« Previous | Main | Next »

Viola player Laura Sinnerton on pigs, riots and new music

Post categories:

Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 15:11 UK Time, Wednesday, 10 August 2011


still from the film Babe


Laura Sinnerton, Viola player from the National Orchestra of Wales, describes her feelings before and after their latest performance at the Proms. 

After a night of civil unrest, it was an uneasy London that the Orchestra coach rolled into just after lunchtime on Tuesday 9th August, for Prom 34.  There was natural concern that fear of further trouble would impact on audience numbers, but with no one being gifted with psychic powers, it was important for us to simply get on with rehearsal and perform a great concert for whatever audience arrived.

Under the baton of our eternally exuberant Associate Guest Conductor, François-Xavier Roth, we presented a programme of Frank Bridge (two relatively unknown works, that were, to use a good Welsh term, 'lush'), a little bit of Dupré (no relation to the cellist, I'm told), Saint-SaënsOrgan Symphony (or the music to the film Babe, as 2nd Oboe Amy McKean informed me) and the London premiere of Centauromachy, by our Composer-in-Association Simon Holt. 

Centauromachy is a double concerto for clarinet and flugelhorn (featuring two of our principals, Robert Plane and Philippe Schartz).  Some people have only to hear the words contemporary music and they automatically switch off, throwing their hands in the air, saying how they just 'don't get' new music, but do you have to entirely 'get' something to be able to appreciate it?

I'll be honest with you, I struggle with contemporary works at times.  Not so much in playing them, as I masochistically enjoy the challenge of conquering my part in them, but I often struggle to understand what the music is about.  Sometimes when you get a new score, as a player you can feel so overwhelmed by how much is simply going on in the music, that perhaps we more than the audience itself, can be guilty of saying 'I don't get it', without really trying to.  This is where a conductor like François, comes into his own.  He has a true gift for deconstructing the music in rehearsal, helping you understand how one part relates to another and creating line and direction, where previously there had just been a lot of people getting closer and closer to their music stands in an effort to read all the notes. 

To me, Centauromachy has moments of true pathos and drama.  I won't pretend to understand everything about it, but it challenged me both as a musician and listener.  Music is supposed to illicit a response, no matter what that response is.  If it didn't, everyone would have album upon album of 'Music for Lifts – the Ultimate Pan Pipe Experience' on their MP3 player (apologies to anyone who loves pan pipe music, or indeed, lift music).



  • Comment number 1.

    In Tune Thursday. Just a point of accuracy for Jamie Reid Baxter's interesting item on Thomas Wood. He said TW resided at Lindores in the 16th century -10 miles east of St Andrews. That would have made Thomas a merman not a monk! Living not far from the ruins of said Lindores Abbey I can tell you that Lindores is tucked in behind Newburgh some 20 miles west of St Andrews. UNless he actually stayed at Balmerino which is about 10 miles NW of St As. Which would feel right for me as I always "hear" Gregorian chanting when I visit that lovely site! best wishes. I'm of to try and see the collected books.

  • Comment number 2.

    As a freelance string player and teacher I enjoyed Laura Sinnerton's comments immensely. However, please could somebody politely point out to her the difference between 'illicit' (2nd line of last paragraph) and 'elicit' (which is what I presume she meant!). I don't think the BBC should descend to the level of AOL comments, which are notoriously badly written at times.


More from this blog...


These are some of the popular topics this blog covers.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.