BBC Symphony Orchestra's 'come and play' event

On Saturday 12th November, I managed to take some time out of my very busy schedule of late and with my violin, I travelled from Birmingham to London to play with members of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and just over 100 other keen players from all over London and in my case beyond. This formed part of the BBC’s celebration of the Symphony and they were looking for musicians to join them to play a classic symphony alongside members of the Orchestra! The biggest draw for me was the opportunity to play at the famed Maida Vale Studios.

The day was in two halves with Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony in the morning and Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony in the afternoon all under the brilliant baton of conductor Nicholas Collon. Each player had to choose which symphony they wanted to do as both sessions were over-subscribed. I decided to go to the morning session for the wonderful Dvorak 9th. Here was a chance to come and play through a fantastic symphony with some of the UK’s top orchestral musicians by your side. The members of the BBC SO were able to share their tips about orchestral playing, which was very invaluable. I played on the second desk of the second violins and so was able to get the benefits of being in close proximity to the BBCSO violinist on the first desk.

The event organisers were looking for the usual complement of symphonic instruments and I went in my role as a violinist. However, I did cast my eye (and ear) over the wind and brass sections which had been expanded significantly to allow for more players. The flute players, for instance, rather than the 2 or 3 as per usual were now 6 or 7 in number. It was wonderful to hear the flute players. The flute player from the BBCSO, especially, cut right through the music with his beautiful early 20th century wooden Rudall Carte flute and his velvet but projecting sound drew my ear. At the break, I was able to have a chat with this particular flautist who happened to be Daniel Pailthorpe and even got a chance to play his instrument. It was absolutely gorgeous and so responsive to play. He said that it had been overhauled by Robert Bigio who had made a new wooden headjoint for it. Daniel also said that it can be a challenge to find a good Rudall Carte flute with modern tuning so you have to be careful to go to a good source.

Out of interest, some of the proceedings of the day were recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on the afternoon of Thursday 24th November.

Check it out here. It's on iPlayer till Thursday 1st Dec. If you don't want to listen to the whole thing scrub through to about 42 mins in for the interviews and discussion of the day.

This BBC Symphony Orchestra's 'come and play' day was their first such event. I really hope they do others. If they do, I would strongly recommend it for flutewise folk. The day was first come, first served and as long as you were over 14 years old and at least grade 6 you were welcome. However, those participants under the age of 16 had to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

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