Yesterday at our “In Disguise” family concert there was no disguising the pride felt by the parents, friends and relatives of the Camden Training Orchestra children!
Led expertly by our fabulous presenter Tim Keasley and conductor Christopher Stark, we explored a world of music where nothing was quite as it appeared.
The children joined the adult members of ERSO in a spirited performance of the Entry of the Gladiators – a tune usually associated with circus clowns – and a soulful rendition of Skyfall which featured talented young singer Naomi Marchbank, a 6th form pupil at Camden School for Girls. Their final piece was A Whole lot of Symphonies which were disguised as one piece. We also explored Britten’s modern interpretation of Tudor courtly dances and learnt about the perils of ice-cream and mistaken identity at grand Russian balls through the Masquerade Suite by Khachaturian!
A great time was had by all, with parents calling it a “rich and meaningful experience for the young players” and “amazing, informative and educational”. When the children were asked if there any ways we could improve the experience they said “NO” and
It’s been almost a year since we last worked with talented presenter Tim Keasley and we caught up with him for a quick chat….
How old were you when you started playing the oboe and why did you pick that instrument?
I started learning the oboe with I was 10 and picked it because you could have lessons for free through my county music service. There was a list of ‘endangered instruments’ you could choose from (most of which I’d never heard of) and picked ‘the oboe’ on a bit of a whim! I was a bit disappointed when I first opened the case…
What age were you when you decided that you would like to become a musician and what inspired this decision?
I’m not sure that I ever had a eureka moment as such – i just really love playing music with other people and didn’t want to stop! My first proper teacher was hugely inspirational and music just seemed to pour out her. She was so excited by how you could tell stories through music, something I still hold very close to my heart.
How did you get started as an animateur?
By accident! When I started at music college I got a bit twitchy spending so much time in a practice room. I started to take lots of optional classes, all sorts of things from yoga for musicians to how to write better programme notes. One of the classes was called ‘creative music leadership’ which sounded intriguing… I ended up being a supporting musician for loads of different projects and had an amazing time! I especially love writing songs with groups who don’t identify themselves as musicians and then cracking out a banger! I ended up doing a year as an Open Academy Fellow at the Royal Academy of Music and then as the Trainee Music Leader at Wigmore Hall. I’m now incredibly lucky to still be involved with various projects at Wigmore, including Singing with Friends (a choir for people living with dementia), Music for Life (a project in residential care homes), Family Days, presenting concerts, Chamber Tots and going into schools. And its really lovely to have been invited back to present with ERSO and Camden Training Orchestra
Do you prefer presenting or playing the oboe?
What a tricky question! I like them both in different ways… and I like doing a bit of both in the same concert! I think doing either successfully requires you to be ‘in the moment’ and think on your feet to keep things afloat which is really exciting.
What would be your dream musical job?
Something where I got to share my love of music by playing and talking about it! Maybe doing something like Tom Redmond’s work with the Halle or Sarah Willis and the Berlin Phil.
What is the funniest or strangest thing that has happened to you when you’ve been presenting?
Last year, I was persuaded by Fiona (organisational Queen of ERSO) to dress up as a cow and run through the concert hall popping up in different places like bovine Where’s Wally to the soundtrack of Milhaud’s surrealist ballet Ox on the Roof. Anything for Art…
Ever wondered who wrote the music that’s traditionally associated with circus clowns?
It’s by Julius Fučík (1872 – 1916), a Czech composer and conductor of military bands. He was composed over 400 marches, polkas and waltzes. His “Entrance of the Gladiators” is one of the best known, sometimes under the title “Thunder and Blazes”, as one of the most popular theme tunes for circus clowns.
It was written as incidental music for the play Masquerade by the Russian Romantic writer Lermontov, which is often compared to Othello. And it’s a sad story!
In 1830s St. Petersburg, aristocrat Arbenin and his wife Nina attend a masquerade ball. In a tragic case of mistaken identity, Arbenin convinces himself that his wife is romantically involved with Prince Zvezdich.
At the ball, Prince Zvezdich is flirting with a dissolute lady, a baroness who is a friend of Nina. But because of the masks no-one knows who she is. The mystery lady gives Zvezdich her bracelet as a memento – but it’s a bracelet that once belonged to Nina. Arbenin recognises it and concludes that his wife is the shady lady behind the mask and is cheating on him.
Arbenin kills his wife but then learns that she was in fact innocent. Realising that he has murdered his beloved wife in error, he becomes insane.
The play was banned in Lermontov’s time by censors and is rarely performed, but the suite it inspired became one of Khachaturian’s best known works.
Did you know that the opera Gloriana was commissioned by Covent Garden as a part of the celebrations for Queen, Elizabeth II’s the coronation?
It was the composer’s eighth opera with libretto based on Lytton Strachey’s Elizabeth and Essex and depicted Queen Elizabeth I as a woman torn between her sense of duty as the monarch and her love for Essex.
The Queen attended the first performance at Covent Garden six days after the coronation but was said to have been unimpressed by the opera. And she wasn’t alone. Criticism was aimed at the way that the opera highlighted the Queen’s frailties, her personal relationship with the Earl of Essex, and the intrigues and jealousies at Court. It was thought that the persona of Queen Elizabeth I of England should have been portrayed in a more regal way. Britten was also criticised for choosing to close the opera with the spoken word, rather than musically.
Britten felt “kicked around” by the general lack of enthusiasm for Gloriana and, in contrast to his other operas, there has since been relatively few productions of this opera.
The Courtly Dances appear in the third scene of Act II and were subsequently made into a Suite. Britten’s score mixes the sounds and manners of Tudor England – from lute songs to courtly dances – with the composer’s own distinctive style.
ERSO’s first concert with new Principal Conductor Christopher Stark was an amazing start to our new partnership and promises great things for future concerts and seasons! Our appreciative audience clearly enjoyed the spirited performance of Der Freischutz and Dvorak’s dramatic 7th Symphony.
We were delighted to be joined by hugely talented young soloist Michael Stowe, whose beautiful and lyrical performance of the Strauss oboe concerto was wonderfully accomplished.
If you missed it, put the next concert date in your diary now – our next St John’s concert is our Russian Masterworks concerton 17th February is our and includes Prokofiev’s Cinderella Suite No. 1 and Shostakovich’s 6th Symphony.
How do such mundane things as trains and potatoes link to Dvorak’s stirring 7th Symphony?
Dvorak was a trainspotter and spent hours at the railway station in Prague, talking to train drivers and noting down engine numbers.
The theme from his 7th Symphony came to him when he was at the station watching a train bringing anti-Habsburg sympathisers from Budapest to Prague for a festival at the National Theatre. Dvořák strongly identified himself with the rising tide of Bohemian nationalism and had been tracking the group’s progress with enthusiasm.
At the very bottom of the page of the score of the first movement, Dvořák’s handwritten note reads: “I got this theme when the festival train from Pest was arriving in the State Station in 1884.”
When Dvořák’s publisher Simrock failed to send him an advance for the Symphony, the composer complained that he had endured a bad potato harvest and needed some money upfront.