What is ‘Rites of Passage’, anyway? Alexandre Bloch tells us what to expect

By | June 11, 2013 at 12:58 pm | No comments | Artist Interviews, LSO Discovery | Tags: , , , ,

We’re getting very excited about this Thursday’s Rites of Passage concert, which promises to be a spectacular event!. Young musicians from the LSO On Track Next Generation scheme and the LSO Community Choir will be appearing alongside the Orchestra in a whistle-stop tour of Beethoven, Verdi and Stravinsky. Leading the proceedings will be Conductor Alexandre Bloch, winner of the last Donatella Flick LSO Conducting Competition. We’ve been getting to know Alexandre, as well as participants from the On Track orchestra and Community Choir, and chatting to them about what to expect on Thursday and what makes Rites of Passage so special…

Alexandre Bloch, Conductor

What’s it like to conduct the LSO? Have there been any particular highlights?

It is unbelievable each time!  I have had an incredible opportunity, being able to conduct the LSO at least once a month since I moved in London. I am very much looking forward to this next concert, which might be the highlight of this year with the LSO.

How did you devise tonight’s programme?

I wanted the audience to discover different kinds of music in one night. That is why there are three different periods of represented: the classical with Beethoven, the Romantic with Verdi and the modern with Stravinsky. Also, you may have noticed that they are from 3 different countries (respectively: German, Italian and Russian). Finally, there are also three different forms of classical music: Symphonic, Operatic and Ballet.

What are the highlights? Are you looking forward to any particular part/aspect of tonight’s concert?

First of all, the most important would be that the young musicians will go out of this concert with an incredible experience and great memories. Then, I hope that the audience too will enjoy our story of the Firebird and be bewitched by Stravinsky’s music, will want to sing along with the choir, will encourage the young musicians, will be excited by the crazy music of Beethoven and will feel the power of emotion in Verdi’s operas.

Tonight’s event is a bit different from a traditional concert format, do you think it’s important to ‘shake things up’ somewhat?

Definitely! The time when people came to concerts for three-and-a-half hours of music has gone. Now, everyone is thinking all the time about their emails, checking Facebook, Tweeting etc… So, the onus is on us to adapt classical music concerts to our time.

You will see in the concert how we have changed up the traditional concert format, but I would like to invite the audience now to create a ‘#ritesofpassage’ and tweet before and after the concert, as well as during the interval – why not? As long as we can’t hear the sounds of your devices, who said that a concert is a place where nobody is allowed to move more than an inch?

Are you excited to be conducting the community choir in choral repertoire?

Yes! Especially in this very famous repertoire! Who hasn’t heard the Beethoven 9th main tune, even as a ringtone…

What inspired you to work with younger musicians alongside the LSO? What do you enjoy most about working with young musicians?

Well, my time as a young musician isn’t so far in the past (I might even still be considered one!). I was lucky to meet teachers, musicians, and conductors who introduced me to the orchestra in such a passionate way that I got the bug…

So now, I feel the need to share it with other people! And usually with young musicians there is never a lack enthusiasm, which is why I am so looking forward to having them alongside the LSO.

What does the name of the concert, ‘Rites of Passage’, mean to you?

It means of course the hand-over of musical knowledge from the LSO professionals to younger musicians. It also means that the time they spent together was an act of sharing from both sides – I am sure that members of the LSO will also take something from this ‘rite of passage’. It also illustrates the renewing of audience I was talking about before.

What would you say to someone reading this to come along to the concert, particularly if they’ve never been to a classical concert before?

You’ve got to come! Forget the etiquette of ‘classical music’: this is much more intense than any action movie, even more powerful than listening to music to the radio. The experience of a concert is something unique, fun and much more enjoyable than you could ever think!

Do you have any advice for aspiring young musicians?

Just be yourself, as long as you’re passionate and working hard, you’re on the right track.

What’s the best way to get involved in music?

Any! All the protagonists of the musical scene are important, but the one who is absolutely necessary is the audience. So if you love music, and you want to get more involved in music, this would be the first thing to do: go to (more) concerts!

What inspired you to become a conductor? How did you get started?

Thinking back to my time as a cellist, I was playing a lot in orchestras and I was sad to see some musicians bored by playing. So, I wanted to have a chance to rekindle the musical excitement they had when they first begin playing their instrument, to keep the music alive! Then, I became very interested in conducting youth orchestras.

Now, both are still going on and I would add that I’m now working on finding ways to have more connection with the community – full of potential audiences.

What do you enjoy most about being a conductor?

The relationship with people: interaction with musicians (either talking in rehearsal or the furtive look during performance) and the connection with the audience.

If you weren’t a conductor, where do you think you would be, and what do you think you would be doing?

