Main content

Playing together apart

Ever wondered what 14 flutes or 39 cellos would sound like performing together? The BBC’s Orchestras and Choirs have launched a new series, BBC Instrumental Sessions, on BBC Radio 3, which is accompanied by filmed performances.

The sessions feature “single instrument ensembles” made up of musicians from across the BBC’s Orchestras and Choirs spanning the length and breadth of the UK from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in Cardiff to the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in Glasgow, performing together – apart – in lockdown.

Downloads of the parts are available for some of the arrangements. The series will be broadcast and published online weekly until November.

Play along at home with a download of Saint-Saëns' The Swan, arranged by Richard Birchall

Play along at home with a download of Pascual Maquina Narro's España Cañí, arr. Ryan Linham

Play along at home with a download of Morning Has Broken (Trad., arranged by Dan Jenkins)

Play along at home with a download of Bach's Jesu, joy of man's desiring arranged by Lenny Sayers

Play along at home with a download of Lenny Sayers’s Fantasy on Odessa Bulgar

Download Sheet music of the Allegro from Vivaldi’s Concerto for Four Violins in B Minor Op.3/10 (arr. Robin Wallington)

Percussionists of the BBC Orchestras

Lenny Sayers, principal bass clarinet at the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, explains: "One of the positives to come out of our current situation has been the possibility of collaborating with amazing colleagues from the other BBC Orchestras. The orchestral world is a small one, and most of us know each other anyway, and we have a great deal of mutual admiration and respect.

"Two of these single-instrument projects, for the oboes and the clarinets, are actually arranged by me, so I am very keen to hear the final result! I’ve done a new version of a very lively piece of traditional klezmer music called the ‘Odessa Bulgar’ which has been a lot of fun to create, and I hope will be a hit with audiences too. That project came about through precisely the kind of cross-orchestra collaboration this initiative is all about."

Session videos will be published weekly, and include performances of Ian Clarke's Within (14 flutes), Bach's Passacaglia in C (arr. Callum Au, for 13 trombones), Vivaldi's Concerto for 4 violins (arr. Robin Wallington for 49 violins), Beethoven's Round, Ewig dein (3 tenors), Eric Coates's Calling All Workers (arr. Steve Magee for 12 bassoons), Chabrier's Espana (arr. Richard Bissill for 21 French horns), and Bogoroditse from Rachmaninov's Vespers, arr. David Stark for 21 double basses.

All of the videos can be found in this special Radio 3 Collection.

Watch the BBC Orchestras and Choirs at home