Wednesday 31 August 2011

Creative Learning visit to the Instituto Baccarelli, Sao Paulo

The Instituto Baccarelli is an amazing and inspiring organisation based in the favelas or slums of Sao Paulo. It provides high quality musical education for the children of the area. They run the HeliĆ³polis Symphony Orchestra, and the students who are members of this orchestra are given financial support,so that they can dedicate themselves to their artistic development. The Instituto also provides musical education to younger instrumentalists and singers.

The view from the Music School - acres of slums and Sao Paulo in the background

To get to the Instituto we drove through rows and rows of higgledy-piggledy shacks, built one on top the other, before arriving at the Instituto’s modern building. We were welcomed by the Choir who performed to us and gave us an incredibly warm reception. Straight away we were put at ease by these wonderful smiling children. Through their performance I could feel their innate sense of rhythm and musicality as it seemed to just flow out of them.

This was my first ever time giving a masterclass and I loved it! Supported by a wonderful translator who was one of the string tutors, I spent half an hour each with 5 violin students – aged between 16 and 29. They all presented heavy-weight concertos to me, including Lalo Symphonie Espagnole. The standard of the students was incredibly high and they were technically advanced. Only being able to spend 30 minutes with each student, we spent most of the time on performance help – for example, how to project their sound to the back of the hall, or different ways to use the bow to get a variety of colours in their sound.

I found the students extremely receptive and eager to learn and develop and it was a joy to work with them. We were also really pleased to see some of the students and their teacher attend our concert later that night.

I was humbled by my experience of the Instituto, which is doing incredible work in extremely challenging circumstances. They are currently trying to raise the money to build a concert hall next to their music school – and we wish them all the very best with their venture.

Nicola Goldscheider
Violin, Britten Sinfonia

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Meet Henning Kraggerud

For the opening concert's of Britten Sinfonia's 2011-12 season the orchestra will be joined by violinist Henning Kraggerud. In this edition of our occasional series of Q and A's with soloists, musicians and staff, Henning answers a few questions.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Hard to single out, but probably Beethoven with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in Carnegie Hall, but I also loved Tchaikovsky at the Proms in 2010.

When are you happiest?
With my family at Christmas.

What is your greatest fear?
You think I will tell?

What is your earliest musical memory?
Listening to Beethoven symphonies as a toddler.

Which living person do you most admire, and why?
Haruki Murakami, because he is like Beethoven in the way that he didn’t give up before he became a genius through hard work, rather than born a genius like Mozart.

What is your most treasured possession?
My violin.

What would your super power be?
Controlling the flow of time.

If you were an animal what would you be?
Pan-dimensional being, partly mouse, as described by Douglas Adams.

What is your favourite book?
At the moment 1Q84 (Haruki Murakami), but is has been Lord of the Rings, Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, Never Let Me Go, The Corrections…

What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Peshawari naan and Madras curry with Cobra beer.

If you could go back in time, where would you go?
To listen to Chopin play maybe?

How do you relax away from the concert platform?
Reading lots of books.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Having 2 children

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Not believing in easy answers you can write in one sentence.

In a nutshell, what is your philosophy?
Those who have both legs firmly planted to the ground go nowhere.

Henning will be directing and performing with Britten Sinfonia in Mozart's 4th Violin Concerto, Mahler's arrangement of Schubert's Death and the Maiden and a new work by Piers Tattersall. Concerts take place at Norwich Theatre Royal on Sunday 2 October, Cambridge's West Road Concert Hall on Wednesday 5 October and in London at the Southbank Centre's Queen Elizabeth Hall on Friday 7 October. For more info click here

Friday 12 August 2011

Tour of South America

I’m snatching some time prior to boarding my (14 hour) flight home to London from Buenos Aires. The orchestra meanwhile, after two concerts at the Theatro Colon and with concerts in Rio and San Paulo behind them, are now off to Montevideo and then a return to Sao Paulo for the final concert of this epic South American Tour.

Well so far it’s been a hugely successful tour. How does one qualify successful though? With this group it’s about more than the performances; more about the camaraderie and joie de vivre that also reflects positively on the concerts – a good example of how important touring is for achieving the highest artistic results. Certainly the strings have been on cracking form, led by the unique genius (a description I don’t use lightly) that is Pekka Kuusisto. His innate and edgy musicality inspires performances that are never the same and always electrifying. The rapport is there for all to see and was also evident with our tenor Allan Clayton, whose roles ranged from singing Purcell to Britten so movingly, as well as being our encore triangle player! Fresh in my memory this morning is an extra encore last night from Pekka for audience and orchestra: a Finnish tango (yes, really) with the violin plucked and strummed like a mandolin and the tune expertly whistled by our multi-talented soloist. The 2300 porteƱos who filled the Colon cheered their approval.

A few other random memories (from too many to mention)…

· A three hour tango lesson for the orchestra, and dancing into the early hours in on of BA’s finest tango halls where they took to the dance floor with many of the locals.

· An impromptu party in our San Paulo hotel after the first concert, where we were joined by
our great friend Angela Hewitt who coincidentally was playing in a concert in the same hall as us earlier on that day. (Angela wisely avoided Caipirnaha – Brazil’s national (and lethal) cocktail – being sampled by everyone, as she was due to play the Goldberg’s the next afternoon!)

· The BS running team following a route along Copacabana & Ipanema beach followed by
freshly coconut milk for all.

Ipanema Beach


· Too many delicious meals to mention, many a number courtesy of our generous sponsors Ashmore Brasil and Cambridge University Press.

· Entertainment (usually at airports and backstage) from two young recruits - Rachel Byrt’s and Suzanne Lose’s daughter and son respectively – Yoga, tango, monopoly all demonstrated admirably. On returning to school their answers to “what did you do the in holidays” should provide for colourful responses.

· An inspirational (and moving) workshop performance at the Institute Felix F. Bernasconi – courtesy of support from the British Council - with Pekka and 3 of our players and 20 or so young musicians from across Buenos Aires.

Young people in concert

· Some of the said young musicians reaction on seeing the Colon & mixing with the orchestra
backstage – awestruck!

Teatro Colon

I’m sure there will be more to report following the next three or so days in Montevideo and Sao Paulo before the journey home*… my flight’s been called so “ya me despido” for now.

Chief Executive, Britten Sinfonia

* I hear the orchestra’s Montevideo flight has been cancelled; the new plan is to go by ferry to Mondevideo (3 hours!) to arrive just in time for the show at 8pm! Let’s hope they make it!