Interview with Dan Ludford-Thomas – conductor of Two Choirs, One Messiah

Dan is in demand as a choral animateur, directing choral workshops and projects both in the UK and internationally. He is currently Head of Singing at Dulwich College, and is a singing teacher at Eton College. He is the Musical Director of Concordia Chamber Choir, the Director of Music of Lewisham Choral Society and the Associate Conductor of the Hackney Singers.

On 20 March you will be conducting the Hackney Singers and Lewisham Choral Society in their performance of Handel’s Messiah. Can you tell us a bit about this choice of programme, and what we can expect from the concert?
This is the first collaboration between the Hackney Singers, Lewisham Choral Society and the Forest Philharmonic. Handel’s Messiah needs no introduction, it is one of the best known and loved oratorios. We hope to bring the work to life with 300+ singers, our fine soloists and the vibrancy of the Forest Philharmonic.

What have been the challenges of conducting a combination of two choirs?
Making sure that the individuals sing as one, that everyone feels they are making a valuable contribution and that everyone is prepared to perform in step with one another to bring the music off the page to the audience.

Do you find working with amateur choirs to be a particularly rewarding experience?
It is a privilege to work with amateur choirs, their commitment and enthusiasm not only in singing but in all the background organisation that goes on is truly inspiring. I am always respectful that everyone present has chosen to give their free time to make music and put concerts on.

Is there a piece of music you would pick out as one of the ‘best’ works ever written?
I can’t say there is one work written that  is the best, but many many amazing pieces we can get stuck into.

And is there a work that is for you, emotionally, especially important?
Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers as it was the first large scale piece I directed making the switch from the perspective of a singer to that of conductor. As with all works you revisit a piece see what you did, remember, redo, refine.

What is the most played piece of music on your mp3 player or in your CD collection?
I have quite a wide range of styles I like from polyphony to pop. I suppose Bach is never far away and the 48 preludes and fugues are a particular favourite as they have such variety of speed and mood each one has an interesting story.

Do you have any strange rituals you carry out before or after you perform?
I need peace and quiet before I perform and then I am happy to let the noise carry on way past the last chord of a performance.

For more info and to book tickets click here.

Micachu talks about sawing wood for her new composition in Harmonic Series

The second concert in Southbank Centre’s Harmonic Series, on Sunday 26 February, features new compositions from Micachu, along with the music of Thomas Adès and Micachu’s performance of Alvin Lucier’s classic meditative tape work I Am Sitting In A Room.

In this intriguing clip, Micachu explains some of her innovative composition techniques…

Harmonic Series is curated by cellist Oliver Coates. The second of these concerts features the beautiful chamber music of Thomas Adès, complemented by the compositions and performance from Micachu. The concert is performed by Oliver Coates along with Micachu, Alexandra Wood, Tom Hankey, Max Bailie, Tom Lessels and Danny Driver.

Sunday 26 February, 7.45pm, Purcell Room

For more information please see the webpage here.

Interview with Anneke Scott & Kathryn Cok

In their forthcoming performance at Southbank Centre Anneke Scott and Kathryn Cok  will present an exciting and dramatic programme of late classical music for natural horn and fortepiano. We catch up with them in advance of the concert on 5th March.

How did you first meet and what brought you together as musicians?
The first time we met would have been with the European Union Baroque Orchestra around the turn of the millennium. EUBO was giving a series of concerts marking the new year in Madeira, which in keeping with the celebratory mood of the season included a number of larger festive works such as Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. Over the next few years we found us working on a number of chamber music projects including most notably The Etesian Ensemble. Quite often we would include duo sonatas in programmes so we started exploring a lot of the repertoire for natural horn and fortepiano which led to us performing on a regular basis as a duo.

What are you particularly looking forward to about your forthcoming performance at Southbank Centre?
The Southbank Centre is such an iconic building and such a major venue in the UK arts scene that it’s always a joy to play there. It’s been fascinating to see the area change over the last few years. The redevelopment in 200? seemed to bring a lot more people into the area and has changed the energy of the place. It feels much more of a bustling hub now.

Is there a piece of music you would pick out as one of the ‘best’ works ever written?
Anneke: I keep on coming back to Beethoven. I adore the way he seems to be testing music to its extremes. I’d probably have to go for the Eroica, but symphony no. 7 or even no. 8 comes close.”

And is there a work that is for you, emotionally, especially important?
Anneke: Funnily enough – I would go for the works of Delius. One of the first albums I had (it was a cassette which dates it pretty accurately) was a tape of Delius orchestral works. I just need to hear a few bars of “On hearing the first cuckoo in spring” and it brings back very vivid memories of my childhood.”

If you could programme your ideal Southbank Centre show, which artists (living or dead) would you bring together?
Anneke: “I would love to invite the Dresden Court Orchestra circa 1720 to come and play. The musicians they had were cutting edge and creating wonderfully colourful works, really pushing the boundaries of technique. The works of Zelenka, Heinichen etc. For horn players this looks like one of the first places to use hand technique (the technique of manipulating the right hand in the bell of the instrument, creating notes from outside the harmonic series) and it would be fascinating to hear what the Dresden players were capable of. A lot of this music is highly inventive in its scoring – exploring the colours available, especially with new wind instruments – but the virtuosity required never overshadows the beauty of the music.

What is the most played piece of music on your mp3 player or in your CD collection?
Anneke: I don’t think a week goes by without me listening to Anner Bylsma and Jos van Immersel’s recording of the Beethoven cello sonatas. I’ve always been a big fan of Bylsma and discovered his recordings when first learning the Beethoven Op.17 Sonata for horn and fortepiano as I had wanted to listen to interpretations of Beethoven’s music whilst avoiding listening to too many horn players! The other favourite at the moment is a newish album by a Scottish group – Concerto Caledonia – called “Revenge of the Folk-Singers”. This group, and this disc, defy categorisation, eclectic doesn’t really cover it, but this album is breath-takingly beautiful.

