A London Symphony at Blackheath Halls – a student’s perspective performing Side by Side

Last Friday I was one of the Trinity Laban music students making the short trek up the hill to Blackheath Halls to begin a day of rehearsing with the top professional players who make up the Side by Side Orchestra.


Jessamy Robinson performing on Piccolo

We weren’t made nervous by the fact that we had only the one rehearsal for Vaughan Williams’ entire ‘London Symphony’ – which is still more time than the staff members are probably used to – it was the prospect of playing next to these professionals that made our knees shake!

We needn’t have worried, because once rehearsals began it didn’t take long for us to relax and enjoy the music. No standard rehearsal, this – the teachers offered  advice and opinions throughout and it was plain to see from the expressions of the students that we all really enjoyed listening to, and being influenced by, the sound and professionalism of these fantastic musicians.

There was a professional attitude to the rehearsal as you would expect, yet at the same time it was relaxed enough to demonstrate the inspirational staff members are just as human as the rest of us! Whether it’s a tiny playing mistake or just forgetting to put a mobile phone on ‘silent’, everyone slips up from time to time – it’s all about making these occurrences rare, in between long periods of amazing playing!


After the successful concert there was a general buzz of excitement – however immediately afterwards many of us could be heard fixating on our tiny mistakes or lamenting things that could have gone better. While awareness is important, it would be wrong to concentrate on the small and insignificant negatives, as to do so would take away from all the positives and from what we had collectively achieved on the night.  As conductor Jonathon Tilbrook pointed out, all of us had kept up with some incredible staff members, talented professionals all.  It was thought provoking to realise that, after all, it wasn’t really all that long ago when they were at the stage we find ourselves at now.


A couple of things conspired to threaten to take away from the performance, such as players’ fatigue and simply self-doubt. But I think we will all remember that Friday as an uplifting concert we performed side by side as professionals. There is no doubt in my mind that projects such as these encourage us to stop thinking of ourselves as students; the professional attitude shown by Side by Side Orchestra members is contagious!  The staff members brought their experience and years of practice to teach us the skills needed – the attitude and respect for the music was already there. We are developing professional musicians and I was proud to play alongside everyone in the orchestra. Now, with this fresh dose of inspiration, I’m off to practice!

Jessamy Robinson
Flute / Piccolo – BMus 2nd Year

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