Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

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A big thumbs down to noise abatement!

Wed 16 May 2012

You may have read about our adventures back in March where we took a 20-piece OAE orchestra around the country to deliver workshops and concerts under the banner Anthem for a Child.  (If not, you are missing out: read about the cake, tandems, 5000 children, concerts and kettle bells here). The pinnacle of each concert was the performance of James Redwood’s ‘My Cry’ where the whole audience,  consisting of local school children, sang along with the Orchestra.  Filmmaker Joseph Bicknell filmed some of the work we did on our journey and has put together this amazing video which beautifully captures the spirit of the tour.  This video features ‘My Cry’ recorded at our final schools concert in York.  For me, this was one of the most beautiful moments of the tour as the children from York primary schools Dringhouses, Bootham, Heworth and Dunnington sang with such gusto the words echoed round the Jack Lyons concert hall long after the final note.

But don’t take my word for it… have a watch.

We are still doing plenty of work as part of the Anthem for a Child project, with lots of preparation going into our summer term performances.  As well as a host of schools concerts for local London primary school pupils, we are busy preparing for a concert in June as part of the Spitalfields Festival.  This concert will involve young performers from across the country who will join the OAE and ‘My Cry’ will be performed – I can’t wait to hear the final lines ‘I am here’ ringing out across the Old Market!

Ellie Cowan, OAE Education Officer


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The Tandem Diaries

Tue 17 Apr 2012

So, a week after the end of the triumphant Anthem tour, it’s high time for the four tandemeers’ blog entry we promised Ellie and Ceri in the office.

Firstly a few bald numerical facts, totted up on the train home from York as the tandem rested in the guard’s van, sleeping off its glut of miles:

10 days
11 concerts
703 tandem miles
45 hours, 17 mins cycling
1146 man miles and 5417 man minutes – a minute and a bit for every child we saw during the tour!)
2 tandems
36 cooked breakfasts
4 kilos of flapjack
2 swims
4 trips to bike shops
4 new brake blocks
3 new gear sets
2 new chains
600 jelly beans

And second, a fleeting elaboration of those facts, starting with the magnificent send-off JRed and MT (see below for abbreviations) received at the beginning of the first leg. After an interminable half hour of finding, losing and finding things again in front of a crowd of eager onlookers they finally managed to wheel away with mock-confidence from the sparkly heights of Devonport Town Hall. As they negotiated Plymouth’s roundabouts, the surprising timidity of non-London cyclists and various minor mechanical setbacks they mused on the indignity of faff. That ride to Totnes was a gorgeous and exhilarating taster of the tour to come – riding out into a sunny Devon evening with the first of many stirring renditions of “My Cry” (composed for the Anthem tour) ringing in their ears, the loveliness of the English Spring rolling past. After a while their hectic huffing and puffing eased to a smoother pace and the happy discovery of how convivial tandem journeying can be.

JT and MT needed all the conviviality they could muster in the next leg the following afternoon, a brutal 67 mile parade of very nasty ups followed by thrilling but too-brief plummets down while the horizon rapidly rose again to ominous heights. It was at the top of Blackmoor Hill ( ‘Black ‘ being their mood and more hills sadly inevitable) while lorries whooshed angrily by that MT had to ask JT whether they were going slightly uphill or slightly down. That was also the day MT discovered what glutes were and how much they could hurt.

JRed and JRees had a contrastingly delightful stretch from Crewkerne to Bradford on Avon the next morning, stopping for the tandem’s third trip to a bike shop (gears) and a most civilised morning tea in Frome. Meanwhile JT (doing workshops) and MT (a session with local music teachers) had the growing and unnerving sensation that the only place they could ease their spinning heads and aching limbs would be On The Bike.

The opportunity to indulge the onset of addiction came in the afternoon on the short ride between concerts in Bradford on Avon and Chippenham. Here was the first case of set-in-their-ways oldie control freakery in that MT found he could manage only a few minutes stoking on the back with JT as pilot, blaming his neurosis on some elaborate wobbles early on as JT set about taming the beast. For the Chippenham concert MT kept his padded lycra leggings on under his concert trousers, something he will never […]

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Anthem: The final day

Mon 2 Apr 2012

York-concert

Unbelievably, the last day of the Anthem tour has arrived and we find ourselves in the beautiful city of York.  As it was the final day we had to go out with a bang and so had organised a complicated day starting in the University and ending in the National Centre for Early Music.  Today we performed two concerts, the first one was our ‘normal’ afternoon schools concert, where four local primary schools joined us and the second concert was a public concert where York University students joined us and played and sang alongside the OAE.

