Tim Benjamin’s latest opera Madame X will make its world premiere tomorrow in Todmorden at the Hippodrome Theatre. Rehearsals for Madame X have gone brilliantly, and Tim Benjamin’s new opera is featured in Sinfini Music’s classical music highlights for this week.

More news from behind the scenes can be found on the Madame X blog, including information about the cast and interviews with Tim Benjamin. The opera follows a young artist, Masetto, and his lover, Zerlina, as their lives and dreams are manipulated by Masetto’s corrupt agent and wealthy, powerful art collectors.

As Tim explains in The Lancashire Telegraph, it is quite possible that Madame X is the second opera ever to have been performed in Todmorden – the first being his opera Emily in 2013, which won great acclaim.

This photo from the technical rehearsal below shows a mysterious covered painting … but what really lies beneath?

 

WhatLiesBeneath

 

Madame X will also be performed in Halifax, in London as part of the Grimeborn Festival, and in Manchester:

Thursday 21st August at Todmorden Hippodrome (World Premiere)

Friday 22nd – Saturday 23rd August at Square Chapel, Halifax

Monday 25th – Wednesday 27th August at Arcola Theatre, London (London Premiere)

Thursday 25th September at RNCM Opera Theatre, Manchester

You can also view the latest Madame X trailer here!

 

Follow Madame X on Facebook and Twitter, protagonists @MasettoPainter and @Zerlina83 have their own accounts, too!

(Written on August 20, 2014 )

The debate surrounding the future of classical music ranges far and wide, having lead to experimentation with classical music clubnights, donor membership specifically targeted at under 40s and classical concerts given in ex-swimming pools and car parks – all in an attempt to engage new audiences and encourage young people to start attending concerts.  The hope is that, as well as increasing engagement, they might still be attending in forty years time – as well as donating part of their increased salary to an organisation which has provided them with so much enjoyment during their lifetime.

Meanwhile, in the UK in particular, cuts are being made to music provision in schools to the point where many children aren’t being given access to the basic musical education which will give them the hunger to see these live classical events.  It is easy to spend the same amount of money on a ticket to a sporting event or a West End show as on some classical or opera events – so why should anyone take the chance on something which they know little about, and can’t guarantee the same enjoyment?

The concept of merging classical music with technology is relatively new, a major example of which can be seen in the live broadcast of opera and theatre in cinemas and on open-air screens.  These screenings, of productions from the Royal Opera House, Metropolitan Opera, National Theatre and even exhibitions in the British Museum, have proved hugely successful, with audiences citing the quality of filming and sound as reasons for their continued enjoyment. The fact that many of these broadcasts can be seen for free has also created a talking point.  The Berlin Philharmonic launched their Digital Concert Hall a little after the live broadcasts started, bringing one of the world’s best orchestras into your living room – so close you could touch it.  When it was launched, in 2009, there was a lot of discussion about the future of classical music – why then, has there been so little technological innovation within the industry since then?

If the industry doesn’t experiment with new technologies, it risks falling short of what a lot of new audiences are looking for.  This isn’t about radicalising a well-established industry which is still very much alive, it is about keeping the hugely loyal audiences which already exist as well as engaging new people and alternative press in what is increasingly becoming a digital world.  The use of Google Glass, seen in isolation, could be seen as little more than a gimmick, true.  However the product’s use within live classical music over the long term could potentially give an insight into a performer’s experience of the incredible world of live classical music – which musicians a conductor engages with and when, what a soloist sees in that crucial moment when they walk on stage, the fundamental eye contact at the end of a cadenza to lead to a down beat.  The nature of the Google Glass technology means that the images and videos generated from the headset can be shared instantly throughout the world – to an audience of existing classical aficionados as well as those who haven’t yet experienced a live concert, and to those interested in new and pioneering technology.

The industry is lucky to have such forward-thinking platforms in which to experiment with this technology, but why should an industry which has already survived so much change be so adverse to new technology?  The use of Google Glass and other forms of technology within classical music will inspire debate and discussion, as have many other advances in music – including the music itself – throughout history.  Whether for or against, these innovations have got the industry talking, and a worldwide audience will be watching to see where they take us.

(Written on August 18, 2014 )

On Wednesday 6 August, 22 members of the National Children’s Orchestras of Great Britain (NCO) had the privilege of joining forces with the European Union Youth Orchestra at the world-famous Royal Albert Hall.

