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


Concerts and Composers

James Rose, Dougie Scarfe (the CEO of the BSO), Darth Vader and his Storm Troopers at the Proms in Meyrick Park, Bournemouth. Credit: Starlight Photography

James Rose, Dougie Scarfe (the CEO of the BSO), Darth Vader and his Storm Troopers at the Proms in Meyrick Park, Bournemouth. Credit: Starlight Photography

I’m in my eleventh week at the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) and I’m loving it! Recently, I went to the BSO’s very own Proms in the Park staged over three days in Meyrick Park, Bournemouth. This fun-filled 48 hr period included meeting the private donors contributing a significant amount against a backdrop of fab music played by Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Spread over three evenings, of which I attended two, the repertoire consisted of John Williams’ film hits on the first night, and then the Rock & Symphonic Queen Spectacular on the second. Both of the evenings were quite different.

The opportunity of meeting the donors was what drew me towards attending the first night to thank them personally for their support of not only my conducting, but of the BSO’s drive to making the classical music world more diverse. If I’m honest, there was a small wave of lumpy-throat syndrome going on beneath my smiling face for I continue to be touched by their support. That evening also featured guests such as Chewbacca, Darth Vader, and a number of Storm Troopers, who were meandering around the grounds for photo opportunities at the request of punters.

Although I normally remain non-plussed by people depicting fictional characters, I suddenly devolved into a smallish child and had my photo taken with all of them. I wasn’t too ashamed as I was joined by Dougie Scarfe (the CEO of BSO) who was as equally, if not more, excited to meet Darth Vader.

The second evening was just as much fun, but for different reasons. I decided to go to the Rock & Symphonic Queen Spectacular at the very last minute after having a brilliant time the night before. As a result, I was there on my own accord just to enjoy the concert whilst other BSO people were looking after the VIP tent around me. After a while, I volunteered to help people from the Development team to bring further supplies into the tent from a delivery vehicle that wasn’t allowed beyond the car park. This might sound pretty dull to you but this was an opportunity to get to know some of the team more organically whilst feeling that I was contributing something to the evening rather than draining the free bar! The two days were busy but fun at the same time, contributing further to establishing myself as part of the BSO.

The call-out for expressions of interest for the composer-in-residence closes on 1st. September. Over the past weeks, it has been interesting speaking to different composers and answering their questions before they submit their responses to the call-out. The top question asked has focused on the type of composer we’re looking for.

It is expected that the chosen person will be writing for new instruments. Therefore, we are on the hunt for someone with the flexibility and the ingenuity to compose new music whilst including references to the classical music tradition. This may include adapting conventions or inventing new ones within their composition process in order to cater for new instruments. Depending upon the formation of the ensemble, compositions may need to be written around the instrumentalists’ needs, fostering a close relationship between composer and musicians.

One of the key things I want to ensure is that there is some kind of cultural transference within pieces for established classical audiences; for existing players to embrace and celebrate the new instrumentation and a more diversified musicianship. By this, I mean that there is some familiarity to music past, possibly with signifiers from established repertoire with which people can immediately identify. How many pieces? I don’t know as this will depend on the selected composer and the dialogue thereafter to ensure organic and meaningful music.

Another question I am asked a lot is about the size of ensemble. The maximum number of musicians in an ensemble performance at any one time will be five but with a flexibility to play in a smaller configuration if needed. The BSO reaches out to the maximum number of people possible. However, it is not always practical for a venue to host a full-sized orchestra. Therefore, the BSO Ensembles, of which there are four (soon to be five[!]) offer a way for smaller groups of musicians from the BSO to perform at cosier venues.

Personality of the composer is key. This is a serious mission but it needs to be fun as well and in-line with a can-do attitude (cliché sounding tone is unintended). This is to maximise the creative potential of everyone involved whilst conveying coherent messages to audiences (whatever these may be!). The aim is to inspire but with skill, talent and ingenuity as opposed to resorting to stereotypes attached to social categorisations!

Mr Blue You Did it Right! … I’ll remember you this way…



Soaking up the sun at Meyrick Park (Photo Credit: Kevin Clifford)

For our second summer ‘Sunday in the Park’ concert with the BSO the “sun was shining in the sky” and there wasn’t “a cloud in sight.” After a month of higher than average rainfall in the south we sang, “it’s stopped raining” and, “Hey there Mr Blue, we’re so pleased to be with you.” And the crowds, not clouds, gathered to make the most of the “Something for Everyone” programme.

By the middle of the afternoon many wished they had brought their Ambre Solaire and in the lush green glade of Meyrick Park it was hard to “forget the sun in his jealous sky” while we were treated to displays of Modern Dance, Drumming and The Rochdale Coconut Dance – showcasing the BSO’s Participate Programme. Folk band Threepenny Bit got audience members from nought to ninety “dancin’ out there”, joining hands in hop-steps, jigs and reels, while further back in the crowd there were bubbles and ball games, handstands and hula-hoops.

