first desks of strings
Chris and ERSO working with young players from the Camden Training Orchestra in Nov. 2017

Coming from a musical family, Christopher studied the piano and cello growing up, playing the latter with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. He began conducting orchestras and operas when studying as a Choral Scholar at Trinity College, Cambridge, going on to study with Jorma Panula in Finland, and privately with Peter Stark.

Since graduating he has worked extensively on the music staff of Glyndebourne Festival and Tour; he assisted Music Director Robin Ticciati on Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail and was awarded the Lefever Study Award for work on Britten’s The Turn of the Screw. He works regularly with English Touring Opera and is looking forward to conducting Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro for the company in 2018. Further highlights in opera include Birtwistle’s Down by the Greenwood Side for Brighton Festival, the staged premiere of Gerald Barry’s La Plus forte and Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Aldeburgh.

He co-founded the Multi-Story Orchestra with composer Kate Whitley in 2011. In 2016 the Orchestra’s work was recognised with an RPS Award for their annual summer festival of orchestral music in a Peckham Car Park. Their first performance was The Rite of Spring in 2011, and repertoire since has included symphonies of Beethoven, Brahms and Sibelius, as well as large-scale 20th-century works such as Andriessen’s De Staat and Grisey’s Les espaces acoustiques. Outside of Peckham, the Orchestra has played in the Aldeburgh and Brighton festivals and recorded for NMC. In 2016, Christopher and the Multi-Story Orchestra made their BBC Proms debut with a programme of works by Steve Reich.

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.

http://www.christopherstark.co.uk