The lucky musicians were from two of the NCO’s five age-banded Orchestras – Under 12 and Under 13. The repertoire included Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance and Ravel’s Bolero, and after a 90 minute rehearsal, they delivered an amazing performance to family and friends. The children’s infectious enthusiasm and incredible talent wowed the audience.  It was apparent to all listening that for many of these children their musical careers will see them return to perform at the Royal Albert Hall and, indeed, the BBC Proms.

 “It is a musician’s dream to perform at the Royal Albert Hall!” said Nicholas Bacon, violinist with the NCO’s Under 13 Orchestra. “I loved playing alongside brilliant musicians, I learnt so much working in an orchestra of 165 members under a fantastic and inspirational young conductor and to be playing at the Royal Albert Hall – well how can you possibly beat that!”

Elliott Neal, double bassist agreed: “It was a real inspiration to work with young professional players and really showed what we may be able to do in years to come”..

Roger Clarkson, NCO’s Principal Director of Music expressed his gratitude both to Marshall Marcus, CEO of EUYO, for providing this fantastic opportunity, and to the BBC Proms team for their welcome and superb organisation.  “It was heart warming to see a number of familiar faces in EUYO who were Alumni of NCO-GB” he said, “all of whom remember NCO with fondness”.

NCO Chairman, Peter Stark, said: “The influence and impact of this wonderful organisation continues to develop apace. The acclaimed performances of the five national age-banded orchestras astonish, with audience and staff continually remarking on the unbelievable standards achieved. The six regional orchestras and Associate Membership scheme are taking the name of NCO to an ever increasing market place and giving invaluable opportunities to more and more young musicians. No one should be under the misapprehension that this organisation produces performances that sound as though played by children!”

The National Children’s Orchestras provides exceptional orchestral training to musically talented children between the ages of 7 and 14 irrespective of background and financial circumstances.  Its orchestras regularly enthral audiences at some of the finest concert venues in the country, performing repertoire usually confined to adult professional orchestras. NCO’s performances are renowned for their intensity, vivacity and commitment, but above all their professionalism. This summer has seen the NCO’s Under 12 Orchestra perform at Birmingham Town Hall and the Main Orchestra perform at Colston Hall, Bristol; both performances receiving five star reviews in the press. On Saturday 16 August, NCO’s Under 13 Orchestra will take to the stage of Leeds Town Hall to perform a programme that includes Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and Walton’s Spitfire Prelude and Fugue.

LEEDS TOWN HALL

NCO performing at Leeds Town Hall

(Written on August 15, 2014 )

WildKat Artist, accordionist Paul Chamberlain has returned from his UK Summer tour. The tour, which has been a huge success, included performances in London, Birmingham, Aberdeen, Newcastle, Bristol and Cardiff, before finally culminating at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with his final performance of the tour on 9 August. Paul’s performances on his tour and his latest album ‘Accordion Sensations’ have been met with wide critical acclaim. Paul has been praised by the Sunday Times for “Conjur[ing] up both piano and orchestral parts with fierce fluency and a fully Weberian brilliance in fast excursions” and also by BroadwayBaby who have described his playing as “An enthralling display of musical mastery- humble, charming and informative.” Edinburgh Guide said of Paul “[His] undoubted enthusiasm was engaging and it went towards giving us a treat of a recital” and his performance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival was particularly well received by Seen and Heard International: “He brought an astonishing breadth of colours and styles to the instrument’s necessarily limited range, but I was especially impressed not only by his quicksilver fingerwork, but also by the way he made the accordion’s rustic wheeze not only jolly but also, by turns, dramatic, threatening or stormy as need be.”

For more information about Paul’s upcoming concerts and events, visit his website, twitter and facebook.

Listen to Paul’s interview with BBC Radio Scotland last month here.

 

 

(Written on August 15, 2014 )

While the extinction of the dinosaurs may have had something to do with a meteor, it is likely that the decline of orchestras is down to just as many debatable factors. From financial climate change, to developments in technology and changes in personal taste, there are numerous elements of change that the industry has little control over.

In the article from today’s Times, Iván Fischer heralds the evolutionary approach for orchestras, as he claims they must ‘adapt or die’. With his own Budapest Festival Orchestra being open to innovation he believes that it is the only way to truly mitigate against the terminal decline of orchestras around the world.

