Tuning the Concert

Gold Arts Award Portfolio

Administrator turning Animateur July 27, 2010

I met Becky on 15 July 2010 to ask her some questions about her career and her view on Tuning the Concert.

She had previously had lots of teaching and workshop experience before working at the BBC Proms as learning and audience development administrator which then led onto her job of Learning Assistant at BBC Symphony Orchestra. Inspiringly, she is currently taking a part-time one day a week course at Goldsmiths to train as an animateur, which she hopes will help her career development.

When asked how successful music outreach is at introducing people to classical music and to the concert, she explained that is the process that participants go through is equally as important as inspring them to attend a concert.

However, there are a number of scheme and events to help introduce new-comers to the concert, such as the Out and About Prom at Westfield (reviewed here) and family introductions at the Proms as well as free Proms. Interestingly, her opinion has changed favourably about the Westfield event though crucially it presents serious music and maintains its quality, though in an alternative venue.

Amazingly, they managed to get 100 children to attend a concert where Stockhausen was programmed, as they were involved in the pre-concert performance. As they had to be there anyway, it was easier to get the families to attend the concert even though the programme was rather hard-core. It was a valuable lesson for the children in the way they formed an opinion of Stockhausen’s music, even if they didn’t choose to hear it again.



Creative learning with Britten Sinfonia July 23, 2010

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I met up with Sophie Dunn on the 16 July at the British Library to hear about her career and her current job as a Creative Learning manager.

How did you get where you are today?

Sophie trained as a music teacher and taught for three years before moving on as an intern at the Orchestra of St John’s orchestra and then later a position with City of London Sinfonia for 5 years. She is currently working for Britten Sinfonia, who she has been with for 3 1/2 years.

Do you think the classical concert can reach a wider audience?

Sophie explained that in the office at Britten Sinfonia they had recently been re-thinking their goals. To paraphrase, their three main aims are:

  1. Broaden audience awareness by better informing them about the repertoire
  2. Develop talent
  3. Involved guest artists in community work giving everyone access to the stars

Many of these aims help to encourage greater accessibility to classical music and hopefully will introduce new people to their work. This also extends to putting the members of staff in the public eye and subsequently making the whole orchestra feel more approachable.

Do you reach alternative audiences?

Britten Sinfonia is known for being innovative for example by crossing different genres and playing in a variety of setting not commonly associated with classical music. For example they perform at the:



Shadowing a music-making day on a Outreach project July 22, 2010

On Monday 19 July, I shadowed an animateur and two musicians during an orchestral outreach project in a Primary school in Oxford. It was day four of the project and they were using the theme of the solar system to inspire their work.

I came in when they were working on creating compositions using graphic scores. They were using percussion instruments as well as a number of miniature violins to create compositions about black holes, red planets and asteroids. They later performed their works to the rest of the school in key stage 2 as well as performing 3 songs: 2 taught and 1 that they composed themselves.

Some interesting things that I observed:

  • I liked the way as a method of crowd control, the animatuer would sometimes call out a word and the children would automatically respond. For example, code words used included quail and shark!
  • I was impressed how keen all the students were to try the violins. Playing a so-called ‘proper’ instrument was deemed cool.
  • Each of the groups had very different method of approaching the graphic scores. I particularly liked one score in the way that it was circular.
  • It was problematic keeping the graphic scores simple as they were given so much freedom at the beginning.
  • While playing with the musicians may appear to be the highlight for the students, when watching another group’s work they were occupied by watching the professional instrumentalists.



What’s it like working in education as a violinist? July 21, 2010

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I spoke to a violinist on 12 July 2010 who is very involved on the music education scene.

She took a 2 year teaching course and then got additional training from orchestras such as the Academy of St Martins and ex-Guildhall music leaders.

She teaches in schools 2 mornings a week where she gives instrumental lessons as well as running an orchestra for pupils aged 13-18. In addition she is involved in music projects such as those run by Create and the outreach work of the National Youth Orchestra.

