Tuning the Concert

Gold Arts Award Portfolio

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.

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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.

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