Starting at the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

Since my last post on Disability Arts Online (DAO) last October, things have progressed far beyond anything I could have   imagined.  Since you’re reading this, you might have already noticed the publicity surrounding Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s (the BSO) Change Makers project and that I am now training there to develop my conducting.  This is the first of many blog entries about my time with the BSO…

It all started last April when Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra called for expressions of interest from disabled artist with whom to apply to the Arts Council’s Change Makers fund.  At the time, I was busy preparing the Conducting Development Week , and I kept umming and erring as to whether I had enough time and energy to respond to the BSO’s call.  The call for expressions of interest repeatedly appeared in various newsletters and websites, such as DAO, almost as if it was asking me for a response.

Luckily, I took note of the frequency and gingerly e-mailed in my cover letter and CV into the BSO on 10th April 2016 with a proposal for a tailored conducting traineeship.  The decision to respond was one of the best decisions I have made yet. I was invited to an interview via Skype with a panel of three  to discuss a more focussed idea around which the traineeship may be framed ;based on a previous project conceptI was researching a few years ago. The interview was a success, leading to the BSO and I making a successful funding bid to the Change Makers fund.  On 28th September, the Arts Council granted the funding, and I started my traineeship on 1st June.  Details can be found on the BSO Change Makers page.

Photo of James in a meeting at the BSO

James in a meeting at the BSO

Over the last few weeks since my start date, meeting the many lovely people at the BSO has been my main priority and will continue to do so for the sheer number of different roles within the company.  This has been a part of my induction process during which I continue to get a feeling of the internal culture and the inner workings of the BSO.  Knowing about the breadth of roles and workloads is proving useful for developing my role and way(s) of working in the best way possible with others.

As part of my induction process, I was obligated(!) to participate in a team building exercise at the gelato bar situated opposite the Lighthouse in Poole, in which the BSO is based. Obviously, this was one of the more stressful tasks I’ve done as a part of my role at the BSO so far, but with a bit of teamwork, we got through it!  Choosing the right flavour from the vast selection of different ice creams and sorbets was hard work, a dilemma which I shared with my new colleagues.  Through this shared experience, we all sought validation and comfort from each other!

Another highlight of my starting at the BSO was my slanting desk! During the first week of having my electric height adjustable desk, one of my colleagues came in the morning only to find my desk being lop-sided!  Somebody obviously decided to have some fun and frolics with the height adjustment feature; affixing the left-side leg at a height whilst continuing to lower the right-hand-side.  This created a slanted feel to the area surrounding the desk, bringing memories of James’ family home from Tim Burton’s rendition of James and the Giant Peach to the fore.  Whoever created this slanted effect did so with such diligence and accuracy, achieving a gradient large enough for it to be noticeable whilst still maintaining a degree of “levelness” for my PC and monitor to stay safely upon the surface of the desk.

So, whoever you are – Slanty Desk Person – I take my hat off to you!  I genuinely mean that for it provided an extra talking point which I took full advantage of as I broke the ice with the many people I met that day.  I felt sorry for my assistant that day who repeated everything I said because I lost count of how many times I said the phrase “…it adds character” whilst remarking on the desk during conversations with different people.

The slanty desk situation was rectified a week later with full credit to the operations and IT people at the BSO who, like everyone else here, work hard to work as effectively as possible to get things done.

I am now sinking my teeth into my role and feel as if I have landed something quite special!  My team is really nice and excited about what is to come.  My attention is now turning to converting the project’s work plan into reality, and to start this journey into uncharted territory.  I look forward to keeping you updated!

James Rose
BSO Change Maker / Conductor

Andreas Ottensamer speaks to Quarternote

Quarternote catches up with the BSO’s 2017/18 Artist-in-Residence

Ottensamer New Era 3_Cropped_KatjeRuge_Decca

Photo Credit: Katje Ruge / Decca

Tell us your thoughts about being our new Artist-in-Residence next season?

I was so happy to accept this offer. I have some very good memories after the concert when I had the chance to have the first encounter with the BSO and I’m looking forward to dive into this relationship even more. It also comes with so many different programmes. I think that’s something that the Artist-in-Residence really has the advantage of – to be able to not only come with one kind of programme and one kind of musical genre, but really try to show the different aspects of your own artistic journey and I think we chose a beautiful set of pieces and variety of repertoire.


