Thursday 23 July 2009

Latitude Festival 2009

John, BS's usual blogger, was unable to attend Latitude Festival, so today's blog is from me, Frances (Marketing Assistant). The orchestra should, by now, have recovered from the intensely exhilarating and very tiring experience of being the first orchestra to perform a classical set at Latitude Festival. The festival itself is an ambitious undertaking - over 700 different artists performing over a variety of stages and arenas throughout Henham Park Estate, to an audience of around 25,000 people.

BS was performing on the Waterfront Stage - an uncovered area - which was beautifully positioned on the edge of the lake, while the audience encrouched on the shades of the woodland nearby. It was one of my favourite spots at the festival. Deck chairs lined the lake shore opposite the stage whilst the festival-goers streamed across the main bridge adjacent to the stage, connecting the festival entrance to the world of activity beyond. Giant flowers floated by, and multi-coloured sheep contributed an occassional bleet to our performance.

The whole Latitude experience is about openness, acceptance, and free abandon to try absolutely anything you can think of. Artists and performers are no longer so bound by genre and audiences seem happy to mingle between styles and artforms. Musical highlights from here in the office, to name but a few (!!) included Icelandic band Hjaltalin, Bat for Lashes, Fever Ray, Nabokov Theatre, The Irrespressibles, Sadler's Wells and of course Nick Cave!

Lizzie Ball made an excellent point in her video diary about audiences at a festival, and in particular the audience we met at Latitude. They're noticeably more relaxed, in no hurry to shoot off, or having to beat people (not literally!) out of the car park. Audiences could wander freely in and out and were readily showing their appreciation for our performance. Increasingly, but certainly not the same as in a festival environment, we see a more open response from audiences in concert halls, they don't feel so bound by the serious environment of our classical music venues.
Sadly, we didn't get to do an encore at our first set, time slipped away from us, but I think generally encores are always expected at gigs. But are they expected at our usual concert hall concerts? Does the nature of the works generally mean playing an extra piece could be overly lengthy, mood breaking from the carefully structured programme, or simply not in the frivolous spirit one envsiages for an encore. Nick Cave, interestingly, did not do one. The audience cheered in delight and wolf whistled approval but only the techies appeared to tacitly signal us out of the arena.

Playing outdoors (acoustics, wind, rain!) certainly makes for a more challenging environment, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well the balance and nuances of the orchestral performance were transmitted. Other highlights were the Loch Fyne food stalls (mussels!), compost loos (!), the random artwork dotted around and generally the cleanliness - people seemed much more considerate than normal festivals/gigs...perhpas due to the £2 cup deposit! I highly recommend Latitude for next year! See more pictures from Latitude

Fen Soundscape

Here's a video from our Fen Soundscape project. Since March 2009, children at Ramsey Spinning Infants School and young people from the nearby village of Yaxley have been working with professional musicians and composers to write, record and edit music inspired by the Great Fen.

On Tuesday 21 July, the results of all their hard work were displayed to the public for the first time at St Thomas a Becket church in Ramsey. On entering the church, visitors were greeted by the sounds of birdsong and a series of signs and arrows taped to the floor. Following the arrows around the church, they came across doormats concealing "trigger pads" which, when stepped on, triggered a series of sounds to be played from the speakers attached to the church's pillars. Sounds ranged from the peaceful (birds twittering - both real and as interpreted on flutes and violins) to the more startling (geese flying overhead, a simulated storm). The whole thing added up to a magical experience brilliantly recreating the sounds and atmosphere of the Great Fen.

A series of performances included young children from Ramsey singing some of the Little Songs for the Great Fen which they have written with composer Jane Wells, followed by a Britten Sinfonia flute quartet playing Mozart and Rossini. Speeches, including a polished performance from Yaxley teenager AJ Mulley, set the scene and explained how the Soundscape had been put together.

The exhibition continues at St Thomas a Becket Church, Ramsey, until Sunday 26 July. Entry is free, and the exhibition is open daily from 8.30am to 5.30pm, except during Sunday services.

Monday 13 July 2009

Tango meets Vivaldi

Astor Piazzolla's take on Vivaldi's ever-popular Four Seasons is - like all his music - very clever, but not in an arch or arcane way. It's hugely enjoyable and we look forward to playing two of the movements (Autumn and Summer) during our sets at Latitude this weekend. We are scheduled to be on the Waterfront Stage at 18.00 on Saturday and then again at 11.00 on Sunday morning (but look out for any last minute changes: we'll tweet any changes).

Tuesday 7 July 2009


Being based in Cambridge, we know the platforms at King's Cross pretty well. But those other types of platforms - the digital ones - are becoming increasingly vital to what we do. Our own digiSpace has created considerable interest, but we are always exploring new outlets for our digital material. Yesterday I went to the launch reception for Plushmusic Live's website It is still in beta but it's worth a look. The competition for this type of channel is increasing rapidly as more and more audio and video platforms are established, and different financial models are tested. One of my favourites is MonteVerdi.

Thursday 2 July 2009

Updates, multifarious

There has been so much interest in our appearances at Latitude Festival on 18 and 19 July that I thought you might like to know what we are planning to play:

BACH Brandenburg Concerto no. 3
PIAZZOLLA Autumn from Four Seasons in Buenos Aires
VIVALDI Concerto for Four Violins in B minor from L’estro armonico
PIAZZOLLA Summer from Four Seasons in Buenos Aires
BACH Concerto for Two Violins
with, as a possible encore,

Perfect, whatever the weather!


'It is Ibragimova's ability to pick out those melodies and shape them with deceptively unfussy nuance that makes her mesmerising.' Erica Jeal in the Guardian the other day, reviewing Alina Ibragimova's two concerts of bach's solo repertoire, part of the City of London Festival, in which we are playing tonight.

Wednesday 1 July 2009

Esa-Pekka Salonen's Stockholm Diary

The virtuosic Stockholm Diary for string orchestra was commissioned by the Stockholm Concert Hall Foundation for the Stockholm Phiharmonic Orchestra and Stockholm Chamber Orchestra to mark the occasion of Esa-Pekka Salonen's Composer Portrait at the Konserthuset in Stockholm October 2004. Salonen's work receives its UK premiere in our concert tomorrow night at the Mansion House in London. You can see the full programme here.