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Archives for February 2007

Inspire: Proms Young Composers' Competition 2007

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra | 14:58 UK time, Thursday, 22 February 2007

Each year, the BBC Proms launches a competition for young composers (check it out at https://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/newhorizons/youngcomposers.shtml), and this year the BBC's 6 Performing Groups have been involved in the early stages of the competition by hosting a Composers' Lab. The aim of these Labs is to help any young composer learn a bit more about how to write a new piece of music. Any style is catered for, with the only condition being that it must be written down.

The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra hosted their Lab at Glasgow's City Hall on Sunday 18 February, when a group of composers from both Scotland and the north of England joined 4 members of the orchestra and composer Peter Wiegold for a day of musical exploration and discovery. We covered a lot of ground....everything from analysing Stravinsky to jamming as a band!

Composers always love having access to professional musicians as they write their music. They can try things out, suggest different techniques, explain which registers on their instruments sound best for different textures...the list is endless. If you're aged between 12 and 18 and are writing a piece for the BBC Proms Inspire Competition, you can ask a member of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra any question about your music. Just add your question to the BBC SSO Blog, and we'll do our best to give you an answer.

Go on, get creative!
Jennifer Martin
Learning Manager

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Lights! Camera! Music!

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra | 11:29 UK time, Thursday, 15 February 2007

Hi there, I'm Douglas, the Admin Assistant with the orchestra. It's a funny old job involving all the background stuff that nobody sees on stage: organising auditions, arranging transport, colouring in violin players' ankles so the holes in their socks don't show up - that sort of thing. Part of my duties also involve hanging around at live concerts to make sure all the players are onstage and everything is tickety-boo. Recently I was involved with the Celtic Connections shindig which was recorded for telly. Actually, you can watch it online if you go here. Go on, give it a click.

Now, did you notice something? Other than the sheer loveliness of our orchestra? What struck me that night was how good the City Halls looked bathed in blue, the lighting changing discreetly throughout the evening. The reason for this, of course, was that it was going to be on TV so it had to be visually interesting at every level. Hence also the big swooping camera crane that dipped perilously close to the audience members' heads, threatening a toupee or two.

It reminded me of the marvellous free BBC SSO opening concerts here on Candleriggs last year where every piece we performed had its own lighting design. It was all very tasteful, although the computer generated images for The Firebird divided opinion. But how wonderful was that glow of light behind the players as the sunrise music swelled in Daphnis and Chloe! It seemed to discreetly enhance the music.

So when our Thursday night concert series started in earnest I felt more than a little crestfallen. There was the orchestra and....well, a sort of glare off the stage. It looked as though some big bright lights had been pointed at the platform with no real thought for atmosphere or, dare I say it, showbiz. "Is this it?" I wondered. Sadly it was. Ever since then our concerts have been performed in that relentless pool of glaring light, unless there's TV involved or it's a special gig like our screening of New Babylon last year.

Am I lacking in imagination perhaps? I see people at concerts shutting their eyes. Are they concentrating on the music and avoiding visual distraction? Or are they in fact conjuring up something more wonderful in their mind's eye than what's happening on the platform? Should we have more interesting lighting at our concerts? What do you think?

Although light stands might prove to be a nightmare for our stage manager I have to say I'm always delighted when I see them being set up. It means the lights over the orchestra are going to dim, it means there's going to be a hush of expectation and, if we're lucky and everything comes together, perhaps a little magic.

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