Category Archives: Music and Musicians

Ensemble 360 Summer Stories – Adrian Wilson

Adrian Wilson, oboist of Ensemble 360, has just been appointed principal oboe of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra – on which we all congratulate him! Here Adrian gives us an insight into his summer as he prepares to take up his new position

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Without doubt the highlight of my year so far is the birth of my gorgeous son Theo. He was born in the early hours on the day before my birthday and he is giving us the most amazing and precious times imaginable.

Musically it has been a very busy year with the Ensemble and with guesting in a variety of orchestras. I feel very lucky! Being offered the Principal oboe job in the Royal Scottish National Orchestra has to be a highlight! Earlier in the year I performed Schubert and Brahms with them, conducted by my old teacher and big inspiration Douglas Boyd. There’s also been more Schubert with Andrew Manze and the RLPO, a visit to China with the RPO, a TS Eliot-inspired project with Psappha (Manchester’s contemporary-music group), the first concert at CAST with the Ensemble, and of course Music in the Round’s very own May Festival.

And a couple of weeks ago we performed a couple of Paul Rissmann’s children’s pieces in a packed-out Crucible Theatre – a great day! For me it’s always a pleasure to perform to young children, especially with such well crafted and performed music! Children love a good a story, and when it is supported with up-close live music you can see from their faces what an exciting experience it makes. This feedback is immediate and unbridled so as performers we receive it honestly and directly.

Settling in Sheffield was a no-brainer: my wife was brought up here, and it’s a very friendly city with easy access to the beautiful Peak District. Geographically it is very well placed for getting to most of the other artistic hubs in this country. At the moment I’m in the middle of 4 weeks in the Buxton Festival with the Northern Chamber Orchestra, performing (amongst other things) operas by Gluck, Dvorak and Rossini.

After that, the new adventure begins: I’ll move with my family straight up to Glasgow to begin the Edinburgh Festival with the Royal Scottish National Symphony Orchestra – so no holiday for me this year! It is a very exciting opportunity to join a great orchestra and to continue playing all the great repertoire that it offers an oboe player! Glasgow is a very vibrant city with a great cultural scene that also gives easy access to glorious countryside – in fact, it is very similar to Sheffield in these respects! Fear not: I will definitely be back to Sheffield when I can to perform with Ensemble 360 and of course to see the in-laws!

Theo

Thanks also to Emily Moss for her help with this article

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Guest post: “an unforgettable experience” at PowerPlus

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PowerPlus is a unique composition project led by members of Ensemble 360 and Robin McEwan (Sheffield Music Hub) in partnership with Music in the Round.  It primarily focuses on pre-GCSE music students from secondary schools across Sheffield and their compositions.

Under the guidance of Robin McEwan, the students are asked to compose for a variety of ensembles as part of their assessment.  Throughout the year, workshops are held where the students are invited to have their work performed by members of Ensemble 360.  Here, they can talk to the players one-on-one and vice versa and get feedback from the musicians and Robin on their work.  Across the eight hours of performance, over fifty original pieces are recorded by a professional sound engineer so students can submit the performances as part of their composition portfolio and also use them for promotional work.  The workshops are held at the Upper Chapel, one of Music in the Round’s prestigious venues.  This building has great acoustics and is perfect for small ensembles.

I was lucky enough to attend a PowerPlus session for String Quartet and experience how significant this project is.  Preceding the compositions, the second movement of Ravel’s Quartet in F was played to demonstrate a variety of different textures that can be used when writing for this particular ensemble.

PowerPlus has been running for over a decade now and some schools have been involved since it began.  Robin says: “One great thing is the change from beginning to end. I look at the school and see it develop throughout the year and the impact of participation resonates back at the school.  The students pass it down the line to the years below them.”  When asked why he started this programme Robin replies with: “Lots of teachers are asked to teach composition but they themselves have no training.  I like to bring people up to a good standard of composing by embedding skills in both students and teachers.  The best thing to do is to teach high skills at the earliest possible time.”

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“Although there is less pressure for the Ensemble in these workshops, it doesn’t mean that they don’t struggle with the occasional piece!  However, the most important thing is that they get the chance to communicate and influence the students across the barrier.  The musicians are able to impart their knowledge to the people who are really listening at the level they need and you can feel the link between composer and player.  The Ensemble treats the students as equals which shows that they believe in them giving the composer the confidence to do things.”

Robin has been working with King Edward VII School for over 10 years and I spoke to three students from there about their experience with PowerPlus.