The Budapest Festival Orchestra are trying to bring in different audiences in order to break the white, middle-class, middle-aged, well-educated norm. While this isn’t wholly true in concert halls today, as a lot has already been done to correct the imbalance, it is still a perceived barrier to many. The BFO perform in midnight concerts to appeal to younger audiences, seating them on beanbags and giving them discounts on ticket prices if they turn up on a bike. All are intriguing innovations that could work for many orchestras and concert venues to lure in the younger generations.

However, the question that will be asked is what does this give/take from orchestral concert going. Traditionalists will be harking that it is in fact this kind of innovation that kills orchestras, while the opposing corner will rebut with the same evolutionary, forward-thinking stance that Fischer proposes in this article.

What is clear though is that demands are being placed on orchestras and those who manage them to be more creative, whether it is with their funding or engagement methods. Today also saw the Guardian Culture Professionals Live Chat about crowd-funding, which is being cited as a revolutionary change to fundraising. James Hopkirk, Editor of IdeasTap suggested ‘As arts funding gets cut back further and further and artists have to become more self-sufficient and entrepreneurial I think it’s [crowd-funding] only going to become more prevalent…’. A similar call for change has been echoed by organisations such as Nesta in their report ‘The New Art of Finance – Making Money Work Harder for the Arts’.

Essentially what all of these changes are demanding is that we are more creative, which is surely what the arts do best. It’s a philosophy that WildKat have embraced fully, with enormous success. No one is saying that creative minded people have to go and play with the stock market, or perform brain science to see what attracts people to classical music- just that we are considerate of all demographics, what makes them want to get involved or why they might want to resist, and if this is something we can change.

Rising to the challenges that the arts face is one best met by creative people- luckily our industry is brimming with them.

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(Written on August 13, 2014 )

This weekend WildKat PR fled the city and headed to Cornbury Park, the 800-year-old, 1,700-acre Oxfordshire deer park and setting for Wilderness Festival. The Festival is renowned for its gastronomic delights as much as the eclectic musical line-up, this year featuring headline artists from Burt Bacharach to London Grammar.

Wilderness 2014

Wilderness 2014

This was our third time at Wilderness Festival with three of our clients – both current and upcoming – performing over the course of the weekend. Silent Opera staged their latest production Live/Revive/Lament on Saturday evening on the Wilderness Stage. Silent Opera premiered the full production at Aldeburgh Music this Summer and have since performed at Kensington’s Saatchi Gallery as part of the InTransit Festival. In addition, eccentric cellist Gabi Swallow performed with her urban family at the Wilderness Stage on Friday 8th August 2014. Donned with appropriate festival headpieces and striking make-up, Gabi and her urban family performed a range of contemporary and classical music, which included Vivaldi’s Summer and a little Piazolla.

Gabi Swallow and Her Urban Family

Gabi Swallow and Her Urban Family

Another treat for the WildKat PR team was newcomer Poppy Ackroyd who also took to the Wilderness Stage on Friday afternoon. Despite the rain, a huge crowd assembled on the bales of hay for her set, where she performed her own compositions on the violin and keyboard, accompanied by some unique visuals.

Silent Opera

Silent Opera

The British, bunting-clad, boutique festival was idyllic, and we have carefully stowed our wellington boots and feather headdresses until next year…

 

 

 

 

(Written on August 11, 2014 )

WildKat PR is delighted to welcome Cantate to its roster. Cantate is a mixed-voiced youth choir that have recently returned from the World Choir Games in Latvia as double gold medal winners. The choir, based in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, have achieved international acclaim since being founded by Michael Kibblewhite in 1994, and are currently celebrating their twenty-year anniversary. Cantate now stretches across three choirs and has a reputation for innovative and dynamic musical performances of the highest quality. It remains open for anyone to join without audition at a level that suits them, and embraces Classical, Show and Pop repertoire as well as music from all around the world.

In addition to regular tours to Europe including Bordeaux, Paris, Assisi and Venice, the choirs also perform in their home areas of Essex, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire throughout the season. They have also performed at various prestigious venues in the south of England, including the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Festival Hall, 10 Downing Street and annually at the family carol service at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Other accolades including winning gold in the 2008 World Choir games in Austria, winning highest placed English Children’s Choir at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod, winning top awards at the National Music Festival for Youth and winning the Mid-Somerset Music Festival. The choir has also featured on BBC Radio 2 and BBC Songs of Praise, and have worked and recorded under conductors such as Sir Andrew Davis and John Rutter.

