London Calling talks to the Orpheus Sinfonia's John Walker about guest conductors, touring Austria and going to the movies
In early September this year, the Orpheus Sinfonia, an orchestra comprising some of the most gifted young musicians in London, took part in its first ever international concert tour. The tour was held in association with the Austrian conductor Achim Holub’s conducting masterclasses. The fortnight-long masterclasses culminated in a conducting competition during which Orpheus performed, conducted by the nine contestants.
London Calling: When did you begin to plan for the Orpheus’ Austrian tour?
John Walker: Planning started last year. A special fundraising concert took place involving the majority of the players who would come on the tour.
LC: What happened after the orchestra arrived in Austria?
JW: We arrived in Graz on 31 August 2011 after a flight to Vienna and a two-hour coach transfer. Upon arrival the players went straight into a demanding three-hour rehearsal with the nine contestants. Each contestant conducted a different movement of Haydn’s ‘Surprise’ Symphony no. 94 and the Mozart ‘Jupiter’ Symphony no. 41. After the rehearsals, the orchestra ranked the contestants’ conducting skills. The orchestra then travelled to Kumberg near Graz to have a well-deserved meal and meet the families they would be staying with during the tour.
LC: How was the competition winner decided?
JW: The competition winner was decided by a vote from the orchestra and votes from a panel of judges, including Orpheus’ chairman David Shaw and co-founder Marc Corbett-Weaver. It quickly became apparent that the almost unanimous winner was Giuseppe Montesano, from Italy, who is currently completing his orchestra conductor education with Georg Mark in Vienna, and has conducted concerts, operettas and operas in Germany, Greece, Italy, Austria and the USA. As a prize, Giuseppe was able to join Achim Holub in conducting the Orpheus Sinfonia the following night in a special concert in Kumberg’s beautiful Pfarrkirche. After the Kumberg concert, Giuseppe said ‘it was a pleasure to have the possibility to conduct Orpheus. It's the best orchestra I've ever conducted’.
LC: How has the tour benefitted Orpheus’ young musicians?
JW: The tour has given our musicians a chance to get to know their musical colleagues as well as providing a unique professional and musical experience. Chihiro Ono, who led the orchestra, has said that working with so many different conductors has taught her, ‘how to react, respond to and support the conductor’s ideas quickly as a leader with different conductors.’ She said the tour has also allowed her to ‘meet some great people who love music’.
LC: What was the atmosphere like among the orchestra’s musicians during the tour?
JW: According to one of our violinists, Gemma Dickinson, the tour was ‘a very enjoyable experience. The orchestra was close and everyone was so friendly!’ She said that, ‘Orpheus always has this kind of atmosphere amongst the players and it really helps the way we work together. I feel so lucky to be playing with such lovely and talented people.’
LC: Does Orpheus hope to undertake another international tour next year?
JW: Absolutely. But right now we are commencing on our autumn season of concerts in London. We opened with an annual gala concert at Cadogan Hall entitled ‘Orpheus goes to the Movies’, and featured music from film and television, including John Williams's spellbinding Harry Potter Suite and electrifying soundtrack from Jurassic Park.
We are delighted to say that the Orpheus Sinfonia will next be conducted by Achim Holub on Wednesday 19 October at their home venue of St George’s Hanover Square. The concert features Beethoven’s stirring Violin Concerto and a complete performance of Mozart’s Requiem Mass. For further information and to book tickets to this exciting event, please visit the Orpheus website, or call 020 7734 6650.
For more information on the Orpheus Sinfonia and their current season please go to www.orpheusfoundation.com or browse the suggested pages below
"I had a cup of tea with Howard Brenton who I think is possibly the best living playwright that’s written for the Globe. The first thing he said to me was, ‘Keep the story going. This place eats story’."