Animate Orchestra plays side-by-side with the European Union Youth Orchestra

Last week, the BBC Proms team invited nine of our young musicians from Animate Orchestra to play in a side-by-side rehearsal with the European Union Youth Orchestra alongside young musicians from nine other orchestras including the Barbican Youth Orchestra and the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. Nolitha Olusanya, a 12 year old violinst from Lewisham, tells us about her experience of playing as part of the huge rehearsal:

“Today, I had the amazing opportunity to rehearse with the EUYO in the Royal Albert Hall. In just one and a half hours we rehearsed two well-known pieces – Ravel’s Bolero and Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance. We then performed to a public audience who were amazed at the high standard we had achieved.

At the start of the day I was a bit nervous but I quickly settled down because the musicians and conductor were very friendly and kind. First we practised the Elgar piece, which although was quite hard was still fun because my EUYO desk partner (who was from Greece) was very funny and was always cracking jokes. Then I moved to the first desk of 2nd violins for the Bolero where I had a new desk partner from the UK. After the intensity of the Elgar, I was lucky to be able to sit back, listen, and take in the magical atmosphere for at least five minutes before the violins had to play. I learned that when each instrument performed a solo, the orchestra would rub their feet along the floor to say well done. Much more confusing was in the middle of Bolero we all had to stand up and play, and then suddenly my partner went to play the cello and the cellist played her violin!

There were musicians of all ages from lots of other orchestras, and you could tell from every child’s face that they were just as excited as me to be performing on stage at the Royal Albert Hall. This will definitely go down as one of my most memorable musical experiences ever!”

Animate Orchestra gets creative for the Music For Youth Schools Prom

Bethan Francis, a 15 year old cellist from Greenwich, has been a member of Animate Orchestra since the project began in March 2011. Here, she tells us about the first stage of her experience of partcipating in the South Riverside Music Partnership’s massed ensemble that will perform in the last night of the Music for Youth Schools Prom on 12 November 2014.

When I found out Animate Orchestra will be playing at the Royal Albert Hall for the Music for Youth Schools Proms, I was very excited! It’s one of the most iconic venues and playing there would be an incredible opportunity for every one of us, not to mention very nerve racking! We are performing in a massive ensemble of 600 young musicians with students from Junior Trinity and singers from the four boroughs of Lambeth, Lewisham, Royal Greenwich and Southwark.

We have had our first session of the project already where we were gathering our ideas for the piece inspired by the poem ‘The London Breed’ by Benjamin Zephaniah. As you can guess, it is about London and it describes everything from the diverse culture and historical sites to the array of delicious food and drinks. The day began with some ice breakers and then we went onto brainstorming ideas based on the poem, led by Kerry Andrew who will now develop all our ideas into a brand new piece of music for us all to perform. We then split up into small, sectional groups to develop mini pieces and ideas based around a phrase each group liked from the brainstorming. All our ideas were recorded and filmed by Kerry and she will go home and use those ideas and her musical knowledge to develop it further.

So far it has been a very exciting experience and I have learnt lots of new and useful skills. It has helped me with my composition and confidence when composing and I have felt like I have contributed to the final piece when putting my ideas forward. It has also been a great opportunity to meet lots of new people and also spend time with old friends who I had met on other courses.

I can’t wait to hear the finished piece when we meet next!

Animate Orchestra 2014

Photography by Tas Kyprianou

Animate Orchestra participates in Lewisham Live

This spring, young musicians from Animate Orchestra worked alongside young dancers from Trinity Laban’s Youth Dance Programme to create a brand new piece of music and dance inspired by the theme of string theory. This was performed as part of the three week Lewisham Live festival on Tuesday 18 March in the Bonnie Bird Theatre in the Laban Building. Two members of Animate Orchestra describe their experiences of participating in this exciting collaborative project:

Prospera Dukes Ross (aged 11)

When I first started this project, I only had my experience using music technology to work with. I didn’t know what string theory was and hadn’t the faintest idea how we were going to work with the dancers!