“It’s been an unforgettable experience; very entertaining and well-organised.”    Angus

“It’s been great, really enjoyable.  I feel really proud and the musicians made it sound better! I’m so impressed how much effort they put in.”    Ilya

 “After hearing it live there are a few things I would change but it made me proud and it was good to listen to it off a screen.”    Angus

In forthcoming years, schools will host PowerPlus concerts over the year making the students’ work even more accessible to their friends and family; the project itself will be fundamental to music-making in schools.

To me as a composition student at University, projects like these are enormously valuable and helpful. Hearing your work performed live by professional musicians is completely different to listening to it in a tiny room through a computer.  I have participated in things similar to this and it is a wonderful opportunity and privilege as not many students get the chance to do it.  Receiving feedback from the musicians is great as they can give advice on how to improve technique and playability, and it also gives the composer the option to ask questions and change things on the spot.

Elizabeth Lees was doing work experience in the MitR office. She is a composer and second-year music undergraduate in Liverpool. Follow her on Twitter

Guest post: Sofia on our ‘Listen Up’ conference

Yesterday an exciting event took place at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield called ‘Listen Up!’ 70 delegates: early-years staff, Key Stage 1 teachers, and music leaders & co-ordinators from across the region – along with others who find it of interest from across the country came to attend inspiring practical workshops, talks and engage with one another creating networking opportunities. Not only did the day include a talk with music education consultant, Sue Nicholls who gave the delegates creative and interesting ways to bring stories to life through music and the importance of music for children between the ages of 3 and 7, it also showcased two children’s concerts with Polly Ives narrating excellently and the very talented Ensemble 360. The concerts were called The Lion Who Wanted To Love and Giddy Goat, both very engaging for the 1,600 nursery and primary school children who attended throughout the day.

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My busy first day of work experience began with helping set up displays for Sheffield Music Hub, Out of the Ark – a musical resource company, Rhyme and Reason – a Sheffield based bookshop who specialise in musical books, ESCAL – the awardwinning Citywide Literacy Strategy ensuring that ‘Every Sheffield Child is Articulate and Literate’ and the SongBuds project which offers a music group for 0-7 year olds, weekly meetings, child-sized instruments, giant piano mats, live music and singalongs for kids. These displays were for the delegates to get more information and resources and ideas about how to interact with children through music.

My next task was to greet the delegates, some of whom had travelled all the way across the country to be there, and to give them their goody bags which included a kazoo, play-doh, and music resources for kids. Then after they wandered around the displays, they attended a talk in the Adelphi Suite whilst 800 children from primary schools around Sheffield from the ages of 3 to 7 arrived to watch the outstandingly animated performance of The Lion Who Wanted To Love by Polly Ives and Ensemble 360 which they were all singing and clapping along to and they all thoroughly enjoyed.

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Meanwhile the delegates and I then attended a workshop ran by Sue Nicholls where we learned a Japanese song, a train song and about cuckoo cadences and call-and-response singsong conversations that children respond well to. This was a very interactive workshop where everyone was involved in some way whether they were shaking a maraca or joining in with the actions and making a ‘Crazy Creature’.

Then, after a short pause for lunch it was time for another 800 infants to arrive and watch the second concert of the day: Giddy Goat which I also managed to watch. All the children were engaged, having learned the songs prior to the performance – some of which were very catchy such as ‘Rock Rounders’. I enjoyed myself as much as the children and so did there teachers. The colourful projections and amazing musicians as well as a captivating story told by a great narrator made for a fabulous performance!

When I had said goodbye to all the children, helped to pack away music and help the various organisations to take down their displays, it was time to go home. It was an exhausting, yet truly amazing day!

Sofia, 16, is currently doing work experience in the MitR office

Music from the time of the civil wars, or the wars of the three kingdoms

Fretwork musician Richard Boothby sets the scene for their Sheffield concert on 13 May

The Fretwork musicians

The Fretwork musicians

War and music are not happy bedfellows, and the immense and complex struggle which took place in Britain and Ireland between 1640 and 1651 is not an exception to that rule.

The conflict had profound effects on the musical life of the nations and most of all, on that of England. One of the most noticeable was the decentralisation of musical establishments and composers: where, before the war, musical life had been concentrated in London on the royal court, the dispersal of the court and the uncongenial nature of the city to musicians during and after the war meant that many fled the capital and rid out the conflict in remote parts of the country.

England had known an exceptionally long period of peace and prosperity since the accession of Elizabeth I in 1558, through her long reign, the peaceful accession of James V of Scotland and I of England, and the passing on of the crown to his son, Charles I in 1625. But, while Elizabeth had been abstemious and relatively moderate in her expenditure, James was used to a much more pliant Scottish parliament, and spent money immoderately and passed this unfortunate characteristic on to his son.

