Tag: Performance

Bassoonist’s eye view – Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s ‘Patience’

Zoe Lumsden GS Blog photo

Last month I was lucky enough to play bassoon in the orchestra for the UoB Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s production of ‘Patience’.  With three performances from the 28th-30th January in the Deb Hall at the Guild of Students, both the chorus and orchestra entertained audiences with panache and humour.

The production follows the character Patience to whom love is simply a ‘closed book’.  This is problematic for Bunthorne, an aesthetic poet who only has eyes for Patience, despite the mass of admirers who incessantly pursue him.  Director Jessica Dalton developed an innovative modern interpretation of the traditional show, casting Patience as a waitress in a café surrounded by smart-phone fanatics glued to the internet and bearded hipsters complete with beanie hats and braces.  The modern twist alongside the the original Arthur Sullivan music and William Gilbert librettos gave the performance a sense of tradition and modernity, making the show relatable to all audience members from students to grandparents.

In a small orchestra of strings, wind and brass directed by third year music and maths student, Jamie Naylor, we rehearsed and performed alongside the singers.  One of the great things about any Gilbert and Sullivan show is that the entire cast can be involved and have a fair share in the performance.  This was definitely so for the orchestra, providing musical accompaniment but equally having more limelight moments in the overtures.

As orchestra members we positively felt like a part of the action on stage and the overall setting especially in our hipster concert dress.  We certainly enjoyed ‘hipstering up’ with the cast for the performances!

Playing in an orchestra or pit band for a show is a considerably different experience from playing in a traditional orchestra, requiring awareness of performers on stage as well as musicians around you.  Being in the orchestra for this production was a lot of fun and the musicians become a sort of pit orchestra family!  After the rehearsals and performances the entire orchestra are nearly word perfect in the songs and honestly would join in with the chorus numbers if we weren’t playing ourselves!

Being a part of this G&S production was really good fun and a great way to begin the second semester.  Involvement with a show is a nice way to meet new people and share a passion for music and performance.  I would encourage anyone to give it a try.  Productions such as this require huge amounts of creativity from casting, acting, singing, playing music, lighting, set design and many other factors, but are exciting opportunities to bring people together combining many skills to create memorable performances.

This production exemplified the abundance of creativity at UoB and the joy that students take in working together to create brilliant opportunities and events.

CBSO Concert Review

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Symphony Hall, Birmingham, Sunday 10th January

Debussy Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune

Schumann Piano Concerto

Sibelius Lemminkäinen Suite

On a wintery Sunday afternoon this concert from the CBSO offered an inviting and warming programme of love and legend.  Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune was captivating and shimmering, exploring broad orchestral colours right from the exquisite flute opening.

Beatrice Rana’s performance of Schumann’s Piano Concerto captured vitality and adoration, ideal for Schumann’s only completed piano concerto written for his wife Clara.  Rana and the CBSO presented this concerto with encompassing delight, exploring beautiful tones and cascades of chords.  Rana then enchanted the audience with a subtle and nuanced encore of Liszt’s transcription of Schumann’s song, Widmung.

Bringing a rousing conclusion to the concert, the orchestra performed Sibelius’s Lemminkäinen Suite with drama and conviction.  With true heroic spectacle and boldness this piece offered an energised climax to this afternoon’s concert.

This stirring programme was performed under the baton of the young Lithuanian conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla who debuted with the CBSO last summer, and was invited back especially for this concert.  Together conductor and orchestra enthralled the audience, creating immense energy and enchantment on stage.

This concert offered true Sunday afternoon escapism with a magnificent programme in which even the quietest pianissimo and smallest musical gestures filled the stunning venue that is Symphony Hall.

As a student at the University of Birmingham it is consistently remarkable that concerts such as this, from a world class orchestra featuring renowned soloists and conductors, at a stunning venue are basically on your doorstep (or a seven minute train ride away…!).

