Sorry, this blog seems to have been neglected over the past month or so, partly because events at the academy have been taking over my life a little! I’ll try and summarise what has been going on though, in case you’re interested…
On May 29th, I went to Stirling’s Albert Halls to help backstage with Sistema Scotland’s Third Birthday Concert. The 350 children who participate in the Big Noise project are all from Raploch, and receive a programme of free instrumental tuition, mentoring, musicianship and ensemble sessions from a team of musicians, some of whom are members of the BBCSSO. The system is based on the Venezuelan project El Sistema, which was set up by pioneering musician and social innovator Jose Abreu to help children from the slums improve their lives and give them skills they could use to find jobs.
Most of the day was spent setting and resetting the stage with hundreds of tiny instruments (the mini cellos and basses were particularly cute), watching the children rehearse, and riding buses with audience members to the Halls for the afternoon concert. The performance was a resounding success (literally!), with members of the BBCSSO providing extra help and enhancing the performance. Particularly sucessful was the version of Holst’s Jupiter, which had been arranged by one of the tutors so that the children were playing one set of parts and the adult players another. The confetti cannons at the end were also great fun and were very popular with the children!
Last week I went back to Raploch on one of the projects organised ‘learning visits’, where we got to see a range of sessions with the children, including a string ensemble, brass and woodwind session, a horn masterclass, a musicianship session with the more senior ‘Rinconada’ ensemble (in which we participated as well – good fun!) and a performance by a few of the groups to their parents. It was great to see the teaching methods and learning processes that are behind a performance like the one I saw at the Albert Halls.
This summer, I’m hoping to go back to Stirling and volunteer at the Big Noise summer school. It runs from 27th June to 5th August, but I’m starting on July 8th, as I only graduate on the 5th July.
Other things that have been happening include Stringfest, a three day festival of string music at the Academy, with concerts featuring students and staff of the academy, and a performance of Scgubert’s sublime quintet in C major by International Fellows the Brodsky Quartet with Robert Irvine. This concert was superb, and was made even more exciting by the fact the Robert’s bow broke spectacularly mid way through the third movement (the wedge at the tip that keeps the hair in place came out, taking all the hair with it!). He calmly walked off to retrieve his spare bow and the concert continued – it must have been pretty hair-raising for him (ha ha, sorry!)
I played in 2 concerts in Stringfest: I was principal viola in the string ensemble concert, in which we played Elgar’s beautiful Serenade for strings, Bartok’s footstomping Romanian Dances and Bach’s wonderful Ricercare, directed by Jim Clark (leader of RSNO). I also joined Gongbo Jiang, Wen Wang, Hua Zhong and Dave Sloan for a performance of Mozart’s Quintet in C major for 2 violas, which went well and was used for the chamber music component of my assessment.
More recently, a massive amount of my time has been devoted to rehearsing the Academy’s opera for this term, Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, conducted by Tim Dean and with singers from the Academy’s Opera School. It’s a cracking piece, with some great tunes – my only sadness is that, from the depths of the orchestra pit, I can’t see what’s happening on the stage! All I know is that there are some very real looking trees up there, and that the gingerbread house is an ice cream van covered in giant lollys, cupcakes and candy floss…. The opening night is tomorrow (Sat 25th June) at 7.15pm, and the other performances are on Mon 27th, Weds 29th and Thurs 30th, all at 7.15pm in the New Athenaem theatre, so you can come along and see what I mean!
Oh yes, and I found out that I got Distinction for my Postgraduate Diploma – yay! Very pleased about that 🙂