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November 2017 – APO octet to perform in Düsseldorf
We’re delighted to have received word that the City of Düsseldorf has agreed to generously support a concert by APO wind players, led by our Music Director, Andrew Taylor. The concert will take place at the beautiful Schloss Eller, just outside the city. It’s part of the celebrations for the 30th anniversary of Düsseldorf’s official twinning with Reading. Earlier this year, the octet performed at Reading Town Hall for the civic ceremony celebrating 70 years of friendship with Düsseldorf.
We’re greatly honoured to have been given this opportunity and will perform a programme including Mozart and at least one contemporary piece. The concert will also feature the brilliant Düsseldorf-based guitarist, Arturo Castro.
December 2017 – APO Advent Calendar Competition
APO doesn’t perform in December, but to celebrate the build up to Christmas, we’re putting up photos and videos from our archive to form an APO Advent Calendar, on social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram).We held a competition to win a pair of tickets to our next concert, on Saturday 3rd February, 7.30pm. With £3 off each early bird ticket, they make great Christmas presents, too – book now via the link on the right! The competition was won by Joanna Shepherd, who we’re looking forward to welcoming to her first ever concert, along with a guest.
October 2017 – APO and Tamesis Chamber Choir team up again
It was our pleasure to work with an extended Tamesis Chamber Choir for this lovely concert. Photos (and possibly some video) will appear here soon. In the meantime, here’s a lovely review from the Henley Standard.
August 2017 – Video celebrates success of station event
Our ‘Route to the River – Schumann at the Station’ event at Reading station was a brilliant success – and now we have a special video to celebrate it. One of the purposes of the event was to draw attention to the upcoming Reading on Thames Festival, something which the video echoes. It features many of the brave members of the public who got up onto the podium to ‘Conduct Us!’ as part of the event.
July 2017 – APO prepares for two special events
We’re getting ready for two special events within two days of each other, which will round off our 15th season in style! On Thursday 20th July, an octet of APO wind soloists will perform at the official reaffirmation ceremony for the twinning of Reading and Düsseldorf, with performances of works by Mendelssohn (who was the city’s opera director for a short time), Holst (who taught at the University of Reading) and Mozart (who has no direct connection aside from his music resonating everywhere!).
Then, on Saturday 22nd July, at 1.30pm, an orchestra will magically appear on the transfer deck at Reading Station. At first, there’ll be nobody to conduct them, but a sign saying ‘CONDUCT US!’ will be placed in front of the orchestra, and the orchestra will await brave members of the public to take to the podium. Then, performances of two Schumann symphonies and two brand new works, one of which is by Reading Cultural Award winner Alice Knight (see below).
It’s all part of our very informal event, ‘Route to the River; Schumann at the Station’, part of the ARENA 2017 programme (supported by Reading Business Improvement District) and the Reading Fringe Festival. The approximate timetable for the event is below. You don’t need a train ticket (unless you’re planning to board a train!) – just ask the gateline staff to be let through to event.
All timings are approximate:
- 1.30-1.50pm – CONDUCT US!
- 1.50pm – world premiere of ‘River Image’ by Derri Lewis
- 1.55pm – performance of Schumann’s Fourth Symphony (in the revised edition he completed in Düsseldorf)
- 2.25pm – world premiere of ‘Interwoven’ by Alice Knight
- 2.30pm – break
- 3.15pm – CONDUCT US!
- 3.40pm – second performance of ‘Interwoven’ by Alice Knight
- 3.50pm – second performance of ‘River Image’ by Derri Lewis
- 3.55pm – performance of Schumann’s Third Symphony (the Rhenish – after the River Rhine, which flows through Düsseldorf)
July 2017 – APO composer Alice Knight wins Reading Cultural ‘Young Talent’ Award!
We’re pleased and proud that #APOpictures and #routetotheriver composer, Alice Knight, was named as the winner of the Young Talent – under 25 category at the Reading Cultural Awards. In a lavish ceremony at the Olympia Ballroom, Alice beat of a strong shortlist of four nominees, and a long list of ten more, with the winner announced by Sam Butler, Artistic Director of top arts organisation, ‘Fevered Sleep’.
