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Tag Victoria Wood Foundation funds completion of new Hallé project


Manchester’s Hallé orchestra has received a major cash injection from the Victoria Wood Foundation to finish a new performance, rehearsal and education centre. 

The gift completes the Hallé's fundraising to build a three-storey extension to Hallé St Peter's, a deconsecrated church. The building will be known as The Oglesby Centre, and will feature a new facade and facilities including a café and kitchen, new rehearsal space, workshops and practice rooms. 

The largest hall will be named ‘The Victoria Wood Hall’ to commemorate the late comedian.  

In 2011, Victoria Wood worked with the Hallé on the musical, That Day We Sang, returning in 2014 for the TV adaptation of the stage production.

The TV version featured the Hallé Children’s Choir and The Hallé orchestra. After this, Wood, who used to attend performances by the Hallé when she was a child, become the first patron of the Children’s Choir.

'Victoria particularly enjoyed working with the youth choirs', says Nigel Lilley, trustee of the Foundation. 'Rehearsing with them was undoubtedly one of the highlights of a project that was very close to Victoria’s heart.'

The new venue is expected to open in August 2019. 

Take a look at what’s in Classical at mandersmedia on Discogs


BBC Music Magazine Victoria Wood Foundation funds completion of new Hallé project An interview with Anne Denholm


In July 2015 you were appointed official harpist to HRH The Prince of Wales. What does the role involve?

The role was reinstated in 2000 by HRH The Prince of Wales. It mainly involves providing music for different occasions. It might be playing background music for functions or dinners, or more stand-out performances at ceremonies. It’s providing music for when music is helpful and nice, and that’s obviously a variety of situations.


And that includes playing at the recent royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. What was that like?

It was fantastic! I still can’t really believe I was there to be honest. It was just a real privilege to witness the actual wedding, which was really beautiful. Although it was a historic national event it was also the marriage of two people who love each other and that's what was very apparent and made it extra special.

It was also amazing to accompany cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason during his solos in the signing of the register. He's just fantastic and it was really wonderful to hear him.


• Who is performing at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding?

• Who is Sheku Kanneh-Mason?


What do know about royal harpists from before the role fell by the wayside?

We know that the last royal harpist before the post fell out of existence was John Thomas, who was appointed by Queen Victoria in 1871. In the harp world John Thomas is a really significant figure. He was a Welsh gentleman who went to London to study at the Royal College of Music, where he later became a professor. He is probably most famous among harpists for writing lots of lovely arrangements of Welsh folk melodies and some original compositions as well.


I understand there is an official royal harp. What makes that instrument special?

The royal harp was designed and created especially for HRH The Prince of Wales so it’s one of a kind. It was designed by the late Victor Salvi, of Salvi harps in Italy. It’s a magnificent creation. It was presented in 2006 to The Prince of Wales, and has incorporated into the design lots of emblems of Welsh culture.

For example, instead of the usual flowers on the soundboard of the harp, there are daffodils instead. There are dragons along the base, and the bit at the front of the harp, the column, is inspired by the crest of The Prince of Wales, with the three feathers. The top of the harp is actually the three feathers coming out of the coronet. So it’s very intricately designed, especially for The Prince, and also has a magnificent sound. It’s a very special instrument.


Is it enjoyable to play?

Yes! One of the real privileges of the post is to play that instrument and get to know it as a harp.



Another big part of your musical life is contemporary music, and you are a founder member of The Hermes Experiment. What makes this ensemble unique?

It was set up by soprano Héloïse Werner, who I was friends with at university. It's a really unusual combination of instruments. We have double bass, harp, clarinet and soprano voice, which sounds totally mad but works because we've got all the fundamental musical elements. There's bass, harmony and then two melody instruments. It's been an amazing journey of discovery. We've worked with over 40 composers. We commission, make our own arrangements of existing works and do totally free, live improvisation as well.


• An interview with harpist Ruth Wall

• Review of harpist Keziah Thomas's Crossing Waves album


In fact you're playing with soprano Héloïse Werner as well as mezzo Lucy Goddard at the Spitalfields Music in the City series, with a focus on 20th- and 21st-century women composers…

This concert is part of the City of London corporation’s ‘Women: Work and Power’ initiative, which is actually a six-month season celebrating women. This recital has been curated by Héloïse Werner. We've come up with this wonderful programme, and we're also a devising a piece ourselves.


And the devised piece is based on the 17th-century Italian composer Barbara Strozzi?

Exactly. We are taking inspiration from a movement, 'Mercé di voi', from a larger vocal work. It's absolutely beautiful. I've read a bit about Strozzi, and she was one of the only women publishing her own music in the first half of the 17th century. I must admit I had never heard of her, and I'm really looking forward to exploring this piece of hers, in a new and unusual way. We will be playing chunks of the original, interspersed with semi-improvised passages.


Do you have any other favourite pieces from the programme?

All the pieces are very new to me, apart from the Sally Beamish harp solo. I absolutely love Nicola LeFanu's The Bourne. The harp writing treads a really lovely line between unusual and being very beautiful, harpy and delicate.



