Tuning the Concert

Gold Arts Award Portfolio

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

Filed under: 1B: research — concerttuning @ 9:16 pm
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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.

Hannah Conway

Graduating from Clare College, Cambridge (MA, PGCE) Hannah was engaged for two years by the London Symphony Orchestra as their Edward Heath Assistant Animateur and during this time was awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship to work in Australia and New Zealand.

She now works full time as a freelance music animateur and composer. In the UK, she has devised and directed projects for the Royal Opera House, English National Opera, Welsh National Opera, Glyndebourne Opera, Opera North, the Orchestra for the Age of Enlightenment (OAE), London Philharmonic (LPO), London Symphony Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), Northern Sinfonia, City of London Sinfonia, Orchestra of St Johns, and the City of London Festival. She has directed collaborative cross-arts projects for the Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet and Ballet Central and is a guest lecturer at Cambridge University.

She is internationally sought after as an educational consultant by the Royal Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Amsterdam Sinfonietta, As Li Co and Opera Domani, (Milano), the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the Fundacja Nowa Orkiestra Kameralna, Warsaw and the Mostar Sinfonietta, Bosnia-Herzegovina. She has been invited as guest speaker at RESEO European Opera Conferences in Italy (2005) and France (2003) and at international music conferences in Amsterdam, Sweden, Ireland (Jeunesse Musicale), London (Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Department for Education, Creativity and Collaboration (DFES), Specialist Schools Trust, National Association for Music Educators (NAME) and the Incorportated Society of Musicians (ICM). As a composer she has received commissions to write children’s songs from the LSO, CBSO, OAE and ENO. All her works have received performances in the Barbican Concert Hall, Royal Festival Hall, London Coliseum and the Birmingham Symphony Hall. Hannah is music director of Glyndebourne’s youth opera group, GYOG2. In April 2005 she conducted Dream for the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment at the Royal Festival Hall, a newly commissioned film/music/animation performance based on Midsummer Night’s Dream, directing four hundred primary children. She was engaged by the English National Opera to conduct the Fourth Eye a multimedia production involving three hundred primary school children at the London Coliseum (2003) and South of the River a newly commissioned community opera (2002). In 2006, Hannah co-founded Tinderbox Artists and is a director of Three Blue Legs Films. Hannah is presenter of children and family concerts for the LSO, Royal Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, CBSO, OAE and Wigmore Hall, London. She recently presented Mahler’s ninth symphony on a concert tour of Ireland (2005). She has enjoyed developing work with deaf and hearing impaired children and adults and sign-interprets concerts for symphony orchestras in the UK.


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