Tuesday 19 August 2008

Edinburgh International Festival to the V Festival...

Back from Hylands Park near Chelmsford. Last weekend the Edinburgh International Festival, and this weekend the V Festival, a rite-of-passage to teenager-hood for my younger son, and an eye- and ear-opener for me. Eighteen or so different bands and singers and over 20 hours of live music across the two days of which at least 80% was hugely enjoyable: Amy Macdonald (see photo) and the Kings of Leon were my highlights, but the Pigeon Detectives, the Stranglers and The Feelings were also amazing, as were Duffy (brilliant backing group) and the unique Amy Winehouse (you have to hear her live to understand why she is simultaneously so immensely popular yet derided); and – dangerous as it is to admit in public – Girls Aloud. Their material might be thin, but their stage performance is incredible: classy, highly produced, unashamedly overpowering.
I need to think more about this, but I had time to start reflecting on what are the deeper differences between V Festival and the conventional classical music model. V Festival seems expensive until you divide the ticket price by the 100+ bands you can choose from to hear; and the ticket-price is way below top prices at the Royal Opera House for a single evening; classical audiences outside London complain if they are charged more than a few pounds for a concert programme (often as meaty as a short paperback), yet hundreds of thousands of people over the two days of V Festival are happy to part with £10 for a magazine-style booklet and a set of laminated cards to hang around their necks with the running-order. There is much for Britten Sinfonia to learn, both from the economic model, the scale, the sophistication of the presentation, and the audience demographic. Examining all this could be a useful project to look at in our on-going collaboration with MBA students at the Judge Business School. Food for thought, anyway.

Tuesday 12 August 2008

British Council A&B International Award nomination

We are delighted that the sponsorship by Cambridge University Press for our tour to South America last year has been nominated for an Arts & Business Award in the British Council A&B International category. We won't know whether we have won until late November, but you can watch the chair of the jury's summary of the shortlisting here and read the full list of nominations here.

Monday 11 August 2008

Mykietyn's music in Edinburgh

PaweĊ‚ Mykietyn is the next Polish composer Britten Sinfonia has commissioned: we will premiere his work in Krakow next March. I took the opportunity for a flying visit to the Edinburgh International Festival on Saturday to see TR Warsawa’s production of Dybbuk, for which he wrote the music. Well, hardly a flying visit: the high value of various metals leaves our fragile transport infrastructure vulnerable to the theft of signalling cable, and the whole of the East Coast mainline ground to a halt on Saturday morning after just such an incident. So a long, interrupted journey using umpteen train companies and one’s rather hazy geography of central England ensued, making it to Scotland only just in time for the show.
Dybbuk (based on a play by Szymon Anski and a short story by Hanna Krall and adapted by Krzysztof Warlikowski) is a dark tale with two interconnected strands: the suffering soul of a holocaust victim takes over the body of his American half-brother; and a woman is possessed by the spirit of her lover, and must choose between continuing this supernatural union and taking a living but unloved husband. In Jewish folklore, a dybbuk is a restless dead soul which inhabits a living person. The play works through decisions of whether to embrace or abandon the past.
Mykietyn’s music creates a powerful yet scary bridge between these overlapping stories: chilling, heartless but still hearfelt – has he, I wonder, written film music?
Read Benedict Nightingale's review in The Times.
There is another performance tonight – don’t worry if, like me, you don’t speak a word of Polish: the surtitles will get you through. Book online.

Wednesday 6 August 2008

Vibrato Wars

Sir Roger Norrington has stirred up a debate since his recent Prom on whether and when string players should use vibrato: will he or won't he ban it at the Last Night? See Tom Service's blog in The Times for the full story.