The nomination, by APO’s Music Director Andrew Taylor, cited her ‘hard work, creative brilliance and impact of her music’, going on to say, ‘It’s not just that she’s “one to watch”; what she’s doing doing right now is exciting in itself!’
Alice’s new commission from APO, Interwoven, will be premiered as part of our ‘Route to the River: Schumann at the Station’ event, on Saturday 22nd July, 2pm, Reading Station (on the transfer deck – speak to the gateline staff to gain access through the ticket barriers). The event is part of Reading BID’s ‘Arena’ series of events, leading up to the new Reading on Thames Festival, as well as being part of the Reading Fringe Festival.
Here’s the winning moment – we just love the look on her face!
June 2017 – APO shortlisted in two categories for the Reading Cultural Awards!
We’re proud and honoured to be finalists in two categories of this year’s Reading Cultural Awards, for our #APOpictures project and performance, with our collaborators on the project, Jelly and Creative People. And we’re equally delighted that #APOpictures composer Alice Knight is a finalist for the Young Person category, for her contribution to Reading’s musical scene.
Find details of the project at www.picturesatourexhibition.org.uk
The awards ceremony is on Thursday 29th June and we can’t wait to be part of this celebration of Reading’s cultural scene!
May 2017 – APO featured in Making Music Case Study
It’s 15 years since APO was born and we’re proud of what we’ve achieved. The story of our early days and subsequent development is featured in this new Making Music case study.
Now to keep the growth mindset going for the next 15 years!
April 2017 – APO to show the ‘Route to the River’ with ‘Schumann at the Station’ and two new commissioned works about the River Thames
We are delighted to announce that APO has been selected by Reading Business Improvement District (BID) to be part of the 2017 ARENA programme of Reading town centre arts and cultural events. Running in July and August, ARENA will celebrate the best work of Reading’s arts and cultural organisations through a diverse programme of free outdoor events, taking as their theme for 2017 – Reading’s waterways.
APO’s contribution, with the help of Network Rail and Great Western Railway, will be a free event called ‘Route to the River – Schumann at the Station’, on Saturday 22nd July, at 1.30pm. The event will take place at the north end of Reading railway station’s ‘transfer deck’, promoting the fact that the River Thames is only two minutes’ walk away. Members of the public will be able to access the station for the event.
The event will also be part of the Reading Fringe Festival, and also nods to the 70th anniversary of Reading’s twinning with Düsseldorf, through the music of Robert Schumann. APO will give its second performance of his Fourth Symphony (in the revised version he completed when living in Düsseldorf) this year, as well as a performance of the Third Symphony. Known as the ‘Rhenish’, after the River Rhine that flows through Reading’s twin town, it fits the river theme perfectly.
The most exciting part of the event will be the first performances of two commissioned works by young composers from the Reading area. Alice Knight, a veteran of APO’s Young Composers Award at the age of 13, and Derri Lewis, who’s currently studying at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, are writing a piece each which is inspired by the River Thames.
Finally, there’ll be a special opportunity for brave volunteers to take to the podium and ‘CONDUCT US!’, and a special video will be made about the event, promoting the upcoming Reading-on-Tham
March 2017 – Marking the 70th anniversary of Reading’s twinning with Düsseldorf
To mark the 70th anniversary of the twinning of Reading and Düsseldorf, APO will be putting on two performances of Robert Schumann’s Fourth Symphony in its revised version of 1851, when the composer lived in Düsseldorf. It was not a happy time for Schumann, who attempted to take his life by throwing himself into the Rhine, only to be rescued by fishermen and see out the rest of his days in an asylum. The music takes us into this turbulent and tortured mind palace, but there is contrast with some wonderfully lyrical, tender moments, before the positive energy of the finale.
