fda20c_c850cb4dd0214ff688db33d783c0140fMusic-in-Motion is a revolution in classical music performance, conceived and developed by conductor John Landor. The musicians perform without music stands or chairs, using movements and gestures designed to clarify the structure, drama and emotional impact of the music.

I met with John Landor to talk about early musical influences, significant teachers, the impetus for creating Music-in-Motion, and more…..

 

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

Although none of my family were professional musicians, my father was a keen jazz trumpeter in his youth, and my mother loved the arts and played piano. We had a rather large family of six children and we did a lot of singing as a family. I was born in the Midwest USA and I remember vividly evenings “on the porch” singing all the old American favourites like ‘She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain’, all that homespun stuff.

All my siblings learnt musical instruments, so I just assumed it was something everyone did. I remember proudly carrying home my first violin, the sense of ownership of something special. But almost as soon as I started lessons the family moved around a lot, which meant that it was difficult to get any regular teaching. At age ten I ended up as a chorister at Westminster Cathedral Choir School. There was no violin teacher, so I spent every morning break teaching myself, and also started to compose little pieces.

At WCCS I absorbed the whole Italian Catholic choral tradition. With 10 services to sing each week we all essentially became professional musicians at an early age. Although I hated being away from home (we were all boarders) the music was my great solace.

Was violin your first study instrument at Royal Academy of Music?

No, I decided there wasn’t much point in pursuing it as I was never going to play at the level I wanted to. My first experience of conducting around age 15 (one of my own compositions at school) was an epiphany. I walked around for days in a state of bliss and knew from that moment that this was what I wanted to do. I went to Oxford University to get a music degree and spent all my time forming orchestras and conducting concerts and went on to the Academy for conducting and composition.

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Significant influences or teachers?

My huge inspiration was Ilya Musin. At 34, I took some time for an artistic ‘re-fresh’ and went to study for a few months with him at the St Petersburg Conservatory. It was a revelation. Musin didn’t speak English but he spoke what I felt was my musical language, far more than anything I had encountered in all my years of study. I really felt I had ‘come home’, and fell in love with Russia in the process – such a fascinating country and people, complex, difficult, but so beguiling. He was the first teacher who talked about ‘character’ in music and that was a light-bulb moment. In my classes at RAM everyone talked about the nuts and bolts of conducting, but no one said anything about character. If the character of the music is absorbed, everything else starts to happen on its own. It was a total Eureka moment. I spent three months in classes with astonishment, amazement and relief, and it had a deep impact on my conducting.

This experience helped in the creation of Music-in-Motion?

Yes, although not directly. My finding the concept of Music in Motion was a slow evolution. It all started with the Mini Maestro family concerts I gave at St Martin-in-the-Fields around 2000 with LMA Orchestra. Because the sightlines there are not ideal for small children I started to send the orchestra out into the audience to play, with the kids holding their music. It gave them a chance to hear and see professional musicians close-up. But an important by-product was that it showed me that musicians can play perfectly well together even if spread out over a relatively large area.

I also realized that audiences just love being close to, or even in the middle of, the musical action – they’d say “wow! An oboist is playing in my face while I’m holding the music!”. And that face-to-face interaction with their audience gave the musicians a real buzz too – they felt more that they were artists in their own right communicating as individuals as well as a collective.

Then it occurred to me that if the musicians were able to move around while playing, they could perform more like actors on a stage and I could ‘choreograph’ the movements to show the interactions in the music. We started doing demonstrations of this in my Meet-the-Music discovery sessions in the interval of some of our evening concerts. The audience reaction was so extraordinary, it was clear that we had found something that was unusually powerful and inspiring. Instead of a static group of musicians seated in front of music stands, here was a living, moving, breathing musical organism.

Since then I have realized that this way of playing has almost limitless uses. For a start it’s ‘educational’ almost by default as it makes clear visually what is happening in the music without need for verbal explanation. All those people who like (or want to like) classical music but are put off by traditional concerts might find this a great way in. And for any musician it’s a great training for general expressivity as it challenges them to think more about how they communicate.

What influences would you say led you to the idea of Music-in-Motion?

First, Lindsay Kemp’s work, which made me understand how important context is to a performance. Secondly, a performance by the Mark Morris Dance Company where I ‘saw’ as well as heard a fugue being performed – a musical ‘line’ of dancers animated each voice of the fugue in a way that was incredibly clear and expressive. And finally, and most directly, Jonathan Miller’s production of the St Matthew Passion. In the arias with obbligato instruments, both singer and instrumentalist stood face to face, and I found it so direct, human and intimate compared to how it is normally done – just amazing. That deeply impressed me.

