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Musical Mechanics

I was actually awestruck by a recent LSO performance I heard at the Barbican, in front of a big audience who were nearly all aged 7 and under. I was there to hear my piece Music Spread Thy Voice somehow included in a 50-minute event called Musical Mechanics. (In the foyer beforehand, crowded with people three feet tall, I easily spotted my fellow composer Jonathan Dove, whose exciting and pacey piece Run to the Edge was also on the programme.)


Conductor Timothy Redmond is someone I know from very different contexts - I recently worked with him on both an opera production and an orchestral world premiere - so his extraordinary work building and writing young people's concerts was unknown to me until this morning event. In a very fast-moving show, Tim and a full-strength LSO explored the elements of music in a workmanlike way, putting it all together, via many beautiful extracts (even a bit of the Mahler 5 Adagio) and Ligeti-like interactions with the orchestra. The children attending had already learned some of Tim's songs at school, and gave very committed performances of them, to a rich orchestral backing.


Jonathan and I both remembered, as schoolchildren, coming along to the Festival Hall to hear young people's concerts. But I think the presenters barely spoke to us, and I seem to remember even then thinking that the choice of pieces "young people might like" was rather thin. By contrast, this show flung all kinds of sounds at very small listeners, amidst an atmosphere of joyous involvement.


Pictured: Jonathan Dove and myself with Timothy Redmond and soprano Olivia Boen in their Musical Mechanics attire. Olivia, now a house singer at the Hamburg State Opera, is a performer I've known from her GSMD days, and it was a thrill, towards the end of the concert, to hear her launch into a Dukas aria. The audience were momentarily taken aback, but within seconds returned to their state of enthralled enthusiasm. Referring to Olivia's costume, I felt it was rather great for the kids to see and hear a confidently singing lady mechanic, probably a useful role model for anyone's future career choices.







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