Wales

Last week was musically a marathon in stamina and enthusiasm. I had a horrible fluey cold, and briefly lost my voice, making life miserable for me, and much, much quieter for those around me. I was very grumpy. Many people suffered.

The BBC National Orchestra of Wales tackled three very different projects last week, starting with the three day culmination of our Feel The Music project. While we first performed the pilot scheme for this project a number of months ago, these five concerts gave us the opportunity to share our music with many schoolchildren and adults from the Cardiff and mid-Wales areas who were Deaf, deafened, or hard of hearing.

It was a great joy for us to be joined by singer Katherine Mount, and her son, Ethan. Ethan is profoundly deaf, and it was not only humbling, but also uplifting and exciting, to find out about his relationship with music.

As a member of the Kaos Signing Choir he has performed at the opening of the Olympics, greeted Paralympians, and sang/signed at the opening service for the Paralymics at St Paul's Cathedral. Katherine performed with us on Ethan's Song, written for them by Helen Goldwyn and orchestrated by Stephen Bentley-Klein.

Five concerts later, we were on to preparations for the St David's Day performance of Verdi's Requiem. This Requiem (not my favourite one - I'm much more of a Mozart Req girl) is perhaps most notable for its inclusion of a cimbasso, the rather odd looking instrument being wielded on stage by our Principal Tuba, Dan.

Naturally, the cimbasso is the sort of instrument that whips nerdy brass players up into a bit of a frenzy. If you google cimbasso it can take you to some very dark places on the internet, giving you insights into the mind of many a lower brass player. Roger Bobo's blog post The Cimbasso - a comeback that is here to stay presents a very good summary of the cimbasso's history.

St David's Day celebrated (in my case with a concoction of cold and flu medicines, throat lozenges, and sinus treatment drugs), we turned our attention to the many notes of this season's Composition: Wales project.

In October the orchestra announced a call for scores for this year's project. Open to all composers of postgraduate or post-tertiary level born or studying in Wales, the competition aims to give composers the opportunity to workshop with a full symphony orchestra.

Several scores are then chosen for the concert that concludes the project, giving the composers the opportunity for concert exposure. If you are interested in submitting a score for the next project, keep a beady eye on our website.

So, ended another week at BBC NOW HQ. The next morning we were back in the studio to commence rehearsals for Elgar 1 and next week, we're off to north Wales with principal conductor Thomas Søndergård. More importantly, I no longer have the cold, and therefore, am no longer grumpy.

Footnote: You can watch the CBBC My Life documentary about Ethan and his relationship with music on BBC iPlayer, and you can hear interviews with participants of the Composition:Wales project in the interval of our broadcast on Thursday evening on Radio 3.

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