Is there a historical precedent for this?

Not that I can find or think of! For an idea that seems so obvious to me now, I find it almost unbelievable that there seems to be no historical precedent. Of course there has been quite a lot of work in the past few decades where musicians move on stage with dancers or act while playing. But these I find essentially use music to enhance a theatrical experience – whereas I am using theatre to enhance a musical experience.

I want to emphasise that Music-in-Motion is about revealing and highlighting the choreography, drama and acting that is intrinsic to the physical act of playing music already – not adding show or gimmicks! I am acutely aware that the moment you add a dancer, actor, video projections or have artists painting during a musical performance, the music itself becomes background. It’s incredibly vulnerable to that. So, while I whole-heartedly endorse the concept of musical performance in these kind of theatrical or dramatic contexts, that is the complete opposite of what I am trying to achieve. In a nutshell: a theatre of music, not music of theatre!

Do you feel any music could undergo the Music-in-Motion treatment?

Undergo? I think ‘thrive with’ is more the phrase I would use!

I’ve been purposefully focusing on core repertoire that isn’t overtly ballet or dance-inspired. In the Bach double violin concerto where the ripieno music interjects we had the players stepping out and back like a backing group to the soloists. It made the structure of the music so crystal clear to the audience.

In Mozart’s Jupiter, there’s this little Alberti figure in the second violins accompanying the tune. Normally it barely features in the aural landscape, it simply fills in the harmony. But then we musicians know it is in fact a completely wonderful, busy little conspiratorial moment in its own right. So we got all the second violins to play it in a huddle. All the sudden it became a vital part of the performance, not just an accompanying figure.

I want every and any audience to be fascinated by the riches contained in every single bar of a Brahms Symphony or a late Beethoven quartet – and not needing to be a connoisseur to appreciate it to the fullest extent possible, even on a first hearing.

How do you find musicians respond to Music-in-Motion?

Funnily enough the only run-ins I’ve had were with double basses! They felt it was a gimmick. Mostly, musicians start out pleasantly bemused, but once they get a taste of the sense of liberation from the normal hierarchies of traditional performance they love it! It makes each member of the ensemble feel they really count as individuals. Of course a certain level of stagecraft needs to be learned if it is not all to look a mess and distract from the music.

Does it affect the sound?

Yes it does, in several ways. The sound is much better. Music stands block sound, so when they are all removed there is better overall projection of the music. Even when a player turns while playing, the acoustic changes, so there’s yet another aspect of Music-in-Motion that can be used to enhance the experience of listening. Though it must only be used to clarify the music.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas or concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Be yourself and know what you are communicating.

Because the space we need to play our instruments is relatively small and, after all, most instruments are attached to our bodies in some way, many musicians naturally tend to focus inwards. The next point of focus is “am I playing well?”, then “what would my teacher think?”, then “I hope I am living up to the composer’s expectation” then “will I get a good review?’ – and only then the ‘end-user’, the audience, is considered! Music-in-Motion starts with the audience. How can we inspire, delight and fascinate them with what we do? If we can do this, I have no fears about the future of classical music.

Music-in-Motion – Shostakovich String Quartet No.8 performed by the Konvalia Quartet

 

John Landor is Music Director of London Musical Arts Orchestra, based at St Martin-in-the-Fields. He has been developing a new concept in orchestral and ensemble performance called Music-in-Motion since 2013.

Musicians and ensembles interested in exploring the concept are warmly invited to apply for one of his Music-in-Motion Workshops held regularly in London. Further information here

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Who or what inspired you to take up the oboe, and make it your career?

When I regained my hearing during primary school after being born deaf I took up piano lessons. Since then I have always been fascinated by the effect that music can have on your life and how you feel. As a teenager I began to look into classical music and stumbled across a YouTube video of Heinz Holliger playing the Mozart oboe concerto. The next week I gave the instrument a try and was instantly hooked. My home city of Ely had only a couple of oboists so lots of opportunities arose around Cambridgeshire. It was from being busy working and performing with amateur ensembles that I decided that i wanted to be a professional oboist. I found the oboe was a great instrument to put myself into given its versatility.

Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?