One project that she has been involved on recently has been collaborating with a photographer with two different schools – one high achievers and one handicap. The pupils have been working together in a shopping centre to create a composition using photographs of the shoppers’ feet. The project is special in the way that it encourages interaction between the two very distinct groups of children.

I questioned her also about my issue of tuning the concert. She explained how there are not enough regional schools concerts, as it is often too expensive for a school to come into London. She also explained that on workshops it is the children’s progress rather than the end result that is important and often the least likely children are the ones that go through the most change.


Why Hannah Conway’s approach is musical magic July 17, 2010

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After being blown away by her performance at Spitalfields Schools concert, I got in touch with Hannah Conway to find out more about her approach.

I thought the concert was so original that she developed the techniques, but in fact I was reminded that arts outreach and education has been going on for the last 20 years so there is a history of practitioners behind it.

I questioned her technique and Hannah explained she chooses to use gesture, movement and language, as for her it makes the most sense. She gets to the bare bones of what is going on and using hooks in the pieces she helps reveal what the composer does compositionally. Furthermore, she explained how one of the most important things is to be passionate about what you are talking about.

When asked the best way to engage children, she thought that it is best to get them ‘doing’ so that they are active as well as throwing them in the deep end.

I asked Hannah is she would do anything about changing the concert format. Her answer surprised me saying she wouldn’t change it explaining that ‘a concert is a concert’, as the basic format of listening to music has been in place for 100 of years so. For her, it is all about the music and the surrounding things don’t really matter, but it best to find a way to be completely absorbed by the music. However, she did suggest the ideas of a having a mobile audience, playing in unusual venues, encouraging the musicians to talk and respond to questions and cross-collaboration with different artists to encourage a wider audiences to attend concerts. Likewise, she argued that family concerts have been running for a while but may in the future develop their use of multimedia and technology.



What can a comedian do with an orchestra?

Filed under: 1C: Reviews — concerttuning @ 8:31 pm
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The comedian, Rainer Hersch conducted and presented the first half of the concert on Sunday 11 July by Philharmonia Britannica.

He used a combination of jokes, re-compositions of well-known classics, and juggling tricks to bring a new life to the concert format. While many of the audience were elderly, they equally warmed to comedian and joined in with enthusiasm.

Who on earth is Rainer Hersch?

Rainer Hersch is a comedian and musician who has performed on every major comedy stage in Britain and abroad.  He has appeared twelve times at the Edinburgh Festival; had numerous comedy-concert series at the South Bank in London; featured in comedy clubs all across Europe and in TV shows around the world.

However, particularly at the beginning of the concert I was so engrossed with the audience participation (in group 3 saying cuc-koo to the accompaniment of the Hornpipe) that I didn’t get a chance to properly listen to the orchestra. The concert encourages a different intensity of listening. The music tended to be short extracts or broken up with dialogue. This is ideal for people new to classical music, but if you didn’t know anything about music, some of the jokes may not make sense, particularly the mickey takes about Mahler’s 1st Symphony.



Amateur orchestras’ audience development puts some professionals to shame

Filed under: 1C: Reviews — concerttuning @ 7:46 pm
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I went to a concert on Sunday 11 July by Philharmonia Britannica, which I heard about through a forwarded email. The concert involved a comedian and as their website explains this is part of a plight to develop audiences. I thought this was very innovative of an amateur orchestra to be thinking that much about their audience. It gives me hope that even smaller scale ensembles with minimal budgets can do things to make concerts accessible to a wide audience.


Different Audiences

PB is starting to explore partnerships with other art forms. Amongst other things we hope that this will appeal to the many music lovers who wouldn’t normally attend a classical concert. We also have plans to work in the field of education and to promote new compositions. Please visit the relevant links below for further details.

Overall, we want to bring the great music of the classical repertoire to as large and diverse an audience as possible.

Exploring New Syntheses

  • We aim to explore the exciting possibilities of combining a classical orchestra with different art forms. Not only could this create fascinating new insights in and of itself, but it may also appeal to those not normally likely to attend a ‘standard’ classical concert.