Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

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Canada bound: William Norris to leave the OAE

Thu 11 Jun 2015

William Norris (c) Joe Plommer

After ten and a half years at the OAE, William Norris, Communications and Creative Programming Director, is moving on to pastures new. Pastures quite far away, in fact.

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Syringes, air lute, candles and slapstick – Charpentier’s Le Malade Imaginaire

Tue 28 Oct 2014

Orchestral planning is a long-range business. Right now we’re planning projects in 2017 and 2018. So when a project that’s been in the diary a while actually comes around to happening it’s always exciting. Our collaboration with Shakespeare’s Globe is actually a relative baby in the diary – we started talking about it a mere 14 months ago, but it’s still thrilling to be so close to it happening, especially with the project evolving so much in the last few months.

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Exit Interview: Matthew Grindon

Thu 26 Jun 2014

Our Marketing and Press Officer, Matthew Grindon, responsible for a lot of the content on this website and on social media, left the OAE team last week for pastures new. We put our Exit Interview questions to him…

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What’s the perfect mood for enjoying a concert?

Fri 11 Apr 2014

stressed audience

Does the mood you’re in affect the way you enjoy (or don’t) a concert? This was what I was pondering at times during Tuesday’s concert.

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Struggling with Sound

Fri 29 Nov 2013


My ex-housemate has always liked Philip Glass, so I got us a couple of tickets to see him perform Music in Twelve Parts at Southbank Centre the other night.

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Current Distractions

Thu 3 Oct 2013

I’ve decided to theme this week’s Current Distractions arts blog around that old journalistic favourite: Going Up / Going Down.

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Fri 20 Sep 2013

Until now, OAE tours to the USA have always been virtual for me, experienced through reviews, player blogs and the accounts of staff and players. However last week I was fortunate enough to hear the OAE in New York first hand.

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Current Distractions

Thu 22 Aug 2013

A mixture of silly and serious in this weeks Current Distractions. So let’s start with the slightly silly.  Anyone fancy cutlery made from rope?  Here’s a collection or surreal takes on everyday objects.

Talking of surreal, many of you may remember when artist Rachel Whiteread came to prominence with her cast of the inside of a terraced house. In this article, the artist talks about what it feels like to create a masterpiece – though of course you may not necessarily agree with that assessment of her work… (contains strong language).

What’s more important – painting or people? This is the dilemma that the city of Detroit is currently facing. Having recently declared bankruptcy the city is considering selling off its art collection. Should a city’s cultural assets be sold off to help fund services? That’s what’s being vigorously debated in this New York Times piece.

And lastly…music, with the news that the music of Benjamin Britten isn’t perhaps wholly loved in his home town.  A celebratory concert in his birth place, Lowestoft, has apparently rather failed to capture the locals enthusiasm, with less than 20% of tickets sold…

William Norris
Communications Director

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And now for something completely different…

Thu 16 May 2013

It’s that time of year again, when we reveal our ‘look’ for the new season. You might have seen a few things that hinted at our forthcoming brochure, most notably our recent video showing it on the printing presses, but here for the first time we can reveal the full set of pictures.

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Current Distractions (AKA a letter from America)

Fri 14 Dec 2012

So I’ve been charged with writing the latest edition of Current Distractions from across the pond (where I’m currently based, being on sabbatical from the OAE). I had thought that this would be a very USA specific list of distractions…but the world is an ever smaller place, thanks to the internet and social media, so this list is perhaps more global than local…

What do cheerleaders, the US army, Sesame Street and an orchestra have in common?
First up is a pop artist who seems to be everywhere at the moment. Carly Rae Jepson. Her insanely catchy “Call Me Maybe” is an earworm of a song that refuses to leave your head. Perhaps this explains the plethora of versions and rip-offs of her song that exist on youtube. I’m fascinated by what it is exactly that has caught people’s imagination with this song and just why it’s spawned so many imitations – is it simply because it’s catchy? And if so, what makes it so memorable?

Anyway, here are a few of those imitations. First up an insanely camp version by the US military, which was inspired by the Miami Dolphin’s cheerleaders version. Then there’s the cookie monster version. Obviously. But my favourite, and most relevant to this blog, is the version for choir and orchestra. It’s actually rather good and I love seeing how much fun all the performers  are having.

Continuing the theme

Psy’s Gangam Style has been one of the biggest global pop phenomenons of recent years, the result of a catchy song combined with a rather silly dance and a psychedelic video. The original is the most watched video of all time over on youtube and yesterday I found it had inspired a slightly unusual version in which Psy’s video is set to…Stravinksy’s Rite of Spring. It works oddly well…

Worst review ever?