I was greatly influenced by my former piano teacher Jane Holden GRNCM who introduced me to music college and conservatoire study. She accompanied me for performances and indeed for my music college auditions. I am also greatly influenced by my oboe teachers at Birmingham Conservatoire Melinda Maxwell, Jenni Phillips and Gail Hennessy for baroque studies.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

I’d have to say adapting to the demands of being a freelance musician. Finding time for other things in my life is so difficult as the little free time I have around my work and studies has to be for my personal practise. Whilst the lifestyle is enjoyable it takes a while getting used to long train journeys and sleeping on sofas after concerts!

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my performance of Rachmaninov’s ‘Vocalise’. I have always loved Rachmaninov’s piano repertoire so arranging it for oboe and coming home to perform it in the stunning surroundings of Ely Cathedral meant a huge amount to me! I’ve recently been working on a couple of Telemann Sonatas which I’m recording in January!

Which particular works do you think you play best?

Schumann, particularly his romances. There is so much expression already on the page so when it comes to adding my own it can be overwhelming with emotional tensity. Aside from that I have a keen interest in baroque repertoire as I enjoy the virtuosity of some of the instrumental writing as well as the opportunity to add my own ornaments, cadenzas and further interpretations to my performances!

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

A good musician would choose their repertoire on what they wish to achieve technique wise generally as a result. Whilst I try to do that, I love discovering new pieces and particularly playing the ones I enjoy (perhaps a little to often). The joys of directing my own ensembles mean that most of the time I get to choose the music!

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

Each venue has its own qualities and suitability for different works, though, I’d like to mention Ely Cathedral. Because I have played there so many times, I cannot help but return there most Christmas’ and Summers to perform again and again. The building presents so many acoustic challenges for solo instrumentalists so it adds to the difficulty of what could already be a perfect performance!

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

It’s a close call between Beethoven’s ‘Missa Solemnis’ and Bach’s B Minor Mass. I love Bach – he’s my favourite composer and so what could be better than a masterpiece that is essentially a catalogue of all of his best tunes arranged for a mass setting? Whilst the Beethoven, although overshadowed by his ninth symphony, the Missa Solemnis is, in its own way, truly something special.

Who are your favourite musicians?

When I was younger and only just discovering classical music I was and still am greatly influenced by the work and music of Herbert von Karajan, enough to inspire me to want to go into conducting. His extraordinary psychological vision of music,how it should sound and how it should touch ones heart deeply fascinates me. Also some of my other favourite musicians are the great oboists of the modern day: Francois Leleux, as well as Albrecht Mayer and Jonathan Kelly of the Berliner Philharmoniker.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

New Cambridge Symphony Orchestra’s concert in West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge last summer. Most of the players were people who I’d been in youth orchestras and grown up with, so it was heart-warming reuniting with them to perform Rachmaninov’s 3rd Symphony and Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto to a sold out audience. I also can’t help but remember a carol concert in Ely Cathedral where aged twelve I came in as a guest violinist. My desk partner had fallen off the edge of the stage and grabbed my arm only pull me and my chair off with her!

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Listening. Music is the most powerful art form for expressing your true inner self and feelings. Don’t just follow the score note by note – add a bit of yourself to your performances. Also, do not be afraid of meeting people and collaborate with them. You’re not just playing say, the violin in the after school band anymore. By making the choice to want to be a musician, you have to put everything you have into into it. Listen, interpret, perform.

What are you working on at the moment?

Alongside my studies, 2015 is my busiest and most exciting year yet. I will be performing in a new, exciting series of large scale orchestral projects and performances across the UK whilst also musically directing Handel’s opera ‘Acis & Galatea’ in the Midlands. I’m also looking forward to returning to Cambridge for a Bach Cantata project, and also (hopefully) going abroad for further work and study!

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

It would be nice to think that I’d have financial security and have settled down but I want to do much the same as what I am doing. The joy of music practically being my only hobby is that i never want to stop. Working in a different country would be nice!

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

Excuse the clichés, but freedom, love and security. Sat on a beach with a beer in one hand and the [non-existent] wife’s hand in the other! The end of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis is also my idea of perfect happiness!

What do you enjoy doing most?

Performing. But unrelated to music I have been known to be a cooking master!

What is your present state of mind?

Ambitious (perhaps a little too much)!

Although born with a severe hearing impairment, James began his musical journey when taken to piano lessons aged 7.  As James’s hearing, speech, and language improved as he got older, he strongly valued the gift of sound and music and decided to take up other more orchestral instruments such as the clarinet and violin as a hobby. As a teenager, however, James realised his desire and ambition to become a professional musician and chose to specialise on the oboe where he went from strength to strength achieving grade 8 ABRSM disctinction after only a few years tuition and coaching under Carol London and Jane Holden GRNCM. He later held several positions in local orchestras, including the Cambridgeshire & Peterburough Youth Orchestra where he served as principal and solo-cor anglais for 3 years, aswell as the acclaimed New Cambridge Symphony Orchestra. James has also had strong affiliations with other local orchestras including the City of Cambridge Symphony Orchestra.