You’re starting the new season with the Hindemith Clarinet Concerto and also Weber’s Concertino for Clarinet and Orchestra; do you want to tell us about those two pieces?

It’s kind of a funny thing but somehow I also think it fits pretty well, because I’ve never actually played the Hindemith Concerto so it’s going to be my first time, which is great because I think when you feel comfortable with your partners on stage, that’s the right time to try new things and widen your own repertoire. Obviously this is the case otherwise we wouldn’t have chosen to do this residency and I’m actually pretty relaxed and looking forward to this! Hindemith’s Concerto is a huge piece, so it’s of course going to be a challenge. I think it’s viewed as a piece that’s not too easily accessible to the audience which I would like to change because along with the opening phrase, it’s so beautiful. If we work on the right balance and the orchestration and the dialogue between the soloist and the orchestra, I think one can really show what a great piece it is and that’s the challenge about it, besides learning the piece of course!
On the other hand, the Weber Concertino is a great piece of standard repertoire where everybody knows where it’s going and it will be just great to play.


You’ll be directing from the clarinet in the second concert you’ll be playing for us

Yes, that’s something I really look forward to – that’s what I’ve mentioned before that you really have these different aspects not only in the repertoire but also of course in my role. This is going to go one step beyond just playing and through this opportunity I have the chance to really get even closer to the members of the Orchestra. It will be a small set of people, so one can really approach it in almost the same way as chamber music. The music we will play is really classical pieces – that’s the flair of the pieces that you don’t have this third party which is trying to put things together, but really you have to be attentive to each other and merge together as homogenously as possible, and then also having these really quick and sudden gestures and the possibility to really play together in a sense of chamber music.


When did you first take up the clarinet?

The instrument has been around me all the time – my father is a clarinettist so I really grew up with the instrument being played or just lying around. It wasn’t something kind of strange that was introduced to me actively which I think is one of the main reasons that I feel so comfortable with it because it’s like the voice of your parent that’s always been around. Actively wanting to play as a very small child, it’s not an ideal instrument to start with, just because your lungs and teeth need to be a bit further developed, so that’s why I also thought it was a really good idea to start with the piano, looking back. But obviously, very naturally there was this kind of curiosity about this instrument that was being played about me all the time, so at the age of 12 I got a chance to try my luck!


Did you always know you were going to be a musician growing up in a musical household?

Just because it was something so strongly incorporated in our lives, there was never this idea of being a musician as a job; it was always a part of everyday life. I remember this really funny story when I was in pre-school and I first realised that not every family had music being played at home – I always thought that was the way it is! So this is the kind of approach you have to think of – for a very long time I just did it for fun and because it was nice to do something with the family together as well, and I think that’s a very healthy approach.


What’s the best thing about being a musician?

I would say the flexibility of taking time off and being able to sit here on a Friday noon doing whatever you have to do. That’s a great thing and then also trying to maintain this attitude of having fun and appreciating your job and I think that’s very possible with being a musician.


You’ve recently released a new album, New Era, would you like to tell us about that?


I’m very happy that we have this opportunity to play pieces from that album where I’m also going to be directing a little bit, so that’s a very exciting thing for me at the moment. It was also something I really wanted to dive into because this period and these concertos from that time are not as well-represented as they could be. It’s a time people pass through quite quickly in their education and something you view as pretty nice but rather easy material. But if you have a closer look, then you actually see how much was going on back then, not always with the clarinet but in general, music-wise, starting from the orchestra set-up or the first time the clarinets were actually part of the orchestra. The form of the symphony itself also changed, and the composers were suddenly conducting and playing in the orchestra, as well as being soloists at the same time, so it was pretty crazy times. Most importantly they influenced so many people like Mozart and so many other composers who came there to hear this magnificent orchestra which was viewed as one of the best orchestras of that time in Mannheim. Especially for the clarinets, this was the birth of the instrument as we know it now, as part of the orchestra and also as a solo instrument; the first concertos were written there for the clarinet, so we have to be pretty thankful for those people. And if you actually look at the material, there’s so much to show and to enjoy for the audience as well. It’s something where you at first have to, maybe like a dialect or a language, be acquainted to or know how to use it and if you really take the time to learn that and understand the manners of the time, then the pieces will sound completely different. That’s something we really tried to do with this recording and that’s what made this so exciting.


