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ColinB
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PostPosted: Sun May 20, 2012 5:40 pm    Post subject: I just had..... Reply with quote

.....a lovely weekend recording an orchestra as part of a weekend training workshop for young conductors (no, not bus conductors, in case you were wondering).

Despite having been somewhat cynical in the past about the actual role of the conductor when directing experienced professional musicians, I'm now absolutely convinced that he/she plays a vital role in the resulting performance. We recorded 8 performances of the same set pieces by different conductors as part of a training exercise over the weekend and each one is slightly different.

The recorded sound balance was pretty darned good too, even if I say so myself (it's years since I've worked with an orchestra and I'd forgotten how fab it is).

Interestingly, all of the musicians are time-served professionals; one day they're working with a major philharmonic orchestra, and the next they're doing a studio session for a TV commercial. I am in awe of them all!
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John W



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PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2012 12:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I thought the main part of a conductor's work was in weeks of rehearsing? So, not sure what impact eight different trainee conductors (one after the other) can have on an ensemble of experienced professional musicians.

Like if the trainee conductor forgot to signal the brass to play quieter at one point would they continue playing as loud as they were earlier on? No, because there's a


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ColinB
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PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2012 1:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

John W wrote:
I thought the main part of a conductor's work was in weeks of rehearsing? So, not sure what impact eight different trainee conductors (one after the other) can have on an ensemble of experienced professional musicians.

Like if the trainee conductor forgot to signal the brass to play quieter at one point would they continue playing as loud as they were earlier on? No, because there's a



There's more to it than that, as I'm you know, John.

The trainees were being tutored by Sian Edwards, who has an impressive international pedigree, and she worked with each of the trainees and coached them in the art of communicating their desires with members of the orchestra. At various points, the orchestra members were asking for more information - cues, hand gestures, facial gestures, etc - in order to respond to his/her wishes. What was evident was that each performance was in its own way different - albeit subtly. It was fascinating to observe - and we have captured it all on sound and vision as part of a documentary for the Open University.

Of course, the orchestra could perform many popular pieces blindfold, but I realise now that it's more than just conducting and playing by numbers - something the conductors themselves acknowledged. Chatting with invididual musicians later it was clear that they regard the conductor as key to a successful performance by all - which is something I hadn't thought would ever be the case.

And, just think, I was being paid, too! Smile
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RockitRon



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PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2012 1:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I seem to remember an edition of André Previn's Music Night, when he discussed the very same subject and said more or less the same thing, John.
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ColinB
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PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2012 4:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

RockitRon wrote:
I seem to remember an edition of André Previn's Music Night, when he discussed the very same subject and said more or less the same thing, John.


I must have experienced something really unique, then!
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John W



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PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2012 6:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Colin, your further explanation does suggest some interaction going on which would differentiate the performances of the conductors, though not sure if you're saying they all did rehearsals with the same orchestra, but...

Quote:
At various points, the orchestra members were asking for more information - cues, hand gestures, facial gestures, etc - in order to respond to his/her wishes.


... suggests the musicians were doing the teaching Smile

One of the main things the conductor has to do is ensure the dynamics, how loud each instrument is playing relative to the others; a clarinetist can't always know if he's playing loud enough when he has a trombone bellowing right behind him, so the conductor must make effective eye/hand contact with the trombone or the clarinet, and yes a good conductor of a largish ensemble is key to a good performance.
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John W



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PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2012 6:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

RockitRon, while in the midst of Top Of The Pops, prog rock, reggae, in the 1970s, I always found time for BBC2 and the programmes presented Andre Previn and Yehudi Menuhin, they were my music education after I flunked O level music Smile
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RockitRon



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PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2012 7:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ColinB wrote:
RockitRon wrote:
I seem to remember an edition of André Previn's Music Night, when he discussed the very same subject and said more or less the same thing, John.


I must have experienced something really unique, then!


Well it was at the time when he was principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, which was filled with the world's best musicians.

I can't remember which piece it was - obviously one of the most popular in the repertoire - but he told them to Play and just stood with his back to them. When they finished he uttered "Perfect". Well I suppose he would, but the argument was that the direction, interpretation, tempi etc of pieces were sorted out in rehearsal and when it came to concert performance the conductor did little more than mark time.

John W wrote:
RockitRon, while in the midst of Top Of The Pops, prog rock, reggae, in the 1970s, I always found time for BBC2 and the programmes presented Andre Previn and Yehudi Menuhin, they were my music education after I flunked O level music Smile


Me too. Music Night was on BBC1. Previn was always in awe of the BBC and its willingness and ability (at that time) to schedule such programmes at peak time, compared to commercial television, here and especially in the USA, with its diet of soap opera and reruns of I Love Lucy, Bewitched etc.
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ColinB
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PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2012 10:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

RockitRon wrote:
I can't remember which piece it was - obviously one of the most popular in the repertoire - but he told them to Play and just stood with his back to them. When they finished he uttered "Perfect". Well I suppose he would, but the argument was that the direction, interpretation, tempi etc of pieces were sorted out in rehearsal and when it came to concert performance the conductor did little more than mark time.