During sixth form college James had a succesful audition period for several UK music colleges which led to him accepting a scholarship to study at Birmingham Conservatoire where he trains as a first-study oboist under Jenni Phillips, Melinda Maxwell and Gail Hennessy for baroque oboe. At the Conservatoire James has a busy diary and is frequently involved in projects in collaboration with other students, including orchestral work, chamber music, choral singing, harpsichord accompaniment, conducting, and participating in recording sessions for new compositions and commissions. More recently James has formed his own chamber choir and is heavily interested in music research, having a particular focus on baroque choral music.

The next year will see James perform in prestigious venues across the UK such as St John Smith’s Square and the Barbican in London as well as returning to the familiar surroundings of Ely Cathedral. James will also be directing a production of Handel’s Acis & Galatea with his own orchestra and chamber choir which will be performed in historic venues across the Midlands.

James has vast experience working alongside arts and dramatics agencies as a musical director for performances ranging from opera, musical theatre to new commissioned plays. Alongside this position, James provided performance coaching to students of secondary school age.

Away from music, James is passionate about campaigning for the awareness of severe mental health disorders, and works with schools and health organisations to provide mentoring to school aged pupils.

jamesfletchermusic.wordpress.com

(photo: Chris Stock)

Who or what inspired you to take up conducting and pursue a career in music?

There were a number of “wow” moments that inspired me as a kid. I still remember the first time I heard an orchestra live (it was my local youth orchestra playing Shostakovich 5). I was only three, but that moment stuck with me and I started going to grown-up concerts very young, maybe five or six years old (worth noting given recent controversies about kids at concerts). There were other pieces, like the Shostakovich, that had a huge impact on me when I first encountered them- symphonies by Mahler, Beethoven and Bruckner for example.

My parents bought us a wonderful series of LPs called “The Stories of the Great Composers Told Through Their Music.” I must have played the Mozart, Bach and Beethoven records hundreds of times.

I was not a very motivated young pianist (it’s a pity nobody told the seven-year-old Ken about the link between keyboard proficiency and conducting), but I loved the cello, and when I started playing real repertoire in good orchestras, that was a major turning point. I still remember playing Schumann 2 for the first time in my high school orchestra, and when James Smith took over my youth orchestra that was an eye opener. I’d never played under a great conductor before. That was the first time I understood what an orchestra can be when everyone is giving their best.

Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?

My teachers, chamber music coaches and mentors. My main cello teachers, Parry Karp (Pro Arte Quartet), Lee Fiser (LaSalle Quartet) and Fritz Magg (Berkshire Quartet) had a huge impact on me. Their teaching went way beyond cello playing, and taught me a lot about score study and chamber music. Henry Meyer (LaSalle Quartet) and Peter Oundjian (Tokyo Quartet) were very important chamber music mentors- my whole approach to conducting was shaped in significant ways by studying and performing the string quartet literature. Gerhard Samuel was incredibly generous with me when I was his conducting student in Cincinnati. Take one more step beyond the scope of the teachers I saw every week as a student, and the list of important mentors gets absurdly long, but they’re all important and inspiring.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

The hardest thing about being a conductor is that your time with the orchestra is always finite. I’m glad I can pick up a cello and play Bach without having to raise money, go to committee meetings, or set a rehearsal schedule. There’s so much great repertoire that one wants to learn (more than you could do justice to in three lifetimes), and so much that one could do in rehearsal, and yet the clock is always ticking. I’d love to be able to work with really great orchestral colleagues in the kind of detail we do in my string trio, but nobody wants to pay an orchestra to rehearse so it’s always a balancing act.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

I’ll always remember conducting my first complete Mahler symphony (the Second) with the Oregon East Symphony. That was a huge undertaking for everyone involved- so many people worked very hard and the concert felt like a real spiritual coming together. The final concert with Orchestra of the Swan in our Gál/Schumann cycle was memorable and moving- the end of a fantastic journey through that repertoire, and they played out of their skins.

For me, one of the joys of playing in a chamber group is revisiting pieces over and over until we feel like we really own them. When Ensemble Epomeo play the Schnittke String Trio, it’s always an event for us, and it felt much the same whenever my string quartet used to play Bartók no. 2. When you’ve invested years in a piece with your colleagues, you know you have to savour every performance together.

