Remember the Olympics? This lot will.
We’re in the main hall – the Jerwood Hall – at St Lukes now for the pre-concert rehearsal of LSO On Track. It’s basically a regular symphony orchestra, but made up of youngsters of different ages from schools in the 10 east London Olympic boroughs. Hence the sporting name of the group: the orchestra performed at the opening ceremony for last year’s games.
As well as the kids, a dozen or so regular LSO players are sitting in as bumpers. And it’s an LSO player who’s conducting them. Here, Matthew Gibson, tells me about his involvement:
I’m a section double bass player but today I’m conducting so that’s already something out of my normal sphere. The big thing you get out of it is just seeing kids developing – there are a couple of guys who are now going into conservatoires and further education, and they’ve been with us since they were 8 or 9.
I’ve been doing Discovery work since I joined the orchestra, which is about 20 years ago; On Track has been going for about 8. ‘Next Generation’, one of the projects is a series of workshops that we do where young musicians where young musicians make their own pieces up and perform them alongside members of the London Symphony Orchestra. So it is great to give them the opportunity to have freedom and creativity.
We work with 10 east London boroughs so when we were offered the chance to go to the Olympics we jumped at the chance.
In that Olympic situation I rehearsed the orchestra before we got to the stadium (the guy who conducted in the stadium hadn’t arrived yet). Everything was pre-recorded – that’s the only way it could happen - in Abbey Road Studios with François Xavier Roth. So we then had to re-learn it, learn how to play along to the track and memorise it: one piece, Nimrod, was 4 minutes long and there was a 20 minute piece of new music that went along to the Pandemonium scene. We had 3 or 4 rehearsals in the weeks before we went into the stadium, then we had to go into the stadium to be a part of the dress rehearsals.
It was such a unique event and such an amazing experience for all of us, a one-off that none of us are going to be involved with again. We thought it would be a shame not to get back together and do something and this 10th birthday festival for LSO St Luke’s was the ideal opportunity. We’re doing Nimrod again but we’re also putting in some other pieces, and it’s pretty much the same group of people almost exactly.
We’ve had two rehearsals, so actually, for a youth orchestra we are expecting quite a lot of them – the LSO would do a concert on two rehearsals. We’re expecting them to live up to the standards we would apply to ourselves. They are actually doing really well. They are great arrangements – Gareth Glyn has arranged them so each player has a part tailored to their level. It’s great to see kids of that age approaching it with a real professional attitude.