Of course, what was to be ruinous for the monarchy was rather good news for musicians employed by the court: James’s eldest son, the much lauded Prince Henry, built up an
avant-garde musical establishment employing the best composers and players of the day: Coprario, Lupo, Ferrabosco and Gibbons were all writing stimulating, advanced music, and, when Henry unexpectedly died in 1612, this establishment was taken over by Henry’s brother, the much less confident Charles.

It is claimed that Charles himself could play ‘exactly well’ on the bass viol, and that he was taught the instrument by Giovanni Coprario – who started life as plain old John Cooper, until a trip to Italy turned his head – and that he and a young William Lawes, only 2 years his junior, learnt the instrument together. Lawes was certainly close to the king, but his consorts of five and six parts were not composed until the 1630s, when Charles’s difficulties with parliament were coming to a head. It seems he must have stopped composing by 1642 in order to devote himself to the royalist cause. His end came in September 1645 at the siege of Chester, where he was shot in a skirmish. The king dubbed him ‘The Father of English Music’.

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Most musicians were going to be on the royalist side in this war: it was where they were most likely to gain employment. Matthew Locke, a generation younger than Lawes, was a boy treble in Exeter Cathedral (his carving ‘Mathew Lock 1638’ was recently rediscovered in the cathedral organ loft – above) and was conscripted into the royalist army there, to leave with the king for France and the Netherlands in 1648. He came back to England a Catholic and spent the Commonwealth in London contributing much music to plays and publishing his ‘Little Consort of Three Parts’. By the Restoration in 1660, he was England’s leading composer. While it’s not clear when his ‘Consorts of Fower Parts’ were written, they represent music of the old style brought to a modern and elegant perfection. Charles II was famously intolerant of music he couldn’t tap his foot to: Roger North said he had ‘an utter detestation of Fancys’, which suggests that his consort music was written during the Interregnum.

The one composer who seemed to thrive in all circumstances was John Hingeston, who studied with Orlando Gibbons and became Cromwell’s Master of Music. His ‘Protectorate Household’, established in 1654, was similar to the royal court, and where Hingeston had a band of 8 musicians and two boys. At the Restoration, he was appointed a viol player in the King’s Private Music and taught a young Henry Purcell.

YouTube: Music by William Lawes, performed by Fretwork

Simpson was a contemporary of Lawes, though he avoided a violent end, and thus lived through the war, the Interregnum and the Restoration. But he did fight on the royalist side early in the war, retiring to Scampton in Lincolnshire at the house of Sir Robert Bolles, a friend and patron. He was without doubt the most prominent virtuoso viol player of the age and wrote the first and best viol tutor published in English. John Jenkins was similarly an exceptional viol player, patronised by the great families of the nation, in particular the Derham and L’Estrange families of Norfolk. He thus was able to avoid the dangers of the war and at its end he was with the North family in Cambridgeshire. By the Restoration he was a venerable elder statesman of English music and lived on until the ripe age of 86. He wonderfully crafted consorts for 4, 5 & 6 viols are examples of a mature style that he created, extending the techniques of Byrd, Coprario and Ferrabosco.

Another immensely long-lived composer of the age was Thomas Tomkins, surely one of the greatest of all Welsh composers, born in St Davids. He was appointed to the Chapel Royal in 1620, and was friends and colleagues with Gibbons, Byrd, Coprario, though he also retained a position in Worcester Cathedral. As the war began to take its toll on court life, he retired here. In 1646 the town surrendered to Parliamentary forces and cathedral services were suspended. His famous ‘Sad Pavan for these distracted times’ is dated 14th February 1649, a fortnight after the execution of the king. He lived in the cathedral close until 1654, when he moved to the nearby village of Martin Hussingtree, where he died aged 82.

Richard Boothby will be performing with the internationally renowned viol consort, Fretwork, as part of our Love and War Festival of World Class Chamber Music on Tuesday 13 May at 7.15pm. A version of this article is featured in our Festival Souvenir Programme, available to buy throughout the Festival for £3.50.

The musicians will also be taking part in a Q&A session with our Artistic Director, Angus Smith, free to all concert ticket holders.

For more information about the concert, visit our website.

Music in the Round goes to Penistone Paramount

Many of you will remember our Transformations music and film performance that premiered in Sheffield last May. It has since been watched by almost 2,000 people online and returns to South Yorkshire for its final performance in Penistone Paramount in Barnsley. Local student Tom Hobson tells us more about this unique building…

“Penistone is a small market town located on the outskirts of Barnsley, South Yorkshire. Often noted for its strong links with agriculture, Penistone could easily be labelled a blast from the past. However, that is not to say there is nothing to do there. There are several nearby museums and attractions, one of which is the independent cinema, Penistone Paramount.