Before lunch, during our rehearsal with the orchestra, I noticed a mother and child whirling in happy circles to our chorus of “I ain’t gonna study war no more” and thought, “how wonderful life is”. Even the bizarre sight of a tractor taking a trailer full of Portaloos across the back of the field didn’t lessen the loveliness of that special moment. (I was watching Pete too – honest!)

The fine weather held and for our Festival Finale there was no “wicked and wild wind”, no “low flying cloud” and no “cloud to rain on (our) parade.” As twilight fell we walked, two by two, past the audience and across the Park to the stage. I looked back to see that the back of the procession was only just starting to move – a black and red line of infinite Inspiration!


Inspiration Choir Southampton performing at the BSO’s Proms in the Park

For our seventeen numbers it felt like we were “floating in”, and “singing through the sunshine” and choir and stunning soloists six-inch nailed it! The latest meeting of the mutual admiration society of Inspiration Southampton and the BSO produced some more amazing highlights. From the second row of the Basses I may be biased in picking the Bee Gees medley and Viva la Vida as my favourites but friends in the audience all went for that epic “special island” from South Pacific. Evidently the Bali hard work paid off and we “sounded mystical” and no longer “lost in the middle of a foggy sea”!

The sumptuous orchestrations – thanks to Gary, Pete and Teresa? for those – were once again performed with spine-tingling brilliance by the BSO. The quantum leap from just keyboard rehearsals to full orchestra never fails to amaze and overwhelm me and is such a big part of why we love to sing with Inspiration.

Have a great rest of summer and see you all in September.

Alan Matlock, Inspiration Southampton Choir member, 14 August 2017.

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

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.

Trinity Laban students Side by Side with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

Earlier in January this year, the BSO was delighted to announce the Orchestra’s new long-term partnership with Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. This collaboration sees the two organisations work closely together to identify talented and committed young musicians and composers from communities currently under-represented in the profession.

The BSO and Trinity Laban have also paired up for the unique Side by Side series, in which Trinity Laban students work alongside professional musicians. Principal BSO players have recently performed alongside and are offering mentorship to Trinity Laban students. Percussionist and Trinity Laban student Craig Lutton, who was a part of this year’s series, shares his experience of the project so far.


Photo Credit: Young Musicians Symphony Orchestra

“I gained so much from the experience working Side by Side with the professionals. Sacha Johnson was leading the sectional – he was on bass drum and I was on cymbals – and when we were playing together it was really great, it sent shivers down my spine. The two day event ended with a sold out concert at Blackheath Halls which was really successful. I’m coming to the end of my studies and orchestral music is primarily what I want to do, so to learn from Sacha and play side by side with him in a concert was really special.

The experience was intense because you’ve only got around 8 hours of rehearsal and then it’s the concert – it’s just like being in a professional working environment. You’ve got limited rehearsal time and you’ve got to nail it straight away. It was a nervous excitement I was having, with Sacha beside me, literally side by side, it was a step closer to reaching my dream of being an orchestral musician.”

During a rehearsal’s lunch break, Craig was lucky enough to receive an impromptu cymbal lesson from Sacha Johnson.

“Sacha said that when you go into the profession this is what most of you would play in the main orchestras, so he said over the lunch break he’d spend half an hour teaching me and I thought ‘this is fantastic’. I was learning from a true professional, because he’s played with all of the London orchestras and toured the world. He taught me so many different techniques and sounds, it was really beneficial. I could then put that into the afternoon rehearsal and the evening concert. He was really digging deep into how I could make my playing better. He gave me a bit of a career talk as well which was really inspiring to hear. It was a really poignant moment.”


Photo Credit: Brian Furner

Craig spoke about his time studying at Trinity Laban:

“It’s been very special. I’ve had lots of amazing performance opportunities and I’m so glad I moved to London from Northern Ireland. There’s so many opportunities, London’s the centre of the universe for music! It’s been incredible and I’ve met so many people, I’ve made friends for life and made some great contacts. The Side by Side concert at Blackheath Halls with the BSO was a really special moment and I’ve had so many others.

My current teacher Michael Doran coached me in the Ulster Youth Orchestra in 2009 – 2013 which is where I first met him. He encouraged me to audition for Trinity Laban and I knew straight away in 2009 that I wanted to study under him. Here I am now having nearly finished four years of his beneficial tuition!

In my second year, Michael got me in for two performances of La Boheme playing with the ENO and once again in third year – that was special and probably a highlight from my time at Trinity Laban. It was at the London Coliseum, and being in the pit playing the cymbals was really special. I remember the moment just as the curtain came down for the interval and I was standing on stage playing the side drum. It was amazing – I was absolutely buzzing marching out on stage. There were about 2,000 people watching, it was insane! I had my dad in the audience for the first night so that was great, because I’d never really thought I’d make my professional debut in an orchestra. When I was younger it was always the dream, so for it to actually come true made it one of the best nights of my life.

