Monday, 8 December 2014
2014-15 Britten Sinfonia Academy so far...
I was very excited (but admittedly a little nervous) to be accepted as a member of the Britten Sinfonia Academy as I had never been in a regional orchestra before and I really had no idea what to expect. However, from the moment I first met Natalie, Mateja and (later) Emily, I knew I would have no problems at all!
I really enjoyed our induction day in September, when I got the chance to meet the other members of the Academy, as well as some of the members of Britten Sinfonia itself. As I play clarinet, I particularly got to know Joy, one of the clarinettists in the main orchestra, who offered me help and encouragement which has improved my playing. I especially enjoyed the improvisational exercises, including a Japanese compositional technique called shōgi. We sat in a circle and each of us came up with a musical idea and then began playing it. Up to five musicians were playing at a time - as one came in, one dropped out, and as the music continued round the circle, a very interesting and very strange piece of music builds up! Versions of The Rite of Spring and different technical exercises were interspersed with London Bridge and my quickly-made-up attempt at a prepared piano. People also used a variety of small percussion and their own bodies to create some interesting patterns - it was imaginative, to say the least. A particular highlight was Joy and her more-than-persistent spoken contribution ("Hey, you guys...") in a variety of styles.
Our first weekend course comprised a heady mix of new and old - Now, that we all knew each other - we concentrated on learning to play together as an ensemble. We covered Mozart's Idomeneo, Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, Kabalevsky's The Comedians and Finnissey's Plain Harmony, with the afternoons dedicated to chamber music including Ravel's Mother Goose suite. All of these pieces allowed each of the sections of the ensemble their own moments to shine and presented each of us with a few meatier bits to sweat over a bit! But that is a good thing!
As the courses progressed, we in the Academy continued to get to know one another more through the lunchtime football and some particularly fascinating conversation during the breaks - made more enjoyable by the seemingly endless supply of mini brownies and rocky road bites courtesy of the very important snack rota!
In November, the course weekend focused on preparing for two pre-concert events where the Academy was playing as a "warm-up" act to Britten Sinfonia. We were all very excited - a gig! These two concerts were retrospectives of John Woolrich (a good friend of Britten Sinfonia) and some of his influences. The Academy as a whole played Woolrich's Stealing a March (dedicated to Frank Zappa) and a quintet played In the Mirrors of Asleep. Woolrich's style is wildly eclectic and very interesting (that much we all agreed) - what we couldn't agree on was whose part was the most difficult (I still think I win).
The next time we met as an orchestra was on November 20th at Milton Court Concert Hall (next door to the Barbican) for the first of the two pre-concert events - the following day, we were back in Cambridge for the second. Nerves were high and we were brimming with excitement. The quintet went first and was received brilliantly. Then the full Academy (with one or two loan instrumentalists from various sources) took to the stage. We triumphantly stormed through Stealing a March, and the applause was rapturous. It was in all honesty, one of the best experiences of my life!
I am sure, if the first 3 months are anything to go by, more fantastic experiences await! I am so grateful for the chance to be a part of the Academy. I hope I can continue for many years!
Clarinet, Britten Sinfonia Academy
For more information about Britten Sinfonia Academy click here