I think Andrew Previn was being more than a little modest!

In contrast, I was talking to one of the first violinists during a break. She mentioned that she's worked in many of our main orchestras and under some "name" conductors, including Simon Rattle, whom she rated very highly indeed. I asked her what was special about Rattle, and her answer was that he has an ability to engage completely with his players and to pull out all those little nuances from a piece. She also conceded that they could, of course, all simply play a piece together as an orchestra by collectively reading the music and performing as one, but it takes a good conductor to "bring out all the subtleties that aren't in the score" (that line comes directly from the recorded interview that I have on my Mac in front of me!). I believe her - and that's why I found my weekend's experience so enlightening.

By the way, the tutor - Sian Edwards - has a very impressive conducting CV (google her name).
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John W



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PostPosted: Wed May 23, 2012 11:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Colin, you've obviously had a very rewarding time! And Sian Edwarads certainly has a good CV, taught by Sir Charles Groves and Neemi Jarvi (the latter has recorded extensively) and she has conducted some very difficult modern opera work.

Not currently resicent with an orchestra, she is sort of freelance at the moment, I wonder what her plans are?
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ColinB
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PostPosted: Wed May 23, 2012 11:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

John W wrote:
Not currently resicent with an orchestra, she is sort of freelance at the moment, I wonder what her plans are?


She is nominally the Principal Conductor with the Milton Keynes City Orchestra (which was established in the mid-70s by Hilary Davan-Whetton) and she's doing a lot of development work. She did say that she has some large projects coming up but I've no idea what they are. I must say that's she's a fabulous teacher with some innovative techniques; one young conductor, who she commented on as failing to communicate with his musicians facially, was told to put his hands in his pockets and conduct only with facial expressions. This a favourite teaching trick of hers that always gets a laugh, apparently (and it lightens the atmosphere).
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John W



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PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2012 10:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ha, I like that technique, I'm sure the pupil will appreciate it in time!
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John W
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John W



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PostPosted: Sun Aug 05, 2012 4:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just had .... a nice little break with family (and to see son-in-law play football)

Iceland, a very barren place, but very beautiful (especially with last week's fine weather!).






















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Helen May



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PostPosted: Sun Aug 05, 2012 5:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lovely photos John. We went there many years ago and I recognise the falls (Gulfoss?), the Geyser and I think the lake looks like Pingvallatten(?) and was that Mount Hekla?

H
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I said it live on air in the studio with Jeremy Vine on 10/3/2005
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John W



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PostPosted: Sun Aug 05, 2012 5:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, Gullfoss and Geysir. Don't know about the lakes. There's a distant glacier visible too, again don't know names.

Reykjavik seems to have rapidly expanded recently, all the suburbs and businesses seem to have been built in the last 20 years. Now we know what the Icelandic banks did with all that money they borrowed. Have they paid us back yet? Confused
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Lord Evan Elpuss



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PostPosted: Sun Aug 05, 2012 6:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

How near to that volcano did you get?
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ColinB
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 05, 2012 9:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fantastic pictures, John. All that mass of blueness in the pics - what is it? I haven't seen much of that round here for months! Smile
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John W



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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2012 5:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think we were lucky with the weather in Iceland last week, though it's not difficult to be better than UK's this summer.

It was about 20degC, slight breeze, never rained, very little cloud (and never got dark!)

The calm blue water in photos 4 & 5 is actually the sea, some bays come well-inland on the south of the island.

Photo 1 is a lake in the centre of Reykjavik.

The trip to the Geysir and Gullfoss falls was by car and there is no charge on the sites, there's a decent restaurant.

LEE - do you mean the volcano that disrupted European airspace? I think it was another 100 miles or so east of the Geysir area, south coast. But there is old lava everywhere!!

An Iceland trip IS expensive, I think the flights alone were over £300 quid each, decent hotel £100 a night/room. Except for fish, everything has to be imported into Iceland so restaurant meals are expensive, beer is expensive, and buying anything in the shops is too. I'd say prices for everything is twice UK. Good meal out for four of us was always about £100 including drinks.
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Helen May



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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2012 6:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It was end of May when we were there so again hardly any darkness at all.

We took a coach day trip which took in the Falls, Geysir and the lake area at Pingvallavatn which from memory was close to the first Icelandic parliament well over 1000 years ago.

We also took a day trip by air to the Westmann Islands, where there had recently been a huge volcano at Heimaey, the ground was still hot as we walked on the hillside.

It was during my airline days so we were on almost free flights (standby of course) but I remember it being very expensive even then and you couldn't buy alcohol on Wednesday. Something to do with the Lutheran religion. I believe that is no more though!

H
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Lord Evan Elpuss



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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2012 6:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

John W wrote:
LEE - do you mean the volcano that disrupted European airspace? I think it was another 100 miles or so east of the Geysir area, south coast. But there is old lava everywhere!!

That's the one. Hard to pronounce correctly and even worse to spell!
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