Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Mother Goose and Friends

This spring, we're working with two schools in Birmingham to explore one of the pieces from our lunchtime concert series which has just finished touring around venues in Birmingham, Norwich and Cambridge, amongst others.

Taking Ravel's exquisite Mother Goose suite, scored innovatively for wind quintet with piano, we'll be finding crumbs with little Tom Thumb, marvelling at the Empress of the Pagodas and passing through the glorious Faery Garden in workshops with Years 4-6.

The interactive workshops will help schoolchildren bring to life music they have seen on the stage, working with musicians at first hand to compose their own pieces and even perform to a real live audience!

If you are interested in bringing a group of children to any of our concerts, or in workshops designed around them, do get in touch by contacting

Friday, 4 January 2008

Britten Sinfonia goes Random

This year Britten Sinfonia is to embark upon an entirely new venture as part of our Creative Learning department. Working with the Sadlers Wells-based company Random Dance, known for their cutting-edge projects including, most recently, the brilliant AtaXia (reviewed by The Guardian as being “stunningly conceived and executed…a moving experiment…a choreographic first”) musicians from Britten Sinfonia will join with dancers for an education project as exciting as it is innovative.

Following on from the highly successful 2007 performance of AUTO I MOBILE (a revolutionary project that saw children dance alongside professionals in a car park setting), this July the stakes will again be upped with professional musicians thrown into the mix for a dance collaboration like no other.

At the helm will be world-famous choreographer Wayne McGregor and international composer Stevie Wishart who, together with local schools, will build a collaborative project involving music, dance and movement for a truly remarkable performance.

Keep checking for updates - more information to come!

Friday, 16 November 2007

Festive Fun at the Fenland PRU

With only 39 days until Christmas (and counting..!) the pupils at Fenland Junction started a brand-new project which we'll be working on for the next few sessions before performing live in concert on December 13. Having had a go at writing a radio play with spooky soundtrack for a scary Hallowe'en special, we decided to go in a rather more heartwarming direction for our festive works. As usual, our students weren't short of imagination, and whilst you might recognise some elements of more traditional Christmassy tales mixed in, the end results were entirely new....

For our first session, we split up into three groups working with one of our musicians in a flurry of brainstorming activity as they decided what the basic plotline was going to be. Having managed to agree (almost!) on what the story would involve, we then broke down the action into separate scenes (making storyboards to divide up the plot), then started thinking of how we could show the narrative through sound. Whilst this might seem easy enough, just try making a snowy scene with no words or pictures!

Later on in the day, we started to get recording, using mobile phone rings, unusual effects (the sound of a match being struck was tricky!) and some strange noises ('mean laughter' from a cruel and heartless bailiff was pretty impressive!) on top of the GarageBand pre-recorded sounds and beats.

Whilst we're only at the beginning of our project, I can reveal a sneak preview of one of the stories so far, which go a bit like this (apologies for any mistakes!)...

A Cambridgeshire Carol

Bob* and Liza* Smith are poor parents whose small son Tim is disabled and badly needs an expensive operation in America to get better. Bob's boss, Scrooge, is a hugely wealthy man, but despite numerous pleas, refuses to give Bob any money to save little Tim. In fact, Scrooge is so horrible that on Christmas Eve he tries to evict Bob and Liza as they have fallen behind with the rent (mean laughter)....however, Scrooge's ghostly sister Fran visits him that night, firstly as a far-off light, glowing in the distance, but then getting stronger and stronger until she reveals images of Tim in pain, then of herself and Scrooge as children. Suddenly she disappears, as Scrooge awakes: and is gone. But the memories of the dream are left, and Scrooge repents of his ways and not only allows Bob and Liza to stay in their house, but even pays for little Tim's operation in America after a super Christmas celebration!

Keep watching, lots more to come!

*names changed for the purposes of anonymity!

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Britten Sinfonia Goes Back to School

This term we've started a brand-new project working with students at the Fenland Junction Pupil Referral Unit. Our team of musicians (including violinist Manon Derome, viola player Kate Musker, cellist Julia Vohralik and workshop leader Simon Gunton), have been teaching the pupils some songwriting skills using GarageBand software to make some seriously cool sounds!

For our first couple of sessions, we've been focussing on getting to grips with GarageBand, learning how to record real live instrumental tracks in from musicians who really have worked with the stars, and creating our very own songs and film soundtracks!

Using GarageBand's pre-recorded samples of both melodies and beats, we started the sessions by encouraging pupils to have a go at creating a song from scratch, building up their own soundworlds with layers of rhythm and melody. Having done that, we then started recording live music clips from our musicians, introducing "classical" sounds to the mix. Not many of the pupils realised how much live music there is in the songs they hear on the radio every day, and definitely enjoyed the opportunity to have a melody in their own song played by someone who had just finished recording with Corinne Bailey Rae!

For our next few sessions, we'll be exploring how to really get the most out of live music mixed into tracks, what special effects the instruments can do, and how the students can start making music of their own!

Keep watching this space for much more to come...

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Pre-concert preambles

As our new season of concerts gets underway, we're running a series of pre-concert talks at selected venues in order to give our audiences the opportunity to get any thoughts, ideas and burning questions off their chests face-to-face with some of the world's finest soloists and conductors....

Starting the sessions is superb violinist Alina Ibragimova who for our concerts in Cambridge and Norwich will be discussing why she specifically chose Bach and Schoenberg to frame her near-flawless rendition of Karl Amadeus Hartmann's little-known Concerto Funebre

The other works she will be talking about include a brand-new arrangement of JS Bach's Prelude and Fugue in A minor by composer Tansy Davies, JS Bach's Violin Concerto no. 1 in A minor, and Arnold Schoenberg's gorgeous Romantic work Transfigured Night

The pre-concert talks will be held at Cambridge's West Road Concert Hall on Mon 22 October at 7pm and Norwich Cathedral on Tue 23 October at 6.30pm


We will also be holding pre-concert talks for our forthcoming concert with Imogen Cooper in Norwich and Cambridge on Fri 7 December at 6.30 and Sat 8 December at 7pm, respectively.

The programme will feature Birtwistle's Bach Measures, Prokofiev's Classical Symphony and Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 in G, with our guest speaker superb conductor Nicholas Daniel.

If you might be interested in participating in our pre-concert talks, or just want to find out more, visit our website at

Classy Coaching

This year we're re-visiting the Norfolk County Youth Orchestra for some inspirational coaching sessions...

Working with young musicians from all over the county, our players will be injecting enthusiasm and inspiration into the orchestra at rehearsals in November and January. The first of our sessions will be at the beautiful Bylaugh Hall (see for details), with the orchestra's annual concert coming up on April 24 at St Andrew's Hall in Norwich (check it out at

The repertoire the orchestra will be playing for their concert includes:

Rossini William Tell
Dvorak Serenade for Strings
Dvorak Czech Suite for Wind
Malcolm Arnold English Dances Suite (no. 2)
Dvorak Eighth Symphony

If you'd like more information on our project, or if you think your orchestra would benefit from some Britten Sinfonia energy and excellence, then get in touch via our website at or drop us a line on:

Britten Sinfonia 13 Sturton Street Cambridge CB1 2SN UK
Tel +44 (0)1223 302092

Creative Learning!

Here in the Creative Learning Department, we're continually developing and creating some very exciting projects - check out our work with the Norfolk County Youth Orchestra, as well as our new series of Pre-concert Talks - more to follow soon!