Craig Lutton: Side by Side with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

Craig Lutton

Image: Craig Lutton

In January 2017, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) and Trinity Laban paired up for the unique Side by Side series, in which principal BSO players performed alongside and offered mentorship to Trinity Laban students. We caught up with percussionist and Trinity Laban student Craig Lutton who was a part of this year’s series.

“I gained so much from the experience working Side by Side with the professionals. Sacha Johnson was leading the sectional – he was on bass drum and I was on cymbals – and when we were playing together it was really great, it sent shivers down my spine. The two day event ended with a sold out concert at Blackheath Halls which was really successful. I’m coming to the end of my studies and orchestral music is primarily what I want to do, so to learn from Sacha and play side by side with him in a concert was really special.

The experience was intense because you’ve only got around 8 hours of rehearsal and then it’s the concert – it’s just like being in a professional working environment. You’ve got limited rehearsal time and you’ve got to nail it straight away. It was a nervous excitement I was having, with Sacha beside me, literally side by side, it was a step closer to reaching my dream of being an orchestral musician.”

During a rehearsal’s lunch break, Craig was lucky enough to receive an impromptu cymbal lesson from Sacha Johnson.

“Sacha said that when you go into the profession this is what most of you would play in the main orchestras, so he said over the lunch break he’d spend half an hour teaching me and I thought ‘this is fantastic’. I was learning from a true professional, because he’s played with all of the London orchestras and toured the world. He taught me so many different techniques and sounds, it was really beneficial. I could then put that into the afternoon rehearsal and the evening concert. He was really digging deep into how I could make my playing better. He gave me a bit of a career talk as well which was really inspiring to hear. It was a really poignant moment.”

Craig spoke about his time studying at Trinity Laban:

“It’s been very special. I’ve had lots of amazing performance opportunities and I’m so glad I moved to London from Northern Ireland. There’s so many opportunities, London’s the centre of the universe for music! It’s been incredible and I’ve met so many people, I’ve made friends for life and made some great contacts. The Side by Side concert at Blackheath Halls with BSO was a really special moment and I’ve had so many others.

My current teacher Michael Doran coached me in the Ulster Youth Orchestra in 2009 – 2013 which is where I first met him. He encouraged me to audition for Trinity Laban and I knew straight away in 2009 that I wanted to study under him. Here I am now having nearly finished four years of his beneficial tuition!

In my second year, Michael got me in for two performances of La Boheme playing with the ENO and once again in third year – that was special and probably a highlight from my time at Trinity Laban. It was at the London Coliseum, and being in the pit playing the cymbals was really special. I remember the moment just as the curtain came down for the interval and I was standing on stage playing the side drum. It was amazing – I was absolutely buzzing marching out on stage. There were about 2000 people watching, it was insane! I had my dad in the audience for the first night so that was great, because I’d never really thought I’d make my professional debut in an orchestra. When I was younger it was always the dream, so for it to actually come true made it one of the best nights of my life.

The principal percussionist in the BSO is Matt King, who also studied at Trinity Laban. Sacha was telling me about him and it was really inspirational to hear about people with professional jobs in orchestra’s – principal jobs – who have studied at Trinity Laban. There’s a lot of them in the professional world and that’s another one of the reasons why I chose to study here.

I did another Side by Side series with the BBC concert orchestra. We had Alistair Malloy, their principle percussionist, who was playing beside me again. I could use things that I’d learnt from Sacha in January and bring it into that performance. I’d never really worked on cymbals until the lesson with Sacha, he said ‘if you want to be a professional percussionist you’ve got to nail this’, so I thought right, this is my moment. I then stuck at it for 2 months and it’s really paid off.”

To find out more about Craig visit his website: www.craigluttonpercussion.co.uk

For more information on studying with us please visit the Trinity Laban website.

Alice White

Graduate Intern – Press & PR

 Musicians, don’t cramp your style!

