Women in Opera – Study Day with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

Perhaps the best way to describe an OAE Study Day is that it’s like a television documentary, only live.

Taking place on Sunday 2 December in the Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room, this year’s Study Day centres around the OAE’s 2012-2013 series ‘Queens, Heroines and Ladykillers’, taking an in-depth look at women’s roles in music over the last 400 years.

There’ll be discussions about a range of different characters in opera, the women (and men) that played them and a look at some of the often little-known works by female composers.  The day will conclude with a performance by Robyn Allegra Parton.  While the term ‘Study Day’ might evoke a certain feeling of academia, fear not.  No exam is given at the end of the day and no prior research necessary.

The day will be hosted by presenter Rachel Leach and split into two halves, with tickets sold separately for each so you can pick and choose which sessions to attend (and you’ll have time for a nice bit of lunch in between).

Here’s a bit about how the day will unfold:

Session 1 – 10.30am-1pm:

Women in Cultural History
Deborah Leigh Simonton, of the University of Denmark, has a look at how women are portrayed in history, literature & musicals.

Women in Opera
Professor Rachel Cowgill, of Cardiff University, discusses female performers in Opera.  In this section, Rachel will address issues such as why men took on women’s roles in early opera and when women emerged to take on these roles as themselves, before going on to look at the rise of female performers as international stars.

Session 2 – 2pm-4.30pm.

A Look at Characters
Dr F. Jane Schopf, Programme Director of Opera Studies at Rose Bruford College.  In this session we’ll take a look at strong female characters from Operatic history, comparing and contrasting different composers takes on these characters.

Performance & Analysis
The day will conclude with a performance of Dido’s Lament by up and coming star Robyn Allegra Parton, as well as a guided tour through of another piece led by presenter Rachel Leach.

A nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon we think!

Full details and booking can be found here.

Santoor Maestro Tarun Bhattacharya comes to Southbank Centre

Santoor Maestro Tarun Bhattacharya has been a pioneering and revolutionary musician of the Maihar Gharana. His influence has changed the face of Indian classical music, and through his innovative techniques of playing the santoor he has developed a distinct style that has enthralled audiences around the world. On 1 December, he is joined by the prolific and widely admired musician Kousic Sen on tabla at Southbank Centre for a concert in the Purcell Room.


Catch Tarun Bhattacharya as part of Milapfest’s Music for the Mind and Soul concert series at Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall on Saturday 1 December. Get tickets here. 


‘Patri Satish Kumar mesmerised listeners with his rhythmic excellence’ (The Hindu)

Patri Satish Kumar is a Carnatic musician and mridangam player, whose performances have given him great recognition all over the world. He has toured extensively with many high profile Indian musicians, and carved a place for himself as one of the leading mridangists of our time.

Have a listen to Tani Avartanam by Patri Satish Kumar from a concert on 28 February 2010 at the Panchanatheeswara Temple Mandapam, Thiruvaiyaru, as part of the Prakriti Foundation’s annual, Festival of Sacred Music.

Hear Patri Satish Kumar at Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall on Friday 30 November as part of the Undiscovered India series. Get tickets here. 

An exploration of music, art and film from Turner prize-winning artist Martin Creed and the London Sinfonietta

Take a trip into the world of artist Martin Creed, who gained public fame for his striking attitude to art and film with his Turner prize-winning installation The lights going on and off. Creed has now broadened his unique approach to include music, with a new band and singles such as Thinking/Not Thinking and Where You Go, described by NME as ‘the shortest single… in a long time’.

On Saturday 9 June, 7.30pm at  Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall  join the London Sinfonietta for two sets of music, with a programme featuring Axeman by Anna Meredith, a work that makes a solo bassoon ‘sound as much like a 1980s guitar-god as possible’, and the enigmatically-titled ‘______’ by Gerald Barry.

During the second set, expect words, music and film from Martin Creed and his band, including music from their upcoming album Love to You, and the world premiere of Work No.1375, Martin Creed’s new music for the London Sinfonietta.