But that has all changed… For a start, string theory is massive, and yet so small it cannot even be seen under a microscope. Smaller-than-microscopic strings make up every atom, every particle; the universe in its entirety. We created our music around the four elements of string theory: Strong Nuclear Force, Weak Nuclear Force, Gravity and Electro-Magnetic Force. With the help of new friends, a quick brainstorming session, and an ever helpful tutor, my experience switched from not-so-good to brilliant in a matter of hours.

The element of string theory the music technology group were working on was Strong Nuclear Force. We used screams, sirens and explosions -what you’d get if an event like Chernobyl happened- and then got to work making and recording sounds. We makey-makeyed (a type of computer keyboard that you can connect to a computer via a USB cable and then wire up with objects containing zinc) a vibraphone with a vocal sample we’d constructed. I then created a soundmap on Soundplant, played with the Borderlands app that allows you to record and manipulate sounds, and pressed dangerously red buttons in rhythm. We learnt that the dancers based their work mainly on cues in the music and the fact that we warmed up together meant that we learnt a bit more about how they warmed up. In turn, they learnt about our methods of getting ourselves ready to play. We also had the opportunity to watch their dances with and without our soundtrack.

I would definitely do this again; the people, tutors and music created were phenomenal and I had the time of my life, especially on the night of the performance!

Marisse Cato (aged 11)

Sunday 19 January

The first day I would say was the best. Everyone was all together – dancers, musicians and tutors. The musicians got a taste as to what it would be like to be dancers. We were split into groups, each brainstorming ideas about what string theory reminded us of. We then got into our orchestral sections to come up with melodies and riffs that could make up our Gravity piece. I play the bassoon, though I must admit that saxophones always have the best and catchiest tunes – they stick in your head for months after the performance.

Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 February

We spent these days in Trinity Laban’s Faculty of Music at the Old Royal Naval College. The site is absolutely stunning – with the Thames and the Cutty Sark nearby, the opportunity of just being there is wonderful. The ideas brainstormed were used for the Electro-Magnetism piece and the Gravity piece. Different sections linked up beautifully; base riffs, soaring melodies, clashing, creating a magical atmosphere that all music should have. The Electro-Magnetism piece was in sections that represented the movement of the photons that are used in Electro-Magnetism. One of these was coils: melodies passed round from instrument to instrument to represent those coils. We then built on those ideas to create our final piece. By the end of the day, the brass section was being most creative, using their instruments in ways not traditionally used for classical music. For example, they lightly blew into their instruments to create a vibrating airy sound that changed the punchy gravity atmosphere into a mysterious, unknown vibe, sending charges through the air.

Sunday 16, Monday 17 and Tuesday 18 March

Following a month long break, I worried about remembering all the ideas we had pulled together in February. It is amazing how most things popped back into our heads once we got together. Another full day of hard work demanding my full concentration; this is my idea of a worthwhile career. These days were at Trinity Laban’s Faculty of Dance and they were all about perfection and precision. The dancers were amazing. They actually got involved with the music as well, performing a small singing part. Tuesday was performance day. Seeing the other dancing acts that were performing – wow! They were of all ages; from primary school children to young adults. We had to perform our original music from memory and it truly was an amazing experience performing in the Bonnie Bird Theatre.

To conclude, there are so many things I have learnt. A new game, how to cooperate with dancers, how hard it is to dance and how many hours you must practice to become any good. The list is endless. Playing the bassoon was a great opportunity as I learnt how other instruments with a similar base range can collaborate with me as a bassoonist. I also was shown a new instrument; the tromboon. It is when you replace the mouthpiece of a trombone with the crook of the bassoon. It made an… interesting sound. Every Animate project has provided a very different experience, widening my perspective of how music can be used. This particular showcase has inspired me to explore further the world of dance. I can hardly wait for the next Animate workshop!