An Interview with Kirill Karabits

With the concert season 16/17 now well underway, Kirill Karabits, the Orchestra’s Chief Conductor since 2008, recently spoke with Communications Intern Kerry-Ann to answer some questions about his profession, greatest achievements, and hobbies outside of the concert hall.

Q. What’s the best thing about being a conductor?

A. I think it’s the possibility of communication with so many people involved in the process. On one side you have the orchestra which you need to train in a certain way; and from the other side you have different audiences – every country, every venue has different audiences. Finding the balance between these is the most challenging and interesting thing. If you can create an excitement from the orchestra’s side and audiences enjoy it, then you are in the middle of this excitement. You get a lot of positive energy from both sides and it’s a fascinating feeling.

Q. What concerts are you particularly looking forward to conducting in the BSO 2016/17 season?

A. I look forward very much to working with Nemanja Radulović (pictured below), with Khachaturian’s violin concerto in December. I’m also looking forward to conducting Tchaikovsky’s Suite No.3 which will be new for audiences and the Orchestra as well. And I’m looking forward to working again with Guy Braunstein for Elgar’s Violin Concerto(1) and Valeriy Sokolov for Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto(2). Every programme is different and I look forward to all of them in a different way.


  1. Heart & Soul at Lighthouse, Poole Jan 18 and Great Hall, Exeter Jan 19
  2. Back in the USSR at Lighthouse, Poole Jan 25 and Guildhall, Portsmouth Jan 26

Q. What are your interests outside music?

A. How things are at the moment, I don’t have very much time to spend doing anything else seriously. But I do have hobbies – I like yoga and I like reading. I shouldn’t say I like travelling as it’s part of my profession but I like travelling and feel at home in many countries now.

Q. The Orchestra has just finished recording Walton’s Symphonies 1 & 2. Of the recordings you have made with the BSO, do you have a favourite?

A. It’s hard to say. I really enjoyed our recording of Korngold’s Violin Concerto with Nicola Benedetti – it was a very, very good recording. I think Walton’s symphonies will be a fantastic recording; we created a nice energy in the recording session. I haven’t heard it yet but I’m sure this will be one of our best – especially Symphony No.2 which is absolutely underrated. I hope we can open a new perspective for the performance of this great symphony.

Explore all of our recordings

Q. You have written the foreword to the new book celebrating the BSO and its achievements; during your time with the Orchestra, what do you feel has been the BSO’s greatest achievement?

A. From my perspective, the greatest achievement and most valuable for me is our relationship. I think and hope very much we respect each other still after 8 years of collaboration. I should mention another achievement is our relationship with our audiences, which we have created together. Now we can perform almost anything in Poole and audiences have trust. Eight years ago, Bruckner and Haydn were no-go’s with audiences; but now we have seen last week, the hall was full for Bruckner’s Symphony No.4. I think that’s a fantastic achievement. [Explore the symphony with Kirill as part of our Meet the Music series – below] Another great achievement and also a personal one, because I have done a lot to make this happen, is our approach to classical and early music. It is now performed on a totally different level and the musicians have a different understanding of that style.


Rebecca Wileman – Marketing Intern


Isles of Scilly Residency

Last year duetwe (Patrick Bailey and Matt Harrison, BSO Associates) made three visits to the Isles of Scilly – one visit to Five Islands School (the school for the majority of the island’s children from age 4 to 16) – and two others to work outside of school hours. Our colleague on the islands is Debbie Wainwright, the tireless head of music at the school.

This year we are planning four visits. Each visit lasts a weekend where we work with a variety of community groups. Our aims for the year include working with a group of instrumentalists from the school; continuing with our Rusty Returners; supporting singing on the islands, helping launch a new generation of brass players and establishing our family orchestra.

Young Persons Instrumental Group
Or, inevitably, YPIG (why pig?). This was a lovely session – 2 flutes, 2 recorders, 4 clarinets, 2 saxes, bass guitar and electric guitar ranging in age from 8 to 15. We started by making some vocal pieces using only the sounds in our names by way of warm up but soon got stuck in to some work on our instruments. This is a new group and we had no immediate agenda other than to get them playing together.

James on guitar gave us a couple of chords that he knew and thought worked well together – Am and C. We soon built a simple line for the wind instruments based on the roots of these chords with an added passing note. Joby, only a few weeks into his bass playing career joined in too. James added a third chord to the riff – G major and so our melodic line grew. Each small section found their own embellishments, Joby found two different Gs – 3rd fret on E and the open string.

We then did some rhythmic work, finding a range of complex or simple rhythms. Breaking into smaller groups, each section added some notes to their rhythms leaving us with some really interesting ideas to build on next time.

Adult Rusty Returners
The joint forces of BSO and the BBC saw this group playing live on BBC Radio 3 in May. Luckily, it hasn’t gone to their heads. What we did discover though is that there was a real yearning to play some notated music. So we did. Straight off the BBC Ten Pieces website – In the Hall of the Mountain King, Mars and The Firebird. We had a good group including a violin (yay!) and a cello (someone had found two cellos in their loft and donated them to the school, another resident had played cello aged 8 and was picking it up again for the first time in 30 years!). It was a good session and I think we can probably bump some people up from ‘beginner’ level parts to ‘intermediate’ soon enough.

Community Choir
We have been running some kind of singing session on our previous visits but had not quite found the right set-up. This was out latest attempt. And proof that perserverance can pay off. We invitied the ladies community choir and the gents we had met in a male singing group to come together in a kind of 3 part, SAB, choir. With notated arrangements but learning at a gentle pace to include everyone. Debbie wanted to take the rehearsal to begin with to challenge herself. Matt was an able pianist and Patrick a willing bass. We split and Patrick took the gents off for a sectional, a singing circle, which had a lovely atmosphere. We made great progress and the choir was able to put the piece back together.

For the next session, Debbie has asked Patrick to take the full choir part and she will lead the ladies sectionals. We will also run the choir for longer – an hour and a half.

Brass hasn’t been taught on the island for a generation, simply because there is no one to do it.  The school however, do have a whole set of brass band instruments that a quick blast of valve oil bought back to some semblance of life. Matt ran two sessions for anyone vaguely interested in how a brass instrument works.  We had a great turn out for both sessions.  We spent a lot of time on the mechanics of brass playing and breathing.  This really payed dividends, as by the end of the session, everyone was making was a good  quality sound. We ended the session with a perfectly passable version of “I Feel Good” by James Brown.

Family Orchestra
Despite the excellent weather, we had a very good turnout including some new members young and old. We love putting reticent parents on tuned percussion because when it gets going and makes a beautiful gamelan-ny sound they all smile!

We wrote a piece together. The first three notes of the tune are B, F, G. We called it Big Fat Giant. To be continued….

At the end of our day Patrick and Matt has some spare time to see the beauty of the islands for themselves. Armed with only a trombone and a melodica, they trekked for a good 45 minutes without a map or any real sense of where they were going.  This is evidenced in the photos, which we are well aware looks like a cheesy 70’s album cover.tromlogo-landscape