As far as recordings– the Gál/Schumann discs have been special. Gál was a recent discovery I felt lucky be entrusted with, but I’d wanted to do the Schumann symphonies since I was a teenager. The recent Nimbus recording of Philip Sawyers’s Second Symphony, Cello Concerto and Concertante was also a labour of love. Introducing unknown music to a wider public is surely the most important thing a recording can do, and Philip’s music is wonderful and very important.

Which particular works do you think you play/conduct best?

I find a huge range of music both rewarding and challenging. I don’t believe in specialities, because everything not on the list of things you do particularly well then suffers. I’m an intense guy, and I suppose I’m most at home in music that uses that intensity constructively.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

It’s a balance of what I want to do (some works stay on my wish list for 15 years before I get a chance to programme them), what my colleagues and employers want me to do, and what we have to do to stay in business.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

My friends from home will laugh because it’s not a great venue, but Mills Concert Hall in Madison, Wisconsin. It’s where I first heard an orchestra when I was tiny. I’ve given recitals, played in all kinds of cello sections, played concert concertos, chamber music, heard amazing performances by friends and teachers, conducted and taught. It’s where music was born for me as a kid.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

As a listener, I tend to cycle through obsessions. I might listen voraciously to late Shostakovich, Schumann piano works, Debussy and Ravel, or early Beethoven string quartets, for two or three weeks, then not touch it again for a couple of years.

Who are your favourite musicians?

I like musicians who combine a certain amount of serious mojo with craftsmanship and honesty. My favourite performers are the ones who can put across a distinctive point of view about the music they play. My favourite composers engage heart, head and guts.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Hearing Shostakovich’s Seven Romances on Poems of Alexander Blok with the Dubinsky’s and Fritz Magg with soprano Gloria Davey at Indiana University when I was 18. I still don’t think I’ve recovered.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Cultivate a love of music that will sustain your efforts as an instrumentalist- too many young musicians are more interested in playing their instrument than in the music they play.

Rhythm is the foundation of music. Playing in time is hard, but you can only play with true freedom if you’re in total command of tempo, pulse, meter and time.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Camping with Suzanne and the kids (while knowing that I’ve got something nice in the diary when we get home)

Kenneth Woods conducts the English Symphony Orchestra at St John’s Smith Square on 24th April in a concert of music by Handel and W F Bach which explores the origins of Mozart’s Requiem. Further information and tickets here

Hailed by Gramophone as a “symphonic conductor of stature,” conductor, cellist, composer and author Kenneth Woods has worked with the National Symphony Orchestra (USA), Royal Philharmonic, Cincinnati Symphony, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Royal Northern Sinfonia and English Chamber Orchestra. He has also appeared on the stages of some of the world’s leading music festivals such as Aspen, Scotia and Lucerne. In 2013, he took up a new position as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, succeeding Vernon Handley.

Kenneth Woods’ full biography

A View from the Podium – Kenneth Woods’ blog

Rachael Young

Who or what inspired you to take up conducting, and make it your career?

As a cellist I was playing in orchestras right from the start and immediately loved the colours and drama of the orchestra. Then as I progressed and began to play more demanding works I fell completely in love with the orchestral repertoire.

Who or what were the most important influences on your conducting?

I love German conductors like Furtwangler, Karajan and also Carlos Kleiber. I went to the Jarvi Summer Academy in 2007 and saw Neeme Jarvi and his son Paavo conducting. Apart from their musical personas, I was greatly impressed by their technical command of the orchestra. They both have masterful conducting techniques that are able to ‘play’ the orchestra as if it were an instrument – which of course it is – a complex and wonderful instrument. They are both trained in a ‘Russian School’ of conducting – Maestro Neeme Jarvi studied with Rabinovich in St Petersburg in the room next to Ilya Musin’s class, and Paavo studied with Maestro Leonid Grin, a graduate of Moscow Conservatory, who studied with Leo Ginsberg and Kyrill Kondrashin. He then went on to be the Associate Conductor of The Moscow Philharmonic before defecting to to the West. After working with me at the masterclass and seeing me performing in the concerts, Paavo Jarvi kindly recommended me to Leonid Grin, with whom I began studying in 2008.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Finding my way from a rather lovely but rather small town in NZ to Leonid Grin.

Which performances/compositions/recordings are you most proud of?

