Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Moving on

It's with great sadness that I am writing to all our blog followers that I will be leaving the New London Orchestra today. I have had an absolutely brilliant year with the NLO, putting together some truly different and exciting concerts all over the capital and starting to build a really strong base in Stratford which I have become very attached to. Some real highlights for me have been the Peter & the Wolf concert back in March, when the NLO launched its concert activity in East London with a huge gala performance. I worked on both the education project in all the schools leading up to the concert, and then ran the event on the day and had a great time with all our brilliant players and the fab staff at the Stratford Rex, who were so delighted to have us.

Another highlight most recently has been the Snowman concert, which really has rounded off a fantastic year in the East of London - selling out to over 300 families and children who were transfixed by the beautiful Raymond Briggs story. Once again, as is always the case with a small team, I organised and ran the whole event, even down to operating the film and screen on the day - very nervewracking, but totally worth it when we pulled it off!

There are so many other brilliant initiatives I have been involved in here that I couldn't possibly mention them all; from the Young Performers Concert Series at the beautiful Foundling Museum, to the fantastic folk at the Highgate Choral Society who do such a great job of putting together the concerts we are lucky to play in with them. I've listened to our fantastic players get through such a range of music this year - starting with Bacewicz recording sessions in a freezing cold church in February, to Elgar's Apostles at the Barbican, to Janeck's Glagoltic Mass in another cold church this November. Considering we often only rehearse on the day of an event, I am always overwhelmed by the incredible playing of our musicians and their dedication to this orchestra and I will miss them all very much.

But anyway, that's enough from me for now. I am pleased to hand over the reigns of both the Concert & Project Management, and the blog, to my successor Kirsten Mackay. I'm sure her blog updates will keep you entertained and up-to-date in 2010.

Merry Christmas!

P.S. Listen again to Sleigh Ride at Stratford Circus on 6th December on our YouTube channel here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Snowman - almost sold out already!

Thought I'd let our blog followers know about the huge success we're having with our latest East London Concert Series - our performance of The Snowman has already sold over 200 tickets. Looks like our mission to create concerts that are family friendly and accessible to everyone is starting to gain followers. We're also excited that the highly popular text voting will make a come back, so that audience members can select one of their favourite pieces to hear again at the end of the concert.

Here's an extract from the press release I've sent out:

The New London Orchestra returns to Stratford Circus on the 6th December to perform a pioneering interactive Christmas concert for families in East London. Featuring innovative audience text voting during the concert, and introductions from the stage by Artistic Director Ronald Corp, the concert will attract new audiences in East London that rarely get the chance to experience an orchestral performance up close.

Continuing its presence in East London, The Snowman concert will be the fourth orchestral performance the New London Orchestra has given in Stratford this year, designing concerts and programmes specifically to make orchestral music as accessible as possible in an area underserved by professional ensembles.
To headline the round-up of festive favourites, the Orchestra will accompany Raymond Briggs’ hugely popular film The Snowman, which will be shown on screen above the orchestra as they play the well-loved soundtrack by Howard Blake, live.

Artistic Director Ronald Corp explains: “Together with The Snowman, I have chosen a fantastic range of festive and fairy-tale themed music for this concert. Our events are always fun and informal which is what has made them increasingly popular in East London. Our audience text-voting initiative is completely different from anything other orchestras are doing at the moment. It’s fantastic to give the audience the responsibility for picking part of the programme and always fascinating to find out what people like best – it’s not always what you expect!”

Stratford Circus Events Manager Gary Wilson agrees: “We received excellent feedback from our audiences that attended the New London Orchestra concert here in May and knew that when they returned we would have a great response. That’s already proving the case, with the concert selling phenomenally well. Our family audiences recognise these concerts are a fantastic opportunity to engage with a live orchestra, something that rarely happens in East London.”


If you want to get your hands on tickets, you'd better be quick, click here to go straight to the Box Office.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Michael Hurd recording sessions

I don't know how many of our blog followers are of the same generation as me, but I certainly have fond memories of my youth in choirs singing the works of Michael Hurd - primarily the fantastic Jonah-Man Jazz - anyone else?!

So I was absolutely delighted to find out when I started the job here that the New London Orchestra would be providing our principal players to record some of Michael Hurd's best known works - Jonah-Man Jazz, Captain Coram's Kids, Swingin' Samson and Rooster Rag. The music is a fantastically catchy mix of jazz and pop, and during the recording session that happened this Sunday, the New London Children's Choir obviously really enjoyed a lot of the choruses which had great tunes.

The recordings took place once again in the freezing cold St Jude's on the Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb. Whilst being a beautiful building, it's absolutely chilling in the winter months, which seems to be the only time we book recording sessions there! So I spent the day wrapped up in my coat, plying the players with hot tea, coffee and a good tray of M&S chocolate biscuits that were appreciated (so much so they were all gone by the end of the first session, sorry Nick and Dave!). We'll let you know when the disc is due for release, on Naxos - hopefully early next year. In the meantime, enjoy this snippet I caught on my iPhone of Jonah-Man Jazz.

Young Performers - November

Our Young Performers Series continued on Thursday with a concert from cellist Evva Mizerska accompanied by pianist Emma Abbate at The Foundling Museum. We saw one of the largest audiences yet with an almost full house treated to a completely Polish programme, including Orniphania for cello and Piano by Bujarski, Sonata for Cello and Piano No. 1 Op. 18 by Stojowski and Canzona op. 56 by Kryzsztof Meyer. Vicky even had the responsibility of turning the pages at the concert - see the concentration on her face in the video, so many notes!

Though challenging, Meyer’s Canzona proved very popular with the audience - and is a piece that also features of Evva's new CD release (see her website for more details). Click here to watch a video clip from the concert.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Polska Music

I'm back from a break and wanted to report in the blog how our Polska Music concert went. The day was busy as concert days always are for me, as I act as Stage Manager, Orchestra Manager, Box Office Assistant, Front-of-House representative and general ambassador for the Orchestra at all times! However all the running around from front to back stage was well worth it, we had a great turn out and the concert was a great success musically. Our UK premiere of Grazyna's Bacewicz's Simfonietta went down particularly well, and we sold plenty of preview copies of our Music for String Orchestra by Bacewicz, due for release on the 1st November, proving her music really is popular and should be played a lot more than it is. Hopefully our CD and this performance will prove a turning point for her works in this country.