Book tickets / more info

Read an interview with Onyx Brass

Onyx Brass are one of the most acclaimed brass ensembles in Britain. On Thursday 24th May, 7:45pm at Purcell Room, Queen Elizabeth Hall  they are joined by Baritone Mark Stone to showcase their talent in a concert of new works, premieres and arrangements of old classics from their new CD ‘Time to Time’ .

Catch up with the group as they answer questions about life inside and outside the music world.

You’ve been working together as an ensemble for quite a while now, what has been the highlight of your career so far?

Andrew: It was probably our first ever performance at Wigmore Hall. Our reception brought me very close to blubbing!

Amos: We’re lucky enough to have had lots of highlights! Our Wigmore Hall début is definitely up there, but doing a masterclass and recital at the Juilliard School in NYC was great too (with a great meal after which also sticks in the memory…)

Two composers have commissioned works for the concert (Andrew Hamilton and Dan Jenkins). What challenges/rewards has each new commission presented you with?

Amos: Andrew’s piece looks simple on paper, but that’s highly deceptive! It’s completely original and full of emotion, and the challenge lies in achieving accuracy and pathos at the same time. 

Niall: It’s always fun deconstructing a new piece. Usually new pieces look fantastically difficult and prove to be slightly easier than expected. The Hamilton was the opposite! It looked very simple at first sight and in fact proved to be quite difficult.

Dave: Without giving the game away, the Jenkins has a specific set of challenges centred around being extrovert, which has a different appeal to different members of the group. As in each new commission case we have had over the years, there is an inner satisfaction that we are able to help contribute to what is a relatively meagre repertory.

If you could commission a piece for Onyx from any one great composer of the past, who would it be?

Andrew: Beethoven! If we could have anything like the late string quartets, brass quintet as a medium would be so much more mainstream!

Niall: Well it’s a difficult because how can one imagine how Brahms or Beethoven would have written for that line up? I’d like to try a quintet by Haydn though – very difficult tuba parts I should think!

Great answers! Do you think anything is lost or gained from arranging these classic works from the repertory for brass ensemble?

David: The purists will say a lot has been lost but I would encourage them to wake up and smell the coffee! All the great composers, Bach especially, were happy to rearrange their music. If it means it appears in the public domain more often then it has to be in everyone’s interests.

For this project you are teaming up with the baritone Mark Stone. How would you describe Mark’s voice in one word?

David: I’d say Velvety…

Niall: Treacle?

Amos: Hmm. Bovril! (warm, smooth and meaty!)

So if you could do karaoke with Mark Stone, what would you sing?

Amos: It would be ignominious, but probably Burt Bacharach’s “Close to you”…

David: I’d have to go for “How Deep is Your Love” – the Bee Gees version.

That sounds like a great future collaboration! So do you guys have any strange pre/post-performance rituals that you go through?

David: We strip our clothes off and dance around a fire chanting to the Greek Gods of music. No that is a lie. We just relax and chat usually, taking the Mick out of ourselves and each other.

I was worried for a moment there, but it sounds fun! So when the concerts end and you get time off, what hobbies do you have outside of music?

Andrew: I enjoy cycling and Real Ale (not any old beer and certainly not mass produced lager!)

David: Well, trying to raise two children and see as much of my family as possible, combined with tuba playing, does not leave much time for other stuff. But when there is more time, I hope to go to the theatre a bit more. I love it.

What is your greatest fear?

Andrew: Leaving the bell section or mouthpiece of my horn at home…

Amos: My greatest fear is that I will never be able to persuade John Adams to write us a piece!

Niall: Probably watching an entire episode of Coronation Street!

Where do you see yourselves as an ensemble in 10 years time?

Amos: World domination! 

David: Yes, and hopefully just chugging away at what we do best. Digging out new repertoire and performing it in a non gimmicky, but informative way

Ok my final question. What is your favourite ever piece of music?

Amos: Aaargh. I’m going to have to say ‘Daphnis and Chlöe’.