The first performance was during our concert on Saturday 25th March. APO is named after the founder of Reading Blue Coat School, Richard Aldworth, in recognition of the wonderful support the school has shown throughout the last 15 years. Two of the school’s many talented musicians joined the orchestra as soloists for the evening. Charlie Rothwell poured his heart into the first two movements of the Elgar Cello Concerto, with Alex Turvey providing an impressive conclusion to the first half with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Trombone Concerto. The programme opened with the ominous chords of Finlandia, Sibelius’s portrait of the nationalistic struggle against Imperialist Russia in his native Finland at the turn of the 19th century.
The second performance of Schumann’s Fourth Symphony will be in July, as part of a special event at Reading railway station – more details to follow very shortly!
January 2017 – Taking it to the #APOmax
A record 75 concert virgins were part of an enthusiastic audience for our #APOmax programme. Continuing our proud tradition of promoting the music of young composers, we presented our 16th world premiere in 15 years: Max Charles Davies’ The Way of Things. The piece was well-received, particularly the searingly beautiful opening flute cadenza, that was presented as if an encore to Nielsen’s Flute Concerto by soloist Nicola Loten, only to morph into the new work unannounced.
Max’s delightful Tiny Symphony opened the programme, which concluded with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.1, ‘Winter Daydreams’. Here’s a short video with some mobile phone footage taken from one of our players who was unable to play in this particular concert. Obviously, the sound quality isn’t terrific from a phone camera, but it gives a great view of percussionist Chloe Beaumont playing the anvil (!) at the end of The Way of Things, as well as the exhilarating conclusion of the Tchaikovksy.
December 2016 – all change at the AGM
During the lunch break for the initial rehearsal of our #APOmax programme, on Sunday 11th December, APO held its annual general meeting. As usual there were reports from the Music Director, Chairman and Treasurer, reflecting on a spectacular year of music-making and development from the orchestra, from our brilliant #APOpictures project, to our debut at the Reading Fringe Festival, through to the incredible experience of 144 performers raising the roof in Mahler’s Second Symphony.
There was also a changing of the guard, with several committee members stepping down after years of service. Becky Stewardson, Anna Nash and Anastasia Arapi stood down, with Andrew Le Breuilly resigning as Chairman after 3 very successful years. Andrew was elected Treasurer, where he will work with new Fundraising Officer Katie Hepworth on bringing the exciting fundraising strategy he presented at the meeting to life. Emily Bushby takes over as Chair, leading other new members of the committee Ana Olarou (Publicity) and Michael Rowley (Outreach). Existing committee members Laura Baker and former Treasurer Nicola Lawson are taking on the roles of Secretary and Generalist, respectively.
Several other non-committee roles were also announced, and as ever the discussion at the AGM was stimulating and passionate, showing that APO members are energised and excited about what’s to come in the next year.
October 2016 – cheers and tears for #APOauferstehung
Our performance of Mahler’s Second Symphony, ‘Resurrection’, was greeted by a standing ovation, cheers and more than a few tears (from the audience and performers alike). 144 performers crammed onto the extended stage of The Great Hall at the University of Reading, with the audience of over 300 captivated by the emotional range of the music, from the anguish of the first movement to the incredible sound of the conclusion, as captured in this video (made with only rudimentary equipment and only partially representing the floor-shaking, roof-raising sound on the night). Soloists Harriet Kirk and Fiona Harrison delighted us with their singing, as did our friends from Tamesis Chamber Choir, who joined forces with our own singers under the guidance of Louise Rapple Moore. APO’s 50th concert will live long in the memory!
October 2016 – APO gears up for #APOauferstehung on Saturday 15th October
We’ll round off our contribution to the Reading 2016 Year of Culture by teaming up with one of the town’s best choirs, Tamesis Chamber Choir. We’ll perform Mahler’s epic Symphony No.2, ‘Auferstehung’ or ‘Resurrection’, on Saturday 15th October, 7.30pm, at The Great Hall, University of Reading, London Road Campus.
APO started the Reading 2016 Year of Culture by collaborating with jelly on the #APOpictures project in January, explored the theme of friendship with its #APOfriends concert in May, before making its debut at the Reading Fringe Festival in July with #mozartunwrapped.
