No ugly duck­ling

Far from rest­ing on its lau­rels, the fab­u­lous Or­ches­tra of the Swan is con­tin­u­ing to evolve and trans­form…

Cotswold Life - - COTSWOLD ARTS - www.or­ches­

The Strat­ford-upon-avon­based Or­ches­tra of the Swan (OOTS) is in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned for its unique and dis­tinc­tive sound. It has re­cently an­nounced its 2018-2019 sea­son, and with that a cou­ple of other no­table changes.

The new artis­tic di­rec­tor, David Le Page – also OOTS con­cert mas­ter – has in­fused his unique sense of cre­ativ­ity in the new pro­gram­ming and the 40-plus con­certs through­out the UK, and the or­ches­tra also has new brand iden­tity by graphic de­signer Chris Wheeler.

The new sea­son kicks off with English Fan­tasies for String Or­ches­tra at Holy Trin­ity Church, Strat­fordupon-avon on Septem­ber 25, and an in­no­va­tive new Strat­ford con­cert se­ries, chris­tened ‘Night Owl’, will be bring­ing six nights of thrilling, high-qual­ity mu­sic in an in­ti­mate and re­laxed Ron­nie Scott’s at­mos­phere to the Shake­speare Street Cock­tail Bar & Night­club.

We caught up with David to find out more…

Con­grat­u­la­tions on your new role as artis­tic di­rec­tor, David. Does the tim­ing feel right to be tak­ing this on or did you have any reser­va­tions?

It feels ab­so­lutely like the right time, from a per­sonal point of view and for the or­ches­tra. It’s im­por­tant for OOTS, af­ter 22 years, to take a step back, ex­am­ine where we are now and think about where we want to be in three years time. As soon as I had de­cided ex­actly what my role would be within the OOTS or­gan­i­sa­tion I had no reser­va­tions what­so­ever about tak­ing on the role of artis­tic di­rec­tor.

What are you hop­ing to bring to the role?

It is vi­tal that this or­ches­tra is a rel­e­vant 21st-cen­tury en­tity that re­ally en­gages with au­di­ences and the wider com­mu­nity. We need to get away from the idea that a chamber or­ches­tra is elit­ist or ex­clu­sive whilst not com­pro­mis­ing on the ex­cep­tional qual­ity we de­liver. Over the last 10 years or so, with the many cross­genre projects I’ve been in­volved with, I have ex­per­i­mented with pro­grammes that have an el­e­ment of sur­prise and of­ten high­light the amaz­ing na­ture of much of the core reper­toire we play. I’ll bring my ex­pe­ri­ence of work­ing on those projects and of course the many con­tacts I’ve made over the years.

The Septem­ber con­cert in Strat­ford sounds rather fab­u­lous. Please tell us more…

We’ll be per­form­ing this con­cert as part of that Strat­ford In­ter­na­tional Fes­ti­val of Words and Mu­sic. It’s a bril­liant pro­gramme that has been de­vised by the fes­ti­val’s artis­tic di­rec­tor Matthew Boy­den. It fea­tures three in­cred­i­ble English works for strings: Tip­pett’s Fan­ta­sia Con­cer­tante, Brit­ten’s Vari­a­tions on a theme of Frank Bridge and Vaughan Wil­liams Fan­ta­sia on a theme by Thomas Tal­lis. Th­ese pieces are in­ter­spersed with com­po­si­tions by Corelli, Bridge and Tal­lis. The OOTS chamber choir will be singing Spem in al­ium by Thomas Tal­lis fol­lowed by a ver­sion of it ar­ranged for strings. It’s a re­ally good ex­am­ple of a pro­gramme that has fas­ci­nat­ing mu­si­cal con­nec­tions which have all been clearly thought through.

And the Night Owl Se­ries sounds very in­trigu­ing!

I’m re­ally pleased that OOTS is em­bark­ing on this Night Owl project. The idea is that we’ll per­form a se­ries of con­certs in the in­ti­mate Ron­nie Scott’s sur­round­ings of the Shake­speare Street Cock­tail Bar. Each per­for­mance will have an in­for­mal cabaret­style at­mos­phere with a bar and ta­bles. We have a stun­ning se­lec­tion of spe­cial guests in­clud­ing Cata­lan singer/song­writer Clara Sanabras, Har­vey Brough (from Har­vey and the Wall­bangers), Matthew Sharp (cel­list and singer), harpist Eleanor Turner, gui­tarist Mark Ash­ford, harp­si­chordist David Gor­don and the amaz­ing brass play­ers of OOTS. The reper­toire ranges from early Baroque through to Ro­drigo, Shostakovich, Ravel and Saint-saens. The au­di­ence will be very near to the play­ers so it’s an ideal op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence some amaz­ing mu­sic at close hand.

What other plans do you have for OOTS in the com­ing months and years?

I’m in the process of putting to­gether our 2019/20 sea­son which is shap­ing up to be a re­ally fas­ci­nat­ing se­lec­tion of con­certs. I can’t re­veal too much about the de­tail but it is def­i­nitely head­ing in a di­rec­tion where we jux­ta­pose our core chamber or­ches­tra reper­toire with some very sur­pris­ing con­trasts. We’ll also be ex­pand­ing our im­mer­sive res­i­den­cies at the Royal Birm­ing­ham Con­ser­va­toire and at the Court­yard The­atre in Here­ford. I’m very keen for our won­der­ful play­ers to be in­volved in the run­ning of the or­ches­tra both ar­tis­ti­cally and prac­ti­cally. They have al­ways been at the heart of what makes this a very spe­cial or­ches­tra. We have the abil­ity to re­ally con­nect with au­di­ences and of course com­mu­ni­ca­tion is every­thing in mu­sic.

The Or­ches­tra of the Swan, with David Le Page front and cen­tre

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