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Review by Mike Wheeler
Cog wheels, gears, levers, gravity – not obvious song material. But of course Sinfonia Viva and the Derby schoolchildren and students taking part in the orchestra’s latest schools residency project aren’t going to be fazed by a trifling consideration like that.
After a short film of the project in action, it was over to Viva and the students, performing the songs and instrumental pieces they had written on the theme of ‘Mechanical Advantage’. Composer and workshop leader James Redwood provided his usual inventive orchestral arrangements, as well as acting as the evening’s compère, a welcome innovation for these concerts, as was the film.
The imaginative structuring of the student pieces and the kids’ mastery of their intricacies were impressive, as always. The count-down to lift-off of Derby College’s instrumental Diabolic Parabola included some subtle canonic touches. Gravity, Don’t Ground Me, sang the children of Beckett Primary School; their opposite numbers from Firs Estate Primary school introduced us to the unpleasant creatures living On the Dark Side of the Moon; Chellaston Academy’s instrumental Power of Five included some impressive solo and small group moments. In another new feature, the audience had a role to play, with the ‘clapping chorus in three groups’ in the song Ratio 345, about gear ratios and their overlapping patterns, as well as joining in the call ‘load, effort, fulcrum, distance!’ that punctuated the final song, Levers, by James Redwood with words by Hazel Gould.
With Dutch conductor Frank Zielhorst making his Sinfonia Viva debut, the orchestra added its own contributions. The interlocking patterns of Michael Torke’s Adjustable Wrench were neatly dovetailed, the mid-air ending left hanging delightfully. Workers’ Union, by Louis Andriessen, requires the orchestra to combine tightly disciplined rhythmic playing with a choice of actual notes from only approximate notation, with compelling results. The perpetual-motion machine that is the finale of Ravel’s G major Violin Sonata, in Graham Hall’s imaginative orchestration, was kept spinning purposefully and, as a counterbalance, the first movement of Brahms’ Serenade No 1 brought some open-air freshness to the evening.
With so much uncertainty facing musical activity in schools, Viva’s residencies remain a cause for celebration.
Musical Giants Take Centre Stage At Final Twilights Concert
Dutch conductor Frank Zielhorst will make his concert debut with East Midlands orchestra Sinfonia Viva at Derby Cathedral on Friday March 3.
The concert, entitled ‘A Little Symphony in F’ is the final stage of the four-date Twilights series, with late afternoon and early evening performances which has proved to be extremely popular with audiences.
Twilights has been a partnership between Sinfonia Viva and Derby Cathedral and has been a key element in the Cathedral’s two-year cultural audience development programme which has been supported with a £80,000 Arts Council England grant.
The concert, starting at 7.30pm will feature work by classical music ‘giants’ Haydn, Strauss and Beethoven and Frank Ziehorst explained that this varied programme would appeal to a wide range of classical music fans.
He said: “I am so looking forward to returning to Derby to conduct Sinfonia Viva in Derby Cathedral which is a truly magnificent building with wonderful acoustics.
“This will be my second time with the Orchestra in as many months having worked with the musicians and composer James Redwood for the performance of the education residency ‘Mechanical Advantage’ at Derby Theatre in early February.
“This is the first time that I will be conducting the full Orchestra and the programme that we have selected is perfect for my debut.
“We start with Haydn’s Symphony No 90 which always leaves the audience guessing as Haydn was a real joker – taking the music off into different directions to keep us all on our toes.
“Strauss’ Horn Concerto No. 1 is a beautiful piece and he is the master of the horn which is a wonderful instrument to take centre stage.
“We finish the programme with Beethoven’s Symphony No 8 which is a very charming and exciting score.
“Described by the composer as ‘a little symphony in F’, in my opinion this is not played enough despite it being one of the Beethoven’s best symphonies and I am delighted that we will be sharing this with the Derby audience.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed working so closely with Viva over the past few weeks – joining their education residency and then preparing for the Twilights concert in early March.
“Although the two performances have been very different, they share the same ethos of creating high quality music that resonates with audiences.”