Whilst front-of-house I met some of the audience members, many of whom were new to both Cadogan Hall, and New London Orchestra concerts. It's great to hear first hand how people hear about our concerts and what they enjoy about them, particularly with my 'marketing' hat on (did I mention I do that as well?!). Everyone loved Ron's introductions to the music, something we know he's excellent at doing to give the music some context. I always try to give the pieces we perform as much background information in the programme notes I put together too, and if you were there, I hope you found them informative. Everyone was surprised when we offered the programme booklets for free to our audience members - something we do at all our own promotion concerts. We think it's important our audiences get to understand the music and find out as much about us as they can whilst we perform to them, so it's vital to us to get this information straight into their hands!

There's a review of the concert on Music Web International, you can read it by clicking here. Quite rightly our soloists, Caroline MacPhie, Natalia Brzezinska and Gerard Collett, get a great mention. Got your own comments to make? Write back to us here on the blog, we love to hear your opinions.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Polska Music rehearsal at the Amadeus Centre

Here's a little video from the string rehearsal for Polska Music as they rehearse ready for the UK premiere of Grazyna Bacewicz's Simfonietta. Enjoy, and hope to see you at tonight's concert at Cadogan Hall.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

NLO Principals at St John's Smith Square

Here are some pictures of our rehearsal and concert at St John's Smith Square; a concert which combined our brilliant principal New London Orchestra players with an orchestra of post and under graduate students, and a 'Come & Sing' choir, brought together by Carolyn Pascall at Pascall Promotions. You can also watch a video at our YouTube channel.

The day was loads of fun and considering we put together the entire Haydn's Creation in just 4 hours of rehearsals, I think the final concert was really impressive. The whole event was raising money and awareness for the Access for All campaign at St John's Smith Square.
We also got some great feedback from the students sitting with our principals, who gained a lot from the chance to play with them. Here are just a few quotes:

"I Thought Anna Noakes [flute] was great. Such a lovely person and an amazing player. She was very friendly to both of us and I learnt so much from being able to sit next to her when she gave me the opportunity to double her first flute part. It was a fantastic experience for me and I would love to do more things like that. Thanks for the opportunity."

"It was an absolute joy sitting next to Jonathan Baritt (Viola principal). He made feel so welcome and I felt so much from him just by sitting and playing next to him. I asked him general career advice and it was very useful."

We are really keen to do more events like this to give students an opportunity to play and learn from our principals, so keep a look out on the blog and website for more details.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Polska Music on the Classical Music Homepage

Our Polska Music concert has attracted some more coverage in the virtual world, this time from Classical Music Homepage. Read the article by clicking here. We're getting quite a crowd together now for the concert - thanks to YPIA for advertising the event through the 'free tickets' scheme, we look forward to seeing representatives from the OAE, LSO Discovery, the ABO, IMG and the Musicians Answering Service there! Want to join them? Buy your tickets by click here and a tip for all our blog followers - if you use promo code POLAND when booking online or over the phone, you receive a 20% discount!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Young Performers Series: October

Just a quick note before I head out of the office to post a picture from this month's Young Performer's Concert which featured soprano Colette Boushell. We heard a fantastically varied programme from her and the audience was most eager to give her warm rounds of applause. Thanks as ever to Trevor and the staff for sorting out the gorgeous Picture Gallery for us to perform in, it really is a wonderful space. We hope to see you next time for Evva Mizerska's cello recital on the 5 November at the Foundling Museum. For more details click here.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New London Orchestra in Musolife

Just thought we'd let you know that our Polska Music concert has been featured as a latest headline on the MusoLife website. You can read the story here. We're pleased to see other people are picking up on the exciting story that Bacewicz has to tell. If you haven't yet, you can order your tickets for the concert online by clicking here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Polska Music and September Newsletter

The NLO blog has been quiet for a while as we have been working really hard promoting our Polska Music concert, coming up on the 14th October. Last week I went on an absolutely fantastic ABO Brass Tacks course all about Press & PR, and learnt how to write a really good press release and create an interesting story, out of what would otherwise just be another concert. We got taught some really fundamental things which are probably obvious to those of you out there in the world of PR, but were news to me! Things like don't write 'Press Release' as the subject of your email, and use a file sharing website for access to high resolution photos... so now we're on Flickr too.

The story I've created is all around our featured composer, Grazyna Bacewicz. After doing my research (I also write all the programme notes for the orchestra's concerts), I've discovered some fascinating things about her - such as the fact she played secret concerts to the Jewish Relief Council during WWII, and how she was involved in a terrible car accident which turned her attention to composing. The work we are featuring in our concert is called Simfonietta (and no, that's not a typo!), and was written in 1935 when she had just returned from her first visit to Paris, somewhere that really inspired her compositions. Her early music is rarely heard (in fact, she deliberately didn't put some of them in her list of works, or refused to have them published), and so our performance will be the UK premiere.

I hope that's given you a flavour for the excitement we're feeling for her music. It's also been great to listen to our new recording of the piece, and other string works. We'll be selling CDs at the concert, so make sure you're there by buying tickets here.

You can also read this quarter's Newsletter which we've posted out to our friends online, by clicking here. Happy reading!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Young Performers Concert Series

Today was September’s Young Performers concert at the Foundling Museum and this month’s performers were AccordDuo (Miloš Milivojević and Zivorad Nikolic) who were absolutely brilliant.

