Archives for March 2011

Inside Goldie's Band - a musician's tale ...

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Sean Chandler Sean Chandler | 11:26 UK time, Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Photo of Sean Chandler


22-year-old brass player Sean Chandler is a member of Goldie's Band, featured in BBC 2's Goldie's Band: By Royal Appointment. Episode 1 of the 3-part series - introducing the band members - was broadcast last Saturday. Here, Sean describes the experience of being invited to the first intensive residential session of the project. You can see the session in Episode 2, next Saturday, 9pm on BBC 2.

On the way to the first residential, I can honestly tell you my heart was in my mouth. My hopes and fears were that the other band members would be a mix of volatile, aggressive thugs and the kind of self-centred, ego-driven puny meffs we are often entertained with on the likes of, dare I say, X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent.  How wrong was I? What I was met with was what could only be described as ‘warmth’. I was introduced to the marvellous (and believe me, consistently outstanding) filming crew and led to where the other band members were, in the lounge of where we were staying ...

Myself and Lester were coupled to walk into the school together while being filmed because we happened to arrive at the same time with Theone, Jack and Natalie.

Lester is someone who strikes you with his charm... daring charm at that, and you can’t help but be taken by the ‘gentle giant’ aura he has about him. Always concerned about learning about other people, it wasn’t hard for us to start a conversation about what we were expecting from our time together.

Sat in the group for the first time I found true warmth and felt right at home. I chatted to Finn, who scared me slightly because of his rocker image, but was wearing nail varnish(!?) He was also someone who I took to. Humble, caring and always giving hugs and wearing his heart on his sleeve, Finn - along with Shahid, Vahan, Kwabs, Will and Jasdeep - was easily a member on that first residential I looked to for assurance and positivity. That’s one rocker stereotype smashed up right there, sir!

We didn’t see any of the mentors before Goldie told us about performing at Buckingham Palace, except at a glance and a brief hello at lunch... (I’ll never forget turning round from chatting to Afrika and seeing Goldie enter the hall with his puffa jacket and cap. He looked well ‘ard). When Goldie dropped the bombshell about performing at the Palace, we were shocked, followed by an awkward silence. Thank Heavens for Theone (charismatic, charming, handsome, leader of the pack, do-er, get the gist) who broke the silence and told us his Nan would be well proud of him. Loud laughter promptly ensued.

Me and Theone are coupled for reaction interviews. Theone is cracking jokes left right and centre and I proudly stand on his left as the wing man. Happy to help, this is when I realise Theone is a born performer, eager to share the love and unmoved in his desire to proclaim his message.

Throughout the rehearsals and mentoring sessions on the first residential, the one thing I saw on all the faces of the band was determination. The main one I remember is where Lester and Natalie compose ‘Olanzapine’. Sitting in a room and hearing them bare their souls in the songs they’ve previously written was a massive experience for me, and I now can see just about how much music means to these people. What an outlet we have!

Passionately seeking to get the tune right to suit everyone (not easy, especially for a severely hard of hearing trumpet player playing by ear!), was a goal shared by us all, and it was this working together with X and Y (thanks Keane) that made us bond. The beauty that music has is not in the sounds you hear, but in the sounds you see in the faces of the people you work with and love.

Enjoy the second episode. God Bless,   Sean.

Follow this link for details of Goldie's Band: By Royal Appointment, Episode 2. 

Find biographical details of Goldie's Band members

Watch a trailer for the series

Picture of Goldie's Band at the first residential session



A whole new Carnatic world

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Peter Meanwell Peter Meanwell | 23:12 UK time, Friday, 25 March 2011

World Routes Academy - illustration of the veena


This year's World Routes Academy is just about to begin. Focusing on the music of South India, it's going to be an exciting few months, as we work with Hari Sivanesan the 2011 World Routes Academy mentee. He's a gifted young veena player from South London, with family roots in Sri Lanka. We'll be travelling with Hari to India to meet his World Routes Academy mentor Aruna Sairam, the highly acclaimed South India vocalist, and then on to Sri Lanka to find the roots of Hari's family and explore the Sri Lankan Carnatic tradition. Hari will be keeping a diary, so watch this space for his thoughts on the project.