Well, this is impossible to imagine my life without music, but if it was so, I could imagine doing something in computing like website developer or maybe a professional sailor.

 

Oliver Craske –Bass, LSO Community Choir

How long have you been in the Community Choir? Can you tell us a bit about what being a member involves?

I joined in 2008, back when it was run by Gareth Malone. It’s open to singers of all standards who live or work in the local postcode (EC1), with no auditions. Every Monday evening about 80 of us turn up to practise for two hours in the wonderful hall of LSO St Luke’s. We sing three concerts per year, usually in St Luke’s, occasionally in the Barbican or other venues. The musicians and staff who run it are impressive people, we’re really lucky.

The choir perform a huge variety of music in different styles. What are your favourite pieces to sing?

I love the variety of repertoire. As a bass, I suppose I particularly like those pieces with strong bass parts. Some of my favourites have been: Across the Polar Sea, a lovely Prokofiev song; Bartok’s Four Slovak Folk Songs; the Pilgrims’ Chorus from Wagner’s Tannhäuser; and The Winner Takes It All (Abba). That gives you a sense of the range. They all have great bass lines.

What has been a personal highlight for you during your time with the choir?
It has to be when we sang in a Hugh Masekela concert in the Barbican Hall, onstage with the LSO too. Wonderful South African songs and so uplifting.It was even broadcast on BBC4.

What advice would you give to any other adults who are interested in singing in a choir?

Try it. The satisfaction of singing in harmony (hopefully) with 80 other people is not a feeling you can get any other way. There is a sense of communal endeavour that we often lack in life today. There’s a great quote by Brian Eno: ‘I believe that singing is the key to long life, a good figure, a stable temperament, new friends.’ Not sure about the figure, but I believe the rest of it.

What will you be singing at the upcoming ‘Rites of Passage’ concert on13 June? Is there anything you’re particularly looking forward to in the concert?
We’re singing two opera choruses by Verdi: the Anvil Chorus from Il Travatore and the fantastic Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from Nabucco. Plus an excerpt from the Ode to Joy in Beethoven’s 9th. Most people will recognise them even if they don’t know the names. I’m looking forward to hearing Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite with all its rhythmic inventions.

What does the name of the concert, ‘Rites of Passage’, mean to you?

An experience you go through that seems daunting but which is good for you… like singing in public? I guess the title may also be a nod to Stravinsky’s notorious Rite of Spring. Hopefully there won’t be a riot at this concert.

What would you say to someone reading this to come along to the concert, particularly if they’ve never been to a classical concert before?
Come along with an open mind. You don’t need to know anything about classical music to appreciate it, and a live concert is the best place to start.

 

Alison Archibald – Soprano, LSO Community Choir

The choir perform a huge variety of music in different styles. What are your favourite pieces to sing?
I love the variety but my favourite had to be the Britten – St Nicolas at the Barbican.

What has been a personal highlight for you during your time with the choir?
Meeting and singing with so many truly nice people

What advice would you give to any other adults who are interested in singing in a choir?
Go for it – don’t worry if you are good enough, haven’t sung for ages, feel rusty: the muscles (and the sound) will come back

What will you be singing at the upcoming ‘Rites of Passage’ concert on 13 June? Is there anything you’re particularly looking forward to in the concert?
The Ode to Joy (from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony)

What would you say to someone reading this to come along to the concert, particularly if they’ve never been to a classical concert before?
The choruses and pieces chosen will be familiar even if you don’t know the names – come and try!

 

Joe Linton – Trumpet, LSO On Track Orchestra

Can you tell us a bit about what being in LSO On Track Next Generation involves? How has it helped you to develop as a musician?
Being part of LSO is a great feeling, playing with such talented musicians is fantastic. The programme itself helps you to develop your musicianship skills and it inspires you to play your best.

What has been you most memorable experience with On Track so far?
My most memorable moment is probably last year’s concert.  It was my first year with the programme, it was really exciting to step onto the stage at the Barbican in front of all of those people at the start of the performance, and walk off to such a rapturous applause knowing we had done a good job.

What is it like to work alongside the professional musicians of the LSO? Have they given you any good advice?
It’s been great to work alongside such experienced musicians, the level that they work at and the knowledge that they have is amazing.  We have different people coming into each rehearsal, sharing with us so we learn something different every time.

Is there anything in the concert that you’re particularly looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to playing with the orchestra again, the whole experience is pretty amazing and hopefully the audience will enjoy it as much as last year.

What would you say to someone reading this to come along to the concert, particularly if they’ve never been to a classical concert before?
I would say that you just have to sit back and really listen to the music, enjoy the experience!

 

Find out more about Rites of Passage here: http://lso.co.uk/rites-of-passage-sampler-concert

 

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