In the last 20 years musicians’ medicine has become increasingly popular. But are musicians aware of the prevalence of injury and how best to treat them?

An article published under The British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM) couldn’t have said it better…

‘Musicians should think of themselves as athletes.’

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The physical and psychological demands that come hand in hand with being a musician, are no different to that of a dancer or perhaps even a rugby player?! It is essential that Musicians are attentive to their physical needs, limitations, and work, to condition their bodies accordingly.

The repetitive nature of a musicians’ repertoire, lengthy rehearsals and performances, tests posture and muscle strength, so it probably comes as no surprise that the vast majority of injuries sustained include repetitive strain, lower back pain and Tendonitis, to name but a few. However a study of 1046 musicians conducted by BAPAM in 2004, suggested 52% of injuries recorded were due to performance-related issues, such as overwork and incorrect practice or technique when playing their instruments.

Having said this an injury or trauma can be sustained by simply completing a harmless day to day activity, therefore it is essential that the treatment process is managed with the musician’s instrument and the demands of the lifestyle at the focal point. When assessing and treating a musician, a holistic ‘whole body’ approach is paramount- regardless of the type of treatment, the plan should be tailored to the individual artist!

All musicians face limitations, the physical dimensions of an instrument requires the musician to make adjustments to the body, muscles and tendons can be put under strain or ‘unusual’ positions during this modification. To maintain a high performance level, musicians may need to take preventive action or seek treatment that can help strengthen essential core muscles or correct muscle imbalances, thus keeping those dreaded repetitive strain injuries at bay!

Reduce the risk of time away from your passion…

PHYSIOTHERAPHY works towards improving your physical performance and reducing the risk of further injury by developing a biomechanical understanding of how you play. Forms of treatment can range from exercise referral, postural analysis (taking your instrument into consideration), manual mobilisations, dry needling and taping where necessary. These techniques collaborate to address the factors mentioned above, focusing on building strength to support and stabilise muscle imbalances and weaknesses.

ACUPUNCTURE is the balance of energetics of the mind and body. Chinese medicine techniques boost the uptake of oxygen and dissemination to our muscles, thus minimising those pesky cramps. Working to relieve tension, throughout the body it is a saving grace for shoulder and back pain. Did I mention its holistic approach to the body, treating headaches, anxiety and insomnia?

PILATES is a great tool for musicians. A typical Pilates class includes exercises to build or ‘restore’ endurance, flexibility, trunk and pelvic stability, muscle balance, strength, and efficient breathing patterns. Every one of these can help a musician to play a longer repertoire with less fatigue.

SPORTS MASSAGE works to relieve muscle tension as well as improve circulation, flexibility and posture. Whether it be through soft tissue release, trigger point, muscle energy or general massage techniques, this form of treatment can help bring more awareness to the body and decrease pain. Sound good? It can also tackle anxiety and restlessness pre or post performance, reduce stress and improve our overall wellbeing.

Prevention is better than cure!

It is handy to know what treatments are appropriate for musicians and their specific needs but as always remember the aforementioned!! The key to any injury is prevention – intense practice (although sometimes unavoidable) should be limited and performed in moderation.

Try taking regular breaks and work towards conditioning and maintaining a strong body by introducing warm ups and cool downs to your practice. If possible gradually increase the intensity and duration of your practice and restrict yourself to reasonable playing times- we know this may be a tricky one!

For any other information regarding the best treatment for YOU and what we offer at TL Health please contact us on  health@trinitylaban.ac.uk or 0208 3059479/0208 3059482.

Remember a clear and open communication between health care professionals, teachers and most importantly Performers will aid in effective Injury Treatment and in the long haul- PREVENTION!

 

Jessica Coleman

Graduate Intern for Health & Dance Science.

BA (Hons) Dance and Professional Practice, MSc Dance Science.

