Manchester Camerata Blog

Manchester Camerata is a very busy ensemble. We're always up to something - whether its performing at The Bridgewater Hall in Manchester or the Royal Northern College of Music where we have a residency, or perhaps at our regular venues in Ulverston, Colne and Stafford.  Not to mention all our education work across the region and especially in Chester.  So, we always have so much to say!  But let's not make this a one sided conversation. Tell us what you think about Camerata, the music we play, or the musical world we live in.  Here's our latest post. Click below to visit out Blog page where you can add your comment, take part in a fun vote, and catch up on some of the issues facing the world of classical music.

Click HERE to make a comment or see older posts.

Tuesday 6 July - Local Boy Done Good!

Congratulations to young Chets composer Jonathan Woolgar. The seventeen year old took part in February's Manchester Composers' Workshop weekend, and his piece Asesinato en la Danza showcased by Manchester Camerata on the 13 March 2010 at The Bridgewater Hall. Jonathan entered the BBC Young Composers' Competition 2010 with an original five-minute piece written for clarinet, violin and piano. His winning composition will now be performed during the BBC Proms season and broadcast on BBC Radio 3. But his big prize is a commission for the BBC which could even be performed at the Last Night of the Proms. Read all about it here.

Tuesday 6 July - Location Location Location

Our most recent (deeply unscientific, unrepresentative, tiny sample) poll suggested that 46% of respondents would like to see Manchester Camerata music breaking out of the concert hall, and appearing in different, perhaps unconventional venues. We asked `Does Classical Music Need Saving?' 15% said no, with another 15% saying try out new music, with 23% believing the genre will find its own way home. That does seem to fit with what's happening around the UK and indeed around the world. Read this article from a US Radio station.

Monday 28 June - Reflections on Prague, the Story So Far!

Young composer Gavin Higgins blogs about his assignment to create a new work to feature in Manchester Camerata's new season concert on 25 September 2010, Mozart and Prague

"The concert in which my new work will receive its premiere has been fashioned around the theme 'Prague' and as such, I was asked to ensure that my new work was in someway, however tenuously, linked to the theme. So, I thought, 'I need to get back out to Prague and look for some inspiration'.

I booked flights and began researching the city. With my 'dark sided' interests (to quote a crazy American evangelist) I was gripped by the idea of a chapel made from bones. Sedlec ossuary is actually situated about an hour outside of Prague in Kutna Hora, a town that wears the signs of its Soviet past like an old jumper.

This incredible church is decorated with over 40,000 human skeletons; bones cling to walls, skulls look perversely on at a sacrificed Jesus and rib cages form an elaborate chandelier at the very centre of the chapel.

The church was consecrated on soil brought from the Holy land and as such, thousands of people desired to be buried here. When the Black Death broke out in the 14th Century, the small graveyard was overrun with bodies. It was decided to commission someone to get rid of the bones and what resulted was the ornately decorated crypt.

Although a visit to this church was the main purpose of my trip, I did not feel this was the right subject matter for my new work - it was too religious and not as perverse as I had expected.

Instead I have taken my inspiration from the Astronomical Clock in Prague's Old Town. My fascination with clockwork creations and the macabre drew me to a particular character on the clock - The skeletal figure of Death who, every hour on the hour, ominously turns an hourglass and rings a bell. I found the idea of a clockwork Death interesting and began thinking about the cycles of life and death. We exist purely in the moment; all things die and from this comes new life. Over vast periods of time things quite literally evolve, but Death is always there, turning his hourglass.

I also took inspiration from the book The Blind Watchmaker, by Richard Dawkins. The title is taken from William Paley's 'Watchmaker' analogy; A metaphorical attempt at proving God exists by comparing the complexities of the natural world to the intricacies of a clock. In the book Dawkins discusses the beauty of Darwinism and shows how the evidence of evolution can completely destroy the 'intelligent design' argument.

What is most breathtaking about evolution is how over unfathomable amounts of time, living organisms have changed, adapted and evolved into the incredible array of animals, plants and minds that exist today. What's even more incredible is that over unfathomable periods of time we will continue to change, adapt and evolve.

