Tuning the Concert

Gold Arts Award Portfolio

A taster: working with BBC Proms learning Team September 7, 2010

I volunteered over the bank holiday weekend to help with the family orchestra and chorus who performed in Prom 60 on Monday 30 August.

Families from Cornwall and London had been selected to première a BBC commission by Graham Fitzin. The participants ranged from 5 years to 80+ and covered a spectrum of abilities. As well as the performance sounding truly impressive (you can hear it on BBC iplayer), it was very interesting to see how the participants had been taught the music and how it was put together.

There was no music, but instead they learnt numbered themes, which the section leaders indicated using hand signs. For example, theme 1 in the violins was a clenched fist and it was bowed (mimed bowing). Furthermore, there were three conductors as well as the section leaders. This included the conductor for the BBC Concert Orchestra, Keith Lockhart, the workshop leader, Lincoln Abbotts and the composer, Graham Fitkin. The conductors kept time, while the sections leaders told their musicians exactly when to come in, stop and which theme to play. It was a very clever way to build a complex piece with a mixed ability group of musicians.

As well as working with a really fun and friendly team it was a great insight into the level of preparation needed to organise the Prom. Not only had the concerts team produced a detailed plan of the concert, down to 30sec entrances but the learning team had produced an extensive logistics plan for the whole weekend. As there were 200 people to consider, a lot of effort had gone into organising how to get everyone form A to B, how to feed everyone and how to keep everyone happy.

The highlight of the weekend had to be using the radios at the Royal Albert Hall to communicate between all the other learning team members. This enabled us to know when to bring each of our sections to the stage and check that everyone was in place. Other jobs included helping put packed lunches together, signing participants in, chaperoning groups around the Albert Hall, registering everyone onto the buses, making announcements to my group regarding logistics and directing participants around backstage.

Furthermore, I got to join in with the sing along sitting in the choir stools in the Royal Albert Hall. My favourite number was Moon River! A very memorable experience and a great backstage insight into one tiny part of a huge festival.

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One Response to “A taster: working with BBC Proms learning Team”

  1. Catherine Says:

    Dear Alice
    I just wanted to write to you to thank you for all your help with the learning work over the Proms season this year. It has been so valuable for us to have someone we can rely on, especially in high pressure environments, to deliver successful events for the adults and children that we work with. We particularly valued your work on Inspire Day where you helped the young composers achieve what they wanted to from the day, and your work both at rehearsals and as a backstage assistant for the Fitkin Project. This project was very difficult to plan and deliver and being able to rely on your musical knowledge and logistics skills meant that the whole project ran a lot more smoothly that it could have done!
    I really hope that you will work with us again, and I look forward to letting you know about upcoming opportunities,
    Thanks again,
    Catherine Burgis
    Learning Manager, BBC Proms and BBC Symphony Orchestra


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