Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra worked with a range of partners in Gloucestershire on an exciting strings project that saw 180 young string players aged between 7 and 21 rehearsing and performing Fiddler’s Hill by professional composer and violinist Jeff Moore. Jeff has written his thoughts of the concert day.
The big day’s finally arrived, and I arrive at Cheltenham Town Hall expecting chaos. There were 172 children at yesterday’s rehearsal, and the logistics of getting them all registered, tuned up and seated with the right piece of music in front of them are just too immense to contemplate. I hadn’t taken into account the immense organisational skills of Caz, the BSO’s Participation Programme Manager, along with Glyn, Jon, and the rest of the Gloucestershire team. All the chairs are set up and marked, and everyone’s ready to go in record time. We’re making music within minutes. And what a fantastic sound it is! We’ve finally got our BSO musicians alongside the young players, and the difference they make is huge. My music is designed specially for a mixture of different levels of ability, and it only really takes shape when they all join together. The set-up is unusual: we’ve got the older children and the BSO players on the stage, and all the smaller ones behind me on the floor of the Town Hall. It involves 360 degree conducting, and the sound is indescribable! Few other composers ever get to hear their music in glorious surround sound, as I am right now! But now, down to the nitty gritty of rehearsal: things to tidy up, rough corners to be smoothed, and ensemble to improve. No mean feat with an orchestra of nearly 200! But I can tell it’s going to work, and I can relax and enjoy the experience when we get to perform it in the afternoon.
So, a very quick lunch and we’re on! Jon’s Celtic Fantasia sounds gorgeous, and there are big smiles all round from audience and players when it gets to the fast folky stuff, complete with foot stamping. Then it’s my turn, starting with a bit of public speaking (thanking various people and introducing the different elements of the orchestra), always the most nerve wracking bit for me. And now it’s here, the chance to show our audience what we’ve been working towards for all this time. I know that it might sound immodest as I wrote the piece in question, but I think that it sounds glorious. The opening for the professionals is full of atmosphere, and when the children enter with the folky tunes, the energy is electrifying. I’m riding high as we reach the soaring climax and the music brings us gently back to earth before the final flurry of the coda. I always find large orchestras and choirs exhilarating, and often find the sensation of large groups of people singing or playing together for a common goal an emotional experience. This is definitely no exception and I’m utterly overwhelmed by the end. Everyone seems happy and so am I, but I’m also sad that it’s over. Some children and their parents thank me afterwards and tell me how much they enjoyed it, which means a lot to me, and as they all bustle out of the hall I want to do it all again. Time to get planning for the next piece!