“Those were big projects, but #APOauferstehung is on a different scale altogether”, says APO’s Music Director, Andrew Taylor. “The ‘auferstehung’ calls for an enormous ensemble; we’ll have over 100 players in the orchestra and nearly 50 in the choir, with our singers joining forces with Louise Rapple Moore’s fabulous Tamesis Chamber Choir. Mahler uses these forces to create a world of emotions, from hushed tranquility, through pain and anger to one of the most exciting and uplifting choral finales of any piece. The sound and the experience will be quite incredible.”
The piece also calls for two soloists. One of these, local mezzo-soprano Harriet Kirk, came to the attention of APO through a Twitter conversation about the Reading 2016 Year of Culture with BBC Radio Berkshire: “Andrew spotted the conversation and got in touch, seeing that I was a professional singer. After he heard me sing he asked whether I’d like to take on the beautiful mezzo solos in the Mahler and I jumped at the opportunity. It’s another great example of how the Reading 2016 Year of Culture has brought together artists in the Reading area.”
Here’s some (poor sound quality) footage from rehearsals, from the conductor’s perspective!
August 2016 – Pictures at Our Exhibition goes to Cambridge University and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – July-August 2016
Following the commission, first performance and recording of Pictures at Our Exhibition, APO’s latest project has expanded, with presentations and panels featuring #APOpictures at events held at Cambridge University and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, in July-August 2016.
Members of the orchestra are involved in continuing this educational project by taking the work into schools, by uploading educational resources onto websites and in one case, by using the work as an example of good practice within advocacy research projects within an academic context.
This summer, APO trumpeter, and by day Head of Department of Music at Kingston University, Dr. Helen Julia Minors, integrated APO’s Pictures at Our Exhibition into two recent presentations. For more details, visit the Pictures at Our Exhibition website – www.picturesatourexhibition.org.uk.
August 2016 – APO commissions Max Charles Davies for January 2017 concert
We’re delighted to announce that we’ve commissioned former APO Young Composers Award winner Max Charles Davies to write a new work for our January 2017 concert. We gave the world premiere of Max’s concerto for orchestra, ‘The Mysterious Kiss’, in January 2010 – a piece rapturously received by orchestra and audience alike. In January 2012, Max supplied the finale for our ‘Sumer is icumen in’ variations with, ‘A very British summer prayer’, which brought together all the elements of the piece in a beautifully light-hearted way.
The new work will be presented alongside another new work by Max, ‘Tiny Symphony’. Max describes this piece as, ‘…a little musical portrait of my two-year-old son, Sebastian. But, it does also contain all the elements of a late-classical-period symphony in miniature: a sonata form first movement, a scherzo and trio, a slow movement, and a sonata-rondo finale. So it is quite literally a Tiny Symphony, about a tiny person, and because of its bite-sized proportions, gives a little flavour of what (at least this composer’s) contemporary classical music is all about, without being too long or intimidating.’ We can’t wait to perform it.
Max’s work replaces, at least temporarily, the #APOdances project and Sibelius’s Valse Triste, but fear not as they are now firmly penned in for January 2018 – and in an even more spectacular way – watch this space! Nicola Loten will still join us to perform Nielsen’s Flute Concerto, and the programme will still conclude with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.1 ‘Winter Daydreams’.
July 2016 – APO soloists cut it at the Fringe!
In the beautiful surroundings of the 900-year old St. Laurence Church, APO made its debut at the Reading Fringe Festival on Saturday 23rd July. In an event titled ‘Mozart Unwrapped’, a performance of Mozart’s Serenade in B flat, the ‘Gran Partita’, was preceded by an extended introduction from conductor Andrew Taylor, complete with musical examples from the band.
In a relaxed atmosphere, with the players presenting the introduction in casual clothing and audience reclining on comfortable sofas, we went ‘under the bonnet’ to explore what makes Mozart’s writing so original and memorable – a task which even involved showing the link between Mozart and Oasis!
We really enjoyed our Reading Fringe experience and send our thanks to the all-volunteer Reading Fringe team, especially the volunteers who helped run the event on the night. We hope we can do similar ‘unwrapped’ events in future years.
