Nevis Ensemble – an orchestra reaching new heights

In July our Assistant Administrator, YeYe Xu took off her RPS hat to lead Nevis Ensemble, Scotland’s first and only street orchestra, on its landmark inaugural tour of over 70 performances.

On a rainy day at the foot of Britain’s highest mountain, 40 orchestral musicians alighted a bus and began to question their sanity. ‘Who wants a black bin liner for their instrument case?’ a cellist called out, who’d one tied round the waist of his own. Sealed in anoraks and walking books, we walked across the parking lot, slowly; sleepily. (Some of us had been up since 7am making sandwiches.) Ben Nevis took no notice of us under her silvery white blanket; born of mother Earth; an eternal monument luring in explorers from around the world.

Ben Nevis Cellos

Continue reading “Nevis Ensemble – an orchestra reaching new heights”

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The Healing Power of Mozart

Just over a year ago Svend McEwan-Brown, Director of the East Neuk Festival, was on a high when, together with Emma Dunton from 14-18 Now he stepped up to receive the RPS Music Award for Audiences and Engagement for the  wonderfully imaginative and far reaching Memorial Ground Project commissioned to celebrate The Centenary of the Battle of the Somme.

Svend-Schubert-Elie-BeachBut in planning his next festival he came up against a challenge far harder than any posed in previous years.  In September 2017 he suffered a major stroke.  On the eve of the 2018 festival he writes so movingly about how the magic of a Mozart String Trio brought him back to the world and determined to finish the planning for his festival with the tools he had to hand – a hospital bed, an iPhone and the use of one hand.

Tois to Svend and everyone in East Neuk for a fabulous festival this year – and please do read and share his beautiful piece on how music can make such an unexpected difference in people’s lives.

You might also want to download K568 – just in case…

Monday 4 September 2017 was a sunny, homey kind of a day; I did a little work, baked teacakes, gardened, watched some telly. Around 4.30, my left arm suddenly fell heavy and stiff. I could not lift my left foot from the ground. I knew enough to suspect that I was suffering a stroke. Weirdly, the symptoms abated enough for Roy, my husband, to drive me to A&E and for me to walk in under my own steam. A couple of hours later, things looked not so bad – perhaps it was just a scare. We were joking and persuading the medics not to keep me in overnight when the really serious stroke struck. “It’s happening now” I slurred, and saw the junior doctor’s face switch from jolly banter to urgent concern. Then he ran for support.

‘Stroke’ is such a tender word. The experience is oddly painless – things just suddenly stop working. I’ve never actually known anyone who suffered a stroke, never thought about them, and knowing so little made things all the scarier. Should I be saying goodbye to Roy as best I could? If I survived, what might I lose? Mobility, speech, or other bodily and brain functions? There was no telling how bad it might get.

Read the complete blog

East Neuk is a coastal area of Fife, Scotland and the Festival runs from 27 June – 1 July

Women Conductors programme – Finding your voice

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Karin Hendrickson reflects on the way the RPS Women Conductors programme is providing women a unique way to develop and share their voice.

There are some avenues of life that cause us to become soldiers for the generations that follow us. I think of the women who first marched and demonstrated so valiantly in order to gain the right to vote – I believe that they understood it wasn’t just so that their voice could be heard during their lifetime, but so that every following woman in their own lifetime could be heard, as well.

In my work as a conductor, I have a unique way of sharing my voice. In the performance, I’m the single person on stage NOT making any sound – yet through physical gesture my voice is perhaps symbolically the loudest, and the most uniquely displayed.

It’s this unique way of ‘having a voice’ that has caused the RPS Women Conductors programme to take notice of a certain disparity among the younger ranks of women. We live in a society that is incredibly vocal – your voice can be online, it can be heard, it can be read, yes – it can even be ‘seen’, and yes, it can insidiously still be silenced. And for younger women, living in a tumultuous time of peer-to-peer judgement, ever changing socio-economic systems, and growing up during a time where a phone or computer with predictive text can type your sentences for you – how do you learn to express your own creativity, your own voice, confidently, with all of these elements in play?

The workshops we run are therefore not just about conducting. We begin our workshop from the standpoint of what it is to ‘be a conductor’, but the total workshop experience is really about helping these women explore and develop their own ‘voice’ of confidence – to develop an awareness not just of what they are ‘saying’ with their vocal chords, but also how they are ‘saying’ it with their bodies, their posture, their gestures, and their face and eyes.

The workshops include many elements of physical posture and movement. We explore confidence, and how that translates to expressing who you are as an individual and a creative human being. By the end, we also will have explored physical conducting and musicianship. But the final goal is not to end up with a room of confident female conductors – the end goal is to end up with a room full of women more confident and prepared to be their unique selves.

The RPS Women Conductors programme curates a range of conducting experiences, from introducing novice female musicians to conducting, to helping full-time, professional female musicians who want to transition into conducting as a profession gain valuable experience. But our work in schools takes on another element, that of helping to develop confidence in women. We may end up with some great conductors along the way, but we’re first interested in making sure women everywhere have the confidence to be themselves, with their own voice.

This year we’re sponsoring the RPS Women Conductors programme in order to enable more women across the UK to have access to these training and development opportunities.

Written by Karin Hendrickson (Artistic Associate for the RPS Women Conductors programme) as part of RPS’s artistic partnership with ABRSM

Find out more about RPS Women Conductors