Leading up to the London Festival and Cultural Olympiad, an exciting new world orchestra takes shape at Britten's iconic Aldeburgh Festival... And I'm thrilled to be able to share an insider's perspective.
For a small seaside town with a population of no more than 3,000, there's an unusual buzz in the air in Aldeburgh. Once home to the legendary English composer Benjamin Britten, Aldeburgh and nearby Snape are annual hosts for the renowned Aldeburgh Festival and Britten-Pears Young Artist Programs. But this year marks an exciting new project which will see the world sharpen its focus on England like never before. I'm not just talking about the Olympics though; rather the 2012 London Festival and Cultural Olympiad, for which Aldeburgh is playing host to a new world orchestra.
124 young musicians from across the globe will come together in July, led by acclaimed conductor Sir Mark Elder in a thrilling program of Britten, Mahler, Shostakovich and Stravinsky. Performances will take place in a number of European locations including the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and Ingolstadt's Audi Festival, culminating in a final performance in London at Royal Albert Hall.
This past week I've been fortunate to get a glimpse into this exciting project as a member of the Britten-Pears Orchestra. A steady stream of media has filtered through the small town of Aldeburgh to catch a glimpse of rehearsals and a 40-piece contingent of the Aldeburgh World Orchestra (AWO... Though not to be confused with the Australian World Orchestra!), which has come together to perform Beethoven's Ninth under maestro Antonello Manacorda. Auditions for AWO took place via YouTube and i'm told the cello section alone will be featuring people from 10 different countries including Palestine, Russia, UK and the USA.
If you're struck by the similarities with last year's YouTube Symphony Orchestra (YTSO) project in Sydney, you're not alone. Musicians auditioned for both orchestras via YouTube; they were flown to one location with a stellar cast of professionals to assist them and a high-profile conductor to lead them. What sets the projects apart? YTSO's audition process was in two rounds, most notably one of these being by public vote. It was open to all ages and enjoyed Internet giant Google's generous support. AWO's audition process, on the other hand, was via a private YouTube video to an expert panel that hand-picked the musicians who would form the orchestra. Organisers of AWO from the Britten-Pears Program set an age limit of 30 years, reflecting their focus on nurturing and developing artistic talent. YTSO took place over a period of one week in one city, Sydney; AWO will be a two-week residency in the beautiful town of Aldeburgh, making use of the world-class facilities at Snape Maltings. The residency will be followed by a European tour featuring performances in Snape, Ingolstadt, Amsterdam and London.
With extraordinary efforts behind the scenes over a number of years to get this project in motion, it won't be long now until the organisers of the Aldeburgh World Orchestra see their vision become reality. For us, the musicians, July couldn't come soon enough!
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Mathisha Panagoda is a cellist and founder of the Sydney Camerata. A passionate chamber and orchestral musician, he loves to travel, put on concerts and look for interesting opportunities to collaborate with like-minded people. His experiences are diverse and this blog seeks to reflect his journey as a traveling cellist, chamber musician and concert enthusiast.
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