July 2016 – Young musicians enchant audience at RBCS as APO bids farewell to Honorary Patron
We were delighted to offer the opportunity for four talented pupils of Reading Blue Coat School to perform concertos on Sunday 3rd July. The pupils, Emily Reeve, David Fifield, Marcus Corbin and Angus Trott, were accompanied by RBCS Director of Music Jonathan Bowler (continuo), teachers Elizabeth Burrowes and Dominic Oldfield, and APO’s Music Director Andrew Taylor. The performances were part of a matinee concert which also featured the continuation of Edward Reeve’s Beethoven piano concerto cycle with APO – to the delight of his legion of fans in the audience.
We ended the afternoon with ‘The Elephant’ from Saint-Saëns’ ‘Carnival of the Animals’, arranged for full orchestra by Andrew Taylor in honour of APO Honorary Patron and outgoing Headmaster of RBCS, Michael Windsor (who is a fine double bassist). Andrew thanked Mike for his unstinting support of APO during his time at RBCS. We wish him well as he becomes Headmaster of Abingdon School and look forward to seeing him at future concerts.
May 2016 – #APOfriends provides emotional evening
An enthusiastic audience enjoyed our #APOfriends concert on 21st May at The Concert Hall in Reading Town Hall. The orchestra took advantage of the hall’s beautiful acoustic to make a rich sound in Elgar’s Enigma Variations. The second half saw conductor Andrew explain the tragic back story of Malcolm Arnold’s Fifth Symphony, before a performance packed full of emotion and drama. The long silences held at the end of the second movement and the finale were indicative of how spellbound the audience were. The concert opened with composer Fumiko Miyachi joining Andrew on the stage to talk about her development as a composer since the commission of her Variation on Purcell/Warlock Fantasia No.2 for strings. You can hear her revised version here.
May 2016 – New ‘Progcast’ series in advance of #APOfriends
APO is always seeking ways of enhancing the concert experience through innovation. In advance of our #APOfriends concert on Saturday 21st May, 7.30pm, The Concert Hall, Reading, we’ve begun publishing a series of extended audio programme notes via podcast – we’re calling them ‘Progcasts’.
The first features an interview with APO Percussionist, Roger Clift, who talks to our Music Director, Andrew Taylor, about the ‘friends who died too you’ portrayed subtly within Malcolm Arnold’s Fifth Symphony, including the inimitable Gerard Hoffnung, famous for many talents, including his brilliant cartoons!
April 2016 – Save the date! APO will perform at Reading Fringe Festival
We’re delighted to announce that wind soloists from APO will be performing at this year’s Reading Fringe Festival. In an event titled, ‘Mozart’s Gran Partita Unwrapped’, an extended introduction will see APO members exploring Mozart’s Serenade for 13 Winds, nicknamed the ‘Gran Partita’, before giving a full performance of this immense 50-minute work.
The performance will be on Saturday 23rd July at 8pm. Venue and other details will be confirmed soon. It’s part of a busy summer for APO, with performances at Reading Town Hall on Saturday 21st May (7.30pm) and at Way Hall, Reading Blue Coat School, on Sunday 3rd July (4pm).
February 2016 – #APOpictures shortlisted for Alt Reading’s Event of the Year award
We’re delighted to have been shortlisted in the Event of the Year category for the Alt Reading awards. Alt Reading is a not-for-profit online magazine which aims to show all the best that Reading has to offer. It’s particularly supportive of the arts and is highly regarded in the Reading arts community. It’s wonderful to get recognition for #APOpictures, especially in the company of some fantastic nominees and our categories and others.
January 2016 – Pictures at our Exhibition concert is a great success
An audience well in excess of 400 enjoyed our concert on January 23rd. Geoffrey Silver’s spine-tinglingly emotional performance of the Sibelius Violin Concerto drew tears from many audience members (and a few orchestra members, too!), whilst Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures at at Exhibition’ rocked the stage and almost took the roof off for a tub-thumping conclusion. The biggest ovation, however, was for our wonderful young composers award winners, whose ‘Pictures at APO’s Exhibition’ were given their world premiere.
