Latest news

What a year!

ERSO had such an amazing season in 2017-18 and we thought we’d look back at the highlights.  We held six concerts, showcasing amazing pieces of music including: Tchaikovsky’s 6th Symphony, Rachmaninov’s 3rd Piano Concerto, Vaughan Williams’ London Symphony,  the Walton Violin Concerto, Milhuad’s Le Boeuf sur le Toit, Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite, Gershwin’s An American in Paris and so much  more.

During the season we also had some landmark moments as we:

  • appointed our new Principal Conductor Christopher Stark after an incredibly thorough recruitment process over 2 seasons
  • held three fantastic concerts for children and young people in Camden and Kew, working with around 100 talented young musicians, helping to inspire them to carry on with music-making
  • launched our ERSO Talent programme.  Its first event was the inaugural ERSO Soloist of the Year Competition.  A Panel of professional experts and orchestra committee members heard from 16 amazing candidates and 4 were invited to take part in the final where they played a movement of their chosen concerto with ERSO and Peter Stark.  Winner Callie Brennan wowed us with her wonderfully assured performance of the Walton Violin Concerto under the baton of distinguished ERSO Conductor Emeritus Peter Stark.  The other 3 finalists were so great that they have all been invited back as soloist in our forthcoming season.

    We followed this up with our first ever young conductors concert, where 3 up and coming conductors took us Behind the Baton”, working with experienced conductor and all round amazing mentor Mark Shanahan  to create a wonderful concert of Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky and Gershwin

end of 2018 season collage

 

Marvellous maestros!

happy maestros
Minhyung Lee, Vicente Chavarria and Finan Jones with ERSO

Our three up and coming conductors did ERSO proud as last night’s Behind the Baton concert.  From their confident and enlightening presentations to illuminate the key aspects of the music to their dynamic direction of the orchestra, they all delivered impressive and assured performances.  Vicente, Minhyung and Finan are guys to watch out for in the future!

 

ERSO were also so proud of Team Cello who performed Mendelssohn’s Andante Religioso and Popper’s Concert Polonaise with great bravura.

maestros and mark
Finan, Vicente and Minhyung with mentor Mark Shanahan

A great night which wouldn’t have been possible without two other wonderful maestros –  Mark Shanahan who expertly mentored the young conductors in rehearsal  and Tom Hammond who was hugely helpful in the audition process to select the conductors for this concert.

 

A view of Vicente

Want to know more about Vicente Chavarria, one of our fabulous “Behind the Baton” conductors?  Vicente Vicente is studying at the Royal College of Music with Peter Stark and Howard Williams and he’ll be conducting Rachmaninov’s The Rock.

1. What age were you when you decided that you would like to become a conductor and what inspired this decision?

I fell into conducting almost by chance, leading small groups in my home community as a teenager and realising, after some time, that I had something to say, something to offer musicians that would help them do a better job. That, I think, is the cardinal rule of conducting: help musicians become better at what they do.

2. What instruments do you play and what makes conducting more attractive to you than being a player?

I’m a flautist by principal study; I also sing and play a bit of piano/harpsichord and guitar. (I’ve dabbled on a myriad other instruments, none of which I would play in public. 😜) The ability to work with multiple musicians at a time on any given instrument is extraordinarily attractive and rewarding.

3. What piece(s) do you dream of conducting one day in the future?

Górecki, Symphony No. 3; Mahler, Songs of a Wayfarer; and Bach, Mass in B Minor.

4. What is the funniest or strangest thing that has happened to you when conducting?

I was wearing a brand-new shirt, straight out of the package. I raised my arms to give the opening gesture and only then realised that the sleeves were FAR too long and I had an extra few inches of cuff showing. Still, the show must go on!

I also had someone come up to me once and ask me where the loo was—whilst I was conducting a piece.

5. What are you most proud of in your conducting career?

Having brought many musicians together to work with each other for the first time in all sorts of repertoire. Many of these people are now regularly collaborating in various corners of the globe. To think that I may have had a fraction to do with that is thoroughly exhilarating.

Catching up with Chris

We’re absolutely delighted that Christopher Stark is taking on the role of ERSO’s new Principal Conductor. Chris is best known as co-founder & co-Artistic Director of the RPS Award-winning Multi-Story Orchestra with whom he made a critically acclaimed BBC Proms debut in 2016.

We chatted to Chris to find out more….. And it turns out he’s started conducting ERSO at a young age!

What age were you when you decided that you would like to become a
conductor and what inspired this decision?

I began thinking about conducting quite young – my parents were both cellists, and it always seemed to me that the person in the middle had the opportunity to get so close to all of this exciting repertoire. I actually once had a quick go at conducting the Ernest Read Symphony orchestra when I was about 9, at one of the children’s concerts at the Festival Hall! But I caught the bug properly when at University. I wanted to put on Ravel’s Piano Concerto with a friend, and brought together lots of our group to put it on. I love the producer element of conducting, bring talented people together.

What instruments do you play and what makes conducting more
attractive to you than being a  player?
I play the piano and the cello, and I sang a lot growing up, both in operas and choirs. I’m not sure that conducting is more attractive, but I love the breadth of it – trying to zoom out and have the largest perspective possible.

