Monday 30 July 2012

Opus 2013

James Brady, Britten Sinfonia's new Creative Learning Assistant talks about Opus 2013, one of the key projects he is involved in;

With about a month to go before the closing deadline, applications for our open submission composition competition are steadily coming in.  As a composer myself, I was both pleased and dismayed to be handed the task of keeping track of all the applications and getting them ready for our Artistic Advisor, composer Huw Watkins, to look at after the first stage of the competition closes.  Pleased because I can see what a great opportunity this is for unpublished composers: no restrictions on age or experience, no need to write new material unless chosen for the second stage, and, for one lucky winner, not one but three performances by top professionals, mentoring from Huw, a BBC broadcast and a proper commission fee!  I know from my own experience that  a competition with such a smorgasbord of prizes is rarely open to so many applicants – usually there’s some sort of application fee, or you have to write a lot of new music first which may never get selected, or you have to be in a certain age bracket.  Dismayed though, because my role means I won’t be able to enter!

If you’re a composer, all you need to do is send us two existing pieces (and preferably a recording of at least one of them – but this isn’t essential) for instrumental ensembles of 3-10 players and fill in a brief form.  The form and all the details are available on the OPUS 2013 page of our website, which can be reached via this handy link:  The deadline is 31 August so what are you waiting for?

James Brady
Creative Learning Assitant

Wednesday 25 July 2012

A Latitude Experience

Britten Sinfonia performed with Van Dyke Parks at this years Latitude Festival. Our new Development Assistant, Gabrielle Deschamps, went to discover the festival vibe and hear the orchestra for the first time. Here's what she thought;

Not even one month into my new job as the Development Assistant at Britten Sinfonia I got the chance to see them play live at the Film and Music Stage at the superb Latitude Festival, accompanying Van Dyke Parks.
Gabrielle Deschamps (Development Assistant), Isobel Timms (Creative learning Director) and Will Harriss (Development Director)
I had never been to a British festival, I had never seen the orchestra perform yet nor had I ever heard of Mr Parks so it promised to be an exciting day! Luckily the heavens looked kindly upon on us and the torrential rain we’d known all week stayed at bay. The festival was wholly mine to enjoy.

Upon our arrival at 12.30pm I was disappointed to have missed Lang Lang play on the Lake Stage but I knew there were many other treats awaiting me. Indeed I got to see the whole Saddler’s Wells performance including two of their own soloists, legendary Jonzi D whose work I’ve been following for years and Candoco who inspired many with their great technique and passion.

Matthew Bourne's dancers
After wandering through the different tents (poetry, literature, comedy, cabaret, etc…) we settled at the Lake Stage once more to see Matthew Bourne’s dancers perform excerpts of Spitfire. Their show quickly became the highlight of my day, and not just because of the muscles, I swear!

We tired a bit after that as the relentless bass from the main stage could be heard from all sides of the camp, disrupting other stages’ performances. We were ready to see what we came for: Britten Sinfonia and Van Dyke Parks!

Being a French child of the late 80’s, I don’t feel completely at fault for having never heard of him before. But I had a done a bit of research about him before their Barbican Performance and was quite surprised to discover such a hefty discography. Upon reading reviews and articles, I decided to keep the mystery alive and not to listen to any of his music.

I went to the concert completely unprepared, intrigued and eager

It was enchanting

Thom Gould (c) Rhydian Peters
The music managed to transport me fully although I didn’t recognise any of the songs. The orchestra played as one, Thom Gould leading them in graceful, dramatic sweeps. Parks’ singing voice was charming; he owned the songs completely and played the piano without a hint of hesitation, in true American showman style.

Van Dyke Parks (c) Rhydian Peters
I was pleasantly surprised to find the lyrics politically charged, engaging and full of humour. Overall the whole concert had a lot more depth than I expected and I loved the fact each and every song had a distinctive style and colour.

It was delightful to notice the whole audience were enjoying it as much as I did, with people bopping from their seats and erupting into raucous applause at the end of each song. They also clearly appreciated his numerous anecdotes and political speecheswhich transformed the show into more than just a concert and into a personal retrospective and entertaining history lesson.

A standing ovation completed the performance, which was absolutely appropriate for both the orchestra and Parks himself. I felt like I had spent an hour with my mad yet loveable uncle.

Britten Sinfonia (c) Rhydian Peters
All in all my day at Latitude was fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed Britten Sinfonia’s performance.  I look forward to seeing them again and discovering what they have in store in the next season.

Gabrielle Deschamps
Development Assistant