BSO/Coda Bournemouth Family Orchestra

IMG_7558Well what an inspiring and busy year for the BSO/Coda Family Orchestra it has been!

The Orchestra has been meeting since January, one Sunday a month, in the beautiful Shelly Theatre in Southbourne. We are an orchestra open to all, with an emphasis on family groups coming together to have fun exploring, making and playing music together.

This year saw us working alongside players from both Coda Music Trust and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Each of our guests not only inspired us with their fantastic playing and technical tips but also and gave us a real insight into the life of a professional musician. Together with the participants, they helped shape the musical ideas and the Family Orchestra created a brand new, two movement, composition titled “The Wonders of Water”.

Our starting point for the piece came from an invitation to perform at the RSPB open day in September and we used the River Stour as an inspirational seed for our new composition. Over the coming months we played with different ideas, repertoire and combinations of sound to shape and mold our new music. We performed “The Wonders of Water” on the main stage at the BSO Proms in the Park – a fantastic experience for all involved, to perform on such a big platform and then again at the RSPB open day at Kingfisher Barn.

The Family Orchestra went on a great journey this year and evolved into a really exciting ensemble. They worked with real flexibility and commitment and I felt the standard of performance was excellent. The Family Orchestra  are such a varied band of differing abilities and musical interests but came together to perform and create fantastic, unique, new music.

I for one can’t wait to hear what they will create next!

If you are interested in joining the BSO/Coda Family Orchestra please contact Ben Jennings at the BSO :

Sam Mason
BSO Associate Muisician


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.

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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.

Catch up: Hugh Nankivell, BSO Associate

In the last couple of weeks I have led three BSO Associate projects with three very different groups of people.  I was working in Bridport on a multi-national youth project called The Complete Freedom of Truth (TCFT) and spent the whole of one day with a group of motivated musical teenagers (‘Remix’) and their carers. I began the Torbay Family Orchestra (and we renamed ourselves the UFO – Unidentified Family Orchestra) at Torre Abbey and I also started a band at a local school in Torquay – open to all year 9’s – and 22 turned up and we had an hour making new music together.

For all of these settings the main aim was to make new music together. I did not arrive with a set of repertoire pieces that we would play (which is the usual starting point for most orchestras), or even a set of fixed warm-up games and exercises. Instead I arrive with a list of potential starting points, a head full of games and exercises that I have used before and could use again, a history of experience in working in this way and a willingness to ‘play’ music and to see where this leads. I arrive without any preconceived notion of where we might end up at the end of the sessions. (As an example – at the UFO session I arrived with a sheet with twelve potential starting points on it – some discussions, others games, others musical structures – and we used only three of them in the three hours, and one of those ideas took us on a journey for 90 minutes and another was a two minute discussion!)

This approach does have a structure, which I increasngly use and is tri-partite.

1) Provocation
2) Exploration
3) Sharing

It begins with a provocation. What might this provocation be? A question, a rhythm, an idea, an instrument, a way of playing, a title? We then explore ideas that emerge from this provocation in many different ways through playing and experimenting, listening and laughing. I might be constantly required to guide these explorations, or the groups might prefer to go off researching and burrowing without me. Finally we share the work that has emerged, and we celebrate ourselves for having made it.

In each setting we made music very quickly and successfully and this surprised all of the groups. It motivated them to want to continue and return and develop their ideas, skills and musical playing. It seems to me that this workshop approach to making music, whereby the leader arrives with a starting point and an open mind and follows what emerges, must be the way forward. The journey I have begun with each of these groups is similar and the BSO Associate model allows me this space and opportunity and for this I am very grateful and excited to see where it goes.

Would you credit it?

Another amazing Inspiration year over and, after “the glorious season” of the Christmas concerts, a new one is beckoning with 29 (thanks Gary!) “Sensational Stage and Screen Spectacular” songs waiting in the wings.

But before we start our spring Showboating, rewind with me, past the New Year and “Christmas joys all around me” and “Somewhere In My Memory” I can see the “precious moments, special people, happy faces” of concert day…


As ever, our time on stage sped by faster than a Rudolph-guided sleigh but listening to the mesmerising carol medley of the BSO’s harpist, Eluned Pierce, I had a passing thought for all those un-credited contributors to our performances. Of course the programmes list the key leaders, players, soloists, and all the singers of the Inspiration team. Backroom boys, and girls, get a mention too but outside the immediate, God Bless Us Every One box I was thinking how many other factors go together to make a concert happen.

What about the tattooed roadies who set up the stage, the sound and lighting guys who tweak their sliders and faders, the truckers who drive the BSO pantechnicon and the staff at the O2 Guildhall? Or Anthony’s shimmering red, tinsel backdrop curtain? All play their part. Then, for every singer on stage there are as many stories of individual inspiration which led to us being there at all – personal contacts, newspaper ads, reports, Facebook messages or harmonious serendipity which Let The Song Begin for each one. In addition, we all have a musical heritage of parents, teachers, friends who have been instrumental in our vocal voyages.