It was a great pleasure and privilege for me to perform with Viktoria Postnikova. We performed the Schnittke Concerto for Piano and String Orchestra together last year in London. For me she plays that work magnificently and she was the first to record the work with her husband, the legendary conductor Gennadi Rozhdestvensky. They were both friends of Schnittke’s and his wife, and it very much felt like a kind of meeting with the composer himself. Also, Leonid Grin knew him well, so he was able to give further insights about both the work and the composer.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

It’s always a real pleasure to perform in spaces that allow the audience and the orchestra a certain intimacy, and in this sense the Royal Albert Hall is very interesting. But the acoustic of a venue is usually the most significant factor in creating something.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

Whatever I am working with/performing at that moment.

Who are your favourite musicians?

For me it depends on the repertoire, but I love artists such as Maria Callas, Jacqueline du Pré, and the Russian pianist Maria Yudina for me is extraordinary.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

When I was young my mother took me to hear the Borodin String Quartet playing Beethoven in what must have been its second incarnation, I think. It gave me an early experience of what was possible when you have a great composer being performed by wonderful artists.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

To find every way to love what you do and transmit that.

What are you working on at the moment?

Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

Working in a challenging and creative environment

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

see above

Rachael Young makes her Cadogan Hall debut on 23 November 2012, conducting the Russian Virtuosi of Europe in a programme of music by Schnittke, Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky.

Rachael Young began her conducting career in 2007, having been a professional cellist, first in her native New Zealand, and then in the UK. Rachael is trained in the Russian system of conducting, and for the last three years has been under the tutelage of renowned conducting teacher Maestro Leonid Grin – Paavo Jarvi’s former teacher and former assistant to Leonard Bernstein throughout the 1980s.

Rachael has worked with a number of ensembles, including the St Petersburg State Academic Symphony Orchestra, the London Soloists Chamber Orchestra, the South Bohemian Chamber Orchestra, the Kharkov Philharmonic Orchestra, the English Sinfonia and the Russian Virtuosi of Europe.

She has participated in a number of prestigious conducting masterclasses, including Neeme Jarvi’s Summer Academy in Estonia, the Celebidache Foundation Masterclass held in the Czech Republic, and ‘The London Masterclasses’ at The Royal Academy of Music, and classes with Jorma Panula.

Recent engagements include guest conducting the Kharkov Philharmonic Orchestra in the Ukraine in a programme of works by Haydn and Mozart, and conducting the English Sinfonia and Lara Melda at St John’s Smith Square, London in May 2011, and with Viktoria Postnikova in September 2011. For the 2012/2013 season Rachael is embarking on a series of concerts with the Russian Virtuosi of Europe at London’s Cadogan Hall.

Rachael began her musical studies at 13 and went on to take her B.Mus at Victoria University, Wellington. A scholarship from The Boston Conservatory, Massachusetts enabled her to pursue post graduate studies in America. In 1994 Rachael came to England and, with the help of a New Zealand Arts Council grant, studied ‘cello with William Pleeth (teacher of Jaqueline du Pré) and later Moray Welsh.

Rachael Young’s website

Bridget Cunningham

Who or what inspired you to take up conducting and playing the harpsichord, and make it your career?

Being around other musicians and performing live music from childhood at home, in the church, at music schools and with good teachers inspired me to be a musician. Performing music has always been where I feel most comfortable, and the actual process of communicating with others through music lifts the spirits. When conducting from the harpsichord, the sound of the other instruments in the orchestra and singers around hits the soundboard of the harpsichord which becomes a melting pot where all these sounds go in and magic is made.

Who or what were the most important influences on your playing and conducting?

The most important influence is the music itself from the emotional and dramatic works of Handel, the energy of Vivaldi, the complexity of Bach and Palestrina, the freshness of Mozart, the complex rhythms of Messiaen, the richness of Wagner and much more, have always inspired and influenced me to learn more.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

The biggest challenge has always been to get funding to put on undiscovered early operas, pasticcios, masses, and other works and material I have researched and to record this material which really deserves a hearing. It is also a learning curve to get the means to make documentaries and films about this music, the history of it and the whole process of music making, which are all fascinating aspect

Which performances/compositions/recordings are you most proud of?