Of course these are big topics and something I can hardly hope to do justice to in a short orchestral piece. Instead, the piece is really an exploration of the organic (in the form of strings and wind) verses the cold and relentless chimes of time (brass). Juddering 'Bells' occur relentlessly throughout whilst the wind and strings change, adapt and evolve.

Tuesday 22 June - It's no use, you can't escape.

The Summer months may be quieter in the Manchester Camerata programme, but you'll find us at every turn. Two good plugs from the BBC in the last week. It's Discovering Music feature has focussed on Camerata's Das Lied von der Erde, and also a project which carried out in partnership with the RNCM - a performance of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas back in January last year. The Das Lied show is still available here, but only for another four days or so. The Dido show has dropped off the I-Player now, BUT - there's some really good film they took of the pre-concert rehearsals here. Don't forget you Camerata's Das Lied von der Erde is available for purchase as a digital download in our Music Shop. Some fabulous summer offerings coming up, we're back at Cholmondeley Castle for the annual fireworks concert on 17 July, and tere's the Tameside Concert in Hyde Park on 24 July. Details here. So basically there's nowhere to hide from Manchester Camerata :-)

Wednesday 9th June - World in Union

Wandering through the maze of the world wide web, bumped into this site which is quite fun - finding examples of music from each of the countries taking part in the World Cup. Just a reminder maybe of the amazing of variety of music out there. Camerata's new season is a sort of World Cup of music :-) Wandering the world's greatest cities in search of great compositions for orchestra. You can download a season brochure from the Manchester Camerata website. Have you entered our competition yet - a trip to Lucerne, posh hotel, take in a concert, and have a meal in a swanky restaurant. You can enter the competition here. Good luck!

Thursday 4th June - Join Camerata and See the World

Well, almost. Our new 2010/11 Season is shaping up to be something very special indeed. It's planned as a musical celebration of cities around the world which have inspired great and memorable music for orchestra. But it's so much more than that. We're planning a celebration of the world, it's music, culture, art and architecture as it's reflected in Manchester itself! See all the details. To mark the event we're offering the chance to win a fabulous trip to Lucerne in Switzerland, staying in a swanky hotel, take in a concert at the spectacular new concert and convention centre with a meal at its chic in house retaurant - Red. Keep an eye on our competitions section on the website for future amazing offers. And we've a family ticket (four tickets) to see Peter and the Wolf at The Lowry Lyric Theatre this weekend, but you'll need to be quick. Send your details to bjones@manchestercamerata.com to be in with a chance of winning. Details of this remarkable film, for which Manchester Camerata is providing a live soundtrack, here. Good luck!

Thursday 27 May - Satisfied Customer

Fellow blogger Valerie O'Riordan ended up - slightly unexpectedly - at Manchester Camerata's season finale concert on Saturday. Sounds like one satisfied customer "I'd never been in Bridgewater Hall before; it's very swish altogether, and the orchestra was glorious. We got two whopping glasses of wine at the interval but we didn't rush to the bar quickly enough, so that by the time we were served it was nearly time to sit back down and we had to bolt the booze like a couple of kids necking cider out the back of a club. We probably let the sophisticated concert-going side down a little there, but it was such a lovely night out, and though it was a massive shame that Steph couldn't make it, I'm so pleased I got to go". Thank you for coming Valerie - you can certainly come again :-) and bring Steph! Here's a link to Valerie's very entertaining Blog!

Saturday 22 May - Hot House Flowering!

Wonderful review from Chris Ramsden in Stafford for last night's PARIS, VIENNA, LONDON concert at Stafford Gatehouse. "Kathryn Stott played the concerto with precise elegance, drawing us in to the Romanze so deeply that the audience, which had been hacking and spluttering in the hothouse air of the Gatehouse, fell completely silent. " Luckily Kathryn's a pretty cool customer. Read the whole review here. Hear her talking here. Two more chances to catch this plumb of a concert - tonight at The Bridgewater Hall and tomorrow at Holy Trinity Church in Oswestry.
Visit our What's On section for details and to book.

Friday 21 May 2010 - One Big Week!

