You know, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the steeple at LSO St Luke’s - is it a coincidence that it was the only part of the old church to have survived more or less in one piece while the rest fell into disrepair? - is some kind of weird aerial. Since the days of Hawksmoor, it has been picking up cryptic signals from around and about, so that some machine within the building might convert them into something more intelligible.
But then, LSO Discovery – the branch of the orchestra that that looks after its education and outreach work - do like to refer to LSO St Luke’s as a laboratory and a hub.
Hub because they want the building to attract people from the local community to come and listen to what’s going on. Or even to take part: we’ll see it tomorrow in particular when the LSO Community Choir assemble to take their place in the festival programme. And not just the local community, but the community of orchestral musicians, visiting conductors and soloists, composers.
Laboratory because it’s meant to be a place for trying things out, then sowing the results of this process out into the orchestra’s work and beyond, into the wider musical world. As Eleanor Gussman, who runs the department/programme, told me in an interview I wrote for Classical Music magazine (you should be able to read the full article here:
‘It’s all about exploring. It’s always been like that from 22 years ago when we set up the programme.. There’s a real sense that we’ve created a laboratory at St Luke’s where the building provides this kind of inspirational space for people to try things out, to explore in a safe environment where they are surrounded by LSO musicians who just pop in and they can just treat them as colleagues and to bounce ideas around.’
Two strands of LSO Discovery’s work exemplify this particularly clearly, and this evening they come together in a session entitled ‘Present. Curate. Collaborate. Innovate’. They are the composer scheme LSO Soundhub and the Digital Technology Group, which gives young people from the local area the chance to work in the production studio at St Luke’s.
Bringing them together is Ayanna Witter-Johnson, a cellist-singer-composer (she has also been involved with the LSO’s Panufnik Young Composer programme) who has worked with the DTG members to create work that will be played by LSO musicians.
I’ll be poking my head around the door of their rehearsal shortly. Stay tuned – the LSO St Luke’s secret transmitter is primed and ready…