Tell us about your trio with your father Ernst and brother Daniel, The Clarinotts

This is the most natural thing that happened, because we just took the music out of our living room and where we played at home. We just put it on stage and are still amazed that people are coming to the concerts! It’s really nice to play with your family of course; I would say it’s the most intimate way to make music.


The Clarinotts (Photo Credit: Lukas Beck)

Is there a friendly rivalry between you?!

Well, as we play so much together I think it’s beyond that point! I think the moments of despair happen when we try to rehearse, which is not our strength! But on stage it’s really something where no words are needed and that’s basically a big advantage.


Are there any performances from your career so far that are particularly memorable for you?

Well, probably the last one! It’s really hard to pick out – there are some moments of course but not necessarily linked to one performance, but maybe rather encounters or experiences. I’m not a fan of picking out this one thing or that, because it’s all connected together. If you have one concert which is really memorable then probably there were a few others that led up to it, so I wouldn’t want to pick one.


Is there a musician or conductor from the past you would have loved to work with?

Oh so many! Last year we just had numerous conductors passing away which is really a pity and most of them I didn’t have the chance to work with, like for example [Nikolaus]Harnoncourt. But from my father’s stories, of course especially also connected to the opera, Carlos Kleiber must be one of the top choices one would have loved to experience working with. But there are great young new conductors coming as well, so I think we’re pretty well set.


You’re Artistic Director of the annual Bürgenstock Festival in Switzerland which was held earlier in February this year. How did it go and would you like to tell us about it?

It was beautiful – the setting there is really just out of this world. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen so far. It’s a little mountain-top just above Lucerne with the lake just beneath and basically it’s a family up there that loves music. We started this festival together wanting to have a friendly intimate atmosphere and that’s what it’s all about. This year that’s what we tried to create and we had great friends there – Maximilian Hornung, cello, Barnabás Kelemen, a violin player and also my colleague Albrecht Mayer was there to present the new CD with me at the last concert and I’m doing this with my friend José Gallardo, the pianist. It’s really a great joy and something completely different from just being a musician and being on stage. You have to plan and organise and talk to sponsors – it’s a really different approach but also really fulfilling in another way.


Tell us about your clarinet

It’s a Viennese clarinet. Basically there are two big systems – the French system and the German which differ in the fingerings and the bore and everything. And then there’s this one little outsider, the Viennese system, which actually was one of the first stages of development. The clarinet is strongly linked to Vienna and Austria. In Vienna we have this school in which the biggest part of it is the imagination of sound you want to create. We look for this very round and rather dark sound, and this is of course supported by the instrument we play. My instrument has a wider bore than for example the German instrument, which in the end very roughly explained, leads to the fact that you have to use a lot of air to produce the sound. That again has an effect on your way of playing and also makes for this round and big sound. I’m very close with my instrument makers – we met up a lot of times before they made my clarinet so they’re pretty personalised to my way of playing and that of course makes for a closer bond between the instrument and myself.


Just a couple of short questions to end – what are your interests outside of music?

I think it’s so important to have a wide outset of interests. As a musician, your musical personality is so dependent on your character, which can only develop when you have a lot of inputs from all kinds of daily things. I really like to incorporate that into what happens on stage because that’s what makes for a very personal performance, so I’m trying to be very open to many things. I would say my biggest hobby is sport of all kinds which is also a great balance to life as a musician and just works really well for me. I’ve done this for as long as I could probably walk, and people often ask how do these things fit together, but if you’re used to playing tennis or whatever, the danger is very limited!


How do you prepare for a concert?

All your life you’re preparing for a concert! It really depends; I’m so happy and lucky to be able to have these different aspects of music with the orchestra and chamber music and also solo performance. All of these three fields are so different but at the same time they’re so important for each other, so I’m trying to look at it as a big picture. But of course every concert needs a different kind of attention and preparation. Sometimes it’s also most helpful to just relax and not tense up too much trying to think of every detail, but practice and try to be in the right mindset for whatever is coming.