Ta Da! At last details of the new 2010/11 Season are available - Urban Symphonies is a celebration of some of the cities across the world which have produced some amazing music for orchestra. Starting with Prague on the 25th September, we take in St Petersberg, Vienna, Dresden, Venice, New York and Washington! We've another exciting education project - read more here - and there's lots of creative collaborations with some obvious and not so obvious directions. Plus we're repeating our highly successful New Year's extravaganzas. To read details of the season - and download a brochure click here. This is also Douglas Boyd's last season as Music Director of Manchester Camerata, so we're making it a biggie! How about a trip to Switzerland? You can enter our competition to win a trip to Lucerne here.

But hang on - this Season isn't over yet! Kathryn Stott's joining Camerata tonight (21 May) in Stafford and tomorrow (22 May) at The Bridgewater Hall for another urban celebration in Paris, Vienna, London. Her 'back story' if you'll pardon the pun is fascinating. You can get a flavour of it by clicking here.

And looking slightly ahead, Manchester Camerata is providing the live music for an animated version of Peter and the Wolf, twice on 6 June at The Lowry. A great project and perfect to keep the kids content on a Sunday afternoon. Details here.


Saturday 15 May 2010 - We all need our circuses.

Listening to Radio 4's Today programme this morning, they interviewed Arch-Bishop Desmond Tutu about preparations for the World Cup in South Africa. He was asked why there had been such a mad scramble for tickets for the matches by people who can barely make ends meet in their daily lives. His reply seems very very true "We all need our circuses when things are rough!" His comment goes a long way towards explaining why ticket sales for concerts and shows appear to be holding up. Classical music sales are booming, thanks in part perhaps to events like the Classical Brits which took place on Thursday night at the Royal Albert Hall. Interesting number this year of non 'cross over' nominees in the categories - Marin Alsop, Antonio Pappano (who was successful in the Critic's Award category, Thomas Ades (Composer of the Year), and the Pope who surely can't be described as a crossover artist! But, in the end, it still comes down to the music! Check the Manchester Camerata website this week - we're releasing details of some fabulous concerts in store in the coming season. Subscription tickets are about to go on sale, so get in early for the Circus :-)

Monday 10 May 2010 - Kathryn Stott bounces back!

Internationally acclaimed pianist Kathryn Stott is well aware of life's little uncertainties. You'd think that in an industry where you get booked up months, if not years in advance, things would be plain sailing. But months of playing and touring in excruciating pain made an operation on her back vital, and she had to pull out of some long planned concerts as a result. But she's all sorted, and itching to get back to the keyboard for her first concerts back with Manchester Camerata - Friday 21 May in Stafford and Saturday 22 May at The Bridgewater Hall in Manchester with a programme of Mozart and Haydn. More about the concerts here. And you can hear a podcast with Kathryn - in which she chats candidly about her health, playing from memory and the joys of playing music with friendly faces - by clicking here.

Now how many studies have we had that suggested that listening to Mozart made you brainy! So now here's a study that says the opposite. But I think we know better!

Tuesday 04 May 2010 - Crisis, what Crisis?

Spotted this on the web, from the California Chroncle "The first quarter of 2010 saw a 43% year-on-year rise in sales of classical music, demonstrating the public's appetite is stronger than ever." Read the whole article here. Is Classical Music in trouble? Doesn't sound like it.

Monday 03 May 2010 - Poll Position

Hot news! We have the results of our first poll - Audiences should only clap at the end of concerts. Clearly 15 votes is hardly representative of the nation as a whole, but who knows, after Thursday it might be enough to form a government :-). But our survey said .... 60 per cent said `Relax, go with the flow' while 33 per cent said `Absolutely, don't ruin the moment. One per cent said you should clap in the middle of a concert to reward a masterley performance, and no one it seems didn't mind either way!

For our May Poll (no pun intended) we're asking about the future of Classical Music. There are some, cellist Natalie Clein included, who believe the genre's on the slide and needs all the help it can get. Click here to read her thoughts in Sunday's Telegraph Online. And then cast your vote!


