Junior Trinity Winter Festival Weekend: A behind the scenes look

What do you get when you combine 180 students, 12 members of crew, 5 concert managers, 2 special guests, 6 conductors, 6 ensemble coaches, 2 accompanists and a phone loaded with the Twitter app?

The Junior Trinity Winter Festival at LSO St.Luke’s, home of LSO Discovery.

Over a weekend in November, we ran an action-packed weekend of workshops and concerts, with five public concerts over two days. Want to know how we did it? Read on as we go behind the scenes.

Day One, Saturday 21 November

It’s 7am. The crew, Tom and Phil, are already on site at King Charles Court loading the van full of instruments, programmes, schedules and all sorts of paraphernalia we need to get through a weekend long festival. Our concert managers spend months planning for these events so we are prepared for anything that may happen, from having lists of musician phone numbers to call on should we need a last minute stand-in to a box of safety pins in case a student has a concert shirt without buttons (Yes that has really happened!)

Our first major challenge was that our hire van was smaller than we had originally booked. Tom and Phil got in contact with Naomi, one of our concert managers, to prioritise what needed to go on the van. They then had to book taxis to get the rest of the gear over – including a harp! Our concert managers make the day appear to run extremely smoothly for the conductors and students even when we are dealing with challenging situations.

And what’s the key? Make quick and informed decisions, discuss things in a cool and calm manner. Everything will be alright in the end.

Creative Orchestra Workshop 10.00h

We started the festival with ‘A Creative Orchestra’ workshop. We were delighted to have special guests, composer Fraser Trainer and saxophonist Simon Haram to lead the Junior Trinity Symphony Orchestra alongside guest tutors as they explored what it is to be a creative orchestra. The workshop was designed to give our Symphony Orchestra musicians an opportunity to experience working as an ensemble away from conductors and notated music. We even had some of our concert stage team playing – they’re a multi-tasking bunch!

Fraser started by getting the orchestra to make music together as quickly as possible, dividing people into groups, giving them building blocks of melody and harmony, and weaving the sections together into a musical tapestry.

Less than an hour into playing and they were already sounding great.

After sharing their small group work, the musicians were split into smaller groups. Fraser mixed up the instruments this time as he wanted the students to experience working with musicians they wouldn’t normally sit near in the orchestra.

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Our first audience of the weekend began to arrive amongst this musical chaos. Guests were seated whilst the musicians worked, giving parents and friends the chance to see how the students worked together to create a polished final piece. The musicians returned to their regular seats in the orchestra while Fraser and Simon led them in putting together the jigsaw of elements they had created during the morning.

There wasn’t much time to revel in the success of the morning. We had another two concerts to rehearse and perform that day so the team had to quickly reset the stage for Big Band rehearsals.

Rehearsal times are generally quite short on concert days. We try to give each ensemble time to rehearse their music in the space, while allowing us enough time to change the stage set up between each one. We’ve also got to confirm the layout of stands, chairs and instruments. The concert manager oversees the team as they quickly overhaul a space ensuring all our musicians are in the right seats, the conductor is happy and that we’re on schedule. It can be a tough job keeping everyone happy and keeping to time. After a busy afternoon of rehearsals, we moved swiftly onto concert number two.

We just had enough time to stop for a quick photo backstage!

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Then it was action stations. We had to clear the auditorium and reset the stage for a full Symphony Orchestra rehearsal. The concert team did the changeover in 20 minutes (a tough job for the best stage managers) and swiftly grabbed their instruments, ready to play.

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It’s not long until 10 o’clock arrives and we’re completing the last of the jobs for the day and preparing for tomorrow. Some of our crew have been working for over 15 hours so it was time for everyone to get a good night’s sleep before another day of exciting concerts!

Day Two, Sunday 22 November

Day two kicked off with the Early Music concert rehearsals. Many of the soloists and ensembles had performed in the Royal Greenwich International Early Music Festival the previous week in the Old Royal Naval College Chapel. Madeleine – our Graduate Intern – was ready to lead our concerts team, having managed her first JT concert the previous week.

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We had a beautiful harpsichord on loan from Ed Pickering for the day, a copy of the Rucker-Hemsch at Hatchlands. The original was made in 1636.

With fewer instruments and no ensemble larger than five musicians, this concert provided the perfect musical soundtrack to a Sunday lunchtime. The team got to sit in on most rehearsals with occasional resets to change the layout of music stands.

Students and ensemble coaches were well prepared and the concert went off without a hitch.

We were almost on the home straight!

The evening concert was my first time as a Junior Trinity concert manager. Having been at many of our concerts over the last few years, I felt well prepared and a little bit nervous about juggling so many different elements all at once.

I had to make sure the set up was correct. This is where our wonderful team work comes in. The crew were on hand to set the stage for Intermediate Stings then Tom, our crew team leader drew up a stage plan for me. Conductor Dan James made slight changes to seating several times in the rehearsal but luckily every time I looked around to remind Tom he was already on it – marking the changes ready for the concert.

I felt a little mean when I had to stop Dan’s rehearsal, but time was tight and we had to stick to the schedule if we were going to start the next concert on time.

Several hours later and after exhilarating performances, the last concert of the weekend was over.

However the work was not over for our concerts team. Our crew quickly got into action packing instruments onto the van, clearing dressing rooms, reuniting young musicians with their parents.

The weekend was a huge success and now it’s time to get on with preparing our Spring Concert.

Come along to our spring concert: Blackheath Halls, 19 March 2016, 19.00h.

Tickets available here: http://www.trinitylaban.ac.uk/whats-on/music-events/junior-trinity-spring-concert

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