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Susannah Simons introduces Music Nation

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Susannah Simons Susannah Simons | 08:08 UK Time, Friday, 2 March 2012

Photo of Nicola Benedetti with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

Nicola Benedetti will take part in Music Nation with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

Susannah Simons, the BBC's Project Executive 2012 explains the background to Music Nation and looks forward to this weekend's events.

Two years ago when we first set out on the journey that has become Music Nation I doubt any of us dreamed that it would turn into the glorious celebration of the UK’s musical life that it has become.

We began with the BBC’s six performing groups, which had been challenged by Tim Davie to do something together to celebrate their work as part of the BBC’s role in the wider Cultural Olympiad and we hit upon the weekend of the 3rd and 4th of March for two reasons – they were all free and this was one of the few moments in 2012 when nothing else was happening: we had a chance to shine.

This was followed by a call to arms to the wider orchestral sector during the Association of British Orchestras' conference in Glasgow in February 2010 when I made a speech urging the rest of the sector to join in. Little did I know what would happen – it started slowly with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra announcing they were going to go to Shetland and was given a boost by Andrew Jowett and the British Association of Concert Halls deciding they would join in and the next thing we knew we had a steering group that included the ABO, Making Music, Orchestras Live, Arts Council England, Conservatoires UK, LOCOG and of course the BBC. For the next two years we have cajoled, enthused, chivvied and generally encouraged musical groups to join us in order to showcase the very best of what we as a nation have to offer. They were all encouraged to focus on a number of themes – excellence, education, participation and partnership – and their plans had to meet with the approval of Ruth Mackenzie, director of the London 2012 Festival, and here we are: more than 100 events across the country, North to South, East to West, large and small with over 15 000 participants, 18 new commissioned works and over 24 hours of broadcasts over the weekend on Radio 3.

Many of them are taking music outside and into the city – in Southampton and Cardiff for example – so I hope the weather holds; some of them like the Ulster Orchestra and the RTE Orchestra from the Republic of Ireland playing side by side for the first time are making history; and lots of them like Sinfonia Viva in Derby and Superstrings in Wiltshire are working with young people; we have the National Youth Orchestra and the Choir with No Name, Handbag of Harmonies and the Hallé, Wagner and Bellowhead: a wonderful heady demonstration of what we do so well and the role that music plays in our life, making us who we are. My thanks go to all the participants who have made this weekend what it is, to Radio 3 and all the other networks who are joining us on this journey – including audiences in Brazil the host nation for the next Olympic Games – as we show the world how to do it!

Find out more about Radio 3's Music Nation events with the National Concert Finder



  • Comment number 1.

    704 people from 7 to 70 something will be praying for sunshine tomorrow. All meeting at Chester amphitheatre at 8.30am to dress six giants, sound check and rehearse for the big event at 2pm. Lord Mayor of Chester and local MP in attendance. Can't wait and good luck to all Music Nation musicians

  • Comment number 2.

    What a pity that "Jilted" clashed with MusicNation. Although quite a few of the hundreds of events at the Bath "Lit-Fest" (now on) feature Dickens, what was surprising was the premiere of a wonderful mini-musical about 2 women in Dickens' life: Miss Havisham, and his own wife - both abandoned - in an improbable double act.

    I don't much care for the female singing voice, and here were two of them - unaccompanied - for almost an hour!! Horrors! But actually both mellifluous and funny (and no recitative in sight).

    Their card-playing scene was especially hilarious. It deserves to be broadcast. See www.bathlitfest.org.uk


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