Tuesday 27 April 2010 - Composure

Two young composers have been getting their heads round the task in hand. They have just been given the opportunity to write new works to be played by Manchester Camerata as part of the new concert series this Autumn. Nina Whiteman and Gavin Higgins need to create a new work - duration 7 minutes or so - by August. The opportunity is part of a scheme run in conjunction with Sound and Music, and is aimed at giving composers at a formative time in their careers the chance to play with a top flight orchestra. Watch the blog for their thoughts as performance day looms. Read more about the scheme in our news section, and there's a podcast too.

Friday 23 April 1910 - Proms two last nights!

Not sure that's possible :-) but here's the Times Online feature on the BBC Proms launch this week. Interesting stuff in there with the 'off piste' material clearly grabbing the attention - Dr Who complete with Daleks apparently, Jamie Cullum etc. The second Last Night 1910 being a tribute to Sir Henry Wood.

Thursday 22 April 2010 - Sob Stories

Looks like we're emerging from the woods now following the Icelandic Volcanic Ash crisis, although just like aeroplanes, a lot of musicians are all in the wrong places! We've heard some remarkable stories in the past few days of players trapped in Moscow, the Dolomites or even just Amsterdam! But whether it be by train or boat or plane - they are making amazing journeys not to disappoint their audiences! So let's hear it for the power of Classical Music - still inspiring epic journeys :-)

Oh - and this is funny. An Icelandic singer explains how to pronounce the volcano Eyjafjallajokull, using music obviously. Click here.

And while we're on the subject of powerful music - how moved do you get by music? Apparently even the hardest musical critics can be moved to tears - read more here. Oh - and then tell us what makes you cry?

Sunday 18 April 2010 - Let's Sing for the Earth

With the skies over the UK pleasantly free of vapour trails, the culmination of the Songbook of the Earth project couldn't have come at a better time. Kids from 14 schools across the North West of England have been busily working over the year to create a new song cycle, inspired by Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde. The music gets its premier on stage at the Bridgewater Hall on Monday 19th April. Details here.

Certainly the Classical world is far from immune from the effects of the Icelandic volcano. It's playing havoc with touring musicians. See here.

Thursday 15 April 2010 - Media Circus

Some media babble about some of the earlier posts. Gillian Reynolds in The Telegraph reviews Radio 3's election debate here; See ITN's report from the Classical Brits here; and Elizabeth Mahoney in The Guardian ponders the wisdom of Radio 3's new `Chart Show' here. Enjoy :-)

Wednesday 14 April 2010 - And the Award Goes to?

  ... well, we don't know yet. Two sets of nominations revealed in the last few days, again maybe highlighting the varied nature of our classical world. First - the Royal Philharmonic Society Awards which seeks to applaud best practice in music making in this country. That has categories such as Audience Development, Chamber Music and Song, Creative Communication, Young Artists etc. And then of course the Classical Brit Awards 2010 which are a little more Oscar-like - Best Male, Female etc. Within both though, again amazing variety. Just look at the Classical Brits Album of the Year award - ten candidates ranging from Pope Benedict, Coldstream Guards and The Fron Male Voice Choir, to Rhydian, Blake, Camilla Kerslake and Faryl Smith. How on earth do you decide between them? Well that decision is down to the public - vote here if that grabs you. But even with the RPS Awards, look at the Audience Development category - where you have the BBC Proms pitted against the London Contemporary Orchestra and the Philharmonia. See the details here. One of the slogans on the site is `Creating a Future for Music'. Interestingly that's what the Classical Brits say they are doing! The future is clearly bright - but which one is it?

Saturday 10 April 2010 - Three Thinking:2

A busy week for Radio 3. They've announced they are running a classical `chart' from Monday! Click here for details. And today - Breaking News!! - they are having a political discussion on the future of the arts and music in this country after the election! Programme starts today (Saturday) at 9.30am. Details of Phone-In Here.

