#APOplanets – programme introduction

Here’s my welcome in the concert programme from #APOplanets, which explains the origins of the project and acknowledges some of the superb support we’ve had for the project.

Today’s concerts are a product of the burgeoning arts scene in Reading, of which APO is proud to be a part. There’s always been plenty going on, but since the 2016 Year of Culture the profile of arts and heritage in Reading has been raised, with a consequent increase in the rich blend of artistic and cultural activities, supported (morally – there is no local government funding, but that’s another story) by councillors of all political persuasions, and a community of artists who are brought together by various forums, including the council-run Arts & Heritage Forum.

When I outlined the proposal for APO’s relaxed performance at October’s forum it was met with encouragement and offers of practical support. In particular, Liz Allum (of Beautiful Creatures Theatre Company, Dance Reading and various other arts organisations) indicated that there was a compelling case for funding some of the relaxed performance costs through Arts Council National Lottery Funding. Despite being impossibly busy, she advised and supported our successful grant application. So many other individuals have supported this project, some mentioned below, and the vast majority from Reading. We are so grateful to them all! Anyone familiar with the arts scene in Reading will recognise some familiar names – this project is another brilliant collaboration of amazing artists from our town – truly a project ‘Made in Reading’!

The idea of doing a concert with no interval originally came from a typically thought-provoking article in the Radio Times by pianist Stephen Hough. My initial reaction was that when you hire an expensive venue for a concert, you want to make good use of it, and doing a short concert didn’t seem to make sense. After a while, the penny dropped – let’s do two shorter concerts! I’ve always been averse to doing ‘children’s concerts’, as I find the notion a bit patronising (probably wrongly), but the hour-long format with the extra concert in the afternoon certainly would be easier for families. And then, I chanced upon a video about the BBC Proms’ relaxed performances which have been presented over the last few years. We love any idea that takes top quality orchestral music and brings it to a new audience, so we pursued it and, well, the rest is history. We hope it will also be the future, as one of our objectives from this project is to promulgate good practice and advise other local arts organisations on how to present their own relaxed performances. If you are involved in such an organisation, please do get in touch.

Finally, I want to pay tribute to the spirit and indefatigability of APO’s members in enthusiastically embracing the relaxed performance concept, but particularly for agreeing to present the programme three times in one day. The mental, physical and emotional stamina required to do this is considerable. It speaks volumes that even those who were understandably nervous about this prospect have directed their energy into positive discussions about how to go about making each performance the best it can be, whilst looking after themselves in the process. The Planets is an orchestral showpiece requiring considerable musicianship – you’ll hear that in abundance, this afternoon/evening.

Andrew Taylor, APO Music Director

Huge thanks are owed to: our superb team of producers: Zsuzsi Lindsay, Steph Weller and Sarah Stubbins; our SEND adviser Hannah Burgess from What Box; Waingels College for the use of their facilities for rehearsals; the APO Committee and non-Committee helpers; our partners in the relaxed performance project: Liz Allum, Anouska Henderson, Autism Berkshire, Reading Families Forum, Brighter Futures for Children and Victoria Williams of Terptree; our professional tutors: Robert Roscoe, Diane Prince, Paul Cox; and all the volunteers who’ve helped out on the day. We couldn’t have done it without you!