It was a big day with the Jack Lyons Concert Hall providing the perfect setting for our last schools concert of the tour.  The battle scene was the most elaborate performance yet – I was wondering how they were going to top the theatre performance, but they did – the woodwind and brass got involved with the (string only) performance by using their instruments as pretend weapons.…  The improvisation battle was also very intense with Martin Lawrence (horn) competing against Ken Aiso (violin) in a copying contest – I don’t know if you could say who won, but a stunning performance was given by both!  The pupils from Bootham, Dringhouses, Heworth and Dunnington schools were simply fantastic in their rendition of Twangling Instruments and My Cry. We were all quite emotional at the end of their performance where 300 voices rang out “I am here!”

The evening concert was a slight change of pace from the schools concerts we have been delivering and was a lovely way to complete the tour.  We were joined by university students and gave a performance of Bach’s Wachet Auf and Vivaldi’s Gloria.  The whole night was finished by a final performance of My Cry, where we invited the youngest member of the audience – Kate, a 4 year old pupil who had learnt the piece for the Schools Concert, to join the choir and sing with us.  Ceri and I even went up on stage for a final sing and it felt brilliant!

So that was the end of the tour, I have had a simply fantastic time and felt incredibly privileged to witness all the wonderful work of everyone involved.

Also, today marked the end of the tandem ride – over 700 miles completed alongside 11 concerts – a truly incredible achievement.  I think all tandemers were quite sad it was over!  It’s not over though, well the bike ride is, but we still have a London concert to go, plus the summer term Anthem projects, so… watch this space!

A tired but happy, Ellie Cowan, OAE Education Officer

You can also watch a video of the York concert here.

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Day Seven: Anthem in Chesterfield

Fri 30 Mar 2012

Chesterfield-concert-2

On Sunday evening we drove from Bury St Edmunds to Chesterfield after the terrific family fun day at the Apex Centre.  You know you are approaching Chesterfield when you see the crooked church spire that punctuates the skyline.  This magnificent landmark can be seen from the motorway and I was instantly reminded of a picture that hangs on the wall at my parents house of a painting of a town with a church that has a crooked spire.  All these years I had assumed the church with a crooked spire was artistic licence, only to discover that it is real and we were performing right next to it in an equally picturesque theatre!

Now, it is no secret that I have a bit of a thing for the theatre and the Pomegranate Theatre in Chesterfield was such a sweet charismatic setting for our 9th Anthem concert.  Whilst setting the stage for the Orchestra, Ceri and I managed to take a couple of jazz hands photos (I mean, it would be rude not to, we were in a theatre) in amongst the stands and harpsichord (see below).  The stage was set ready for the OAE  but this concert was slightly different in that we were joined by the ukulele orchestra from Newbold Secondary School.  The pupils sat on stage behind the Orchestra and performed a piece they had created – Pachelbel’s canon mixed with Britney Spears!  The theatrical surroundings were perfect for this new remix and the performance of this piece was a fantastic precursor to what we can expect to develop in the summer term as part of the Anthem project.

As well as Newbold Ukulele Orchestra, we were blessed with a fantastic audience of children from four local Chesterfield schools who performed Twangling Instruments and My Cry with great aplomb.  Naturally, with the Orchestra being on stage in a theatre, the players acted even more outrageously during the Biber Battallia performance and I dread to think what will happen tomorrow to outdo this performance!

The cyclists also had a very dramatic day with the second tandem of the tour breaking mid journey – this time the gears went. Trepid tandemers Jonathan Rees and James Toll valiantly rode on with only 3 gears working and made it to the theatre with about 45 minutes to spare.  The bike then had to be taken to be fixed so Jonathan heroically cycled the tandem (solo) to a bike shop (about 2 miles from the theatre) and explained the challenge and the time frame (they had about an hour to fix it while he played a concert).  Jonathan made it back to the theatre with only a few minutes to spare before the start of the concert.  Luckily for us, J E James Cycles rose to the challenge and had fixed the bike by the end of the concert ready for the next big ride- Chesterfield to York-with an overnight stop in Thorne.

After such a theatrical day, it was with a little sadness I waved goodbye to the crooked spire of Chesterfield but I look forward to the beautiful city of York and all it has to offer tomorrow.

Ellie Cowan, OAE Education Officer (written on Monday 26 March)


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Day Six: Anthem in Bury

Thu 29 Mar 2012

Bury-Horn-workshop-4

The Anthem bloggers have returned to normality, after an amazing tour ended with a sell out concert in York on Tuesday evening.  We’ll be looking back at the tour and the last concerts very soon but for now, Beni Weedon tells us about his day in Bury on Sunday 25 March:

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Anthem anomaly…

Tue 27 Mar 2012

Bury-Horn-workshop

The Anthem tour is nearing its end and Ellie and her blogging team are hard at work, but haven’ t been able to send us their updates these past few days due to the lack of internet access (I know…in this day and age!?)

