This week, some of the best young musicians in the world collect in Aldeburgh, UK, for the Britten-Pears Orchestra 2017. They will perform a Percussion Concerto by Mark-Anthony Turnage with percussionist Colin Currie, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and Ravel’s Daphnis & Chloe Suite No. 2 at London’s Royal Festival Hall on Friday April 7, and repeat the program at Snape Maltings on Saturday April 8. Then, a week later at Snape Maltings they perform two special concerts for Easter weekend; Bartok Concerto for Orchestra, Britten Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra and works by Anna Clyne and John Adams on Saturday April 15, with Britten’s Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra on Easter Sunday. Besides the tour the BPO join with conducting students hand-picked by Marin Alsop in the making of a major new NAXOS film of Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, as well as maintain a schedule of tutorials with players from Europe’s finest orchestras.
Karin Hendrickson will be Marin’s Assistant Conductor and, between Karin and Marin, they will be writing this tour blog and posting behind-the-scenes photos and videos on Twitter to update on progress…
SATURDAY APRIL 15, 2017
[Karin's blog, day 13]
The days . . . the days . . . they literally fly by!
On Tuesday afternoon the Naxos crew arrived for a morning get-in with cases and cases of audio recording equipment. The recording of Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, played by the Britten-Pears Orchestra, and recorded in the Snape Maltings Concert Hall obviously has special meaning in the legacy that Benjamin Britten left young musicians and listeners.
The orchestra has done the audio recording in an incredibly swift and efficient fashion, and the players are delivering on every level. Even with mine, Marin’s, and Andrew’s (the recording engineer) monitoring of the recording, we have had to do a very small number of optional cut-ins after complete runs of the piece. There is also a video team here to tape for video release, so there has also been take-down and set-up of multiple camera angles in between each performance run. Yesterday Marin also separately recorded the audio and video for the narration.
It’s surreal to know that tomorrow all of our group music-making will come to an end, and we will all move on to our next musical assignments. I look forward to watching the final two concerts take shape, and telling the world about this incredible group of young musicians who will be on to wonderful new opportunities.
For more behind the scenes, follow Marin on Twitter @marinalsop
MONDAY APRIL 10, 2017
[Karin's blog, day 8]
It was a whirlwind of a weekend. On Friday the Britten-Pears Orchestra gave a highly successful first concert in London. In concert order: Ravel’s Daphnis & Chloe Suite No. 2, Turnage’s Martland Memorial Percussion Concerto, and Stravinsky Rite of Spring. This was a big day for the organization, as it was their first ever concert appearance in London, at the renowned Royal Festival Hall. The entire organization should be very, very proud of the concert. Well played all the way around, and here reviewed by Classical Source. Moving from the acoustic of the Royal Festival Hall on Friday to the acoustic of the Snape Maltings Concert Hall on Saturday required some adjustments in articulation and volume in the general rehearsal, but once the players found their sense of ensemble they were ready for the concert.
Everyone had Sunday off, which I know was very welcome. I had a chance to walk from Aldebrugh to Thorpeness along the coast. A lovely stroll. (In the evening I had to complete and e-file my US taxes, so it wasn’t ALL fun and relaxation!) On my walk I passed the Scallop sculpture by Maggi Hambling (in memory of Benjamin Britten, photo left). The words are from Britten’s opera Peter Grimes “I hear those voices that will not be drowned.”
Today we had 6 hours of sectionals to cover the new repertoire – Britten Young Person’s Guide, Anna Clyne Masquerade, John Adams’ Lola Montez Does The Spider Dance, and Bartok Concerto for Orchestra.
All I can tell you – it is a LOT of notes!!
THURSDAY APRIL 6, 2017
[Karin's blog, day 4]
It’s been amazing to get to know the players this week, little by little. And watching the staff tracking over 100 new people, not to mention also arranging instruments, rehearsal set-up, small sectionals, combined sectionals, music, transport of the entire orchestra to and from their accommodation, and welcoming yesterday six conductors to observe rehearsal for a few days. Unbelievable commitment.
The players are having a good time, as well, and are starting to plan their own individual meet-ups. Two days ago they self-arranged a pub evening; last night a bonfire on the beach . . . we’ll wait to hear at the break in the afternoon rehearsal what else they’ve planned!
Just before morning rehearsal today, Marin, Roger Wright, and I were standing outside of the rehearsal hall catching up before the start of the day. The players arrive at about 9:15 every morning via transport, and by 9:30 they are often all sitting in the rehearsal hall warming up. Suddenly, we heard the orchestra start to tune, and then break into a rendition of “Happy Birthday”, improvising together. It turns out today is concertmaster Benjamin Hoffmann’s birthday. So to anyone else out there who celebrates a birthday today – Happy Birthday from the Britten Pears Orchestra!
TUESDAY APRIL 4, 2017
[Marin's blog, day 2]
I arrived to this idyllic haven straight off the plane yesterday and dove into the Rite of Spring with 110 young musicians from 18 countries. Woah! They are amazing and this is a total blast!
There are outstanding “tutors” for every section and they stand by ready to jump in with comments, advice and encouragement. It’s marvelous to have their hands on love and expertise.
Today we’re back at it full on. We worked on the Rite all morning and it’s really coming along.
I shared with the musicians some of the wildlife I saw this morning from my bedroom window: huge crows that looked as large as turkeys! Gorgeous peacocks, and a wide range of specialty dogs. (you know those hunting and herding types!) the house is amazing. But the most amusing part is me trying to drive on the left.
MONDAY APRIL 3, 2017
[Karin's blog, day 1]
These young musicians will undergo an intense schedule over the next two weeks. In two separate 5-day periods they will perform and tour two different orchestral programmes with Marin Alsop. These young musicians prove that music is an international language – citizenships include Australia, Japan, Brazil, United States of America, Germany, France, Latvia, Canada, Israel, Wales, England, South Korea, Chile, Portugal, Switzerland, Taiwan, Ireland, Romania, Singapore, Venezuela, and Scotland.
As the Assistant Conductor on staff, I’ll be one of the team responsible for shaping their musical experiences during the festival. These younger players will soon enter the profession and begin impacting the future of our orchestras, our audiences, and our collective musical creativity and culture. All that being said, however, we are very aware that these young people are future citizens first, and future musicians second. We hope to send them off having had a great musical experience; but we also expect to reinforce the spirit of acceptance, teamwork, self-evaluation, valuing the uniqueness of others, and creative problem-solving.
Britten Pears 2017 will be a tremendous musical experience for these young musicians. But I hope for them that it is a tremendous personal experience as well. To quote the Dali Lama, “With realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world.” And yesterday I saw over 80 young musicians from around the globe begin this journey together.