As producer on the World Routes Academy, one of the exciting challenges has been getting my head round a whole new musical vocabulary for the project, from Tamil temples, to Carnatic Saints, there is a pantheon of terms to learn. Digging around in the BBC library I found a small volume which I hoped would be my saviour, printed in 1939 and entitled The Grammar of South Indian (Karnatic) Music by C. Subrahmanya Ayyar, B.A. Unfortunately the first line of the preface of this fantastically detailed investigation of the science of Carnatic microtones starts, 'The structure of the scale.. is not a subject that can be made very interesting.' Thankfully, Hari is a fantastic communicator, and in Saturday's World Routes, he kicks off the Academy by joining Lucy Duran in the studio to set out some of the basics of South Indian music. He's been digging through the BBC Archive for some rare recordings, one of which inspires a performance in which he is joined by a flautist and mridangam player, and also brings his Guru to the studio to talk about the Sri Lankan heritage to her musical practice.


Just to whet your appetite, here is a short glossary of things I've learnt for this week's programme, tune in on Satutrday to hear what it's all about!


  • Carnatic - the classical music of South India
  • Chennai - capital of Tamil Nadu (once called Madras)
  • Hindustani - the classical music of North India

and Knowledge is often depicted holding

  • Mridangam - the double ended drum used in almost all Carnatic music
  • Pavam - the emotional base of a piece of Carnatic music, the key to the whole piece
  • Ragam - the mode or a scale in Carnatic music, often a different order of notes in its ascending and descending form
  • Saraswati Veena - the 7 stringed lute  that Saraswati Hindu Goddess of Arts and Knowledge is often depicted holding, and that Hari plays
  • Sri Mutiah Bhagavatar (1877 - 1945) - One of the most famous contemporary Indian composers of Carnatic music
  • Saint Thyagaraja - (1767 - 1847) - One of the trinity of Carnatic composers, and along with contemporaries Muthuswami Dikshitar  and Shyama Shastry is considered one of the greatest composers in Carnatic music
  • Talam - the rhythmic cycle a piece of Carnatic music is based on
  • Thanjavur - Perhaps the spiritual home of Carnatic music, in the heart of Tamil Nadu, and where the Carnatic Trinity are from.
  • Yazh - the harp like instrument that was recorded in the Vedic scriptures, and is the ancestor of the Veena
  • Yazhpanam - Tamil name for Jaffna in the North of Sri Lanka
  • Yazhpanam N. Veeramani Iyer - Hari's guru's guru. A prolific and highly regarded Carnatic composer, from Jaffna in Sri Lanka.


World Routes Academy illustration


On tour with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales - Part 2

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Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 00:01 UK time, Friday, 25 March 2011

Photo of BBC NOW's Claire Whitson, Double Bass

Claire Whitson, Bass, prepares lunch 

BBC National Orchestra of Wales viola player Laura Sinnerton explains what happens when Comic Relief and an England-Ireland rugby needle match impacted on the band's players on tour ...


Friday 18th March

Today we have the morning to ourselves as our cottage is so close to our next venue in Bangor.  It’s lovely to be able to spend the morning relaxing over coffee, with the more energetic among us going for a run and preparing a nice lunch together before driving to the Prichard Jones Hall in Bangor.

This evening’s programme comprises of Gareth Glyn’s A Night at the Opera (a work that came to light during one of the composer workshops the orchestra holds), Sibelius’s perennially popular Violin Concerto and Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony.  Rehearsal is going swimmingly until trumpeter Andy Everton demands we all stop and take a fresh approach.  He, along with Steve Barnard (usually timps, now reincarnated as Animal from the Muppets on kit ...), John Cooper (usually on clarinet, now all schmoozy on sax), Bill Graham-White (usually on double bass, now all powered up on electric bass) and Mike Frost (by day, sound technician, by night, jazz guitarist extraordinaire) HIJACK Sibelius’s Concerto and transform it into some sort of crazy jazz standard thing!