What piece(s) do you dream of conducting one day in the future?
Peter Grimes

What is the funniest or strangest  thing that has happened to you
when conducting?
Playing a big amplified piece in Peckham Car park that has lots of electric and bass guitars, that is supposed to end with a thrilling fortissimo battle between the two sides of the ensemble (Andriessen’s De Staat). Not having a proper power supply in the car park, we were relying on a petrol generator which ran dry with 90 seconds to go, leaving us looking a bit ridiculous, working very hard but with very little sound coming out…

What are you most proud of in your conducting career?
I think I’m most proud of music education projects in Peckham. We’ve worked with some of the schools for 5 or 6 years, showing them an orchestra in their school and bringing them along to sing pieces with the Orchestra. It’s so exciting when you see children getting the buzz for great music, and also when they see an orchestra being part of the community as a normal thing.

Focus on Finan

Want to know more about Finan Jones, one of our fabulous “Behind the Baton” conductors?  Finan is the junior conducting fellow at the Guildhall School.

westside storyWhat inspired you to become a conductor?
When I was 15 or 16 I was playing in a production of West Side Story run by 16-21 year olds and  I thought ‘I can do that, and it might be fun’ and that’s where my journey started.  Funnily enough I’m still in touch with the man who was conducting that production and he’s also a conductor now.
bassoon player
What instruments do you play and what makes conducting more
attractive to you than being a player?
I am still a freelance bassoonist as well as a conductor. I love both, but the most attractive thing about conducting is the chance to make music with so many wonderful people and interact with so many different groups and people with distinct performing identities.
What piece(s) do you dream of conducting one day in the future?
I’m split when it comes to works I’d love to conduct. There are so many. I’m a huge fan of Mahler so his symphonies would be hugely rewarding to work on. I’d also love to perform opera and a real dream would be to conduct Madame Butterfly.
What is the funniest or strangest thing that has happened to you
when conducting?
In the run up to conducting offstage in a performance of Mahler 2 in Ulster Hall. I was also assistant conductor and was doing lots of the ‘stage management jobs’. I collected the conductor from his dressing room, went and collected the mezzo for the 4th movement, sent her on, dashed back to send the soprano down for the final movement. Finally I ran all the way round the hall to the back where the offstage band would be performing, to find all the stands had been cleared away as they were ‘blocking a fire exit’. This led to a panicked rush to set up the stands and percussion as quietly as possible (as the audience were just the other side of a set of doors). At the time I didn’t find it too funny, but looking back it was just mad enough to be amusing.
What are you most proud of in your conducting career?
To date the thing I’m proudest of and have found most rewarding has been the education work I’ve done as a conductor. The first thing I did was taking performances of Peter and the Wolf into schools with actors as well. To have a class of children in an inner-city London school, that we had been told were likely to misbehave (even to the extent that we were warned we might have to stop the performance), sit in silence throughout the performance then ask intelligent questions at he end about the music, the acting and the people involved was very special.

More on Minhyung….

At ERSO we’re really excited about working with the talented young conductors in our “Behind the Baton” concert.
We caught up with Minhyung Lee to find out a bit more….
Born in Korea, Minhyung launched his international career as a finalist in the 2013 Besançon International young conductor’s competition in France and the MDR Leipzig Conducting competition in Germany.  He is currently in his first year of a Master’s degree at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, supported by RCS Trust.
fantasia conductor
The conductor in Disney’s Fantasia

What inspired you to become a conductor? 

Watching the Disney movie “Fantasia” inspired me a lot.
What do you dream of conducting in the future?
Mahler Symphony No.6 is the first orchestral piece I ever heard in large a concert hall and I’m very eager to conduct it.
shirts
Minhyung’s “lucky” shirts
What is the funniest or strangest  thing that has happened to you when conducting?

I have some kind of jinx when I have a concert –  I must wear a specific black shirt (I have 10!) or I will do something weird at the curtain call. Last time I didn’t wear the shirt, I shook hands with the every string section leader except the Leader.

 

What are you most proud of in your conducting career?
I’m very proud when someone is inspired to play their instrument after seeing my conducting. For me, making those kind of musical connections with other musicians is much more important than winning a competition or receiving a good review.

Following on from the (deputy) leader….

If you saw yesterday’s post, you’ll know that ERSO’s Deputy Leader Jaga is leading our final concert of the season  – “Behind the Baton”
Sadly, it will be Jaga’s swan song as ERSO’s Deputy Leader as she needs more time to focus on her busy freelance career. Jaga has been an invaluable part of ERSO and we would have liked to stay forever!  The good news is she wont be a stranger to us  – she’ll be our violin soloist in next March’s “Spotlight on the Set Works” concert, which will include a performance of Bach’s 5th Brandenburg Concerto.
pennyjamesviolinhomepage
New Deputy Leader Penny James

Meanwhile we are delighted to announce our new Deputy Leader – Penny James.

Penny is a versatile musician with many interests ranging from orchestral playing to folk music, as well as being a dedicated and enthusiastic teacher.  She has been expanding her portfolio career over the past several years whilst studying at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance with John Crawford.