Wednesday 7 November 2007

Backstage at the Barbican

Our Concerts Officer, Hannah Green, is managing our residency at the Barbican Theatre: 'Looking after an orchestra in a pit rather than a concert hall is a totally different experience, both for orchestra manager and players – especially when said pit is 5 levels underground with no fresh air or windows, like backstage at the Barbican! However, once you acclimatise to the bunker-like existence, working in the pit can become exhilarating and fun.

For the past two weeks the Britten Sinfonia string section, pianists and percussionists have been rehearsing and performing with Jurjen Hempel, conductor, and the dancers from the Michael Clark Dance Company for the final in the trilogy of Michael Clark’s Stravinsky Project.

The most challenging task in the pit for this project was to work out how to fit everything and everyone in and this was no mean feat! Apollo had a much larger string group than Britten Sinfonia has ever used before with 8 1st violins, 8 2nd violins, 6 violas, 8 cellos and 4 double basses! This in itself would not have been such a problem to fit in if it were not for the 4 timpani, xylophone, huge bass drum and, not forgetting, the 4 grand pianos that had to remain at the back of the pit ready to be rushed into place during the interval, ready for Rite of Spring and Les Noces!

Once everything was fitted into the pit, albeit very cosily, the players arrived, and sitting so close together, with just lit music stands for light, there became a real sense of camaraderie. This grows with each rehearsal and performance and our players, who usually do not get the opportunity to see each other so often, get to know each other well.

Being able to watch rehearsals take place is an added bonus when managing a project and I felt this feeling of unity and friendship from the orchestra really permeated through their playing and out into the theatre for the audience to experience whilst watching the dance, all combining to create an incredible performance.'

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