What is the Sally Beamish piece about?

I was really lucky to get to work with Sally on it in 2014. It was one of the first contemporary pieces I played. It involves a lot of unusual textures and effects: I start the piece by drumming on the sound-board and using different parts of my hand to get different percussive sounds, so I've got a sort of rhythm section going.

The piece is about African sleeping sickness. The drumming rhythms are from Africa, and as African harps are usuaully pentatonic, there's lots of pentatonic movement. There's also an actual transcription of a lullaby from one of the central African tribes that was decimated by sleeping sickness in the 1940s. That's where we get the name for the piece. 'Awuya' is a little girl's name, and this lullaby was sung to her. So it's a really sad piece, but also it ends on a hopeful note.


• An interview with Sally Beamish and Andrew Motion


Anne Denholm performs with soprano Héloïse Werner and mezzo-soprano Lucy Goddard at Drapers' Hall at Drapers' Hall in London on Friday 20 July from 1-1.50pm

Picture credit: Timothy Ellis

Take a look at what’s in Classical at mandersmedia on Discogs

BBC Music Magazine An interview with Anne Denholm

BBC Music Magazine An interview with Joshua Bell An interview with Joshua Bell


The Red Violin was released in 1998, starring Samuel L Jackson, Carlo Cecchi and Sylvia Chang. It tells the story of a red violin and its owners over a period of four centuries. Joshua Bell recorded the solo violin parts for the film.


You’re performing the world premiere of the live soundtrack to The Red Violin at this year’s Napa Valley Festival. How did this come about?

The film came out in 1998 and I recorded the soundtrack for it. The film then won an Oscar for Original Score for its composer John Corigliano, which was very exciting to have been part of. Many things spun off from that: a suite for violin and orchestra which I performed in concert and later a full-blown violin concerto by Corigliano loosely based on The Red Violin, which I think is one of the great pieces of modern repertoire for the instrument.

20 years later, the idea of playing the full score to the film live is very exciting – I’ve never done it before. It’s scheduled for several different festivals and concerts this summer, but Napa will be the premiere.


What is the process of performing with a film like?

I know the music very well, but am nervous about matching the screen during the live action scenes. We are given visual cues in our scores, and some of it will be trial and error until I feel the nuances – the music is never metronomic. The conductor (Michael Stern) will be the same in each performance, and he happens to be one of my best friends, so it’ll be fun to get in the groove with him.



Why do you think the phenomenon of films being accompanied by live orchestras is having such a moment?

Music on film has always been hugely popular, and often people’s way into orchestral music is through soundtracks. It works so well with films where the music really drives the action, particularly John Williams’s scores. In the case of The Red Violin they are taking it one step further, because there is live violin-playing in the film itself. There’s a lot of music being made on screen, so there’s much more to consider than just the background music.


What’s the process of recording a film soundtrack like?

It’s really interesting to work not only with a conductor and an orchestra but also the film’s director, because they have their own unique vision. They’re there to tell you what emotions they want, which adds a whole new dimension.

It’s a lot more ‘bitty’ to record, and in that way it’s easier than doing a concerto recording where you have to be thinking about the bigger picture all the time.



Have you played on any other film soundtracks?

I’ve done several films since, but The Red Violin was definitely the biggest challenge as it was the most amount of live music. I was also a body double in the film for the violinist, which was a whole new experience. There are several places in the film where you can see me playing from behind wearing a wig.


The film’s soundtrack is being premiered at the Napa Valley Festival, where you’ve performed a number of times previously. What is it about the festival you particularly like?

It’s a wonderful place. I particularly like it because it brings together three of my great passions – music, food and wine! Napa Valley has great food and is also where all the great wines of America are from. There are lots of events at the festivals that take place at wineries – concerts and parties. It’s always fun to go back.



Are there any other performances at the festival that you’ll be attending?

I’m staying for a few days, and a few days after The Red Violin performance my girlfriend is playing Maria in West Side Story. Lots of my other friends will be performing there as well, so I’ll try and see them. I’ll also make time to go to the French Laundry, one of my favourite restaurants too.


Where are you taking The Red Violin after Napa Valley?

Throughout the summer we are performing at various places: Ravinia Festival with the Chicago Philharmonic and with the Philadelphia Orchestra in Saratoga and a few other places. We’ll hopefully bring it to London next June. 


Joshua Bell performs the soundtrack to The Red Violin at Napa Valley Festival on Thursday 26 July. Tickets available here

Take a look at what’s in Classical at mandersmedia on Discogs Free Download: Louise Farrenc’s Symphony No. 2

'A rewarding discovery'

This week's free download is the first movement, Andante – Allegro, of Louise Farrenc's Symphony No. 2, performed by Solistes Européens Luxembourg under the baton of Christoph König. The disc it appears on was awarded four stars for both performance and recording in the July issue of BBC Music Magazine.


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Take a look at what’s in Classical at mandersmedia on Discogs

BBC Music Magazine Free Download: Louise Farrenc’s Symphony No. 2

BBC Music Magazine How do you get tickets to the BBC Proms?

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