How about the singers who make those o-so-helpful rehearsal recordings (there’s a great interview with one, Sharon Durant, on the website). How many times have those tracks been played in cars, at home, on training runs, in the gym or in the shower? And who transcribes all the lyrics for the website downloads? Where would we be without posters, flyers or the concert day programme? Then there’s the website: Penny keeps it all beautifully updated but did you know there are currently 27 photo contributors listed?

Week by week in Southampton we enjoy our half time rehearsal refreshments so thanks go to Marie for teas, coffees and tracking down 120 reindeer antler headbands!

One final thank you: others pay homage to Potters Pastilles or swear by Strepsils but I would personally like to acknowledge the debt I have to Fleetwood pharmacist James Lofthouse whose company now produce over 5 billion lozenges a year. When it seems the voice is on its way out, his Fisherman’s Friends somehow soothe my sore throat and rescue my scratchy vocal chords for another “magical, lyrical, annual miracle”!

Alan Matlock 2nd January 2017, Inspiration Choir Southampton member

Power through Diversity

As Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s Changemaker, James Rose has begun preparing for his eighteen month traineeship with the orchestra.The project funded by Arts Council England will provide James, an artist with disabilities, the opportunity to create and direct a disabled-led ensemble, supported by a tailored leadership and management programme. The ensemble will deliver a series of performances and workshops supported by strategic partners engaging young people and adults with and without disabilities. Arts Council England founded the project with the aim to help increase the diversity of senior leadership in art and culture by helping to develop a cohort of leaders who are Black, minority ethnic and/or disabled by means of a targeted senior leadership training and development programme.

Please read on to hear about James’ experience so far:

Since being awarded the Change Makers funding from the Arts Council, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and I have started the preparation for me to start my traineeship next summer. As one of the Change Makers, I was invited to the Arts Council’s conference on diversity in the arts aptly called Power Through Diversity.  So, I leapt at the chance and went to Contact Theatre in Manchester where it was being hosted.

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Photo Credit: Hana Zushi-Rhodes, Royal Academy of Music

The first half of the day consisted of mostly panel discussion. There is no doubt in my mind that everyone at the conference was committed to positive change.  I had an awareness of a potential pitfall which often occurs at these types of events and related campaigns.  This pitfall often consists of over-promoting particular social group (and their frustrations) without considering the best ways to (positively) engage the identified target audience needed to cause positive change.

There was an amazing array of entertaining speakers all delivering engaging and funny presentations. One person who stood out was the talented Jackie Hagan making a unique point through how she approached her presentation. She has one leg but her presentation was about her experience of social class; contradicting the audience’s voyeuristic expectations and reminding people that she has something else to talk about as well as disability – the class system.  She instantly introduces a subject with which most people are familiar and can relate, engaging the audience on a human level; crossing boundaries of social categorisation.  She later said in response to an audience members’ question that the content of any art form does not have to be restricted to the subject of the obvious social grouping to which its creator ‘belongs’.  This, I feel, is a powerful point for curators and artists to think consider as a part of their practice whilst maintaining integrity and genuineness within their work. And this is where a balancing act lies – using art as a form of self-expression to say something often personal whilst always being aware of your audience’s perceptions and reactions; paying close attention to the unsaid.

One of the reasons why I am so excited about my traineeship with the BSO is the opportunity to help improve the integration of people who have disabilities into the orchestral sector. I’m interested to see how the ethereal qualities of music will help or hinder audience’s abilities to accept wider inclusivity as the norm.

Solutions sometimes need indirect approaches especially when it comes to encouraging changes in perception and culture. Careful consideration of your target audience  (in the widest context) is, I believe,  key to achieving inclusivity resulting in organic diversity.

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

1,217 Enjoy Participating with BSO

The Family Orchestra draw in a crowd

In the BSO Participate tent we first saw the BSO Family Orchestra perform their piece ‘Orelob’ based on Ravel’s Bolero to a gathered crowd. The ensemble are made up of families and people all ranging in standard, instrument and age, who meet on Sunday mornings. This particular rendition of Bolero incorporated violin, electric guitar and bagpipes! Audience members were then invited to join in with the Family Orchestra to compose a brand new song, Sam Mason – BSO Associate for Dorset – enthusiastically led the mass composition and performance.Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra Participate team gathered at Meyrick Park on Sunday to deliver an extra slice of musical fun to the BSO Proms in the Park weekend. The day showcased performances from community choirs to body percussion workshops for all to get involved in.

Also in this tent we saw a body percussion workshop ran by both Sam Mason and Hugh Nankivell. Audiences were encouraged to join in making pieces using just clapping, clicking, stomping and chest thumping rhythms; this novel style really appealed to the imagination of the audience. Amber Jagot, BSO Participation Coordinator, further agreed that, “It was great to see so many children and adults alike, engaging with the music so enthusiastically.”

To conclude a day’s music events, Southampton Inspiration Choir performed alongside the BSO on the main stage. The non-auditioned community choir sang a range of crowd pleasers from the heart wrenching Bridge over Troubled Water, to hits such as Don’t Stop Me Now. The day was a fantastic tribute to all the local talent in the South West and also a great display in the range of work that the BSO Participate team undertake across the whole community.

Megan de Garis – Participation Intern