Kathryn: Phillipe Herreweghe’s recording of the Bach Easter Oratorio. I first heard it years ago when I was a student in New York. I had been playing a concert and was staying at someone’s house and afterwards they had put this recording on. It was the first time I heard it and it immediately grabbed me and has remained a firm favourite to this day.

Do you have any strange rituals you carry out before or after you perform?
Anneke: “One thing which sometimes might be a little distracting for audiences is the necessity for horn players to be emptying their instruments of water. Often people think this is spit! Musical instruments are sensitive to temperature and humidity, and period instruments sometimes mores so – so for example audiences at our concert may see Edmund Pickering, the fortepiano tuner, retuning the fortepiano before the concert or in the interval. As horn players are basically blowing hot air into metal tubing which is often of a lower temperature the water in out breath condenses and leads to a build of water in the instrument. This can effect the sound of the instrument, making a popping sound, so we try and ensure that we drain any water as often as possible. With the many curls of the natural horn this can be tricky. One thing that helps is trying to make sure the instrument is “warmed up” before we go on stage so before a performance you’ll often catch me not playing, but blowing air into the instrument instead.

For more info or to buy tickets for Anneke Scott & Kathryn Cok, click here

Elgar’s Guardian Angel – London Concert Choir sing Dream of Gerontius

Led by a guardian angel, the Soul of Gerontius encounters demons and angelic beings – hear London Concert Choir sing Elgar’s masterpiece at Southbank Centre on Wednesday 7 March. Here’s a clip from a previous concert to whet your appetite: Te decet hymnus

Conductor Mark Forkgen says:  Elgar himself never described The Dream of Gerontius as an oratorio –  it is more accurate to call it a concert music drama.  At the beginning, Elgar introduces a series of motifs representing the emotions of the dying Gerontius and the principal themes of the work. These are then developed seamlessly on a Wagnerian scale throughout the whole work.  In the second half, when Gerontius finds himself in the next world with his guardian angel, the music ranges from the barbaric dissonance of the Demons’ chorus – with stamping chords written 10 years before the Rite of Spring! – to the ecstatic music of the angelic host.  It a work that demands total commitment from the performers and will have an enormous emotional impact on the audience.

Elgar: Dream of Gerontius is being performed by in Royal Festival Hall, Wednesday 7 March, 7.30pm

For more information, please see the webpage here.

Our Music Nation Podcast! All music, all ages, all weekend

If you thought you knew what orchestras were about, think again. Come and experience an amazing variety of music, spanning Baroque to sampled sounds in the Music Nation weekend.

Hear interviews with Trinity Laban students and Lawrence Cummings Directot of OAE’s The Night Shift.

During the Music Nation weekend, a pulsing urban jungle, created live on stage in Goebbels’ Surrogate Cities; Budapest Festival Orchestra and Iván Fischer showcase rich orchestral colour; Nu Civilisation Orchestra presents a musical mash-up of jazz and classical; and OAE finish off our weekend celebrations with The Night Shift, a relaxed late-night concert plus DJ!

Enjoy the intimacy of Thomas Adès’ chamber music with our Harmonic Series

Get a sneak preview of the second of our 2012 Harmonic Series concerts – come and experience the exquisite music of Thomas Adès and other innovative composers…



Come and hear Oliver Coates play Adès’ music – he is only the second cellist in the world to be playing the cello and piano work Lieux Retrouvés, and in this concert plays it with Grammy-nominated pianist Danny Driver. The piece expands the range and difficulty for the cello and demands a gymnastic approach to Adès’ writing.

You can also hear two new compositions for solo viola and solo clarinet from celebrated singer, producer and composer Micachu, who also performs Alvin Lucier’s classic meditative tape work I Am Sitting In A Room.

This second concert in the Harmonic Series takes place in the Purcell Room on Sunday 26 February at 7.45pm. For more information please see the webpage here.

Heiner Goebbels talks to Time Out about his metropolis-inspired work ‘Surrogate Cities’

‘It’s like a photograph or a film for your inner eye’ Heiner Geobbels

The eclectic and fragmentary approach of composer Heiner Goebbels reflects modern life. As his Surrogate Cities comes to Southbank Centre this March, Time Out’s Jonathan Lennie talks to him about the appeal of the urban. Read extracts of this interview below:

What inspired Surrogate Cities?

‘Urban development in bigger metropoles and my travelling. It is not a portrait of one specific place, more a portrait of a certain structural speed and hostility but also architectonical confrontation. And my composition tries not to refer to the city subjectively; I try to build acoustic architecture, which allows the audience to have an experience, or to rethink experiences they’ve had with urban living. So its more like a photograph or a film for your inner eye, in which you reimagine all the cities you have ever been through or lived in.

Why do you include electronic sampling in your music?

For me the motive to involve sampling was to include acoustic experiences and visions in a concert hall which an orchestra can’t produce – mechanical, documentary sounds, or sub-cultural sounds from noise bands. Maybe, in a way, those sounds function like all the resistance we have in a city when we can’t move as we would like to. For me, the samples do the same thing. For example, the conductor cannot decide the speed because he has to respect the pulse of the sample – so there is an external force you have to refer to.’

Is your work entertainment, art of philosophy?

‘I hope it is art, but I leave it for others to decide.’ 

Surrogate Cities by Heiner Goebbels is performed at Royal Festival Hall on Saturday 3 March at 6pm, as part of Southbank Centre’s Music Nation festival.