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My mum used to run a newsagents shop back when I was a kid. The Corner Shop stood triumphant where Brandon High Street and London Road intersected. The business that resided there – newspapers, sweets, toys and ‘fancy goods’ – vacated the premises back in the 90s. The night before the transfer of power, I headed off to the place I’d spent as much as time in as my own bedroom to ‘say goodbye’.

Being there that night – around midnight as I recall now – was a bit weird. A visually familiar space that triggered memories and emotions. These memories seemed in the moment to be slipping through my fingers. I remembered then, as I do now, few especially fond memories about the place. If anything, my memory of The Corner Shop was that it had displaced family time. Perhaps I held a sense of bitterness about the place. I’m not sure.

What I do recall with clarity was the need to be present in the space the night before new more confident owners breezed in with the resolve prove good on their promise of transformation. One last goodbye, toasted with a grubby glass of luke-warm lemonade ‘pilfered’ from the shop fridge.

There were echoes of that experience last night stepping into the Festival Hall. I was last there seven months ago. Since then the place has been shut. Staff have (first) been furloughed, then made redundant. It’s none of it been pretty. The Southbank Centre is in a sense a monument to something rather brutal for a whole variety of reasons.

I was there to watch a recording of the LPO’s In The Stream Of Life – Sibelius, a Lindberg world premiere, and some Schubert I’d never heard before.

Everything sounded tight. The upper strings sounded – forgive the descriptive term – lush. All on stage demonstrated the kind of attention to detail in recording that makes for a standing ovation.

There were twelve of us in the audience, distanced close to the back wall of the stalls. I’ve never sat there before, god only knows why not. The sound was incredible. For this studio recording – an empty auditorium stretching out in front of me like blank forgotten tomb stones – were the premium seats.

I struggled with my own internal dialogue, I’ll confess. My socially distanced buddy revelled in the joyous soundworld of Lindberg’s new cello concerto. Conductor Joshua Weillerstein bounced around, whilst I reflected on how incredibly grateful I still feel to so many generous people for granting me access.

Advance notice, if you will: live music still sounds good, and when the full auditorium hears it themselves they will go wild. Certainty.

But it was tinged with sadness.

Whilst waiting for proceedings to begin in what has become a TV studio experience I remember well from the BBC, suggestions were made by my handler about timings, toilets and various other logistics. “You can only use the toilets on this floor, and you’re not allowed to go any further.”

Outside the gents on the third (?) floor I caught sight of the Skylon restaurant below devoid of table coverings, staff or punters. Below that an inky blackness. Don’t go there, even though seven months ago you’d have been allowed to go anywhere in this glorious building I call my London Home.

There was a whiff of midnight prohibited access about the whole thing that dominated the music-making as a result. Regardless of where you stand on lockdown, transmission rates, or the ineptitude if the government, public spaces like these for people (privileged) are sorely missed. And I will do everything I can possibly do to hasten the return of that experience.

Watch the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Joshua Wellerstein on Wednesday 28 October on Marquee.TV.

For more digital streams from UK orchestras, be sure to bookmark the Thoroughly Good Digital Concerts page.

London Philharmonic Orchestra to play concerts in Royal Festival Hall 30 September – 30 December

Always nice to start the day with an invigorating press release. This from the London Philharmonic Orchestra announcing their concert schedule for the rest of the year offers a little bit of hope and possibly even excitement.

All thirteen concerts will be streamed via Marquee.TV which if you’ve got one of a range of Connected TVs you may well be able to access directly on the TV (otherwise its an HDMI connection from your laptop to the TV). Marquee are currently offering 50% for all subscriptions to their service in September. The LPO concerts will be freely accessible via Marquee for the first 7 days after broadcast.

More detail for the LPO season on the orchestra’s website. For Marquee TV subscriptions go here.

Wednesday 30 September 2020, 8pm

JÖRG WIDMANN Con brio
SIBELIUS (ORCH. RAUTAVAARA) In the Stream of Life
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 5

Edward Gardner conductor (Chair supported by Mrs Christina Lang Assael)
Gerald Finley bass-baritone


Wednesday 7 October 2020, 8pm

MESSIAEN
 Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum
SCHOENBERG Verklärte Nacht

Edward Gardner 
conductor (Chair supported by Mrs Christina Lang Assael)


Wednesday 14 October 2020, 8pm

JULIAN ANDERSON Van Gogh Blue*
NIELSEN Violin Concerto
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 7

John Storgårds
 conductor
Simone Lamsma violin


Wednesday 21 October 2020, 8pm

ANNA CLYNE Prince of Clouds
R STRAUSS Suite, Le bourgeois gentilhomme
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 8

Karina Canellakis
 conductor
Pieter Schoeman violin (Chair supported by Neil Westreich)
Tania Mazzetti violin (Chair supported by Countess Dominique Loredan)


Wednesday 28 October 2020, 8pm

SIBELIUS 
The Bard
MAGNUS LINDBERG Cello Concerto No. 2 (UK premiere)
RAVEL Trois poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 1

Jukka-Pekka Saraste 
conductor
Anssi Karttunen cello
Sally Matthews soprano


Wednesday 4 November 2020, 8pm

VIVALDI La stravaganza, Op. 4, Concerto No. 1 in B flat major
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 2
THOMAS LARCHER Ouroboros for cello and orchestra
REGER Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Mozart, Op. 132

