No ugly duckling
Far from resting on its laurels, the fabulous Orchestra of the Swan is continuing to evolve and transform…
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