Friday 9 April 2010 - Influences

Tributes being paid today to Punk guru Malcolm McLaren who's death was announced yesterday at the age of 64! Where's the classical music link? Remember Madam Butterfly? He may have been a cultural annarchist, but he was content with the building blocks of our musical heritage. And see what Bobby McFerrin is doing now! Best known for his iconic Reggae number Don't Worry, Be Happy - he's been busily reinventing himself musically, drawing on his childhood study of musical theory from the age of 6. Both his parents were Classical singers. He's just released a new album Vocabularies containing the most extraordinary range of styles and influences - and yes of course Classical is among them. Read more here. Is this the right way to see it? Classical music as the building blocks of today's popular music? Or part of a progression? Manchester Camerata's upcoming Night & Day concerts (Stafford 23rd April, RNCM 24th April and Ulverston 25th April) contains Debussy's Prélude à l'après midi d'un Faune! For some clearly a revolutionary piece - presaging Jazz or a much more free form 20th century style of music? Reggae? Don't worry, be Happy!

Thursday 8 April 2010

Manchester Camerata
's current season is all about musical exchanges, and we've seen plenty of that over the last few months, not least with the contribution by composer Bushra El Turk to Camerata's January Mahler concert Das Lied von der Erde (Hear Podcast with Bushra by clicking here). Her piece Mosaic was a true fusion of Middle East and West. But Classical music is riddled with world influences. With the rise of economies such as China, Brazil and India is it any wonder that musical styles from these areas are finding a home in today's compositions. Have a listen to Jose Guillermo Puello - one of the young composers who successful workshopped their pieces at this year's Manchester Composer's event in our podcast - discussing the South American infliences in his piece to be premiered by Manchester Camerata on 22 May in Stafford and 23 May in Manchester. The blogospehere is alive at the moment with an appreciation of the role of Ravi Shankar in Western music - not least with the Beatles. Some orchestras have even set up smaller ensembles to 'play' with this Indian 'Classical' music. The Classical scene - probably as it always has been - is a true melting pot.

Tuesday 6 April 2010

Just under two weeks to go till the climax of Manchester Camerata's Songbook of the Earth project. We've been working with 14 primary schools across Greater Manchester, The Wirral and Chester to create a new song cycle, inspired by Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde. All the songs have been written and are having the final touches put to them. There will then be a performance on stage at The Bridgewater Hall in Manchester on Monday 19 April, accompanied by Manchester Camerata. The songs will be collected in a new songbook to provide a lasting resources. More on the project HERE. Hear a podcast about how the songs were devised HERE. You can see some of the news coverage about a concert in January when more than 2000 kids involved got up close with Manchester Camerata, conducted by Douglas Boyd HERE.

Sunday 3 April 2010

Need a Manchester Camerata fix over the Easter Weekend? Listen to BBC Radio 2 at 8.30pm on Sunday evening - the Easter Glory show. Recorded in Manchester Cathedral, it features the BBC Radio 2 Young Choristers of the Year 2009, Manchester Cathedral Choir and Manchester Camerata. Details here. "

Thursday 1 April 2010

"Welcome to the Manchester Camerata Blog. We've always got lots to say about our concerts and musicians and of course our exciting plans, but there are so many talking points around at the moment worthy of a good heated debate! Let's not make this a one-way street. Feel free to make a comment of take part in our online poll, or send us pictures, ideas and yes, criticisms too! We'll take them on the chin :-)

And what a day to begin! April Fools Day. Did you spot all the stories in the media - the flying penguins; Carla Bruni giving fashion advice to Gordon Brown? Or how about Simon Bates on Classic FM announcing that Tchaikovsky was a spy for Queen Victoria after meeting the Duke Of Clarence in a dodgy pub in Rotherhythe. They also played the final movement of Beethoven's tenth and got several enquiries from listeners about where they could find more info about it!

Good to know we don't take ourselves too seriously - or do we? Composers and musicians are no strangers to having a laugh - Mozart's Musical Joke which was a critique on bad composers to name but one. But is Classical Music taking itself too seriously? There have been an endless stream of old chestnut stories in the media recently - some prompted by the Royal Philharmonic Society annual lecture which asked the question - when is the right time to clap in a classical concert? See the article here. What do you think? Leave a comment or try our poll. Does it extend that to what do you wear? Is it wrong to have a drink or talk during a concert? Unwrap sweets? Cough? Laugh? Where do you start and stop. Discuss.

Click HERE to make a comment or see older posts.

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