Last question – have you had any embarrassing moments on stage?

I’m very sure of course, like trousers open! I think the funniest moments probably actually were with the trio because as close our understanding is, also brings the danger when just a little thing happens, at least two of us could start to laugh right away. It has happened once or twice we couldn’t hold back and were just laughing on stage but you know we’re all just human!


To find out more about Andreas’s forthcoming performances with the BSO in the 2017/18 Concert Season and to book tickets, please visit

Making Bridges with Music: Finding Treasure

We are telling a story. In fact, we are mostly playing and singing a story. Accordion, guitar, percussion, shells, bananas, sheet music, baton and a chest full of surprises. Some of the story is familiar. You might recognise a melody or a lyric but because of the unique group of people that are taking part, it’s our very own story. An original tale that weaves its way though the hour or so that we have together every Tuesday morning in Bethesda Care Home in Torquay.

The authors of this story are aged from 18 months to 90 years plus. A mix of elderly
residents and their carers, children with their child minders and 2 musicians with their film maker. We set the scene because that’s what we do; it’s become the expectation of all the participants. Equipment is fetched to help narrate and open the imagination. Instruments become tools for building a boat, walking frames become bridges and lorries and we set sail to be pushed and pulled in what ever direction the wind might be blowing on this particular Tuesday.

It’s exciting and loud. It’s focused and gentle. At moments we can be completely still with
little or no noise but which ever mood we are in, it’s still our story. Today we are looking for treasure. The narrative has moved from the familiar front room, down the steps and into a beautiful (real life) garden. A treasure chest has been buried and the smallest of our collective are on the hunt. They are totally absorbed in the story. In the background, a little boy plays with a toy piano in the middle of the lawn. Two older residents experiment with bird whistles which mingle with the laughter of the children and the actual Bethesda garden bird song.

This is our fourth session out of six and we are already approaching the final chapters. How will it finish? That depends on the direction we decide to go. Maybe we won’t finish it at all. A never-ending story is what some of the elderly residents have suggested. A forever story. An ever story. Who knows, it’s all in the making anyway.

Making Bridges With Music is an innovative project bringing young and old together to
make music. Childminders are bringing pre-school children to three different residential and care homes in Torbay during June and July to see what happens when the generations meet and create new music, song, stories and more. The project is funded primarily by Awards For All and with the support of Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Doorstep Arts and Torbay Council.

Making Bridges with Music: Under the Sea

At Pendennis Care Home, our group of children (aged 3 and younger), residents (mainly over 80), artists, staff and child-minders have just spent our third morning together.

Two of the constants in our sessions so far have been the accordion and a large purple sheet of Lycra. The accordion ‘breathes’ and we all breathe with it, it accompanies the new songs we make together, and now we are all starting to play it too. The Lycra is stretched between us – 25 or more pairs of hands – creating a trampoline, a stormy sea, an imaginary space linking us all together. Soft toys take to the waves and are toppled this way and that as we sing, provoking gleeful shrieks and a slight sense of danger.

Last week, as young and old made pictures together, E (aged 3) led a story-song about all the inhabitants under the sea – sharks, dolphins, crabs, butterflies… At the end, under our Lycra waves, he invited … “Do you want to come under the sea with me?” And so, this is where we began this week … singing, painting and playing under the sea.

Pitched instruments, chimes, bells, xylophones, glockenspiels and a water gong – a cacophony of watery sounds as residents and children experiment, exchanging beaters, instruments, glances and few words. Watching and listening. Some are mirroring each other’s playing. As the singing begins, I start to paint the songs … a fish, a mermaid … and P gravitates towards the paint. P is 3 and has been more reticent to engage so far. Others follow her and in no time at all their painting is awash with colours.

One resident, E, has been watching the children closely as they paint, whilst playing on a chime instrument. L (age 2½) comes up with hands covered in paint and picks up a beater to join E on the chime. E and L exchange looks and touch. When L takes herself off to wash her hands, E reflects – “I used to know a little girl just like that. It was me. I loved it – I was always painting.” She remembers playing the piano and talks about the children she didn’t have.