This caused a stir over here last month, a rather unusual and (for those sat underneath) unpleasant night out at the theatre…

Click through to the Huffington Post for some other unusual arts and theatre happenings…

Does baby love Mozart? (or Metallica?)
A report from the UK side of the pond now. We all like to think we ‘know’ what ‘good’ music is, and often like to pass that very good taste onto our children. But is that really possible? The BBC investigates.

A dance show in your front room?

It can be a hassle going to the theatre. The tickets are expensive, you have to find someone for a rushed dinner first, then you sit in an uncomfortable chair (maybe behind a pillar) for two hours and then battle the transport system in the rain to get home afterwards. However Philadelphia based Headlong Dance Company have a solution – they’ll come to you. (As long as you open up your house to your neighbours). The project is neatly summed up on the companies website. Why? “Because every household is a universe/Because breaking bread with someone annihilates stereotypes/Because being the show is better than watching the show”.
Read more over on the Huffington Post

Now, who is up for some OAE concerts in their house while you do the washing up?

William Norris, Communications Director.


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A temporary farewell…

Fri 31 Aug 2012

I hope it’s not too self-indulgent to write this…after all I am but a small cog in the amazing machine that is the OAE, and a behind-the-scenes cog at that.

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OAE staff take centre stage at the Olympics

Thu 26 Jul 2012

Yes, it’s time for the back-office staff of the OAE to get their moment on stage, and in the spotlight. Three members of the OAE office team are set to play in part in the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony tomorrow night.

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Add some glamour to your life with the OAE Green Travel Mug

Fri 4 May 2012

OAE Green Travel Mug

The girls of the OAE office lead a fabulous life. It’s full of glitz, glamour, shopping and gossip. And the occasional technical schedule, fundraising event or marketing campaign. In recent weeks though, the glamour factor has been somewhat upped by the girls getting hold of the ultimate lifestyle accessory, the OAE goes green mug. It’s not too much of an overstatement to say that this has transformed their lives. Even the dull, grey and boring-mug filled world of Communications Director Will has been radically changed, as you’ll see in the footage above.

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Previewing the Oguike Four Seasons

Mon 30 Apr 2012

Henri Oguike Four Seasons

One of my personal highlights of the forthcoming 2012-2013 season of concerts is our collaboration with choreographer Henri Oguike. He’ll be working with OAE leader (and soloist for this concert) Kati Debretzeni, on a very special presentation of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in which we’ll be adding new, contemporary choreography to Vivaldi’s masterpiece.

The idea was Kati’s, who had wanted to add a dance element to Vivaldi’s piece, but crucially wanted herself and the Orchestra to be a bit more than a backing band for the dancers – the idea is to have at least some of the musicians take a more active role in the dance.

Anyway, the actual performances are quite a while away, on 8 February of next year, but Henri has already been busy, and a few weeks ago I was excited to be asked to a special showing of some of the early dance ‘sketches’.

We saw elements of each season, and I can honestly say it was thrilling; both a real privilege to see something in such an early stage of development, and also to see such incredible dancers really up close, in the confines of a studio. I think we’ll be in for a real treat come next February, and it’ll be great to see a piece of music which is sometimes as regarded as perhaps a little ‘naff’ (of course, it shouldn’t be) re-imagined in this way.

My colleague Megan also came along to the showing, and as a budding amateur photographer, she took some great pictures of the event, so you can get at least some flavour of what went on.

Performances are on 8 Feb 2013 at 6.30pm and 8.30pm in the Queen Elizabeth Hall and tickets are already on sale.

We will of course be posting further updates as the project develops – so watch this space!

William Norris
Communications Director


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Taking pride

Thu 8 Sep 2011

Taking pride

I might have just been paranoid, but I’m pretty sure that when I stood up and took this picture in a meeting, announcing that I was going to write a blog article, that everyone thought I was a bit mad. And probably wondered how I was going to make this meeting sound in any way interesting to people.

But I thought that you, our readers, fans and concert-goers might be interested in some of the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes on at the OAE, and indeed, other Orchestras.

This relates a little to a favourite anecdote of our CEO, Stephen. He was asked at some function-or-other if being Chief Executive of the OAE was a full-time job. The person asking was pretty surprised when he said yes, and even more surprised when he said it was also a full time job for the 17 others in the office too.

