Archives for April 2012

Jose Hernando flies to Colombia to record

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Jose Hernando Noguera Jose Hernando Noguera | 16:11 UK time, Wednesday, 25 April 2012


World Routes Academy mentee José rehearsing with his mentor Egidio Cuadrado and Carlos Vives’s musicians in La Mesa

World Routes Academy mentee José rehearsing with his mentor Egidio Cuadrado and Carlos Vives’s musicians in La Mesa

World Routes Academy protege Jose Hernando recently visited Colombia to work with his mentor and to record for BBC Radio 3. Here, he describes his feelings about the trip.

The 23rd of March was the day I said to myself, here’s where the adventure starts.  I remember going inside the plane and sitting beside BBC producers Roger Short, Juan Carlos Jaramillo and BBC engineer Andrew Smile (who each carried one of my accordions as hand luggage), and feeling the plane taking off. The feeling was great, yet at the same time I felt a bit blue for leaving my family. This was the first time I left the country without them, but on the positive side I was going to have fun on the sessions with my mentor Egidio Cuadrado and Carlos Vives’ musicians. I also thought to myself, 'Yes I’ll be going after three years of not visiting Colombia' - it was a wonderful feeling I felt instantly.

We approached Bogota that same day, and the next day drove to La Mesa' (about 60 km from the capital) where we recorded our first music session. On the car journey I saw paradise: beautiful panoramas of mountains, plants, tree ponds. Even though were in the rainy season, it was still around 25 degrees so  no need for a jacket. We were welcomed at a stunning country house with a traditional welcoming party – called parranda – and everyone, including the BBC guys, ended up dancing and playing mariachis. During my stay, I learned new techniques from my mentor and made new friends; the famous Gaiteros de San Jacinto whom the BBC had invited to the house. 

The famous bagpipers, the Gaiteros de San Jacinto in La Mesa

The famous bagpipers, the Gaiteros de San Jacinto in La Mesa

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Making 'Shakespeare and Love'

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Graeme Kay Graeme Kay | 10:22 UK time, Saturday, 21 April 2012

Photo of Don Gilet, Naomi Frederick, Adam James and Ron Cook

Don Gilet, Naomi Frederick, Adam James and Ron Cook

Drama producers Sally Avens and Jessica Dromgoole introduce Radio 3's 'Shakespeare Unlocked' season featuring two romantic plays

The two hours’ traffic of our stage

When Radio 3 decided they wanted to commission several new productions for the BBC season ‘Shakespeare Unlocked’, it seemed a great opportunity to look at two of his most romantic works; Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night.  We wanted to work with one company on the two productions; giving the actors the opportunity to live in Shakespeare’s world, and speak his beautiful language for longer and, of course, play very different parts.

Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night sit very happily together. The former is set at the height of summer, and the latter in deep midwinter.  Romeo and Juliet starts with a wild punning wit and pitches into desperate tragedy, while Twelfth Night begins with the tragedy of Viola and Sebastian’s separation, and in Orsino’s heartfelt melancholy and ends in high comedy.

If music be the food of love play on….

Commissioning a score from the composer, Roger Goula, further unified the two plays. Developing a theme in the context of all the aspects of love that the plays present – doomed, filial, comic, excited, youthful, mistaken, and more – Roger worked a basic refrain into a myriad of variations that spanned the epic to the intimate: the context was all.  

 Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em

When it came to casting, we had twice the challenge.  We needed actors who would step up equally to the demands of the two plays, who understood radio acting, who could speak verse beautifully, and we needed actors who happened to work well as a company.  

Photo: Creating the street fight in studio

Creating the street fight in studio

We had four days to record each of the plays, from a standing start, and barely rehearse scenes before they are recorded for the first of perhaps four or five goes. Inevitably, everyone comes primed with hours of private study, and the first read-through involves a huge amount of tacit negotiation and experimentation.  It’s incredibly exciting. In studio then, scenes are blocked (as in theatre, but with microphones as the focus, rather than the front of the stage), and the cast then need to be aware always of their positions, their movements, of each other, of the microphone, of the shape of the scene, and of their scripts.  Sometimes this can be shambolic, sometimes almost gladiatorial, but in this instance, it was like ballet.  Often – if there’s a crowd – the background to the scene will be recorded using the cast we have, and then those same actors will pitch their lines above the level of sound they remember making.  They may – for example – have to be in a street fight or in a dance (the men look particularly lovely in practice skirts).  


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Roger Wright's Curtain Up for the 2012 BBC Proms

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Roger Wright Roger Wright | 13:45 UK time, Thursday, 19 April 2012

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It’s that day again! writes BBC Proms and BBC Radio 3 Controller Roger Wright. Is it really a year since the last BBC Proms launch?  It is Thursday, 2pm, and the curtain has been pulled back to reveal the plans for the Proms 2012 festival. The last few days have involved interviews for long lead time publications and last minute preparations for today’s launch. 

Although some of the plans are known by those involved in the music industry, I am always grateful for the embargo being so strictly observed. There is an element of theatre about the day but it’s important to have a big moment so that we can achieve the maximum amount of publicity, and get attention for the Proms and the opening of booking on May 12th. We have, after all, over 300,000 tickets to sell.