 

Performance Anxiety

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Stage fright, the heebie jeebies, a bad case of the willies. Call it what you will, but one thing is for sure, performance anxiety is the cruel mistress of many performing artists.

According to a recent survey conducted by Help Musicians UK, 75% of musicians said they had suffered from performance anxiety. Similarly, research from One Dance UK demonstrated that 92% of dancers had experienced psychological difficulty in the last 12 months, with over 30% experiencing performance anxiety. But what exactly is performance anxiety, why does it happen, and the big one we all want the answer to; how on earth do we get a grip of it?

Lets get down to the science-y bit. Psychologists seem to agree that anxiety manifests in two key ways; somatically and cognitively. Somatic symptoms are those we experience physically, such as sweating, racing hearts and needing the bathroom, causing us to feel agitated and uncomfortable. They’re all signs that our body is out of sync with its neutral state, signs of physiological arousal. These experiences are common in all pressurised situations, from test-taking, public speaking and sport, to the performing arts, dance and music. For some, symptoms occur long before performance, from early days in rehearsal. For others, symptoms hit us like a tonne of bricks, right out of the blue, when we’re standing in the wings.

Now here’s the interesting stuff. All of these symptoms have something else in common, something which differs vastly from anxiety. They’re all symptoms of excitement. Just like that feeling of waking up on your birthday, or falling in love, they are symptoms that are telling us that we are energised, ready for action, and prepared to experience something deeply rewarding, of great value.

But what about those cognitive symptoms, those we experience mentally such as worry, apprehension and nerves that ultimately can lead us to a mental block? There’s pretty solid evidence that performance anxiety occurs when an individual perceives an imbalance between the demands made, and their capacity to meet the demands. The key word here is perceived. What if we changed our perceptions of our symptoms, and our perceptions of performance? What if we changed up our mind-set and tried interpreting those symptoms as a sign of preparedness, and positive anticipation. Research we’ve carried out both here at Trinity Laban, and research by international colleagues, demonstrated that perceiving an upcoming performance as a challenge (a chance to thrive and demonstrate competency) rather than a threat (a chance to fail) lead to decreased anxiety experiences in both the days leading up to and very moments prior to performance.

Next time you have an assessment, performance or audition coming up, notice your immediate somatic response. Your interpretation is key. Is this related to a threat? Or actually, is this an optimal challenge? Is your mental investment really worry, or is thinking about an upcoming audition merely a sign that this is something of real value to you, an exciting experience? Learning to change mental habits is by no means an easy process, but a process it certainly is – which means time, patience and trial and error are key. Reframing your thoughts about your next performance may be the first steps towards managing your performance anxiety, and developing healthy techniques for looking after your psychological wellbeing is just as important as nurturing your dance or music technique.

 

Lucie Clements, PhD candidate Dance Science & Lecturer in Performance Psychology.

INTERVIEW: BECKY BRASS

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Image: Becky Brass, JK Photography

You’ve been on tour with the successful Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour both in the UK and internationally – how has that been and how did it come about?

I got a call from a fixer in my final year at Trinity Laban (whilst I was sat in a practice room worrying about excerpts!). The fixer asked me if I was interested in going to an audition to be the drummer in the band for a new show written by Lee Hall, who’s famous for Billy Elliot. My number had been passed on from a West End drummer who’d recently done a class and taken my details. I didn’t have anything in the pipeline for when I graduated so thought – why not? I received a hilariously enthusiastic email from Martin Lowe, the Music Supervisor (who I only found out after my audition was the composer of Once and recipient of a Grammy), asking me to bring ‘fun noisy things’ and have a play. I crammed all of the weird percussion I had into a bag and carried it like an unbalanced turtle to Kings Cross. I had a surprisingly fun audition but mistakenly thought that nothing would come of it, as Martin had assured me that they had a long list of people to see after me.

