The acting skills of many opera singers are often said to be as wooden as the stage the performers are standing on. Tom Service investigates the infinite difficulties posed by combining acting with singing. Tom also meets one of Europe's most influential composers, Louis Andriessen. He has continually challenged conventional ideas about what music is and today he visits some of the places most important to him in his native Amsterdam. And as the National Brass Band Championships take place next week at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Tom looks at how the passion and excitement of banding informs so much of the nation's music making.
On this programme
Dutch composer, Louis Andriessen, started out as a radical left-wing revolutionary, establishing new music groups and inspiring a generation of younger composers in Holland. De Staat ('The Republic') brought Andriessen to international attention in 1976, and it remains his best-known work. The background and significance of De Staat is explored by Robert Adlington in his new monograph of that name. Tom visits Louis Andriessen in Amsterdam to talk with him about the influences in his life and compositions and he takes Tom on a unique tour of some of the locations significant to him and his music.
Louis Andriessen – De Staat, pub. Ashgate, hb £35.
Acting in opera
What are the challenges faced by opera singers in presenting convincing characters on stage? Is there a difference between acting in theatre and acting in opera? Dame Josephine Barstow and Pierre Audi give personal accounts of how they deal with acting in the opera house and Tom is joined in the studio for a discussion on the subject by the soprano Dame Anne Evans, the director Richard Jones and the theatre critic Michael Billington.
Competition is still the lifeblood of many of the top brass bands in the UK, but is there more to brass-banding than the annual pilgrimage to the Royal Albert Hall? After the pit closures of the early 1990s, many bands were unable to survive in the new economic climate, but the brass band movement is still going strong today. Tom talks to conductors Elgar Howarth and James Watson and to members of bands across the country about their hopes and fears for the future of brass-banding in the UK.
The Besson Brass Band Championships 2004 takes place at the Royal Albert Hall, London, on Saturday 16th October at 10am.
Noise in orchestras
Did you know that the sounds produced by an orchestra can be as loud as a jet engine? The massive noises that are so thrilling to the audience are damaging to the orchestral players’ health. The situation is so severe that many players find they are losing their hearing. Tom went to The Royal Opera House in London to talk with the orchestral players about what is being done to safeguard their aural health, and to see some of the weird and wonderful structures that have been designed to absorb the blast of orchestral cacophony.
Listen Up! 23rd September – 5th November www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/listenup