I left Berkshire at 6am yesterday morning in torrential rain and arrived in Norwich three hours later to beautiful sunshine; such is the way in our new climate. English Chamber Orchestra musicians Paul Sherman, John Mills, Andy Sutton, David Corkhill and Max Spiers were assembling to lead a family instrumental workshop in the magnificent Blackfriars Hall as part of the Norwich Festival’s musical events. Participants arrived promptly at 10.30 and were soon involved in ice breaking rhythm exercises; an energetic breathing game and an inspiring and creative instrumental warm up called klangfarben.
As soon as the group, whose ages ranged from 8 to 54 years, began playing the first piece in the workshop, Purcell’s Rondo from Abdelazar, it became obvious that it was going to be a morning of excellent music making; they became a band. ECO double bassist, Paul Sherman had arranged the well-known Purcell melody for every instrument present – and a few more to boot.
Paul and John Mills (ECO co-leader) led from the front – Andy (French horn), David (timpanist) and Max (oboe), led from in amongst the band and a great rapport immediately developed amongst everyone. Once the Rondo was well underway, parts were produced of an arrangement of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. The ECO played Beethoven’s Egmont Overture in the concert on Saturday evening, so we were keen to include some Beethoven in the workshop.
Ode to Joy was tackled with enthusiasm by all and nuances of dynamics were incorporated as well as some quick writing out of extra parts to accommodate those present. The Norwich Festival staff could not have been more helpful, from welcoming myself and the ECO musicians on arrival, assisting me in with multiple bags of percussion instruments, to becoming involved in the actual music making. The whole band moved onto the stage in the St Andrews Hall to give a ‘lunchtime recital’ and performed both pieces with aplomb and good musicianship.
This is the first time the ECO Close Encounters education team has led a pre concert instrumental workshop in Norwich and we hope it will be the first of many.
A final note to say that as a member of the audience in the evening for the ECO concert; the orchestra was on fire, the choir gave a tremendous performance with some difficult a cappella movements and the soloists were excellent. Egmont was full of drama, the Bellini aria produced cheers from the audience, the Taverner was a fine performance with the composer in the audience and the Rossini was virtuosic and left everyone smiling despite the fact that it was a solemn Stabat Mater.
Go English Chamber Orchestra!
Education and Outreach Manager
ECO Charitable Trust