They played a really varied programme, with 3 duets and 2 solos each:

Adios Nonnino Astor Piazzolla
The Ruined Cathedral Vaclav Trojan
Don Rhapsody No.2 Viaceheslav Semionov
Concerto No. 4 in F minor Antonio Vivaldi Op. 8, RV 297
"L'inverno" (Winter)
Sonata Franck Angelis
Five sights on country Gulag Viktor Vlasov
3 3 2 Bogdan Precz

I love Piazzolla but it was also great to hear some music by composers that I didn’t know – the Trojan and Angelis were particular favourites that I’ll be downloading later. Five sights on country Gulag was especially interesting, with Miloš using the accordion to make a variety of percussive and other sound effects as well as singing and whistling, while their transcription of "Winter" from The Four Seasons was, as always, a crowd pleaser!

Milos & Zivorad got a wildly enthusiastic reception from the audience (unsurprisingly of course!) – you can watch a clip of their encore below

You can read Miloš & Zivorad’s biographies in the programme here and read more about the pieces in the programme notes here. If you’d like to catch them again soon you can always check out Milos’s website to keep up to date with what they’re doing.

As always our thanks go to the Foundling Museum for hosting the concerts and of course to the Musician's Benevolent Fund who support the series. Thanks also to everyone who came along!

Looking forward to seeing you at the next concert – Colette Boushell, 1 October, 1pm as usual!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Office update

Hi fans,

Just thought I'd give you an update of life at NLO Towers, as our blog is quite quiet at the moment! The office is pretty quiet too if I'm honest, Rob and Julian are both on holidays and so new intern Josh and I listen to Radio 3 and natter about news/sports/TV... and get some work done too!

This week I've mainly been focused on our year-round music provision at Selwyn Primary School in Newham. It's a really exciting opportunity to build music into the curriculum at the school, and make it an integral part of musical life for the students. However it's the first time we've done something like this, so I've been researching kindermusik (we'll be teaching the nursery classes, right through the year 6) and putting together some preliminary lesson plans to get started. Me and some of the musicians working on the project (Aga and David to name just two) will hopefully be meeting Andrea from Selwyn at the end of the month to show her our ideas and get her feedback. I'm mostly looking forward to planning the music projects for year 6 which focus on dinosaurs - imagine the music they will create!

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Young Performers Concert Series - Charlotte Stephenson

It's been a busy couple of days in the office and last Thursday we had our August Concert for the Young Performers Concert Series at the Foundling Museum. Taking part this month was Mezzo Soprano Charlotte Stephenson and her accompanist Elizabeth Burgess. We had a great audience which was boosted in numbers by a group from The Music Club of London. They were treated to a varied program which opened with a piece of Mahler and included pieces by Hahn and Quilter before finishing with a work by Bridge. The Concert was a huge success and the audience (even though it was, yet again, on a perfect summer day) thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Thanks again to everyone who came along and thank you as ever to the Foundling Museum who hosted us, and the Musician's Benevolent Fund who continue to support the series. Thanks to Charlotte and Elizabeth too who gave a fantastic performance

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Our Bacewicz CD - hear some extracts!

How very exciting, I've come back from a two week holiday (did you notice the quiet blog?!) and have been busying myself writing Wikipedia pages for the Orchestra and for our conductor and Artistic Director, Ronald Corp. Whilst doing my research for the citations, I found that Hyperion have posted some extracts of our new CD of string orchestra compositions by Polish composer Bacewicz. They sound great, click here to have a listen for yourself and let us know what you think!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Music and Literacy Baden's Blog 2

Our Music & Literacy project Moving on with Music continues at Redlands School in Tower Hamlets.

Redlands blog, Thursday & Friday 9 & 10 July

After a day off spent nursing sore vocal cords and tender eardrums, the team are back to try and tidy up the various pieces that will go into Friday’s performance: songs, rap – oops! make that “riff” - and soundscape/poem, letter readings; some of this unscripted, all of it woefully under-rehearsed (who am I trying to kid? Make that completely unrehearsed. We’re still at the learning stage here, at best)…

Thursday is a battle against time, with Jade class (as ever) proving to be a real handful. They’ve produced some brilliant work for the soundscape, but getting them to settle, concentrate and produce the required musical backing is hard work. By the end of their session everyone’s nerves are frayed. Emerald are a totally different proposition. By the end of the day they’ve got it all down pat…

Friday morning: reinforcements arrive in the form of Karl “S-Kool” Sorenson and Dave “Hosepipe” Powell. A couple of rapid-fire run-throughs later and it’s time for the morning dress rehearsal in front of the whole school, minus Years 5 & 6. The children are shoehorned into the hall and treated to a surprisingly successful and relatively smooth-running presentation. This could work…

Friday afternoon: Year 5, augmented by a healthy turnout of bemused parents, make up an appreciative audience and are treated to an entertaining and varied hour-long programme. The children perform the “Hello,” “Bala-Bala” and “Moving On” songs with enthusiasm; the school riff (NB: it’s definitely NOT a rap) and soundscape actually work; a small number of hand-picked children read extracts from their letters with varying degrees of audibility and fluency (some are excellent); Baden recites his “Que Sera” poem, aided and abetted by Year 6 (who almost know it by heart by now); and the musicians – well, they do what musicians do. The TV Medley draws particularly warm applause.

All too soon, it’s time for the “Goodbye” song, for final presentation of school- leaving certificates and photos, and time to say goodbye. It’s been challenging; it’s been frustrating; it’s been chaotic; but overall, it’s been fun. Time to say goodbye: “Namaste!”

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Verdi Requiem with the Highgate Choral Society

In one of our regular concerts with the Highgate Choral Society, this Saturday 11th July we performed Verdi's Requiem at All Hallows Church, to a packed audience. The concert was preceded by a fascinating talk from our own conductor, Ronald Corp, on the history of the piece and how it was created from the final movement backwards (read more about it on Wikipedia here). Those who attended the talk also seemed impressed to hear about the Verdi Drum which is required in the Requiem, of which there are only 4 in the country.

Our soloists were Katherine Broderick, Catherine Hopper, Andrew Staples and Graeme Broadbent. Neither of the female soloists had performed Verdi's Requiem before, and you would never have been able to tell as they were all superb and received a huge round of applause at the end.