Photo of BBC NOW transport managers Mark and Andy

Long suffering BBC NOW transport managers Mark and Andy take a very brief and well-earned break

It turns out that this is not in fact mutiny in the ranks, but rather our contribution to Radio 3’s Comic Relief programmes.  It was great to see some of our colleagues playing in such a different style (they do in fact have their own jazz band, droll-ly called NOT NOW) and a real reminder of how lucky we are to be surrounded by such talented players.  Rehearsal then continued as normal (just when I was getting into the groove).

After a quick bite to eat, it’s time to get changed and warmed up.  I love this programme - despite having played the Sibelius Concerto what feels like a hundred times this season, I genuinely never get tired of it.  There’s one little bit in the second movement (Figure 3 if anyone is interested) that really does give me goose bumps every single time we play it.  After the interval, it's on to Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony.  Again, this work has a brilliant viola part and I find that it all passes really quickly.  I love the coda at the end, there’s a passage in the horns that always makes me want to salute, it sounds so like an anthem of some sort!  The audience (there’s always such a lovely audience in Bangor) look like they enjoyed it as much as I did and we quickly pack up and head back to our cottage for some supper before bed.

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On tour with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales - Part 1

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Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 11:37 UK time, Thursday, 24 March 2011


Photo of BBC NOW's Rob Gibbons, viola

Rob Gibbons, viola, arriving for a rehearsal looking very cool

BBC National Orchestra of Wales viola player Laura Sinnerton reports from the front line of concert halls and cake shops in North Wales

Thursday 17th March

Every year, as part of our role as Wales’s National Orchestra, we undertake a series of concert tours to the north of the country.  It’s really lovely for us to be out of the studio (though the bright, natural light hurts the eyes for a little while) and it feels so important to be able to take good concerts to towns that are so far away from Cardiff.  This time, along with conductor, Christophe Mangou and violin soloist, Jack Liebeck, we head off for four concerts with two different programmes to Aberystwyth, Bangor, Wrexham and Llandudno.  In order to keep our travelling to a minimum, us girlies have rented a lovely cottage in Llandudno and I arrive at our meeting point armed with a vegetarian lasagna and a lemon meringue for dinner tonight as well as flapjacks for the journey (Sinnerton Home Industries was in full operation last night).

One of the major downsides to a North Wales Tour is the drive to the first venue.  Not so much the length of drive, but rather the nature of it as while North Wales has some of the most stunning scenery in Britain, it also has some of the windiest roads!  This is an issue, as despite trying (what feels like) every remedy known to man, I still suffer from travel sickness.  My poor mother, in desperation, took me to our family doctor about this issue when I was still quite young, when even the shortest of journeys had become a distinct possibility for vomitus unexpectedus.  Our GP said I would grow out of it, but now as a living, breathing and sadly still being forced on to various types of motorised vehicles, adult musician, I can confirm that he blatantly lied.  Ensconced in the front passenger seat, cradling the lasagna for tonight’s dinner, staring straight ahead, I yearn for the day I master the use of the Force and can just BE there! We eventually stagger out of the car at Aberystwyth Arts Centre, feeling rather queasy.

Rehearsal is a short affair, mostly topping and tailing, reacquainting ourselves with the acoustics and sorting out space issues on the stage.  Then it’s off to the Uni canteen, always a highlight on North Wales for the tasty food.  Sometimes, it is difficult to fill the gap between rehearsal and concert in a venue outside a town centre, but Aberystwyth has a lovely little gift shop, a very comprehensive book shop (I can hear my mother reaching for the phone to remind me I’m saving for a new bow as I type the words ‘book shop’) and at present is hosting the BP Portrait Artists 2010 Tour.  Thus, the time flies by and I solemnly swear to my mother that although I bought more than one book it was less than five and one was on sale so in a way I saved money.


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Getting the band together, with Goldie ...

