of the BBC  – and was instantly able to picture our players walking onto the stage at the Royal Albert Hall.  Whilst other members of my family were glued to the Olympics in the next room, I marvelled at the sheer thrill of Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony, and the dynamism of Beethoven’s 8th  under Tom’s baton.  It was a pretty crackly line on a terribly un-smart phone, but nonetheless I could feel the incredible buzz in the Hall from all those miles away in a remote cottage in the south of France.  Just using my ears instead of my eyes for once was a really refreshing and illuminating experience….though I’m thinking of booking a holiday in SW7 in August next year, just in case…..

Nick Brealey (Development Director)
A couple of highlights for me…

The stunning and extremely moving last movement of James MacMillan’s Seven Last Words from the Cross…yes, there were tears!

Being asked after the Britten Sinfonia Academy recital at the Fitzwilliam Museum if a piece just performed was by Handel, it wasn’t, it was by our Academy trumpeter, age 14…shows how accomplished our Academy members are.

James Calver (Concerts Director)
My highlight of 2016 is without doubt the European premiere of Gerald Barry’s long-awaited new opera Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, given at the Barbican on 28 November.  This mammoth project came to fruition with the help of three major and equal contributors, namely the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, The Barbican Centre, and us! I was privileged enough to travel to LA the week before for the world premiere at the Walt Disney Hall, representing the British commissioning cohort. It has always been one of my career/life goals to be inside the Frank Gehry’s magnificent Disney Hall in LA, and I couldn’t think of a better circumstances in which to achieve this; celebrating the collaboration between our three organisations with a brand new work by Gerald, who’s relationship with the orchestra is truly blossoming.  It was so fulfilling seeing Thomas Adès, the stellar group of soloists and our wonderful orchestra bring the piece to life finally a week later. A professional milestone, but also a personal one.

Gerald Barry’s Alice’s Adventures Underground was recorded for broadcast by BBC Radio 3 ‘Hear and Now’ to be aired on 14 January 2017, 22:30.
To find out what we have planned for 2017 take a look at the What’s On section of the website.