Niall: I don’t have one, and if I did it would change every week. But I know you’re simply dying for an answer so I’m going to say ‘Rite of Spring’!

For more information about Onyx, have a look at their website www.onyxbrass.co.uk, and catch a glimpse of their work below in a clip from their recent tour to Ireland.


On 2nd July Southbank Centre welcomes David Braid to the Purcell Room to present his new album of chamber and instrumental music. The evening will include performances from The Erato Piano Trio, pianist Sergei Podobedov and clarinettist Peter Cigleris.

Steve Reich said of David’s work: “ ‘Morning’. Integration of voice with string quartet beautifully done – Very honest stuff”.

We catch up with David ahead of the concert.

What are you particularly looking forward to about your forthcoming concert at Southbank Centre?
It’s been a few years since I had something played here, it will be good to return as I love the atmosphere – it’s very relaxed and ‘human’. As a composer I suppose I should say I’m looking forward to the performance itself. However, it can be rather stressful to be honest, being stuck in the stalls while others play, as it’s out of one’s hands, so I’m looking forward to it being over and getting back to work on my new piece – I much prefer composing to having concerts, although I’m extremely pleased to be having them of course!

Is there a piece of music you would pick out as one of the ‘best’ works ever written?
Well there are the obvious ones by the big three composers, discussed a great deal by others I expect, so I’ll avoid those and say Sibelius’ 5th Symphony – What to say about it though? – too much, it speaks for itself really, but in brief: such unbelievably perfect structure plus its powerful and somehow inevitable geometry across time – music that tells you something/everything about spacetime that cannot be even slightly approached by using language – also his 7th Symphony of course, plus a great number of John Dowland’s lute songs, clearly in the same class as Schubert’s, but a lot closer to home for me; Lutoslawski’s 4th symphony also – transcendent!

What other talent or skill would you like to possess?
Time travel obviously – facing forward of course! I would like to have a chat for a few hours with someone from 15,000-20,000 years in the future (I’d have to bring an army of linguists and philologists with me of course – he/she/it would have to bring historians too so we could understand each other). It would need to be someone who is very well-informed on the then-current scientific, artistic and ethical developments. I would risk blowing a mind-fuse for this.

If you could programme your ideal Southbank Centre show, which artists (living or dead) would you bring together?
I’d get Bach to come and improvise on the organ! If he was busy that day I’d ask Dowland to come and play the lute.

What is the most played piece of music on your mp3 player or in your CD collection?
I only really listen to vinyl these days and I have no mp3 player as I can’t listen to music that much as it distracts from composing, so I never bought one. So, most-played? Glenn Gould’s record of Byrd and Gibbons, (I’ve actually got two copies of this so when the first wears down I have a spare) followed by Beecham’s Sibelius’ 7th (only one copy of this unfortunately – hence its 2nd place).

Do you have any strange rituals you carry out before or after you perform?
I’ve not performed for many years so not as such. However, before a performance of my stuff I tend to worry a lot and drink a couple of beers to be quite honest.

For more info and to book tickets, click here

Listen to the Attab Haddad Quintet on ABC Radio in Sydney, Australia

Fresh from the release of their debut album, Days Distinctive, the Attab Haddad Quintet play their unique blend of flamenco, jazz, Middle Eastern and contemporary music on Tuesday 8 May, 7.45pm at Purcell Room, Queen Elizabeth Hall, as part of the Equator Festival Spring 2012 season.

Listen to the Quintet on ABC Radio in Sydney, broadcast on Monday 16 April 2012.

‘It is rare to find a musician who, on his debut recording, is already confirming his stature as one of best ones in his field… Haddad’s complete mastery of the instrument—with a poetic personal musical language and natural sense of openness— organically placing it into new genres such as chamber jazz, flamenco and contemporary music…’ Eyal Hareuveni, All About Jazz.com

On this brilliantly realised debut… Attab Haddad gives a masterclass in the instrument’s possibilities..’ Neil Spencer, The Guardian