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Craig Blackhurst Craig Blackhurst | 11:45 UK time, Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Pictire of Goldie and his band


If someone asked you to put together a new Band, of underground young British musicians, who can write and perform original music that is genuine and heartfelt, where would you begin? Songwriters? Or instrumentalists? Rhythm section? Or Vocals? How many people would you put in the band? Where would you find them? And what genre of music should they play? These are just some of the questions I asked myself when I was first appointed Series Director on Goldie’s Band: By Royal Appointment 

Executive Producer Celina Parker first approached me with her idea of forming a band in 2008, after we worked together on Maestro. Goldie impressed a lot of people during that series and the cerebral cyclone that is Celina felt he would be a powerful advocate for the positive power of music to change lives. After all, he wrote Mother - a cathartic track that helped him communicate and come to terms with being 'abandoned' in the care system (aged 3) – and, without a single music lesson, became a Drum and Bass pioneer.

At this stage I was thinking what’s not to like. Goldie has heaps of enthusiasm. I love music. Lets start filming. But then reality kicked in: I’ve never actually put a band together. Although I did once play the tenor drum for my school pipe band at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo… a position I attained after being told I was a terrible bagpiper! Thankfully the BBC Classical Music Department is full of talented musicians – some of whom look like real Rockers...

Preparation is key to any successful venture and over the next two years, music action groups, clubs, charities, teachers and other musicians were contacted. All of them were asked to put their best songwriters and instrumentalists forward. What we needed was that they must be unsigned, unknown and that their music had helped them take on challenges in their own lives. Big ask. Again, I’d like to take credit for this groundwork, but I was on another project and high praise must be given to the production team members, especially Victoria Jones and Cat Dixon.

Around now, it seemed everyone wanted to get involved - like I said, I wasn’t around! Prince Harry signed up, Buckingham Palace was booked and Goldie’s team of mentors enlisted: Guy Chambers, Soweto Kinch, Ms Dynamite, Cerys Matthews and Steve Abbott all offered to help - I actually cannot remember another project, where the ‘celebrities’ were so much more interested in the idea than in profit or building profile…they really did do it for the love of it, because, trust me, there wasn’t much money involved!


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Sounds of Japan on Radio 3

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Peter Meanwell Peter Meanwell | 16:59 UK time, Thursday, 17 March 2011

Picture of Etsuro Ono (Tsugaru-Shamisen) Shunsuke Kimura (Bamboo flute)

Etsuro Ono (Tsugaru-Shamisen) Shunsuke Kimura (Bamboo flute)

It will have been impossible to ignore the terrible events unfolding in Japan since the earthquake and tsunami struck last Friday. Three weeks ago though, when Japanese musicians Etsuro Ono and Shunsuke Kimura came into the World on 3 studio for a session with Mary Ann Kennedy, it was hard to imagine quite how things would change for the Japanese people.

Shunsuke and Etsuro were in the UK to perform at the Hibiki festival of Japanese music at Kings Place in London, and we managed to find time to bring them into the studio before they returned home to Japan. Shunsuke and Etsuro perform the folk music of Northern Japan on the tsugaru-shamisen, a three stringed plucked lute that hails from the Tsugaru region of the north of Honshu island. The way the tsugaru-shamisen is played results in a highly percussive sound, as the large plectrum slams against the taut skin of the instrument. The sound is reminiscent of a pair of duelling banjos, but with a unique shifting Japanese tonality. Originally the tsugaru-shamisen was played by itinerant blind musicians, and is part of a story telling tradition in Japan. Now Etsuro and Shunsuke are pushing the music forward, incorporating new rhythms and surprisingly, Irish and Scottish folk tunes. It was a fantastic session, and with Shunsuke playing bamboo flutes as well as the shamisen, it was a really special occasion.

When the earthquake hit, concerned, we got in touch with Shunsuke, as Etsuro and his family are from Miyagi prefecture, the area most affected by the tsunami. Happily we received this reply:
'Etsuro's place is in Miyagi Prefecture. where the earthquake and tsunami hit hard. Fortunately, he and all his family are all safe. Due to no electricity and no tap water, he is having a hard time though. I can only speak to Etsuro when he gives me a phone call from a public telephone. He must be very much encouraged by the message from our new friends in U.K.'

We're hoping that Shunsuke and Etsuro will be back in the UK over the summer, but for now you can hear the session with Shunsuke and Etsuro on World on 3 this Friday evening with Mary Ann Kennedy,. As the situation in Japan continues to develop, you can follow the latest news at BBC News online.