Later, out in the garden, a game starts with a big inflatable ball – sitting in a circle with children and water-play in the middle. At first it’s carefully coordinated, helping residents to catch and throw it – to C, to H, to M, to S, to N, to P. P gets the ball, but she can’t throw it back into the group. The children know what to do and are too excited to wait. Three children go up to P, gently take it from her hands and begin the game again.

It’s a sign of how much everyone has ‘settled in’. The children are less tentative, less cautious. There is more noise, mess and excitement – which all seems manageable in the open air. It’s as if we’ve crossed the bridge and are now starting to roam around the pasture on the other side – meeting friends young and old and muddling along together, sharing toys, time and songs.

Making Bridges With Music is an innovative project bringing young and old together to make music. Childminders are bringing pre-school children to three different residential and care homes in Torbay during June and July to see what happens when the generations meet and create new music, song, stories and more. The project is funded primarily by Awards For All and with the support of Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Doorstep Arts and Torbay Council.

Making Bridges with Music: ‘A’ The Conductor and Composer

Making Bridges with Music is a project which sees childminders take early years children into care and residential homes, to make music together with the residents.

In the second week of the project one of the older residents ‘A’ who is 97 years old, told me how he loved Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by Mozart and so, the following week, I played it on the accordion as the whole group of ten residents, ten young children, childminders and carers all danced with their hands until I stopped playing. I noticed that ‘A’ really seemed to be conducting. He came alive as the music was playing. So this week I brought in a conductors baton and offered it to ‘A’. I explained that I would play the Mozart, but would follow his tempo and expression. ‘A’  immediately leaned forward in his chair and held the baton up and then conducted beautifully. He looked as if he had been doing this all his life, making sure he had eye contact with all of us in the room, checking each section of his ‘orchestra’ and using his hands and face very expressively. It was a wonderful performance.


After ‘A’ we then had three other conductors, two young and another resident. As these others conducted (varying speed enormously!) ‘A’ continued to also conduct without the baton. It seemed as if he had discovered his vocation. When talking to him he described how he had never played an instrument, but had sung in choirs for some of his adult life. When watching ‘A’ play the hand percussion, observing him singing and seeing him conducting makes me wonder what his musical career could have been. It is not too late – for even now he is playing in our multi-generational orchestra and having (or so it seems) the time of his life.

Later on various young and old all had a go playing on my accordion as I held it and worked the bellows. I asked ‘A’ if he would like to and he nodded. So I came nearer and he played a very lovely little four bar melody. It was complete in itself. He had played enough and did not want to play any more. Later in the afternoon we transcribed this melody and used it as the basis for a new song from the group which we called ‘Memory Box’.

We discovered today that ‘A’ is both conductor and composer – perhaps new careers for a man in his nineties, inspired and rejuvenated by having young people come into his residential home to play with him.

Making Bridges With Music is an innovative project bringing young and old together to make music. Childminders are bringing pre-school children to three different residential and care homes in Torbay during June and July to see what happens when the generations meet and create new music, song, stories and more.

Making Bridges With Music is an innovative project bringing young and old together to make music. Childminders are bringing pre-school children to three different residential and care homes in Torbay during June and July to see what happens when the generations meet and create new music, song, stories and more.
This is a project funded primarily by Awards For All.

Making Bridges with Music: G’s Birdsong

Making Bridges with Music is a project which sees childminders take early years children into care and residential homes, to make music together with the residents.

G is a 79-year old resident of The Warberries. The first time I met him, my colleague (who’d been helping to co-ordinate a previous gardening project with children and childminders at the home) was surprised by how animated and cheerful he appeared and remained for the session. G seems to me to be very talkative, although his speech is quite disorganised and he often talks about and remembers parts of his professional life. As a porter he looked after young adults, some with disabilities and some with mental health, and he was by accounts, well respected and liked by his charges.


At the beginning of session 2, he entered the room and clapped and danced with a red ukulele to entertain the children, he has exuded smiles and humour throughout both sessions. Today he was joined and supported throughout by his wife, D. With his regular verbal and musical interventions, G is a really compelling participant to track and capture.