Thierry Fischer conductor
Pieter Schoeman violin (Chair supported by Neil Westreich)
Kristina Blaumane cello (Chair supported by Bianca and Stuart Roden)


Wednesday 11 November 2020, 8pm

CHEVALIER DE SAINT-GEORGES
 Overture, L’amant anonyme
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4
BEETHOVEN Ah! Perfido
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 4

Daniele Rustioni
 conductor
Nicolas Namoradze piano
Sophie Bevan soprano


Wednesday 25 November 2020, 8pm

SCHUBERT Symphony No. 3
PENDERECKI Concertino for Trumpet and Orchestra
LOTTA WENNÄKOSKI Verdigris (London premiere)
SIBELIUS Symphony No. 5

Hannu Lintu
 conductor
Gábor Boldoczki trumpet


Wednesday 2 December 2020, 8pm

PROKOFIEV Symphony No. 1 (Classical)
HILLBORG Bach Materia
SCHUBERT Overture in B flat major, D.470
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 5

Thomas Søndergård 
conductor
Pekka Kuusisto violin


Saturday 5 December 2020, 8pm

RAVEL Le tombeau de Couperin
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 6
JONATHAN DOVE Vadam et circuibo civitatem (a cappella)
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 3

Thomas Søndergård 
conductor
Alexander Gavrylyuk piano
London Philharmonic Choir


Wednesday 9 December 2020, 8pm

J S BACH Orchestral Suite No. 1
ELENA KATS-CHERNIN Piano Concerto No. 3 (European premiere)
ENESCU Decet, Op. 14
ENESCU Chamber Symphony

Vladimir Jurowski 
conductor
Tamara-Anna Cislowska piano


Wednesday 16 December 2020, 8pm

J S BACH
 Brandenburg Concerto No. 5
BRETT DEAN The Players, for accordion and orchestra (UK premiere)
STRAVINSKY Pulcinella (complete)

Vladimir Jurowski 
conductor
Pieter Schoeman violin (Chair supported by Neil Westreich)
Juliette Bausor flute
Catherine Edwards harpsichord
James Crabb accordion
Angharad Lyddon soprano
Sam Furness tenor
David Soar bass


Wednesday 30 December 2020, 8pm

VIVALDI Overture, La verità in cimento
SPOHR Symphony No. 2
HONEGGER Pastorale d’été
BLISS Rout
JAMES MACMILLAN Sinfonietta

Vladimir Jurowski 
conductor
Mary Bevan soprano

LPO Brass at Henry Wood Hall

I was at Henry Wood Hall this afternoon to interview brass players and percussionists at the LPO rehearsing and recording for the band’s Summer Sessions available on YouTube next week, many of whom hadn’t seen each other in real life for four months. Also weird to see actual people in real life doing ‘work things’. Oddly demanding to interview people at an extended distance – mean almost. Generated some good stuff (though tussled with the imagined voices of nearby critics saying that talk of tubular bell tuning was alienating for classical music newcomers – fools). Uplifting to be in the company of like-minded people – people whose livelihoods I care deeply about. Current health and safety measures are tiresome – holding live performance back right now. Adjusting to requirements about what’s ‘right’ and ‘acceptable’ in a physical space is exhausting too. But as someone who is always keen to bang the proverbial drum, it is a delight to be amongst musicians again as I was today. Generous types who just want to get back to work. Indebted to Rebecca J at Premiere for the visit. We all just need to knuckle down: this is going to take a long time.

London Philharmonic Orchestra announce their digital content in response to COVID-19

The London Philharmonic Orchestra is responding to the COVID-19 crisis with a wide variety of free interactive digital initiatives via a new website LPOnline – Connecting through music.

Three strands feed into the website: a performance ‘space’ featuring live or ‘as live’ performances including short performances from members of the orchestra and the LPO’s Foyle Future Firsts Development Programme and the LPO Junior Artists.  

The first performance event is detailed below.

Thursday 26th March, 7.30pm

Anne-Sophie Mutter (violin)
Pieter Schoeman (violin)
Richard Waters (viola)
Kristina Blaumane (cello)

Beethoven ‘Harp’ Quartet (excerpt)
(originally scheduled for performance this week in the QEH)

The LPO are also planning to release playlists of the concert repertoire they were originally planning on playing – each concert will be introduced by a member of the orchestra giving a personal take on what listeners can hear. Audiences will then be able to interact with LPO musicians and staff on the LPO’s social media channels. 

On Saturday 28th March at 7.30pm Edward Gardner, the LPO’s Principal Conductor Designate, will introduce the first concert in this series.

The LPO’s Education & Community department offers a range of learning and experiential resources and activities for audiences, supporting instrumental and creative music learning, plus materials for schools, families and disability settings.

And, as you’d expect, the orchestra will also tap into the specialist knowledge and experience of its musicians, and provide behind the scenes insights of the experience of musicians responding and reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amid the grimness of the current lockdown (lightened in Lewisham, London by the blue skies and warm spring sunshine) it is good to see orchestras (those with the resources) responding so resolutely to the crisis everyone is experiencing.

One wonders whether there will at the end of it be a greater appreciation of the role that orchestras and musicians play in the cultural life of this country, not just because so much content has been made freely available so readily and so swiftly. Such efforts also serve to remind us of the hole that could be left if that community – especially the self-employed musicians that are a part of it – was no longer supported.