I have just recently conducted a recording for a CD of stunning music, some unrecorded material too which I am pleased about, from the 18th century Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens with London Early Opera, and fabulous producer Chris Alder, which I am eagerly waiting to hear. It was a wonderful process finding the music and putting it all together to recreate a magical night at the gardens.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

I have many and love the variety I have performed in from large to the more intimate, including Southwark Cathedral, the Wigmore Hall, Handel House Museum, St George’s Basillica in Gozo, St Cecilia’s Hall, Edinburgh, the Pieta in Venice and Schloss Ambras in Innsbruck.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

I have always loved conducting Handel operas, Purcell masques, Vivaldi and Mozart operas.. they are all colourful with amazing text, word painting and harmonies. Conducting from the harpsichord centres me with the music in the very heart of the orchestra and the actual score of the work being performed. Again, I enjoy all the later repertoire I conduct from George Butterworth to Bernstein as it is all fabulous repertoire which I enjoy listening to as well.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Barenboim, McKerras, Brabbins, Hogwood, Alsop, Davies, Edwards, many conductors; also the historic Bernstein, and several baroque musicians… Catherine Mackintosh, Robert Woolley… where do we stop…the list goes on…

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Performing Vivaldi in the Pieta in Venice… an amazing place and also listening to Jordi Savall playing French divisions in his viol concert at St Nicholas Church in Galway by candlelight was extremely inspiring

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Every new day there is something new to learn and we are always students and must always be open to gaining new knowledge and to aspire to new things. Keep on focusing on where you are going and work hard and practice, practice….

What are you working on at the moment?

I am collating music, parts and scores and taking sectional rehearsals for the next recording project that I am conducting with London Early Opera and following concert tour next year.

What is your most treasured possession?

My glorious harpsichords: one is a double manual Franco Flemish Blanchet copy of a Ruckers – perfect for all kinds of repertoire with a lovely resonance in the bass – and the other is a single manual Italian harpsichord with a real brightness of sound and touch.


Bridget Cunningham is a prizewinning harpsichordist, conductor and early music specialist. Bridget is in demand to conduct choirs, orchestras, festivals and recordings throughout Europe and her performing experience includes conducting London Early Opera and Schola Pietatis Antonio Vivaldi and she conducts regularlyfrom the harpsichord at venues such as St Martin-in-the Fields, Grosvenor Chapel, St James’s Piccadilly and Southwark Cathedral. She has recently recorded a harpsichord album ‘Handel in Ireland’ and performed as a solo harpsichordist to Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace. She also regularly gives lecture recitals and broadcasts at Art Galleries and last year she opened the Watteau exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts and gave a lecture recital on Handel and Watteau in 18thCentury London. She has recorded and presented BBC documentaries with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightment and Vivaldi’s Women and the virginal and harpsichord music for the BBC 1 series ‘Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen’, How London Was Built and BBC’s ‘Messiah’. Radio broadcasts include Radio 3 and 4 King James’s Bible. Bridget has also just conducted London Early Opera’s CD Handel in Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens with producer Chris Alder.

www.bridgetcunningham.org.uk

Scott Inglis-Kidger (photograph: Clive Boursnell)

Who or what inspired you to take up conducting and make it your career?

My first inspiration was my music teacher, Matthew Grehan-Bradley. He had a meticulous attention to detail which inspired me in my own pursuit of perfection. He took a small group of us to Prague to sing Palestrina masses; this was when I decided to become a countertenor. The second and most influential musician in my life is Stephen Cleobury, Director of Music for the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge. It was a privilege to sing in this marvellous choir in my final year at Cambridge. I was enthralled by Stephen’s conducting during a performance of Handel’s Messiah, and from then on I knew I wanted to be a conductor.

Who or what were the most important influences on your conducting?

I have always admired the work of Harry Christophers’ The Sixteen and John Eliot Gardiner’s Monteverdi Choir. These immensely successful ensembles were founded during university days by conductors who had a vision, not only for the performance of renaissance and baroque music, but also for the growth of the ensembles. It was this which encouraged me to form Platinum Consort, which I co-founded with Claire Jaggers. I am now beginning to realise my dream with a professional ensemble of singers, a boys’ choir and thriving diary of choral workshops.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

The greatest challenge so far has been leaving the security of my post as a school Director of Music. Teaching was such a valuable experience in terms of mastering the art of positive reinforcement, essential for children and adults alike. I also learnt a lot about management. I like to think of myself as being quite entrepreneurial, and the experience of managing a busy team of music teachers was crucial in building the ‘business’ side of Platinum. I knew I would miss the children and my staffroom colleagues but now that I am a fully freelance conductor I realise it was the right thing to do.

Which performances/compositions/recordings are you most proud of?

