Tuning the Concert

Gold Arts Award Portfolio

The Orchestra of the future? October 27, 2010

Filed under: 1B: research,1D: issues — concerttuning @ 1:18 pm
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Southbank Sinfonia is unique in that they are the only full-time, independent Orchestral Academy currently in existence, but it is their open-mindedness that really bowled me over when I met their Chief Executive, Justin Lee.

They are actively paving the way into the future. Not only are they prepared to re-evaluate the role of the orchestra in the 21st century, but they are equipping their players with the ability to survive the modern music market. Justin Lee explained that their aim is not only to generate creative people who are passionate about music, but crucially to develop musicians with the means to communicate this. Consequently, they are trained in public speaking and are expected to talk to the audience at concerts.

The organisation is not tied to the rigidity or risk of a concert series. This gives them the flexibility to explore alternative avenues and take artistic risks, ensuring that there is still a role for the orchestral musician in 20 years time. Prepared to look beyond the autonomy of classical music, Justin Lee relishes the opportunity to collaborate in cross-art performances. This comes from his passion to reveal connections. Classical music is not chronological or closed to the world, though many a conventional concert typically portrays it as such.  Instead, through his programming he hopes to weave musical connections across time or use other art forms to shed light on the music. If they had a niche it’s their use of movement. For example, the musical mirroring in a Bach Canon was demonstrated in concert by two players physically imitating the direction of their musical subjects.



Shadowing a creative music-making day in a primary school August 1, 2010

On Tuesday 13 July I observed a day in the life of a music teacher at a primary school in Oxford.


I was impressed to see how music was used as a crowd control. As soon as the CD was turned on it gained the pupils’ attention and they listened (fairly) quietly and it kept them occupied as the rest of the school filed in. The assembly was based on a dance that year 3 had created after looking at the The Arnolfini Portrait. Again, I was impressed how respectfully the other pupils watched.

Choir rehearsal

The auditioned choir had a second rehearsal of a pupil’s composition, which will be sung at a performance at the end of term. With the support of another teacher leading the sopranos, the teacher taught the tunes by played the melody on the piano and the pupils singing it back. Certain difficult passages were isolated and an octave interval was demonstrated by singing ‘Somewhere over the rainbow.’