So when you look at the Orchestra’s staff list in the concert programme you may well be thinking ‘what do all these people actually do?!’

Well, in the Communications team, one of the things we do is (and this may come as a surprise to you) talk and plan with other Orchestras and our main London venue, Southbank Centre. This is where Pride comes in. Pride is not anything to do with a march or a type of bread but is instead, rather more mundanely, the name of the regular marketing meeting the four Resident Orchestras; the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia, London Sinfonietta and ourselves, have with Southbank Centre. The name ‘Pride’ comes from around 10 years ago, when these meetings first started off life as a group working on exhibiting ‘pride’ in the Resident Orchestras.

We have these about every 4-6 weeks and use it as a way of coordinating things like the launch of each season, mailings, bringing up any issues with things like leaflet racks or plasma screens, sharing audience research findings and so on.

At the meeting in question we were talking about one of the more exciting things we work on and one thing where we definitely all make a joint effort – the start of the classical season. We’re always keen to make a bit of a splash with this, to alert the concert-going public that the Proms are over and it’s time for the start of the ‘proper’ (!) classical season. Not only that but we all want to raise our profiles and remind people that while other very good venues exist in London, Southbank Centre really does offer an unrivalled choice and breadth of classical performance.

So, we’ve been talking in recent meetings about the scope of the campaign – should it be a tube campaign as we did last year? Or should it be more rooted on the Southbank Centre site? We went for the latter. We’ve also been talking about which pictures to use for the campaign, and the re-development of the Classical mini-site on the Southbank Centre website. This is going to feature a video trailer for the new season, so we’ve talked about what that should contain and all contributed footage for it. We’ve also engaged an agency to help promote the launch of the site and the new season online. Everything is progressing nicely now – so expect […]

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Rattle tour – Megan's pics

Mon 4 Jul 2011

The Théâtre des Champs-Élysées

OAE Projects Manager Megan Russell is a keen photographer and took some great pictures from the Luxembourg and Paris legs of the tour – here are a selection:

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An APPEALing combination

Thu 9 Jun 2011

OAE Silver anniversary appeal

When I go to conferences and seminars and the like one of the recurring themes seems to be that of organisational structure and the need for successful organisations to break down the ‘silos’ that often occur within them – i.e. departments that work in isolation from each other, with little understanding of each other and what they’re up to – sometimes even being hostile to each other.

That such a situation occurs within big organisations is perhaps understandable, but its surprising that even in an office of just 18 people that we do sometimes have some small symptoms of this – not everyone realising that an education event is occurring, that the orchestra is that morning off on tour, being unaware of a Financial deadline looming, or that two people have been emailing the same person at the Southbank Centre the same question…. Little things.

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There's nothing interesting happening today

Wed 27 Apr 2011

At lunchtime today my colleague Megan produced 10 metres of hand-made bunting from her bag (as you do). We were all pretty impressed with it and immediately started to put it up in the office. While we were doing this my colleague Zen starting filming and taking pictures – I remarked that it would be great to get some pictures for the blog as ‘there’s nothing else interesting going on today to put on there’. At this point Megan remarked to me that in fact there was a 50 piece orchestra rehearsing two floors below us and that was maybe quite interesting.

Of course she’s right.  Its amazing how quickly something like that becomes routine and ordinary, and you have to be reminded how special it is. After lunch I took the escalator down to level -2 here at Kings Place to listen to the Orchestra, conductor Roy Goodman and pianist Artur Pizzaro rehearse Beethoven’s 4th Piano Concerto. Lovely as Megan’s bunting is, listening to the OAE play Beethoven is always going to trump most things. Here are pics of both bunting and rehearsal.

William Norris, Communications Director

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Tour Diary: Sheffield

Mon 11 Apr 2011

A short video from our trip up to Sheffield back in February – a concert which was part of our Green Tour initiative which saw the OAE ditch individual cars in favour of coaches and trains. Though we now know that trains are noisy places in which to film interviews… turn the volume up to hear Ceri at the start! Sadly we didn’t get footage of the venue evacuation, we were too busy wondering what on earth was happening…

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To Paris with the OAE: a video diary

Thu 31 Mar 2011


Here’s a little video diary from our trip to Paris back in January, when we took a supersized OAE there for a concert of Wagner, Liszt and Mahler with conductor Vladimir Jurowski and mezzo soprano Sarah Connolly. We armed Communications Director William Norris with a video camera, and here are the results:


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