It’s a year and a half later and we’ve taken the show from the Edinburgh Fringe to across the UK, America, Ireland and Australia. We’ve received three awards and been nominated for Best Musical at the Evening Standard Awards 2016. It’s been entirely unforgettable; the show has a small but fierce cast of six women, with myself and two other women forming the band, not to mention being directed, lit, managed and choreographed by powerful women. We’ve grown into a formidable wolf pack along the way!

What’s it like to play in a theatre production? Have you done so before/would you like to continue with this line of work?

I had some experience playing in pits for shows, having worked at the Southwark Playhouse and the Royal Opera House before graduating, but playing in Our Ladies was a totally new experience. The musicians are on stage and in costume, required to interact with the actresses throughout, so complete focus and good behaviour was required at all times. I was fortunate to go straight into working on a show that was just being created. I joined rehearsals in Glasgow as the cast were learning choreography; scenes were cut and changed, songs added or rearranged and lines thrown out the window on an hourly basis, so we all felt very much at the core of the show, which is fairly unusual. I’d wanted to work on shows since my parents took me to see Stomp when I was ten and had an annoying amount of energy, and I would still love to continue working on them.

How did you find your time at Trinity Laban? What valuable things did you learn?

I got a lot from my time at Trinity Laban: time-management, diligence and being bold enough to try new styles and instruments. Although I struggled to figure out what direction I wanted to take for the first few years, it was with the input of my incredible teachers and the visiting players who encouraged me to pursue a less ‘classical’ path, as that suited me better. I threw myself into learning instruments from and around the world and kit and sat in on as many shows as I could, pestering as many teachers as possible!

What have you been up to since graduating?

I went straight into Our Ladies after finishing my fourth year, and then started working on a kids’ show at the Unicorn Theatre. I had a short break from shows at the start of 2016 before going on the international 6 month tour of Our Ladies, playing with function band Chiqas, and then working at the Unicorn for a second year.

Do you have any future projects/plans lined up?

I’m working on a few smaller jobs at the start of this year, ongoing work arranging and playing with Chiqas and a show at ArtsEd. We recently received the news that Our Ladies is transferring to the West End having been taken on by top west end producer Sonia Friedman (who produced Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Dreamgirls and The Book of Mormon). We’ll be playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre from May until September 2017!

To find out more about Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour and to book tickets, please visit the website.

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Image: Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour

Alice White

Graduate Intern – Press & PR

Post-Exercise Muscular Soreness

Feeling like you’ve gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson for a day or two after you’ve done a serious workout?

We all know the feeling- stairs? Not a chance.

But why do our muscles hurt so much when we’ve been working so hard?

Post-Exercise Soreness explained.

The DOMS

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness: refers to the potential reaction our bodies have when we take up a new exercise plan, adapt an existing exercise plan or alter the intensity or duration of regular physical exertion. This may happen regardless of our fitness levels and although often unwelcomed, it can be the sign of a Physiologically Positive Reaction.

DOMS usually develops between 12-24 hours after the activity itself. We’ve all heard the phrase ‘that’ll hurt tomorrow’ but the truth is the greatest discomfort is often experienced between 24-72 hours post-exercise. Although DOMS can be associated with a positive reaction, is often a sign that you need to take a rest, this is useful feedback from your body.  If you are experiencing symptoms associated with DOMS, to include muscles soreness ‘tender to touch’ and reduced joint mobility, this may lead to instability if not well rested. Instability and weakness combined with muscle soreness and fatigue can lead to injury.

What’s happening?

There is some controversy surrounding the cause of DOMS, however most believe that DOMS is the repair process that develops as a response to the microscopic damage of our muscle fibres likely stemming from novel stresses that were experienced during the exercise.

A common misconception is that DOMS is due to lactic acid build up however it is generally believed that lactic acid is not involved in the DOMS process.