We’ll have their blogs up as soon as we get them, but in the meantime, here’s some pictures from the Family Orchestra Fun Day at The Apex in Bury St Edmunds.

There are still a few £5 tickets left for tonight’s concert at the National Centre for Early Music in York where the OAE and students from the University of York join forces for the celebratory final concert of the tour. The programme will include Bach’s Wachet Auf, Vivaldi‘s Gloria and James Redwood’s two specially commissioned pieces, Twangling Instruments and My Cry.   For more details and to book, click here.

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Day Five: Anthem in Hastings

Sat 24 Mar 2012

Afternoon sun

Natasha Stehr, OAE’s Marketing and Press Officer, ventured out of the office on a gloriously sunny Friday for the next Anthem for a Child concert in Hastings.  Here’s what she made of it:

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Day Four: Anthem in Southampton

Fri 23 Mar 2012

For those of us travelling in cars this morning started in the “normal” way: hotel in Southampton, morning workshops in schools or training at Southampton University with students.

For two of the cyclists, Matthew Truscott and James Toll, the morning started in Devizes with a 50 mile bike ride to Southampton ahead of them. A daunting task to most of us, but not our tandem riders… Not only did they arrive in plenty of time for the 1.30 concert but they squeezed in a quick swim in the River Test along the way!

The afternoon concert at Turner Sims was terrific; we were joined by OAE theorbo player, Liz Kenny who added a fantastic new timbre to the concert – my favourite was her additions to Biber’s Battalia which gets more elaborate at every concert – the orchestra have taken to acting out the battle while playing – with extra vigour and drama every day

The children from Portswood Primary and St Mary’s in Southampton were brilliant, they listened very attentively and they had learnt their songs to perfection. They all performed beautifully with amazing enthusiasm to parents and the Orchestra. On the door on the way out, as with all the concerts so far, I am overwhelmed with the infectious smiles of pupils as they file out into the sunshine.

Tomorrow (now today by the time you are reading this) we are performing in Hastings, and the cyclists have a journey from Worthing to Hastings to complete before going on stage! Maybe they’ll have time for a quick dip in the sea…

If you would like to sponsor the cyclists and the project please check out our just giving page:

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Day Three: Anthem in Wiltshire

Thu 22 Mar 2012

It’s been quite hard to decide what to write about tonight. I sit here in my hotel room in Southampton after completing a busy day in Wiltshire, reflecting on my ever-changing geographical position thanks to this tour. It is starting to get a bit surreal, good surreal, but surreal none the less.

I was thinking it would be good to share what a typical day on the Anthem tour is like, but the beauty of this project is that each day is different to suit the setting. Today in Wiltshire we performed two Anthem concerts – one concert at the Wiltshire Music Centre then one at St Andrew’s Church, Chippenham. Prior to the concert, there were school workshops and teacher training and post concert we travelled to Southampton. Well, most of us did, the cyclists set off on some of the route with the intention of completing the next half of the journey tomorrow.

Both the concerts today have been pretty special; in the first concert every single child played with the Orchestra during ‘Twangling Instruments’ which truly musically characterised the words from Shakespeare’s The Tempest that inspired the song: “Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will hum about mine ears”  and the second concert where 300 children sang ‘My Cry’ in the most amazing setting, I hope the picture will convey the magnificence of the occasion – I had goosebumps and I spotted a few teary parents in the audience.

Tonight I am happily tired (although l haven’t done any cycling so can’t complain!) and so am gratefully retiring to bed wondering what tomorrow has in store for me on this brilliant adventure.

Ellie Cowan, OAE Education Officer

Don’t forget- we do have a few Anthem concerts that you can be part of:

We have tickets available for just £5 for the family concerts in:

The Apex, Bury St Edmunds: 25 March Booking/details
National Centre for Early Music, York: 27 March Booking/details

For full information on the Anthem tour and to watch a video about the project, visit our website. 

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Day Two: Anthem in Totnes

Wed 21 Mar 2012

Totnes-concert

Yesterday was day two of the Anthem tour and here’s an update from Beni Weedon in Totnes, Devon:

The Orchestra spent last night by the sea in Paignton – several of the more adventurous players even braved the night air for some beautiful walks along the coast.

We had some very encouraging sessions this morning with students from no less than eleven schools (!!!), all of which sang with such enthusiasm and helped to bring today’s concert to a wonderful and successful completion. One morning session featured the William Tell Overture played on the teachers teeth. At another, the whole class was primed by a tactical viola player (overlooked in previous concerts) to answer ‘Viola!’ when asked to spot an instrument in the concert – thus ensuring an awareness raising policy in the Totnes area schools for this dark horse of an instrument.