On a slightly geeky concert manager's note, we tried out a few of the new music stands the orchestra has bought recently at this concert. They're so much easier than those fiddily fold ups, but we're going to have to start hiring a van to transport them now!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Music & Literacy - Redlands School - Lucy's Blog

Our Music & Literacy project Moving on with Music continues this week at Redlands School in Tower Hamlets. Here's Lucy's blog from the first couple of days:

Day 1 and 2 Redlands School, E1

Mercifully, summer seems to be done with, the rain has set in and we have all cooled down after last week’s meltingly hot temperatures. We are met and shown round the school by Regena, who already has the video camera in her hand ready to film. The desks are cleared back and the fun can begin, but what takes us all by surprise is the reticence of the children to join in. After building a strong rapport with the Stewart Headlam children we expect to carry on from where we left off last week, but of course this is a new class, we are strangers to them, so we must begin again.

The staff are wonderfully supportive, and despite illness and absenses in their ranks all the ideas discussed in the planning meetings have been passed on and acted upon, so we feel we are jumping onto a moving bus.

The afternoon class is different again, lively and full on and this feels like a group that will be throwing bags of ideas at us by tomorrow. Once again, trust and a willingness to work together has to be built before the ideas can really begin to grow.

By day 2 both classes have learnt the ‘Movin On’ song very quickly and are coming up with some beautiful words and images to use for a soundscape with instruments. The short phrases needed for the riff produce some hilarious results, teaching us a lot about school workings. School dinners here don’t seem to provoke the same reaction of horror they did at Stewart Headlam! Are they better or are these children made of sterner stuff?

A day off tomorrow to visit London zoo, and we will all reconvene on Thursday, which seems uncomfortably close to the performance day, Friday.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Music & Literacy - Carolyn's blog 2

Our Music & Literacy project Moving on with Music ended at Stewart Headlam on Thursday 2nd July. Here's Carolyn's account of the last day:

Our numbers increased to 21 by the final day-luckily the last two recovering victims joined in the assembly without fuss. Again the temperature was high, and by the afternoon show everyone was gleaming.

We were joined by our nordic viking (clarinettist) and multi-talented tuba/accordian player- Karl and Dave. In the morning we demostrated our instruments to the assembly of school children who then listened to the songs which Yr 6 had learnt during the week. The afternoon performance included readings and poems from 4 of the children on the weeks theme of "moving on". We musicians also performed a TV medley and a Melinga (tango based) piece both composed by Dave-part of his multi-talent. The teachers present seemed astounded at how well Yr 6 had foccussed and committed themselves to their performance, and how much they had achieved in 3 sessions.Well done all of you!! We hope at your new schools you will have the opportunity to develop your musical abilities.

Music & Literacy - Lucy's Blog 2

Our Music & Literacy project Moving on with Music finished at Stewart Headlam School on Thursday 2nd July. Here's Lucy's blog from the day:

Blog, day 4
The Performance!

The last day today and we were missing Baden, our performance poet, who was replaced masterfully by two musicians, Karl Sorrenson on clarinet and Dave Powell on tuba, accordion and hosepipe! This last instrument is a Heath Robinson contraption of green garden hose, trombone mouthpiece and a Pinocchio faced funnel. The children blow in the mouthpiece end and feel the funnel end either in their ears like an old fashioned telephone, or against their stomachs. Both produce gales of laughter and a long queue to be the next to have a go.

We were in the large school hall today and the children had to add voice projection to their list of talents. We did a morning assembly to the whole school, using it as a dry run for the afternoon and a chance for the musicians to play their instruments to the massed children.

One of the most gratifying things is when the children begin to come up with their own ideas and offerings, and these began to pour forth on this last day. It takes time to build trust and familiarity and this often starts to happen as we come to the end of our time in a school (or is it relief that it’s all nearly over?). We had volunteers to introduce and close the assembly, to read from letters they had written and also extracts from their own poems, all of which were a huge success.

The second assembly in the meltingly hot hall, which seemed to involve the whole school again, and a sadly small number of parents was a romp through all that we had done in the 3 days; 3 songs, 1 wholly and 1 partially written by the children, a school riff, poems, letters and announcements. The audience were kept busy either fanning themselves or clapping loudly.

As always, the only thing you can guarantee about a school’s project is that it will never be as you expect. You can plan all you like but what you need is a quick, creative response to what you are faced with in the room on the day. We had an exceptionally lively and creative group of children in Stewart Headlam School, and despite the extreme heat we all wished we could have had another week with them. The end of year 6 is a great time to catch these kids. They are mature enough to offer many of their own ideas and still young enough to be up for trying most things.

I hope they learnt a little about performance, rhythm, descriptive words and putting these together to create a picture or song. They developed as a team and were able to take responsibility well and quickly. We all hugely enjoyed working with them and would also like to thank their class teachers (the only ones left standing against the flu) Martin and Joe.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Young Performers Concert Series - Laura Lucas

What a busy day it has been today! Not only have we had the Young Performers Concert Series at the Foundling Museum, but we've also been at Blanche Nevile School for the Deaf with a year 6 group, and also performing at the end of our Moving on with Music project at Stewart Headlam School in Tower Hamlets.

Having such a busy day and such a small team, I obviously couldn't attend everything today, but am glad I chose to go to present the Young Performers Concert. Laura Lucas and her accompanist Dominic John were absolutely fantastic, and one of the best in the series, one of our regular audience members assured me. They played a great varied programme, starting with Sonata in F minor for Flute and Piano by Telemann, followed by Sonata for Flute and Piano op.164 by Poulenc and finished with Lowell Liebermann's Sonata for Flute and Piano.

The audience (though hot on this gorgeous summers day) were obviously impressed, and gave the performers warm rounds of applause and cheers of bravo.

Thanks to everyone who came along and thank you as ever to the Foundling Museum who hosted us, and the Musician's Benevolent Fund who support the series. Thanks to Dominic and Laura too, who arrived later than they would have liked to, having mislayed one of the pieces of music they were performing in Dominic's house move! Hope you settle in Dominic!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Music & Literacy - Lucy's blog

Our Music & Literacy project Moving on with Music started this week at Stewart Headlam Primary School in Tower Hamlets. Here's what Lucy had to say about day three:

Day 3 and our noses are raw and our hands are sore... not from the dreaded lurg but from the continuous applications of anti-bacterial gel we are glooping on ourselves, and yes, we received medical advise to put it round our noses!
The temperatures are soaring but despite this we are piecing together several glorious creations to perform at tomorrow's leaver's assembly.