Hugh and Jade were guiding and recreating the Oz-inspired story from Session 1. At the point where mirrors and mirroring came into the narrative, G seemed to take over, as if conducting; producing a birdlike whistling sound and flailing his arms. He then proceeded to sing in a sonorous Scottish folk voice, a series of verses to the room, and everyone quietened in response to him while his wife looked on in apparent incredulity. No one recognised the song, but upon replaying the video later that day and transcribing it together, we think G was inventing a lot of it in the moment. We recognised the melody of ‘We’ll Meet Again’, a song that another resident has played on keyboard at both of our Friday sessions, and we recognised fragments of bird themed imagery, perhaps growing out of the whistling sounds. While he sang, he seemed to be making wings with his arms, as if gliding.

The wings are like this
The birds begin to fly
But Mum returns and seems very unhappy
To see that her babies have gone
So It’s now a year
Before you’ll hear
The only one you’ll hear is a little robin
And he is a very good man
And his love is well shown
And we’ll meet again to us

By the end of session, h
is mood had adjusted and he seemed quietly emotional and contemplative, talking to his wife who may have been unpacking it all with him. I talked to them both and she was still quite shocked by the singing. What really inspired me is that D insists she hasn’t heard him sing before, in over 30 years of marriage. Jo, the manager of Warberries, was also able to affirm the change; he has been singing regularly during lunchtimes since our first session here last week.



G seems to have found some freedom to sing performatively, so I wonder about the changing of permissions in that space and to what extent these precipitated G’s creative outburst. Mostly, I wonder about the song and I look forward to seeing/hearing the life of the invention play out, with ideas in my head but no solid expectations.

Next week we are planning to make paper birds and to have ambient birdsong coming through a Bluetooth speaker at the start of (and throughout?) the session.

A thought whilst cycling

Hugh Nankivell – BSO Participate Associate

I recently finished a BSO Associates project in Torbay. For this project I travelled to all my sessions and planning meetings by bike. I didn’t have to take many instruments or much equipment (at most a melodica, a laptop, a shaky egg, a notebook and some lunch) and the school I was working in was nearby. It felt very good being able to cycle to the sessions. I was energising myself and being a rare role model for musicians on bikes.

IMG_5514 (2)

I remember when I was working with Opera North in Yorkshire there was a member of the orchestra who travelled to most concerts and workshops by bike, with his viola on his back. He was unusual, but I have often thought of him in the years since.

I felt a sense of relief at not having to take a whole load of equipment. When I am working in care homes or with early years I usually need to take in a keyboard, an accordion, a guitar, a box of percussion, some ukuleles, a white-board, my laptop, pens, roll of paper etc etc… This means that even if the session is nearby I cannot travel by foot or bike, but must go by private motorised transport. I accept that at times this is (probably) inevitable.

I recently had a meeting with Ben Twist who works for Creative Carbon Scotland, he was telling me about the changes in thinking he is encouraging with arts organisations in Scotland to do with their carbon footprints. Some organisations are better at coping with (and even anticipating change) and others much less good. How does an organisation that has a massive infrastructure (a symphony orchestra, a ballet or opera company) actually think about reducing its carbon use when it is wedded to a model that is massively consumptive of fossil fuels and is based on a repertoire and practise that is based on a model of practise from previous centuries?

With the BSO we are starting to think about new models and the Associate Scheme is one such. The six of us are spread out across the region and not based at a central depot (Bournemouth/Poole) and so the BSO can now access the communities of the SW more effectively even though we still may need to travel distances, usually by private transport. The recent ABO conference hosted by the BSO entitled ‘Disruption’ was a real provocation towards exploring what the Symphony orchestra can be in the future (where there are women conductors, more BME and disabled performers) and another part of this should could be, how do we plan for a constantly changing world.

The BSO is also starting to look at these issues with the SW virtual orchestra, and the recent appointment of James Rose as new ‘Change Maker’. So this is the start of a journey to a truly inclusive orchestra to which we travel as participants and audience by bike or public transport or visit virtually, where the music we play is affected by the world we live in and is able to change and reflect this.