Cantate offers young people unique musical training. All members are given percussion and rhythm workshops as a crucial part of their education in the choir, starting with simple Samba rhythms and moving to complex presentations of rhythm and movement that are a feature of many of the concerts. Although the main intake for Cantate is for the training choir, which accepts children from aged eight, older students are always welcome to join at a level that reflects their previous experience.

Since 2010 Cantate has been led by Nicholas Shaw and Graham Instrall, who head an inspirational team of pianists, directors and singing teachers. They are proud to have the active support of three honorary patrons: Baroness Genista McIntosh, Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe and composer Mark-Anthony Turnage.

 

For more information, please visit Cantate’s website and check Cantate’s Twitter and Facebook pages.

 

 

 

 

Cantate in competition

Cantate performing at the 2014 World Choir Games

(Written on August 8, 2014 )

Vanessa Benelli Mosell presents a new avant-garde piano which was designed exclusively for Pleyel Piano by the Peugeot Design Lab.
The Peugeot Design Lab launched in 2012 in Paris with the objective to design non-automotive products that change the conceptions of the object. They approached Pleyel Pianos to be their first partners and together they created a piano, which has the potential to revolutionise the world of piano manufacturing. The piano has been designed and built to achieve unprecedented musical quality. Its major innovation is the lowering of the chord mechanism to line up perfectly with the keyboard. The pianist can hear the sound of the instrument with incomparable precision. And, at the same time, the audience can see the pianist playing from every conceivable angle.

Watch the videos of Vanessa playing on the piano below:

For further information on Vanessa Benelli Mosell click here or visit her facebook, twitter and instagram pages.

For more information on Pleyel and Pleyel Peugeot Design Lab, please visit the Pleyel Piano website.

Video produced by Charly Mandon, Composer and Director, www.charlymandon.fr.

(Written on August 6, 2014 )

Last week was a highly anticipated week for WildKat PR and WildKat artist Daniel Hope. On Thursday 31st July Daniel performed at the Bristol Proms, a performance which Classic FM have described as “explosive”. However, in a unique twist, for some of the performance Daniel donned Google Glass in order to give his own perspective as a performing virtuoso violinist whilst onstage. The idea of this venture was to merge the lastest groundbreaking technology with one of the most ancient musical genres, in order to open a brand new avenue of accessibility to the Classic genre of music. Whilst performing, pictures were uploaded to social media, along with the hashtags #throughglass and #glassviolin, in order to connect with those who were not in the audience. The experiment has opened a world of possibilities for music and technology, with WildKat at the forefront. Watch this space…

Thursday’s performance both on and off stage #throughglass

(Written on August 1, 2014 )

Internationally acclaimed virtuoso violinist and WildKat artist Daniel Hope is to perform at the BBC Proms in the Royal Albert Hall this evening, premiering a new violin concerto by Gabriel Prokofiev (grandson of Sergei) about the First World War. Later on this week he is also to make a trip to Bristol on to perform in the Bristol Proms. Both are set to be unique performances not to be missed.

On 31st July, during his performance at the Bristol Prom, Hope will use Google Glass to show his view of the audience from the stage and his connection with other musicians throughout the concert. This will merge the latest groundbreaking technology with the ancient Baroque music Daniel will be performing from his album “Air: A Baroque Journey”,  placing old with new. Daniel will also be wearing Google Glass before his performance, and will share photos and videos of rehearsals and warm-ups before the concert. Even the very moment Daniel walks onto the stage to perform will be recorded, giving a completely realistic perspective of the activities and emotions a top classical musician goes through before they walk onto the stage.

However, it is not only Daniel who will be able to share a point of view. He is also offering the opportunity to one audience member, who will be given a free ticket to the Prom and will be able to wear Google Glass throughout the performance to record videos and take photos from an audience member’s perspective. The resulting media will be shared alongside the images and videos which Daniel uploads to his social media feeds. If you would like to win the chance to take part in this unique opportunity, in honour of Daniel’s latest album “Escape to Paradise”, comment or post on Daniel’s Facebook or Twitter which film soundtrack you would pick if you were to escape to paradise.*

*Competition open to UK residents only, the winner will be provided with a free concert ticket to Daniel’s performance at the Bristol Proms on Thursday 31st July and a Google Glass headset for the duration of the concert. The winner will be notified via private message on Facebook/Twitter by 10am, Wednesday 30th July 2014.

Daniel Hope

Daniel Hope

Photo: on.fb.me/1tW1IQC

 

google glass

Google Glass

Photo: on.fb.me/1lRjlvN

(Written on July 29, 2014 )