I will never forget conducting my very first Platinum Consort concert in 2005. I had little experience in programming and managed to cram 15 of the most difficult pieces of choral music (Gesualdo featuring heavily) and a new mass setting by my friend Richard Bates into 90 minutes. It was a learning curve, to say the least, but I still listen to the recording and I am very proud of the amazing sounds we created. In terms of my latest activities, I am immensely proud of Platinum’s debut album In The Dark which will be released later this year. It represents the journey of Platinum over the last seven years. In many ways, it really doesn’t feel like a debut!

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

One of my most treasured places to perform is the chapel of Jesus College, Cambridge. It is one of the oldest chapels in the university and has the most sublime acoustic, perfectly suited to the early and early-inspired choral repertoire. Having said that, I am very excited to be performing in the newest concert hall in London. The interior of Hall One at Kings Place was created with wood from a single oak tree. This makes for a pretty awesome atmosphere! I will conduct Platinum Consort there later in 2012 and also in 2013 as part of their series of concerts.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

At the moment they are James MacMillan’s Miserere and Gesualdo’s Tristis est anima mea. The MacMillan is ecstatically beautiful and the Gesualdo wonderfully perverse. In fact I am listening to Tristis now against a backdrop of thunder and lightening. Both will feature on our debut album In The Dark.

Who are your favourite musicians?

In the early music field I have a massive soft spot for soprano Dame Emma Kirkby and baroque violinist Rachel Podger. Their performances are spirited and free from constraint, something every musician strives for. My favourite choir at the moment is the young British ensemble, Stile Antico.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I conducted my first Handel Messiah in November 2011. I had the combined forces of Thomas’s Choral Society, Saraband Consort and a stunning line up of soloists, all housed in a precariously packed Holy Trinity, Sloane Square. We have all heard a hundred renditions of the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus but this one was different – it was ‘Scott’s Way’. I will never forget it.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

As a singer myself – and someone who was politely told at primary school he was tone deaf – I encourage everyone to realise the potential in their own voice, whether they are children, amateurs or professionals. The crucial thing I realised from a very early stage in my career is that there should be no distinction between these three types of musician. Imparting good vocal technique and unbounded passion and enthusiasm is crucial across the board. Something I impart to the young choristers of Platinum Boys’ Choir is the importance of them carrying on a deeply rooted tradition. Choral singing is alive and well, but could disappear as easily as it was invented. The only constant is the walls in which we sing.

What are you working on at the moment?

I have just completed a very busy two months, including Platinum’s first commercial recording project and a Boys’ Choir tour to Venice. I have a number of workshops to look forward to in London as well as our very first workshop – Vivat – in Durham on 2nd June, celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. I am conducting a very special concert in May to launch Platinum Choral Foundation and later this year I am looking forward to the release of our album and appearing at Kings Place.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

In 10 years’ time I would like to be recording a new album several times per year, performing in festivals in the UK and abroad, and for Platinum Consort to have recognition as being amongst the top choral groups in world. I would also like to have thriving Boys’ and Girls’ Choirs along with a young singers’ scheme, creating a path for talented young singers to realise their potential.

What is your most treasured possession?

Apart from my Apple Mac, which I couldn’t function without, my most treasured possession is a signet ring passed down to me by my grandmother. I wear it for good luck when I’m conducting.

Scott Inglis-Kidger is a conductor and vocal coach based in London. He is Founder and Director of Platinum Consort and Director of Music for Thomas’s Choral Society. He read Music at the University of Cambridge, where he sang as a countertenor in the world famous King’s College Choir. In addition to conducting, Scott directs many workshops around the country and is much in demand as a vocal coach for individuals and groups, and as an early music specialist. He was previously Director of Music at Willington Independent Preparatory School and Thomas’s Preparatory School, Battersea, establishing highly regarded liturgical choirs in both schools.

Platinum Consort was founded by Scott Inglis-Kidger and Claire Jaggers in 2005. The consort specialises in bringing vibrancy to early music, as well as breathing life into newly commissioned pieces. Originating at the University of Cambridge, the consort attracted singers from the renowned choirs of St John’s, Jesus, Trinity and King’s Colleges. Now a professional vocal octet, Platinum Consort boasts some of the best young singers in London. The group has an affinity with the music of composer Richard Bates and recently premiered his Tenebrae Responsories. Platinum also comprises a Boys’ Choir which aims to be one of the best of its kind in the UK. In addition to this our Choral Workshops provide a wealth of opportunities for singers who wish to explore glorious repertoire in smaller groups. You can find out more at:

www.platinumconsort.com.

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