The original plan was to work with the children for five days, but this got reduced to four in both schools due to outside visits. There is always a dilemma when planning a series of workshops, whether to be performance driven or enjoy the journey rather than the arrival. We hoped to keep this as creative and free as possible because the year 6 children are at the end of their curriculum driven timetable, but having a big assembly to prepare for and a reduced time to work with, we have had to be more prescriptive than we had hoped.

We have had a wonderful new song written for us by guitarist/songwriter Pete Walton called "Moving On" which will receive its first ever performance tomorrow at Stewart Headlam, and a second version next Friday at Redlands School. We are putting together a school riff by collecting phrases straight from the classroom floor, throwing them up in the air, and catching them on drum beat. There are some mighty clever rhythm tricks and a "Hello" song neatly turned into a "Goodbye" one to bookend the assembly. And there is so, so much more we could have done if we had had another week.. but that is for another time.

Probably more children will return from their sickbeds tomorrow, and we have two extra musicians joining us, Viking Karl Sorrenson on clarinet and sax, and multi instrumentalist and maverick, Dave Powell on tuba/accordion and...... well, the other instrument is a surprise!!! You'll see the photos tomorrow.

Sadly, due to the day being knocked of the timetable for us, we are losing Baden tomorrow, our word magician. We'll try to persuade him to put one of his favorite poems online, the one the children liked best. After much noisy persuasion he even sang a verse of it!

Music & Literacy - Baden's blog

Our Music & Literacy project Moving on with Music started this week at Stewart Headlam Primary School in Tower Hamlets. Here's what Baden had to say about the first day:

The early hours of Monday 29th June 2009.

A day that started like any other. The sun rose in the sky. Important news from around the world reported "resounding triumph" (Brasil, football); "heroic failure" (England, rugby); "resounding failure " (England, football); "impending disaster" (England, forthcoming cricket series).

Meanwhile, in the far-distant near-reaches of east London, three* intrepid artists huddled together fearfully at the gates of Stewart Headlam school, bracing themselves to face possibly the greatest challenge of their professional careers to date:
decimated school population, laid low by swine flu? Pah!
ditto teaching and support staff? No problemo.
Anywhere to park? Aha...

*Er, slight adjustment needed. Make that TWO intrepid artists. The third had manfully (!) given up the quest and made his lonely sojourn by bus.

Let's move on to the early hours of the afternoon:

The artists are locked in the school and isolated in a classroom, together with the last known survivors of the virus. Fourteen sneezing, coughing, spluttering soon-to-be adolescents; one teacher who looks as if he's about to join the celestial choir. They are armed only with a bottle of antiseptic gel, several phials of vitamin C, and a quiverful of talent.

The pupils are understandably apprehensive at first, but in the end, talent triumphs over fear. An amazing session ensues, one in which the pupils seize on each and every opportunity to express themselves and to engage in a lively, enjoyable and well-planned (!) workshop incorporating music, song, rhythm and rhyme. They take to it like hypnotised chickens sopping up Kentucky corn. They dispense word-gems, vocal and lyrical emerald-song, a never-ending dazzle of that sparkle like rubies and star- diamonds...

We – the artists – catch fleeting glimpses of ourselves, reflected in the sheer gloriousness of the pupils’ creativity. We love what we see.

The artists retire. “Tomorrow, same..?”

No. Tomorrow will not be the same. Tomorrow promises another mirrorful of miracles.

And Hot Chocolate: “I believe in miracles…”

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Music & Literacy - Carolyn's blog

Our Music & Literacy project Moving on with Music started this week at Stewart Headlam Primary School in Tower Hamlets. Here's what our musician Carolyn had to say about the first day:

When plannng a music/literacy workshop somehow the possibility of a pandemic never arose. Imagine our confusion when the day before we were told that only 4 out of a class of 31 were in school.
Monday morning started with a flurry of calls-to the school, co-workers, management and GP's. Eventually the consensus seemed to be that we would go to the school with a core of 13 pupils and hope that more would appear during the week.

Oh yes-the temperature! Victorian primary schools are not the best ventilated buildings and we had the challenge to try and motivate very hot and listless Yr 6 pupils. We had a variety of activities incorperating the theme of "moving on" to secondary school. To do this we had planned songs, school riffs, written letters, soundscapes and poetry. The children learnt 2 songs and did a exercise of positive and negative emotions which all linked in with their own feelings of "moving on".

Second day and the numbers increased to 18-newcomers integrated well and picked up very quickly on the previous days activities. The school riff was made up of 6 groups all adding their own phrase accompanied by a steady beat. The new song now had instruments added-all these things growing daily and improving their abilities.

The musicians also played and one of the most gratifying parts of any workshop is watching rapt expressions as they hear (possibly for the first time) musical instruments up close and personal. The word magician has the same effect as he weaves his ideas and uses the pupils own words to add texture and new ideas to ongoing themes.

Thats it for now....sleep well and see you tomorrow.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Big Opportunity at Sadler's Wells

Yesterday the New London Orchestra was invited to participate in The Big Opportunity's conference - a forum for representatives of the Third Sectory (voluntary organisations, and charities such as us), to get together and discuss the legacy to come out of the 2012 Olympics.

As well as sitting in on discussions with a panel of experts from across different fields including Muhammad Bari MBE from LOCOG and Caroline Diehl from the Media Trust, and a talk from the Rt Hon Tessa Jowell (see the picture!), we were also asked to provide a musical interlude. We wanted to show the sorts of community work we do in Newham, and decided to invite the Luton Road teams that had participated in our In Training concert to come and sing. They did an absolutely fantastic job, singing loudly and confidently and I just about got away with playing the piano to accompany them! Feizal Rajabally, one of the Senior Contract Manager's for Look Ahead came to speak to Julian and I before the performance to thank us for the opportunity. He said the group had grown in confidence and their self-esteem had been boosted by being asked to take part in New London Orchestra events, and their family and friends had been really impressed with the transformation in the individuals over the last year, thanks to their involvement in music making with us. We're really glad bringing music to the Look Ahead communities is making an impact, and we'll be discussing with their Arts Manager, Louise O'Reilly, ways we can develop this relationship in the future.