Today another even longer (64 mile) tandem journey was launched just after the afternoon concert and the intrepid (mad) duo were even reported as ‘smiling and looking quite chirpy!’ as they were passed on the way to the new lodgings in Wiltshire.

We’ve also had some updates from OAE Musicians that have pledged to our Anthem for a Child project:

Roger Montgomery (OAE horn player) who since 1 Jan has completed a total of 1141.71 miles, including:
Running 405.34 miles, cycling 546.38 miles, spinning 162.64 miles, rowing 18.6 miles, walking 6.2 miles, swimming 2.55 miles (he’s burned approximately 91,497 calories so far!)

Debbie Diamond (OAE violin) has completed 8.7 miles of swimming so far (out of 26) and has beaten her personal record by managing 90 lengths in 66 minutes.

Hilary Stock (OAE oboe) is halfway there – running her 500th mile on 29 February. She says that after taking part in some Anthem concerts and seen how enthusiastically the children responded and participated in the music, it feels all the more rewarding!

See a gallery showing all the hard work our musicians have put in

To find out how you can help, click here.

 

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The OAE gets sporty for ‘Anthem’

Wed 14 Mar 2012

Next week we’re embarking on a 10-day tour with a difference. We’re visiting towns and cities the length and breadth (well, almost) of the country as part of our biggest ever education project, Anthem for a Child. It’s a 6 month programme, and this tour is the centrepiece, kicking off in Plymouth on 19 March.

As it’s Olympic year we decided to support this initiative to ‘pass on a baton of sound’ in a sporty fashion, so our musicians and staff have pledged to run, walk, cycle, swim or do something suitably tiring for 1 mile for each of the 5000 project participants. In return for that pledge we’re looking for your support for the project – yes, we want sponsors.

You can find out more about the project with the video above or visit the Anthem section of our website for a whole lot more information. We’ll be updating the blog as much as we can too with pictures and info as the tour progresses.

Or donate right here…

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Anthem Spring workshops

Mon 13 Feb 2012

So we’ve been busy in the Education Department. In preparation for the Anthem for a Child school concert tour, each participating primary school receives a workshop from two OAE players – no mean feat when there are over 60 primary schools involved over 9 different locations in the UK. I’ve been routed at HQ (the office) but news from the road is good, so good in fact I wanted to share – so here we go, some snippets from emails I’ve received various people involved in the Anthem project:

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Highpoints to Torpoint!

Tue 17 Jan 2012

Torpoint Nursery and Infant school

It’s now the middle of January and a team of us from the OAE have already worked with 16 primary schools from Plymouth to London on our Anthem for a Child project.

Top quotes so far include:
‘That was fantastic, I love singing, I sing everyday!’
Pupil from High Street Primary

‘What an amazing day! We had no idea that Year 2 children would be capable of learning so much in such a short time. It’s covered so many objectives and made the children and staff so enthusiastic about this great project – Thank you!’
Teacher from Torpoint Primary.

And talking of highpoints – travelling on the ferry to a school was a treat for Hetty and I. Listening to the Torpoint Ferry Song on YouTube on the way back sung by children from the school was an even bigger treat – check it out here.
Every hit gets the school a bit of money so the more hits the better!

Cherry Forbes, OAE Education Director

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A thousand twangling instruments…the first Anthem workshops

Mon 9 Jan 2012

Not wanting to waste any time in OAE Education, we have already had the first sessions of the year with Anthem workshops in Plymouth and London this week.  For the first few months of 2012 OAE players will go into schools and start to teach the Anthem songs ‘Twangling Instruments’ and ‘My Cry’.  OAE Education Director, Cherry Forbes, gives us her on the road diary on Thursday 5 January, from the first of many Anthem workshops:

After a drive of 470 miles from Suffolk to Cornwall Hetty and I had a fantastic session with our first group of primary schools yesterday. Eager eyed after the holidays and bright in their red tartan uniform around 50 children worked on James’ fanfare and his fabulous song My Cry. An in depth discussion about rosin led to the quote of the day from Hetty “my violin has loads of germs on it but I don’t worry about them!”

A Year 6 pupil commented after the workshop: ” That was fantastic! I love singing, I sing everyday!”

This was a wonderful way to start the term and I am delighted that our Anthem project has now really started – our specially commissioned music is being taught to the pupils, preparing them for their concert later in the year. Today Hetty and I are going to two other schools in Plymouth while Cecelia and Claire kick off the London workshops – good luck to all!

Cherry Forbes, Education Director


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