The principal percussionist in the BSO is Matt King, who also studied at Trinity Laban. Sacha was telling me about him and it was really inspirational to hear about people with professional jobs in orchestras – principal jobs – who have studied at Trinity Laban. There’s a lot of them in the professional world and that’s another one of the reasons why I chose to study here.

I did another Side by Side series with the BBC Concert Orchestra. We had Alistair Malloy, their principle percussionist, who was playing beside me again. I could use things that I’d learnt from Sacha in January and bring it into that performance. I’d never really worked on cymbals until the lesson with Sacha, he said ‘if you want to be a professional percussionist you’ve got to nail this’, so I thought right, this is my moment. I then stuck at it for 2 months and it’s really paid off.”

Craig Lutton interviewed by Alice White; originally posted on the Trinity Laban website

To find out more about Craig visit his website:

Cornwall Residency round-up: Day 7 – 120 musicians take on Dvořák in a day

As the culmination of the BSO’s most extensive Cornwall Residency to date, the Truro Rusties saw local amateur musicians of all ages come together to learn, rehearse and perform Dvořák’s Symphony No.8 alongside the BSO, in just one day!

The BSO’s 2017 Cornwall Residency has seen the Orchestra visit 60 different locations across the county to deliver 7 days of musical activities including over 50 school visits, 3 ensemble concerts, 2 Tea Dances, a full symphonic concert and, on the final day, the BSO Rusties ‘Symphony in a Day’ project. As part of BSO Participate’s Resonate strand of work promoting social inclusion and cohesion within communities, the BSO Rusties enable amateur musicians of all ages and abilities to benefit from specialist coaching from BSO musicians, professional instruction from a BSO conductor and the opportunity to perform alongside the full Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in concert, all in a friendly and relaxed environment.

Taking place at Truro School, the Truro Rusties project invited local amateur musicians from across Cornwall and beyond to take on the musical challenge of performing Dvořák’s Symphony No.8 alongside the BSO’s musicians, with just a day to learn this challenging but lyrical work. 120 musicians took part in the event, making it the largest Rusties held in Cornwall to date, with participants coming from as far away as North Somerset and Dorset.


The 120-strong BSO Truro Rusties

The day began with sectional rehearsals led by BSO musicians, with the whole orchestra coming together in the afternoon for a tutti rehearsal led by Victor Aviat, BSO Leverhulme Young Conductor in Association. Dvořák’s Symphony No.8 was composed in 1889 and is a bright and lively piece filled with the joy the composer felt at being alive in a world full of natural wonders, making it the perfect piece to perform in the midst of springtime. The finale to the day was the concert performance alongside BSO musicians to an audience of family and friends, showcasing the hard work of everyone involved and providing an unforgettable end to the event. Feedback from the day showed how much the Truro Rusties was enjoyed by those who attended and it was a pleasure for the BSO’s musicians to work with such enthusiastic participants:

“A fantastic opportunity – this is the third time I have taken part in a ‘Rusties’ day and hope to do so again. An incredible experience!”

“It was incredible and I learnt so much and played much better than I had ever played before. So thank you so much for the amazing experience. I will never forget it, thank you!”

“It was so thrilling!! I learnt more in five hours than I have in five years!”


BSO Leverhulme Young Conductor in Association, Victor Aviat (Photo Credit: Harald Hoffmann)

As the Orchestra for the South and South West, the BSO has a unique remit covering 10,000 square miles including the Isles of Scilly and this year’s Cornwall Residency enabled the Orchestra to engage with even the most remote communities in the region, delivered by BSO Participate. A core part of the BSO’s mission is its work beyond the concert hall and BSO Participate works to offer people of all ages and backgrounds the opportunity to experience the power of music through five specially tailored strands of work.

The Residency would not have been possible without the backing of partners and funders and the BSO would like to thank the following organisations for their substantial support:

Coral Samuel Trust

D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust

Norman Family Charitable Trust


Cornwall Music Education Hub

Cornwall Music Service trust

Carn to Cove

Arts Council England

A special thank you also goes to Classic FM, for their support of the BSO’s Cornwall Residency by providing excellent coverage of the week’s events on-air and via their social media channels. As Classic FM’s Orchestra in the South of England, the BSO’s partnership with the broadcaster enables the Orchestra’s world-class music-making to reach even wider audiences, through outstanding coverage on digital and FM radio as well as online. Finally, of course, a very big thank you to all the participants, musicians, schools and guests who made the residency the resounding success it was.

The BSO is already looking forward to its next Cornwall Residency and in the meantime, schools in the county will be able to engage with the thrill of live orchestral performance with the next of the BSO’s Schools Concerts on Wednesday 24 May, which will be live-streamed from Lighthouse, Poole, enabling schoolchildren unable to attend to participate virtually instead. This year’s theme is ‘Secrets and Codes’ with pieces specially composed for the children to learn by award-winning composer James Redwood.

Look out for a short film being produced about the residency on the BSO Participate page, coming soon!