Thanks to Paul and Chloe for all their hard work organising the event, we had a great time!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

We're part of Shine!

Our Music & Literacy project has been incorporated into the Tower Hamlets Arts & Music Education Service (THAMES) Shine Week. Shine is a national festival celebrating talents in all young people and is taking place between 6th and 10th July 2009. Embracing the energy and enthusiasm of young people, teachers and youth workers, Shine Week creates a real buzz across the country and in the media and is a really exciting way to celebrate the talent that every young person has.
You can find out more about it by going to

Monday, June 22, 2009

Music & Maths at the Royal Institution

This weekend two of the New London Orchestra's musicians headed to the Royal Institution to present a Music & Maths masterclass to 30 year 5 pupils from across London.

The session was the culmination of an introductory series of masterclasses hosted by the Royal Institution for primary school children, based on the success of their secondary masterclass series.

The workshop began with introductions from Karl and David who played their instruments - tuba and clarinet, to the class, in a rendition of the Dr Who theme tune! They explained how their instruments worked by demonstrating the vibrations made in their lips and with the reed in the clarinet. The length of tubing in both instruments was also explained to the class as the way musicians can change the pitch of the notes and volunteers got the chance to play on Dave's specially created instrument - made from a trombone mouthpiece, a funnel and a piece of hosepipe!

The session then moved to a working room where the children were encouraged to try out a set of 'Boomwackers' between their group, listening to the notes the created and putting them into a scale. Then came the clever stuff from Amy Hooker from the Ri, who talked to the class about how the notes in the scale could be represented as fractions, and handed out different lengths of paper to represent this. Who knew that a 5th is 3:2 and a 4th is 4:3?! All this went towards explaining what David had introduced at the beginning of the session when demonstration the harmonic series which he could produce without changing the length of the pipe, but by simply changing the speed of the vibration in his lips.

The children all seemed to enjoy the session, and we finished off by giving a small demonstration of the things we had covered in the masterclass to parents and friends. We're looking forward to hearing the results of the evaluation forms the children completed and hope to continue working with the Royal Institution on more of these primary workshops in the future. Thanks to Amy for putting the session together and David and Karl for presenting the masterclass.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Vanessa leaves us!

Dear fans,

Today is a very sad day in the NLO office as our wonderful intern Vanessa left NLO Towers yesterday as she is off to Madrid for a month to learn Spanish. She will then be spending the summer working on youth projects for Islington Council, and we all wish her lots of luck with both these ventures. Vanessa has worked as an intern for the Orchestra since November 2008 and has put in a huge amount of work to our website, as well as contributing to all other areas of our work, including coming up with the Mix It! competition we ran as part of In Training, and manning the phones, stationery cupboard and photocopier with true dedication. We will all miss her a lot, and hope very much that Rob (our Fundraiser) finds us some money so she can come back and work for us again!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Music & Literacy - Stewart Headlam second visit

Lucy and I were back at Stewart Headlam School today in Tower Hamlets to discuss the final details for our Music & Literacy project which will be running in July. I can't believe how quick it's come round already!

We met with Martin McCarthy (pictured) again and talked over how the project would look - Lucy, Carolyn and Baden who will be working on the project have done an excellent job putting together a plan. Whilst we always like to be as creative as possible and led by the children's ideas, we are also conscious with this project that we only have 4 days from meeting the classes, to creating a performance. In that time we hope to teach them a song and have them write the verses, deliver a message to their school and create and read poems and pieces all relating to their time at school. Martin told us the children had been working on memory books which seemed a perfect starting point for musical pieces.

Whilst we're on the subject, have a look at this Music & Literacy project referred to in the Guardian's Creative Summer feature by clicking
here. We're going to be sending them videos, pictures and diary entries from the children and musicians working on the project, and we will of course post them on our blog too, so be sure to check back in July!


So. We are being told about LAMPs (Local Authority Music Plans).

This all seems very nice.

Unfortunately that's about all I'm in a position to say at the moment.

On an initial glance there are lovely buzzwords and numbers everywhere;
- £10m per year for Sing Up
- 3 year plans from local authorities that plan for vocal and instrumental ensembles; instruments; rehearsal and performance spaces, staffing; community music; training needs; Quality Assurance; progression and sustainability;
- ALL children have a free first year of instrumental tuition
- continuing tuition will be affordable for all

To be honest though, the question that everyone is really thinking is 'great, so how can we extend what we're doing in borough x as part of their LAMP?' [read 'where is the money and how do we get it?!']

And I have absolutely no idea.

There are so many different parties, it's pretty tricky to work out what it's really about. It's part of the Music Manifesto, it forms part of the strategy including the England's 8 programme, it incorporates Sing Up, LAs will take it into account when loking at Building Schools for the Future, it covers programmes in Youth Music Action Zones, there are Music Service Evaluation Partners (working in collaboration with the Federation of Music Services), the National Association of Music Educators, it's for Arts Council RFOs, MusicLeader programmes .....

If I were a betting woman I would guess that for an organisation such as ours, there won't be much space in a LAMP.

Maybe I'm bitter. I hope I am. I'll write more when I've waded my way through it.

The key sentence that looks positive, from Sound Connection's write up (written incidentally by members of a Music Manifesto subdivision, the 'Stronger Frameworks' working group) is 'If you’re an active musician or organisation delivering good quality teaching, training, guiding, mentoring for young people then you could and should be a part of your LAMP'. Cool. We'll get onto it!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

In Training 2009!

Last night's "In Training" concert proved to be an exciting night of music, sports, dancing, sing-alongs and cheering. What an exhiliarating experience!