The building originally opened as a library back in 1913, and moved onto cinema in 1915. Over the last century, it has prided itself on staying independent. In order to keep up with an ever-changing climate, the venue has had to offer something a little different to traditional cinema; the Paramount offers a more traditional approach. It’s a building seeping with character and tradition and has an intimate and friendly feel. Aside from cinema, the venue hosts events such as musicals, which are performed by a range of societies.

Music in the Round, one of the UK’s leading promoters of chamber music, brings Transformations to Penistone Paramount on 4th April as part of the national celebrations surrounding the centenary of the beloved British composer Benjamin Britten.

What makes the event unique is the fact that their resident group of internationally acclaimed musicians, Ensemble 360, will be playing music live to film – something they successfully pulled off before in Sheffield’s Showroom Cinema just last year. The Showroom was an original partner in the creation of the event itself but this time round the programme has one small change; the GPO film that will be screened as part of the programme in Penistone is called Coal Face. With music by Britten himself, the documentary looks at the work of the British miner and the significance to British industry.

The event comes to town on 4th April 2014. We hope to see you there.”

By Tom Hobson, @TomHobson5

@PenParamount #MusicAndFilm #Penistone #CoalFace #Britten100

E360 flautist is a Rising Star

From our guest blogger Juliette Bausor

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I’ve hit the ground running at the start of 2014 with final preparations for my forthcoming recital tour as part of the European Concert Hall Organisation (ECHO) Rising Stars Series. Every year ECHO hand selects young artists to become its Rising Stars, offering unparalleled performance opportunities including a concert tour across some of Europe’s finest concert halls, including Laeiszhalle Hamburg, Het Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Bozar in Brussels, Town Hall Birmingham, Palace of Arts in Budapest, Vienna Musikverein, Stockholm Konserthaus, L’Auditori in Barcelona, Konzerthaus Dortmund, Philharmonie Luxembourg, Sage Gateshead and the Barbican Centre in London. The first three of my concerts are in two weeks time, starting in Hamburg, then on to Amsterdam and Brussels.

I’ve chosen two programmes for the tour which illustrate the development of the flute as a solo instrument over a period of four hundred years, from J.S Bach to a brand new commission by my good friend and Ensemble 360 Associate Composer, Charlie Piper. His new work takes its inspiration from Kokopele, an ancient deity from Native American mythology, often depicted in petroglyphs (rock engravings) as a hump-backed flute player with a phallus. It is a fantastic piece and proving lots of fun to learn, with uneven rhythmic patterns passing between the flute and piano, and with a few technical challenges! Please do come along to hear it at one of my UK concerts, either on 2nd February at Birmingham Town Hall, 28th March at Sage Gateshead or 11th April at the Barbican Hall in London – you can find more details on my website, www.juliettebausor.com!

Aside from all of that, the start of 2014 is as busy as ever with my schedule at Royal Northern Sinfonia and, of course, our Ensemble 360 concerts. We are all very excited about our first ensemble performance in Doncaster’s new performance space, CAST, on 8th February with the World Premiere of Charlotte Bray’s Shadow Game, for soloists and orchestra. I’m also really looking forward to the forthcoming Music in the Round tour concerts and, as the finishing touches are being put to the programme, the build up to the May Festival!

Here’s to an exciting 2014!

By Juliette Bausor

Get your popcorn at the ready as Ensemble 360 come live to your living room!

“This was one of the most exciting evenings I have been to with MitR.”

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This was one audience member’s response to the premiere of our innovative Transformations event at the Showroom Cinema as part of our last May Festival. It was an incredible evening that celebrated two significant centenaries – that of the discovery of stainless steel and that of composer Benjamin Britten – through bringing together film and music in a way that we hope Britten himself could have been proud off.

If you weren’t one of the almost 1,000 people who saw the premiere, either live at the Showroom or via live-webstream, last May, never fear – here’s your chance to hear it again.

Log onto www.musicintheround.co.uk at 7.30pm on Saturday 16th November to see a restream of the premiere event. You’ll also be able to download a concert programme to tell you more about what you’re watching and the centenaries it celebrates.

The main event will be followed by the short film that the pupils at Watercliffe Meadow Primary School created in response to Britten’s Metamorphoses and Katie Goodwin’s film by working with us, the Showroom and the artists themselves (click here to find out more).

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By Tracy, Project Manager (@tracyMitR)

Webstream by DVA Group. Filming by Soundhouse Media. Sound by Shaun Trotter Audio.