Activities which are thought to result in DOMS are ones which cause muscles to lengthen whilst a force is being applied, also known as an eccentric muscle action. There are three main actions; Concentric, Isometric and Eccentric- The notion of a concentric chest press evokes a much more stressful loading onto the muscles than let’s say a handstand where an Isometric action is seen. However eccentric movements such as the lowering phase in a bicep curl are considered structurally, to cause a higher stress level on muscle fibres than the aforementioned. Try and work your way gradually into a new exercise program to help reduce the severity of DOMS!

 There is a fine line between positive, and injury provoking muscular ‘pain’.

Every body is different and you must remember to listen to yours.

As performing artists we should not be working towards ‘pain’. We should only push our bodies to a certain level, and DOMS is a welcomed indication that we have pushed our bodies a little beyond their normal comfort zone. If you do experience pain during an exercise this could be an underlying factor of over intensified exercise or incorrect form, you should consult a medical practitioner if pain persists and exceeds regular DOMS symptoms.

It is important to remember eccentric movements are to be treated as one ingredient within a well-tailored exercise plan, combining concentric and isometric movement will make for a well-rounded workout. Mastering technique, control and stability within movements will lower the risk of injury and in turn DOMS.

Does Massage Help?

Massage is an extensive physiological tool that eases muscle and joint stiffness. The hands on approach of massage works towards reducing tension within the body, combined with passive movements that not only stretch the connective tissues around our joints, but lengthens muscles and tendons too.  Sports Massage may help prevent the onset of injury, work as a tool to rehabilitate and in turn may improve performance. With classes, rehearsals, shows and tours on the horizon pushing bodies to outside of their regular comfort zone, Dancers, Musicians and Musical Theatre performers may consider seeking treatment in order to gain immediate relief for muscle soreness. It can also be applied post-event to remove waste products/toxins, speed up recovery time and de-stress after a performance.

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Don’t forget TL Health offers Sports Massage where TL Students receive a brilliant discount!

http://www.trinitylaban.ac.uk/trinity-laban-health/health-treatments/sports-massage

Jess Coleman: Graduate Intern, Health.

Musical Theatre alumni Zoe Rogers and Jack McCann

Our graduates perform in musical theatre productions in the West End, in international and UK touring productions, on film and TV, as well as within the wider entertainment industry. Many successful musical theatre artists, musical directors and pit musicians received their first experiences of Musical Theatre at Trinity Laban. We caught up with 2016 graduates Zoe Rogers and Jack McCann.

Jack is currently performing as Billy Crocker in Anything Goes at Upstairs at the Gatehouse, for which he has been nominated for an Off West End Award for Best Male. Prior to this he achieved the lead role in Charles Miller and Glen Chandler’s new musical The Sins of Jack Saul, for which he received a BroadwayWorldUK nomination for Best Actor in a New Production of a Musical. He has previously performed as Val LaMar in a revival of the classical musical comedy Babes in Arms and as Dead Duck in The Homosexual Necrophilliac Duck Opera at the Natural History Museum.

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Image: Jack McCann

Zoe has been cast as a member of the ensemble in 42nd Street at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Zoe has wanted to be in musical theatre ever since she can remember, getting involved in local performance opportunities from a young age. Zoe was overwhelmed to gain her role in 42nd Street, telling us: ‘I couldn’t believe it at first, but when it finally sunk in I just cried. I couldn’t stop the tears from coming!’

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Image: Zoe Rogers (William Rye Photography)

The Musical Theatre course includes carefully crafted performance opportunities which allow students to experience a diverse range of musical theatre performance settings. The experiences are modelled on real-life performance contexts, enabling students to apply and adapt their developing skills to meet the needs of a range of repertoire.

Both Zoe and Jack found their performance opportunities at Trinity Laban to be cherished memories. The final performance is a poignant moment for our Musical Theatre students as they come together one last time before making the transition into the working world. Jack felt he was ‘ready to take on the world’ and Zoe commented on how fortunate she was to have been given the opportunity to take on a leading role. Jack added:

‘I think Trinity Laban prepared me remarkably well for the industry. I had a very holistic training, not only gaining skills in singing, acting, and dancing, but I also learnt how to carry myself as a business person. It was great to perfect the practical elements whilst also gaining additional skills.’

