Tuning the Concert

Gold Arts Award Portfolio

Classical musician wants jazz/rock/pop musicians’ skills November 19, 2010

Filed under: 1C: Impact — concerttuning @ 1:28 pm
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Attending a number of events has highlighted that classical musicians need to have more than technical or performance skills. This has made me realise that my classical training has not equipped me with all the skills I need to work in the C21st.

To run music workshops you need to be able to improvise, play by ear and memorise music. These are skills that come naturally to jazz or rock musicians, but something I feel I am lacking.

Consequently, I would like to develop skills in this area.

  • I have already tried improvising by alternating musical phrases with my brother on the electric guitar.
  • I am not using music notation for my musical storytelling which I hope will improve my musical memory.
  • I am also learning tunes aurally by listening to them on YouTube or by working out familair tunes by trail and error on the cello.
  • I am even performing with a band in December and will need to compose my own cello line.

The Journey: Concerts in the C21st

Filed under: 1C Summary: research and review — concerttuning @ 12:22 pm

As a cellist and arts administrator, I decided to base my research on concerts: their programming and format.

I wanted to look at how classical music is currently presented to audiences. I looked at a range of organisations from cutting edge to traditional and from professional to amateur. I added links to the organisations that I researched on my blog as well as well following them on twitter.

I reviewed a number of events as well as interviewing the musicians or organisers involved. Follow the links below to read the full articles:



Stringfever’s show reinvigorates the concert experience November 10, 2010

Filed under: 1C: Reviews — concerttuning @ 10:17 pm
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I discovered Stringfever on YouTube and on Monday 8 November went to see their show at Epsom Playhouse Theatre.

While the audience mainly consisted of the mature middle-class, there was a notable scattering of ‘young’ people: either teenagers coming with their parents or young professionals coming in groups of friends. I counted roughly 20 ‘young’ people out of an audience of around 300. Their manager Trevor Eyles emphasised the band’s broad appeal as they perform in venues from retirement homes to colleges.

I was struck by the slick nature of the show. The fact that they tour with the same programme has enabled them to produce a highly polished performance, particularly in regards to stage presence. The repertoire was confidently memorised which in turn meant that they were able to play out to the audience with an assortment of facial expressions and stage antics. Though the shiny suits and patent black shoes are not to my taste, their matching outfits turned the performance in a show with all aspects are taken into consideration.

Stringfever also successful communicated with the audience. This was evident in the spoken introductions to the repertoire as well as the musicians’ ability to portray they individual and distinct characters on stage. I think Ralph Broadbent’s dialogues were well balanced between informative and accessible. He introduced the works simply by giving a bit of background information like the piece’s original orchestration and then slowly incorporated any composers’ names or technical terms before giving the full formal name of the composition. I enjoyed how Neal Broadbent helped bridge the music and the dialogue by sustaining a pulse on the cello. Furthermore the false clap was very tactfully dealt with to diffuse any air that it mattered if you clapped in the wrong place.



Aurora Orchestra: reaching new audiences October 10, 2010

Filed under: 1C: Reviews — concerttuning @ 12:28 pm
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After hearing their family concert at the BBC Proms, I looked up the Aurora Orchestra and read about their Yankee Doodle Concert. I immediately booked tickets as I thought it looked fun, but I realised that once I got to the concert on 9 October I didn’t know which pieces they were playing. This highlights how that managed to market the concert beyond the composers and piece titles.

I thought the concert was fantastic, it received good applause from the audience and it was a different type of concert experience – one firmly in the C21st.

Notably in the audience there were several children. However the ages of the audience ranged from the white haired to young professionals. I heard my neighbours whispering a little throughout the concert and I remember the young girl of around 10 years saying ‘How do you know when it has finished’. Though the concert experience had been made approachable through the film, there was still enough to puzzle a 10 year old about the format of the concert.

The concert featured music around an American theme and several of the pieces had accompanying film footage. I particularly enjoyed the Carnival of the Animals with the variety of the different animations from the students from Central St Martins. They were frequently comical and refreshingly got the audience laughing. Obviously the sketch of Tom and Jerry was also a highlight of the evening. Amusing the pianist representing Tom had a cat tail poking out of his black tie and he comically mimicked the cat’s expressions.



Looking beyond classical music September 26, 2010

Filed under: 1C: Impact — concerttuning @ 6:57 pm
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I have come to the realisation that before I started my Gold Arts Award, my listening habits were very restrictive. I have since  started to listen to a broader range of music.

I grew up choosing to listen to classical music because it was the type of music that I was playing and I also wanted to learn about it. However, this was to the detriment of listening to pop, folk, world, jazz, rock etc.

Attending some alternative concerts, has showed me that not only do I enjoy listening to non-classical music but it is a vital way to invigorate concerts and classical music. See my reviews about jazz and folk at the BBC Proms.

Subsequently, I have started to expand my CD collection.

  • It all started when I went to Exhibition Music Day. There was a large selection of music from all styles and nationalities to sample for free. As well as buying Ballake Sissoko and Vincent Segal’s CD after hearing them in concert (which I reviewed here), I also very unusually for myself, bought an album by a singer who I heard do an acoustic set at the French Institute. I liked her innocence and simplicity. It reminded me that music does not have to be complex to have an impact. The album is called ‘Inside Over Here’ by Rozi Plain.



Penguins allowed at the Proms September 20, 2010

Filed under: 1C: Reviews — concerttuning @ 9:42 pm
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When flicking through the Proms booklet, the photo of the Penguin Cafe always caught my eye. The group looked a bit quirky and as it was a Late night prom I expected something a bit different. Even when I mentioned the group to friends, they had heard of the group or had a vague notion of who they were (which is not a usual occurrence when telling friends about a concert I am attending).

My anticipation had not been misguided, as the concert was certainly uber cool. I attended the prom on Wednesday 8 September with my friend Emma (a beginner ukulele player) who is currently setting up a band www.emmadaianwright.com/band/. The Penguin Cafe were different, a bit anti-classical and with their vintage clothes certainly had stage presence.

I excitedly we heard about how the original founder of the band, Simon Jeffes became disillusioned with the rigid structures of classical music and the limitations of rock music. You can read more about his philosophy at http://www.penguincafe.com/. He consequently started to compose a new style of music, which is a cross between folk and minimalism. Interestingly, this shows how my own tiring of classical music is not new, as in the 70s people were feeling the same thing.



PROMS PLUS is the best bit of the Proms September 1, 2010

Filed under: 1C: Reviews — concerttuning @ 11:33 am
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Proms Plus: Family Music Intro

The BBC Proms has developed a series of introductions to its evening concerts. The Family Music introductions are aimed at young people, but this does not stop people of all ages attending. While aimed at newcomers, I suspect that many a seasoned concert attendee does and should attend.

The idea is to introduce the works, players and background in a fun and lively manner, so that you can then go onto listen to the main concert better informed. It is an ideal time for families at 5.30pm, as they can come straight from school. However, I saw many a family did not stay for the evening performance. The Proms plus is enough of an event in itself – you get to hear all the best tunes, the funniest facts about the composers and even play along with the professionals. What else would you want? Plus it is more intimate as you can get up close to the players and it is less overwhelming then listening to a full orchestra. It makes you question why you would want to go to the main concert, especially as Proms Plus events are free.

I attended the Family Music Introduction to Proms 44 on Wednesday 18 August. Fraser Trainer presented the concert/talk in an informal and humble manner with 3 members of the Russian National Orchestra – a violinist, flautist and trumpeter.