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Our smallest ever concert

Looking back at 2020, one of our biggest highlights was our smallest ever concert. Why? Because our October Illuminating Classics concert at St Andrew Holborn was our first concert in the world of Covid-19. Even though we were playing 2m apart it was amazing to be back playing together for our small, socially distanced but incredibly warm and appreciative audience.

Conductor Chris Stark illuminated the music with commentary and musical examples

ERSO’s first film

When the first lockdown hit we all missed playing together and we wanted to find a way to get ERSO players making music together again and so #ERSOOline was born.  We’re all slightly obsessed with the piece we picked – “D’un matin de printemps” by the female composer Lili Boulanger, who deserved to be far better known.

We were so proud when it made it into print in the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) magazine in an interview where conductor Christopher Stark and his brother David talked to Clare Stevens:
“Unable to rehearse in person during lockdown, members of the orchestra learned and recorded their individual parts in isolation for its first #ERSOOnline project, an introduction to D’un matin de printemps by Lili Boulanger. The structure of the piece is explained and some context provided by Stark, with musical illustrations by the players followed by a complete performance. The result is one of the best distanced performances I’ve seen.”

Check it out!

Lili Boulanger – D’un matin de printemps – An introduction by Ernest Read Symphony Orchestra – YouTube

A tale of two competitions – part 2

So even though Covid stopped some of our concerts, we did manage to hold our composers competition – see A tale of two competitions – part 1 – and our soloist competition in 2020. This is a big part of our ERSO year and we love giving talented young musicians the chance to perform with the orchestra.

Covid meant we had to hold auditions online and we received 23 really fabulous entries. Choosing just four players to move onto the Final was incredibly tough. Meet the Fab Four Finalists

We selected ace tuba player Grady Hassan as our winner and he will perform the Vaughan Williams Tuba Concerto with ERSO in our June concert and perform a solo piece created by the winner of our composer’s competition Alex Papp at ERSO’s 90th Birthday Concert in November 2021.

A tale of two competitions – part 1

So we might have missed out on 2 of our 2020 concerts due to Covid. But we did manage to hold 2 really special competitions. Our emerging composers competition was the very last thing we did before lockdown no.1! We had a full orchestra and massive percussion section and spent the afternoon workshopping our fab five finalist’s pieces. Getting a chance to talk to them about their work and how they saw their pieces was a a great experience and the young composers had the chance to learn from each other and acclaimed composer Emma-Ruth Richards. A magical afternoon!

From Left to Right: Finalists Alex Papp, Sarah Cattley, Caitlin Harrison, Andreas Swerdlow and Jared Destro with mentor Emma-Ruth Richards and conductor Chris Stark

We selected 19-year old Alex Papp as our winner and, because the standard of the fanfares was so high, we also selected Jared Destro as a runner-up and both of their fanfares will feature in ERSO’s 90th birthday concert. Alex has also been commissioned to create a new piece for soloist and orchestra in partnership with tuba player Grady Hassan, the winner of the 2020 ERSO Soloist of the Year. This new solo piece will also be performed in our Birthday Gala concert.

We are very grateful to the RVW Trust for their generous support for this competition.

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And we’re back!

Last night’s Illuminating Classics concert at St Andrew Holborn was our first concert in the world of Covid-19 – and it was amazing to be back playing together for our small, socially distanced but incredibly warm and appreciative audience.

Conductor Chris Stark illuminated the music with commentary and musical examples

Despite the social distancing and mask wearing for all players apart from wind and brass, it really felt very special to be able to perform the Ballet Music from Idomeneo by Mozart and Haydn’s 99th Symphony, complete with musical examples and commentary to illuminate the music for our audience.

Greetings to Grady

We are SO excited at the Ernest Read Symphony Orchestra to be working with Grady Hassan, the winner of our 2020 ERSO Soloist of the Year competition.

First we’ll have the chance to perform the Vaughan Williams Tuba concerto with Grady as our soloist in next summer’s Waterloo Festival Concert.

And in November 2021 we’ll premiere an exciting new piece for tuba created by ERSO’s winning composer Alex Papp

Grady Hassan

Growing up surrounded by musicians, learning a musical instrument was almost an inevitability for Grady. Upon taking up the tuba, with support from his brass teaching father, Grady was soon playing with the National Youth Brass Band of Wales, the National Youth Orchestra of Wales and the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. 

He is a recent graduate of the Royal College of Music, having completed a Masters in Performance, where he studied under Lee Tsarmaklis and Peter Smith. Whilst at RCM, Grady was a recipient of the Michael Quinn Award, the Parnassus Award and Study Award as well as winner of the 2019 tuba prize. Prior to pursuing a career in music, Grady studied a Bachelors in Biological Sciences at Imperial College London.

From 2019 to 2020, Grady participated in the LPO Foyle Future Firsts professional development scheme. During this time, Grady regularly performed as an extra with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

In addition to his performing career, Grady is a peripatetic brass teacher for Lambeth Music Service.

“I am so excited to be performing the Vaughan Williams Tuba Concerto with the Ernest Read Symphony Orchestra. I chose this piece as it beautifully showcases some of the lesser heard qualities that the tuba has to offer. With its virtuosic cadezas, lyrical passages and playful gestures, Vaughan William’s tuba concerto is really something special. I can’t wait!”

And the winner is…

After an absolutely amazing set of performances from all four finalists, it was incredibly tough for our panel to decide on a winner for the 2020 ERSO Soloist of the Year competition.

We’re delighted to announce that we did reach a decision and that the winner is ERSO’s hugely talented brass leader and tuba player Grady Hassan.

Grady will perform the Vaughan Williams Tuba Concerto with ERSO in our June concert and will perform a solo piece created by the winner of our composer’s competition Alex Papp at ERSO’s 90th Birthday Concert in November 2021.

Grady Hassan

It’s Finally Time!

It’s been a while coming, as Covid meant we had to postpone the Final of our 2020 ERSO Soloist of the Year competition. And today it’s finally time!

Want to know more about our “fab four” finalists??

Grady recently graduated from his Masters at the Royal College of Music.  His ambition is to secure a professional orchestral job and says, “to be able to make a living from playing the tuba would mean I’d never work a day in my life!”  He told us that he has always had an affinity for the lower pitched instruments of the orchestra, having also dabbled in bassoon and cello in the past. However, having grown up in a brass dominated household (Grady’s dad played in ERSO on occasion in the past!), the tuba won out.

Hugo is a postgraduate student at the Royal Academy of Music and is also on trial with the BBC Philharmonic as sub-principal bassoon.  He started as a violin player before switching to the bassoon at 15 due to a lack of bassoons in the school’s orchestra, and has never regretted the change as he finds the bassoon much more rewarding to play!

Alastair splits his time between performing, composing and teaching. He is a Visiting Professor of Saxophone and Electronics at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, performs as a soloist and in chamber ensembles and composes both contemporary works and educational music.

Preston, who is studying for a Masters told us  that when he was about three years old, as he was listening to his older sister practising at home and felt inspired to pick up one of her tiny violins and join in!