Peter Meanwell is a senior producer at BBC Radio 3

Red Nose Concert: Lights ... Cameras ... Action ...

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Graeme Kay Graeme Kay | 13:22 UK time, Thursday, 17 March 2011

Picture of Red Nose Concert presenters Katie Derham, Basil Brush and the Guinness World Records adjudicator

Presenters Katie Derham, Basil Brush and the Guinness World Records adjudicator

If you'd like to see what went on at Monday's Red Nose Concert, follow this link to the broadcast programme page, where you can view photos and find a link to a three-minute video showing the world record-breaking kazoo orchestra!

The Red Nose Concert will be broadcast as part of Red Nose Day on Radio 3, tomorrow at 7pm.

Radio 3 - Nose in front!

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Roger Wright Roger Wright | 15:35 UK time, Monday, 14 March 2011

Photo of Radio 3's Big Red Nose Show, Royal Albert Hall. Photo: Graeme Kay/BBC


Last Night the Radio 3 Big Red Nose Show at the Royal Albert Hall broke the world record for mass kazoo performance. We needed 3862 to beat the record and the official total was given as 3910 - so a nail biting as well as lip-trembling experience for all who took part!

It was, at times, a moving experience - the performances of Elgar's Nimrod conducted by Sue Perkins and The Swan, played by Julian Lloyd Webber were particularly touching - and at other times it was utterly surreal. Eric Coates's Dam Busters March performed by the audience of kazoos may sound on air like a chorus of wasps but it was terrific fun and all in such a good cause.

Congratulations and thanks to everyone who attended. In the words of comedian Tim Vine last night: 'Malities, malities, malities, malities - well that's the four-malities over with' ... you can hear more from Tim, Marcus Brigstocke, Nicola Benedetti, Julian Lloyd Webber, Shuna Scott Sendall, Masters of the Kazooniverse,  the BBC Concert Orchestra and of course Katie Derham and her co-presenter Basil Brush in our broadcast of the show at 7pm on Friday 18th.


Photo of Radio 3 Big Red Nose Show Dressing Room. Photo: Graeme Kay/BBC


Here are the full details of Red Nose Day on BBC Radio 3 ...
Rob Cowan is joined by Ian McMillan for a game of Consequences for Red Nose Day


10am: Classical Collection Red Nose Day Sarah Walker chairs a special celebrity quiz edition for Red Nose Day.

Donald Macleod explores the history of the musical spoof
1pm: Afternoon on 3 Red Nose Day
Comedians and the BBC's performing groups join Louise Fryer in a Comic Relief edition.
5pm: In Tune Red Nose Day
Sean Rafferty presents a special edition for Red Nose Day, with Dame Edna Everage.
7pm: Performance on 3 The Big Red Nose Show
A BBC Concert Orchestra Red Nose Day concert - classical music and comedy
915pm: The Verb -  Garrison Keillor, Ginger and Black, Damian Barr
Ian McMillan presents a special edition, featuring Garrison Keillor, and Ginger and Black

Radio 3 talent to the fore ...

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Graeme Kay Graeme Kay | 14:25 UK time, Thursday, 10 March 2011

Picture of Radio 3 presenter Tom Service performing stand-up comedy


In a pan-network radio challenge, Radio 3's Tom Service is pitting his skills as a stand-up comedian against Radio 1's Dev, Radio 2's Tony Blackburn, Radio 4's Jenni Murray, 5 Live's Tony Livesey and 6Music's Shaun Keaveny. It's all in aid of Comic Relief - you can find details of Radio 3's Comic Relief plans - and a link to a video of Tom's performance (with the chance to support him with a vote if you so wish), by visiting

Picture of a birthday cake in the shape of the Royal Albert Hall

And someone with something to smile about is Radio 3 Editor Edward Blakeman, who recently enjoyed a significant birthday celebration. Among other duties, Edward has responsibility for the network's Proms coverage - he's a member of the Council of the Royal Philharmonic Society, and the picture (left) shows a splendid Royal Albert Hall birthday cake, presented to him by the RPS. You can find more details here on the Royal Philharmonic Society's Facebook page.

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