Our musical theatre teachers are leading industry professionals, who coach and support students to prepare them for success in a highly competitive field. Zoe spoke of her gratitude towards her teachers, ‘not only are they incredibly established, they are willing to go above and beyond for all their students. Their dedication never wavers.’ Jack found that it was the pastoral support that really had an impact on him and helped him to grow on a personal level. He appreciated the focus on wellbeing as well as professional development, telling us:

‘The teaching staff were outstanding and I’ve continued my relationship with them. They were always willing to challenge me when I couldn’t challenge myself – when I couldn’t see my long term goal they helped me to grasp it again. They always had my best interest at heart. I made some very special relationships.’

Zoe and Jack are beginning to build prosperous careers in the musical theatre industry, and are both examples of Trinity Laban’s growing reputation for its Musical Theatre performance training. We distinguish ourselves by equipping creative practitioners with a wide range of skills applicable to a diverse range of musical theatre. We produce highly employable graduates who are thoroughly prepared for this competitive and increasingly popular branch of the British music industry.

BRINGING THE PAST TO LIFE: ALEXANDER WALKER

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Image: Alexander Walker

Alexander Walker is a conductor currently undertaking a PhD at Trinity Laban as well as being a member of our teaching staff. Alexander’s research focuses on historical performance traditions in order to analyse his own practice.

Alexander has taken a particular interest in Ignatz Waghalter, who from humble beginnings became a major figure in European musical life as founding Music Director of the Deutsche Opera in Berlin before and after the First World War. Being Jewish, he was forced to flee Europe with the rise of fascism. Arriving in NYC in the late 1930’s, he immediately set about founding an orchestra of African Americans, an act of extraordinary bravery and single mindedness in 1939. Waghalter has been completely forgotten, so Alexander has been digging up his music and recording it.

The PhD explores how Alexander makes decisions in terms of performing music and recording old music for which there is no performing tradition. It helps him to analyse his own practice and understand ethically and philosophically how decisions should be made in terms of performance. Alexander takes an interest in investigating how the minds of old performers worked and how they came up with their own traditions, for example finding conductors who might seem old fashioned to us now and discovering more than what you might notice at first glance.

Alexander commented on his time at Trinity Laban:

I think practice as research is particularly strong here. As a conservatoire, I very much like both researching and teaching here as it is such a very creative place. Innovation is valued and it strikes me that there are many possibilities for developing ideas here.

As a musician, I’m used to analysing what I do, but I’m not used to discussing it openly with people. That’s a new thing for me but it’s a valuable challenge. At first I was afraid that maybe if you try and figure out what the magic is the magic might go away, but I’m not finding that to be the case. I’m finding it does enhance my practice.’

Alexander has just been honoured by the Elgar Society with its highest award, the Elgar Medal, for his work promoting the composer’s music especially in Central Europe and Russia. Previous recipients include Sir Andrew Davies, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Daniel Barenboim.

Alexander commented:

‘It’s a very great honour. I feel very passionately that Elgar is a truly great, world class composer. In fact, in many of the places where I work he doesn’t regularly feature on programmes, if at all. I saw that as an opportunity to introduce people to this amazing music. I’ve given many national premieres of the music of Elgar and I’ve had the opportunity to really try and search into how it should be performed. I’ve found that the passion of the music is very compelling for players and for audiences. The orchestras that I work with abroad have no expectation of performance traditions, which relates to my PhD.

In my opinion nobody orchestrates better than Elgar and nobody writes for strings better than Elgar. When I take these works to orchestras for whom they’re new, they absolutely love playing it. They give very committed performances. It’s been a very meaningful forum for me and one of profound experience.’

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Image: Edward Elgar

Alice White

Graduate Intern – Press & PR