So accessible, and too good to be missed!

Music in the Making

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On Sunday 27th September more than one hundred musicians descended on the Bramall Music Building at the University of Birmingham for a day of varied music making.

Beginning with an orchestral session in the stunning Elgar Concert Hall musicians explored Brahm’s Academic Festival Overture and Berlioz’s Hungarian March from The Damnation of Faust with vigour and enthusiasm encouraged by conductor Daniele Rosina. Hearing the Elgar Concert Hall filled with the glorious sound and vitality of young musicians made for a vibrant and exciting start to this day of musical activity.

The afternoon featured the chance to sing Haydn’s Nelson Mass with Choral Director Simon Halsey or join an open jam session led by professional big band director, Lluis Mather. Led by members of the University Music Society, a chamber music session also took place culminating with public performances in the foyer of the Bramall showcasing the afternoon’s work.

Open all day was the Centre for Early Music Performance and Research (CEMPR) for curious musicians to explore the world of early music ensembles and performance opportunities.

In the stunning surroundings of the Bramall and Chancellor’s Court the Music in the Making Day proved to be a great way to conclude Fresher’s Week on a musical note as the music department welcomed all students to the vibrant and varied department.

Ode To Brum: A Musician’s Guide to the Campus and City.

brammal stage

When I arrived in Birmingham, I underestimated how much music there is to see and play here. From UoB’s campus, to the heart of the city, all your musical tastes will be catered for.

Read on to see what Brum can offer:

The Campus:

Music students are lucky enough to have cheap, often free access to the fantastic concerts on offer. The Elgar Concert Hall (pictured above), the Dome, and the Barber Concert Hall are great venues to play in and visit. The uni hosts both external ensembles (such as Voces8), and student groups, like the orchestras and jazz ensembles, which regularly perform in the Elgar. Student ensembles often perform off campus too most recently, UoB Voices performed in the Proms with Simon Rattle. UoB is also the home of

BEAST and mini-‐BEAST, which has weekly concerts in the Dome. I’d never explored electroacoustic music before uni, but these concerts showed me a new area to pursue. It’s great that the UoB music scene is so diverse, because you are introduced to new musical topics that you’d never considered before. I’d say that’s something very exciting and worth cherishing.

The City:

It’s fun to venture into the city, where you can watch concerts in Town Hall or Symphony Hall (THSH). Luckily for 16-25 year olds, THSH offers the SoundBite scheme, where you can get up to 50% off tickets and membership is free. This means you can see the CBSO, James Rhodes,  or Nicola Benedetti for a fraction of the price! You can use SoundBite to get discount tickets for non–‐classical events too, making it even  more appealing! Additionally, musicians are can audition for CBSO Youth or CBSO Youth Chorus, which are non–‐uni affiliated ensembles. But don’t be fooled – Birmingham isn’t only for classical and jazz musicians. Any music fan can get involved in the music scene, on or off campus.

Non-classical Campus:

There are many genre-specific societies, such as Hip Hop or DubSoc, where fans meet to discuss new releases and go to gigs, often with cheaper tickets. BurnFM allows members to present radio shows and write content for the website, as well as interview exciting artists, like James Bay. It’s a great insight into the music industry and media in general. For musical theatre lovers, there’s GMTG. They put on some wonderful productions with scarily talented casts. Whether you love being on stage, or behind the scenes, GMTG is great for theatre experience.

Gigs:

In previous years, artists have overlooked Birmingham, but it’s finally getting the recognition it deserves. Venues like Institute, Hare & Hounds, and O2 academies host both large and little names, from Craig Charles DJ sets, to Die Antwoord, and James Bay. It’s not an exaggeration when I say Birmingham has something musical for everyone, musicians and fans alike. Whether you’re playing in a string quartet, or jumping in a mosh pit in Digbeth, you’ll find your ‘thing’. There’s no shortage of people who want to join you, so get out there and have fun!