When we first arrived at the Stratford Rex to set up the concert, the venue was an empty, quiet space. Little by little, our lights (what a hassle!), our awesome display boards (orange splendor!), chairs etc. began to make the nightclub look more and more like a proper concert hall. Dress rehearsals went along smoothly, and the place finally had a new buzzing energy. With hardly any time between rehearsals and the start of the concert, we rushed to eat dinner and get all of the final tweaks done here and there.

At last, the seats were filled and Ron and the Orchestra started the whole thing off with Overture for the Games. To close out the first half of the concert, the Ascension Eagles did a great job dancing and throwing stunts to Excalibah's fusion remix of Washington Post called Two Step New Step. Thanks to Shara and Angela for helping us organize the performance, and thanks to all the cheerleaders for pulling out all the stops for our concert.

After the interval, Excalibah announced that Aaron Sugumar won the MixIt! competition and the audience had the chance to listen to his fusion piece booming through the stacks of speakers. Congratulations to Aaron and a big thanks to all of the contest applicants.

After a bit of restless chatter, tenor Mark Wilde took the stage to sing Nessun Dorma and Feniculi, Fenicula. The audience went absolutely crazy for Mark's performances, cheering wildly at the end of Nessun Dorma in particular. Mark did a fantastic job of hitting those high notes. No one in the audience had to be an opera expert to appreciate his talent. Thanks, Mark!

In between the Orchestra's pieces, five local schools' sports teams performed their anthems, which they created with NLO musicians. St Angela's Cricket Team went first, using their bats as percussion and chanting. The team members ended their anthem with "Beat that!" Next, the Cumberland Basketball Team dribbled their basketballs to the beat of its anthem Don't Be Shy on the Court. The audience really enjoyed the b-ballers tricks, spinning the ball and doing figure eights around their legs. The Cumberland Dance Group did a great job as well Raising the Temperature higher higher!

The last two groups, the Look Ahead Luton Road LD Eagles and LD Lionesses, sang both Proud to be a Lioness and Fly Like an Eagle together while doing interpretive dance-type movements. Their performances really gave the audience a case of the warm fuzzies. Ron even lead the whole concert hall in another round of Fly Like an Eagle.

We send thanks out to Jo Doyle with Cumberland, Alidah Beasley with Look Ahead Luton Road and Yvette Jarvis with St Angela's Ursuline School for helping organize the teams. We truly appreciate all of the hard work the groups put in practicing. Another big thanks to all the musicians for their endless enthusiasm and brilliant ideas.

To wrap up the concert, the Orchestra played the well known piece A Football Fan-Tasia. When the audience didn't sing along, Ron got them all on their feet and singing at the top of their lungs, "Here we go! Here we go! Here we goooo!"

We think the audience-orchestra interaction brought an intense sense of community and support for the performers. We could tell the audience loved it, and it opened a lot of minds to the versatility of classical music.

Finally, we hope everyone enjoyed the concert, and we can't wait to read your surveys! Feel free to post comments on our blog or send emails to We look forward to seeing you all again. In the meantime, visit our website If you liked the pieces in the concert, our website has links and downloads of more music and more info about future events and our community projects.


In Training - the day arrives!

Monday, June 8, 2009

In Training

In Training has come round so quickly! It's tomorrow and we're busily putting together all the finishing touches.

Personally I'm very excited about our new display board - tomorrow night it will be showing the same display that has been up in Stratford Library for the last couple of weeks with lots of interesting information about Newham Welcomes the World and the East London Concert Series, programmes, quotes, songbooks, you name it! Do come and have a look (and say hello to us) if you are coming to the concert.

Vicky and Ron have been talking on NuSound radio this morning about tomorrow's concert and our work in East London generally - we were all listening in the office and thought they were both excellent and, as well as being informative, really conveyed the personality of the NLO and what we're about.

One of the other things we are doing is tidying up our audience survey for In Training - is there anything you think we should be asking? What do you want us to know about you? Is there any subject on which you'd be really interested to hear the opinions of other audience members? If so, do let us know and we'll do our best to include it!

And then there's the shopping (making sure there's enough tea and coffee for the musicians!) packing up all the music, printing off signs for dressing room doors, getting lists of guests...I'd better get back to work then!

Looking forward to seeing you there and, as ever, do come and say hi if you see us - we'll be wearing our badges!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

In Training - Cumberland Sessions

This morning I was back at Cumberland School for the second session with the dance group. It was a hot day and everyone was finding it difficult to concentrate but we eventually got a routine together, combining the verse and chorus the group had come up with before half term and a brilliant dance routine created by the group in their own time. This was all set to a rhythm played by NLO muso Genevieve - check out the video to see what you make of their final rehearsal!

What really helped was having the basketball team there at the end who performed their own anthem. The groups were really watching and supporting each other and giving constructive feedback on the performances. The basketball team managed in just 3hrs to come up with a brilliant anthem of their own to rival the dance group's, using basketball bounces to enhance the rhythm. Come along to the final concert on 9th June and see the groups and more, live! Go to for more details.

Pianos Pianos everywhere

So, Boris is planning to put 31 pianos around London; part of the Sing London and City of London Festival, is Luke Jerram's 'Play Me I'm Yours' project. A quick glance over the various reports in the media shows a pretty mixed reaction, but I have to say I love this idea!

I read about in the paper on the train home last night and it really brought a smile to my face. It's the sort of thing that, as a nation, we don't always manage to do very well (or at least very often); there's something celebratory and spontaneous that we just can't seem to get the hang of, least not for music and other things considered by so many to be 'trivial', 'luxury' or 'unimportant'. It's been tried in a number of other countries and, unsurprisingly, worked really well there. As far as I'm concerned, music is like sunshine, it just makes everything better. When the sun is out (as it is right now, lovely) everyone is happier. Same with music. What could be nicer than hearing music in public spaces everywhere you go? Than watching children messing around on a piano and playing together? Than watching someone totally unassuming creep up to a piano and astounding everyone?

It will only work if people get on board though.