Frank Zielhorst studied orchestral conducting with Jac van Steen and Kenneth Montgomery at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague and the Conservatoire of Amsterdam, after studying viola with Ferdinand Erblich.
In June 2013 he received his Master’s degree “cum laude” following a concert with the Brabants Orchestra (Eindhoven). From September 2014 until August 2016, Frank held the position of Leverhulme Young Conductor in Association at the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.
From the moment he started conducting, Frank received opportunities to work with professional orchestras. Early engagements included for example the première of Hochzeiten by Stockhausen at the Radio Kamerfilharmonie and Charles Ives’s Universe Symphony with the Noord-Nederlands Orkest (Groningen).
Being the first student to graduate from the National Master Orchestral Conducting, he has been a guest with almost all orchestras in the Netherlands, either to conduct them in concert or to receive master classes.
Since his graduation, he has been invited to work with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the The Hague Philharmonic and the Prague Symphony Orchestra.
Apart from symphonic conducting, Frank has a special love for stage works. He conducted amongst others performances of Madama Butterfly, Eugene Onegin, L’elisir d’amore and Victor Ullmann’s Der Kaiser von Atlantis at different companies.
He also assisted for productions of Turandot, Orfeo ed Euridice, L’enfant et les sortilèges and Intermezzo. With his own ensemble in coproduction with the National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands, he produced a staging of the modern one-act opera “Death Knocks” by Christian Jost and Woody Allen.
In November 2013, Frank received the prestigious Kersjes Foundation conducting scholarship, enabling him to continue developing his conducting skills.
Sinfonia Viva Anniversary Year – Touching More People’s Live
Sinfonia Viva, the East Midlands’ only professional orchestra, will mark its 35th anniversary this year by enabling more people than ever to experience creative music making.
As well as a packed concert programme across the region and beyond, Viva is aiming to work directly with 3,500 people over the next 12 months through a series of education and community creative projects.
These will range from workshops with pre-school children and young people with disabilities to adults with additional needs and older people with dementia.
This ambitious plan coincides with the launch of Viva’s bid to encourage people to donate £35 to fund its increased education and community work.
Sinfonia Viva Chief Executive Peter Helps explained: “Our vision for the Orchestra is to make orchestral music accessible to all.
“We therefore want to mark our 35th year by reaching more people than ever both through our concert programme and our nationally acclaimed education and community outreach programmes.
“The programme of work is broad and diverse with all sorts of exciting new projects in the pipeline which will take us across the city, county and East Midlands region.
“We will be bringing together people of all ages and our professional musicians to create exceptional music that stirs the emotions but we need to raise additional money to achieve this ambitious aim.
“A key part of our work during the anniversary year will therefore be to encourage people to increase their contributions to £35 which we can further supplement with the tax relief claimed through the Government’s Gift Aid programme.
“As well as public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and our stature as a National Portfolio Organisation, the valued support from private sources through trusts, foundations, businesses and individuals is crucial to our work.
“It ensures that we are able to continue to embrace new opportunities and ways of working whilst nurturing the best of existing practice, making music accessible to the widest audience.”
Sinfonia Viva was established in 1982 originally as the East of England Orchestra because of the need for a professional orchestra for the East Midlands.
Mr Helps continued: “We have come a long way in the past 35 years particularly in terms of the breadth of our artistic reputation and outreach work.
“Our size and make up enable us to be flexible to the needs of the region and respond to new ideas and opportunities quickly while still fitting with our artistic vision.
“This flexibility is achieved though the vision and adaptability of musicians, management team and partners to explore new work and initiatives to widen participation and stretch the artistic boundaries.
“Sinfonia Viva plays a key role in the social, cultural and economic well-being of the region and the 35th anniversary is therefore just as important to the wider community as it is to us as an organisation.”
“Our programme reflects the importance that we place on music making for and with communities both rural and urban and securing our place at the heart of the East Midlands’ cultural scene.”
Derby-based regional orchestra Sinfonia Viva has launched an innovative music-making education residency which celebrates the work of celebrated author Roald Dahl who was educated at Repton School.
The East Midlands’ professional orchestra, Sinfonia Viva will start 2016 with a concert at the recently refurbished Derby Cathedral on January 22.