Thanks to the ongoing commitment of the BBC in running and funding the Proms (not just broadcasting the concerts), we are able to keep the quality of the concerts high and ticket prices low. Ticket prices are held at last year’s level which means that the Promming tickets available on the day of each concert remain at £5 for the seventh year running.  This year, for the first time, we are also offering half price tickets to under-18s.

Today sees the regular round of interviews – an early morning briefing for arts and media correspondents, photocalls at the Royal Albert Hall with Kirsty Young, Joseph Calleja and members of the National Youth Brass Band and BBC interviews, including BBC News.  

This afternoon I shall be speaking to Radio 4’s Front Row, and then talking about the year's highlights live on Radio 3’s In Tune.  All that comes before the classical music writers' press event at 5pm and the main launch reception at 6pm at the Royal College of Music.

With the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics, this promises to be a summer unlike any other and the BBC Proms will be an exciting part of the celebrations.  You can now read all about this year’s plans online and tomorrow go out and buy your guide (you can see the cover illustration below) or order your ebook online.

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A festival of Jazz on 3

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Graeme Kay Graeme Kay | 17:32 UK time, Monday, 16 April 2012

Picture of Hermeto Pascoal

Jazz on 3: Hermeto Pascoal

John Cumming, director at production company Serious, introduces tonight's Jazz on 3 - which reveals more music from the 2011 London Jazz Festival - and drops some hints about the 2012 event.

It’s very good to be reminded of the amount of great music that has emerged from last year’s London Jazz Festival – tonight’s Jazz on 3 demonstrates just some of the range that we aim for in programming the Festival. Whitney Balliett’s description of jazz as the 'sound of surprise' still holds true since he wrote about the music way back in the 50s, and while the Festival always combines the familiar with the unexpected, it’s the surprise package that gives the Festival the sense that there’s always something special just around the jazz corner…  Hermeto Pascoal’s collaboration with the British ensemble that was first formed back in the 90s to perform his big band music is a great example – the sheer exuberance of this concert was one of the events that brought last year’s Festival to a celebratory climax – and marking the 75th. birthday year of a massively inventive musical spirit.  On a much smaller, but no less adventurous scale. Robert Mitchell and Corey Mwamba’s ad hoc meeting during Adventures in Sound (below) – a project that has evolved over the years as a fascinating laboratory for on-the-edge spontaneous improv – with Jazz on 3’s broadcast as an essential part of the equation, creating the means for music that’s created in the heat of the moment in an intimate settings, to be broadcast to a much wider on-air audience.

Finding the right balance in programming the Festival is a hugely rewarding challenge.  It’s partly a process of researching the touring plans of musicians from all over the world, partly absorbing ideas from far and wide – including audience feedback - and partly finding out what the artists themselves are dreaming up.  And then the jigsaw puzzle of dates, venues, and budget.  And the influence of London itself, with jazz happening throughout the city, throughout  the year – how best to reflect this intensely creative musical energy.   So – the word celebration again.   It’s not just about bringing the major jazz stars to London, although that in itself tells the story of the continuing history of the music.  It’s equally important to dig into and illuminate that same history, as well as explore the directions that jazz might take in the years ahead.   And, crucially, to share that journey with the audience, whether live or on radio or in all the other ways that we can now communicate.  

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Immersed in the music of Brett Dean

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Rosalind Porter Rosalind Porter | 00:03 UK time, Sunday, 8 April 2012

Photo of Brett Dean

Brett Dean. Photo: Pawel Kopczynski

Hear and Now has begun broadcasting recordings from the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s recent Total Immersion featuring the music of the Australian composer Brett Dean. Radio 3 listener blogger Rosalind Porter reflects on her experience of attending the event

This was a particularly fascinating day to dive ears first into, as it featured Brett Dean himself not only in conversation with Tom Service, but also as a virtuoso violist, a conductor and last but not least as
an ensemble player. Certainly I found that being able to observe himin these differing roles helped to intensify my personal understanding of his music.
It was revealing to hear Brett Dean discuss the importance of his career as a violist in the Berlin Philharmonic when it came to his subsequent decision to concentrate on composition. He talked candidly of his experiences in the orchestra and how much he learned from the Berliners. As the day went on, these comments on the practicality of writing for orchestra and the aural impression he gained as being part of the inner texture of the sound were repeatedly emphasised in his compositions.

Musicians will always tell you it is hard to talk about music, but it is even harder to talk then pick up your instrument and without so much as warming up, play a complex and virtuosic piece! As a violinist I found Brett Dean’s solo viola piece Intimate Decisions absolutely gripping. It was perfectly constructed in the way it developed from a small rhythmic seed into a flurry of ideas and expression, utilising demanding technique such as harmonics and multiple-stopped chords, but always in a way that served the music rather than pure display, before it faded away to a dying whisper of the original rhythmical motives. This is a piece any accomplished violist interested in contemporary music should explore and add to their repertoire. It got the day off to a brilliantly vivid start.

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