I've copies just a few of the comments on the Times article below:

'30 seconds before someone takes a baseball bat to them. Such is the cultural instinct of the baseline of youth today, alas.'

'How about placing 31 'Soup kitchens' about the capital. That's more in keeping with todays social climate.... "The organisers believe the scheme will encourage trust" .........more likely to encourage theft ( of the pianos, that is! )'

'What a Joke, how long will they last ? a week or a few days.'

How sad.

If we are so set in this opinion of 'the youth of today' we might as well all pack up and go home. I have every confidence that the pianos will remain intact and even well cared for and often used! I can't wait to be wandering round some of those places and see people enjoying them and have a little joy and fun injected into my day.

One of the first things I did on googling was check where our nearest one will be in East London (I had hopes of trying to organise a big singalong, purely be means of this blog, our website and facebook) but the nearest are Liverpool St or Southwark. Anyway, if you are reading and fancy checking it out do let let us know as I for one would love to go! (Alternatively, let's petition to get one in Newham!)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Newham Welcomes the World @ Stratford Library

Katherine and I were busily putting up a very bright and interesting display today at Stratford Library - you can now head over there to the top floor to look over many of the recent things we've done: posters from Peter and the Wolf, the programme from Carnival, flyers from Pass the Baton, the songbook from the Journery Begins.....almost like a mini NLO museum!

In the coming weeks Stratford Library will also be adding a range of CDs and DVDs of past concerts and projects to their audiovisual library - even better, that section is free of charge so definitely make a trip and have a listen!

We are live!

Very exciting news - you can now talk to us live! Simply add and/or to your windows messenger and you can ask us any questions you might have, give us your comments on anything we're doing or just drop by and let us know your ideas and general musings!

We'll be here most of the usual office hours (and normally beyond!) and you'll be able to see via our status if we're on the phone or in a meeting or something - if we're out and about you can normally find out where via our facebook profile or right here!

Looking forward to speaking to you soon!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

In Training at Cumberland School

This morning five of our musicians were at Cumberland School with the GCSE Dance group, working with them to create their own anthem. There were five NLO musicians working with the class, and so we were able to break off into groups and discuss the class's thoughts on being a team and what words and feelings they associated with dance. Then when we'd brainstormed and put all the words down on the board, Baden (our performance poet working on this project) asked the class to give us a demonstration of their dancing skills. The musicians created the backing music and so began the dance off! Whilst the team seemed reluctant to show us their stuff, Aga seemed the most excited by the music - check out the video of his moves! I left the team at the break, but have been sent the final anthem... you'll have to come along on the 9th June to the Rex to check out the final piece.
Go to to get your tickets.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Selwyn School - Deaf project

I've just got back from Selwyn School in Newham where we had our last session today with the deaf group.

We've been working with the deaf children at Selwyn for the last couple of years and over that time have introduced them to a whole host of instruments including the harp, bassoon, tuba and today the electric guitar. Our musicians show the children how their instruments work, how the sound is made and then join in with the second part of the session where everyone plays together using percussion and their own bodies to create rhythms.

Orphy, who wasn't in today (he's at Hackney Empire rehearsing for a show, our musicians get everywhere!) has been leading the sessions. Over the last 8 weeks he's got the group thinking about visual scores which can show long and short, loud and quiet sounds, as well as indicating when to play different instruments, or use parts of the body to make noises. From seeing the first and the last sessions, I can see how much the children have all picked up the concept and can now play quite long and complex visual scores, stopping and starting together, which they devise themselves using colours and lines to indicate changes.

As I mentioned, today was the last session, which is a shame as the children are a really great group to work with, always interested and keen to ask questions. They even give everyone sign names, mine is me miming playing the viola, as that's what I do in my spare time! We really hope to be back, funding dependent, as Selwyn are going to be seeing a lot more of NLO players in 2009/10 as we take up residency there, providing the whole school with music as part of the curriculum as well is after school activities.

Thanks to Max who joined us for the first time today and who we hope to involve in our projects in the future. All the children got a go on Max's guitar today, check out the photos!

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Carnival at the Circus

Last night saw the New London Orchestra present it's second concert in Newham at the Stratford Circus. The programme featured lots of English dance music including Grainger's Shepherd's Hey and Holst's arrangements of Morris Dance tunes including English Country Gardens. Of course the highlight of the evening was The Carnival of the Animals with the wonderful Murray Melvin reading the poems by Ogden Nash, which went down a storm. Also playing both in the Carnival and also in a fantastic performance of Ravel's La Valse were two students from Trinity College of Music, Matthew McCombie and Yoon-Seok Shin. These guys are incredible, so many notes I could barely keep up, and I was page turning for Yoon which was pretty nerve wracking!

This concert was in a new venue for us, as we explore different options in Stratford to find somewhere that feels right and creates the accessible and friendly atmosphere we want at New London Orchestra concerts. Stratford Circus was a real winner last night. We were getting all the right feedback, including things like "I felt like I could reach out and touch the orchestra" and "really informal" and "so glad it was brought local to our borough." Gary and his staff were absolute stars and really accommodating as this was a first for them having an orchestra come in, so big thanks to everyone at Stratford Circus.
Hugely successful and firmly in our plans for a come back, was the text poll for the audience to choose the encore for the night's concert. After hearing the Carnival of the Animals we offered the choice of three of the most popular as well as a mystery piece. Winning by far though was the Fossils, and once we'd found our pianists (!) we performed it as an encore. However the secret Ron let the audience in on was that the piece that we'd selected as the 'Mystery' option (one of Ron's arrangement of a Purcell piece called Lilliburlero) we couldn't have played, as I had brought the wrong music!!
Ron reminded the audience about our website and this blog, so if you're reading this and you were at the concert, make sure you post a comment to tell us what you thought of the night.

Monday, May 11, 2009

In Training Remix Competition

The first entry has been submitted in the Newham Welcomes The World: In Training 2009 remix competition!

It's totally different to what I was expecting, but seeing all the different ways people interpret music and the interesting ideas people have is one of the most brilliant things about running a competition like this!
Enjoy, and looking forward to many more!