That performance was recorded and is now available on our Pictures at Our Exhibition microsite (www.picturesatourexhibition.org.uk). We are actively seeking local schools and community organisations who are interested in doing some follow up work with the orchestra on this fantastic project, which was supported by Reading arts organisations jelly and Creative People, as well as by a generous grant from the Reading Cultural Partnership, as part of the Reading 2016 Year of Culture.
January 2016 – Preparations ramp up for ‘Pictures at Our Exhibition’ as part of the Reading 2016 Year of Culture’s ‘Get Fit for Culture’ January
The Reading 2016 Year of Culture is here! One of the first events will see us present our own ‘pictures’ of classical music, on Saturday 23rd January, 7.30pm, at The Concert Hall, Reading Town Hall. Tickets are available here.
For over ten years, through our famous ‘Concert Virgin’ scheme, we’ve offered anyone who has never heard a live orchestra a free ticket to one of our concerts. This fits wonderfully with the aspiration of Reading 2016’s ‘Get Fit for Culture’ theme for January, which encourages people to broaden their cultural horizons and try something new. And we’ve been hard at work on a special project which will make the concert even more accessible.
“The visual spectacle of over 80 musicians playing amazing music in front of your eyes surprises and delights ‘concert virgins'”, explains APO music director, Andrew Taylor. “So, we’ve added an extra visual element through the ‘Pictures at Our Exhibition’ project, which will take the concert experience to another level.”
Reading’s foremost creative arts organisations, jelly. Five young composers aged 12-21 from Reading and the surrounding area were given a guided tour of the jelly studios by its director, Suzanne Stallard, exploring how each artist works to create pieces in different mediums.
Each of the young composers has, with the help of Reading-based professional composer, Roger May, composed a musical response to a work of their choice by jelly artists Julie Simmonds, Mark O’Neill, Mark Andrew Webber and Jim Attewell. These pieces have been compiled into a new work, ‘Pictures at APO’s Exhibition’, which will be given its world premiere at the concert on the 23rd.
Thanks to a grant from Reading Borough Council, the performance will be recorded and hosted online with an accompanying audio/visual guide, so that the art works can be exhibited as part of jelly’s ‘Open for Art’ exhibition, later in the year, as well as being taken around schools and community organisations.
And, of course, the jelly art works will be exhibited at the concert itself, so that the audience can see what they’re about to hear represented in music. The #APOpictures work was inspired by Mussorgsky’s famous piano piece, ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’, which APO will also be performing in Ravel’s dazzling orchestration. Sibelius’s haunting and dramatic violin concerto is also on the programme, with soloist Geoffrey Silver.
November 2015 – ‘Pictures at APO’s Exhibition’ young composers benefit from Mark-Anthony Turnage’s guidance
Our brilliant Young Composers Award winners, who are busy composing their ‘Pictures at APO’s Exhibition’, benefitted from a fantastic workshop with world-famous British composer, Mark-Anthony Turnage. Mark gave up several hours of his Sunday and went through each of the composers’ pieces to give them guidance on writing for a large orchestra.
For full details of our ‘Pictures at APO’s Exhibition’ project, click here. #APOpictures
October 2015 – Audience delight at APO’s presentation of Peer Gynt
Our October concert saw us present a spine-tingling performance of the overture to Humperdinck’s opera, Hansel and Gretel and a dramatic performance of Mahler’s Totenfeier (a prelude to our performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, in October 2016).
But the biggest applause was for our presentation of a selection of Grieg’s incidental music to Peer Gynt, complete with narration written by a member of the orchestra, which even cast the orchestra as trolls (“Render him into lard!”).
Our wonderful soprano soloist, Tania Pratt, tugged on our heartstrings, particularly with the final Cradle Song, during which a small group of singers (from APO’s own ranks and several from Reading’s Tamesis Chamber Choir) interposed the haunting Whitsun Hymn.
As well as Tania, there were several other star performances, including an amazing ‘Hardanger fiddle’ solo from viola player Kat Hatton, some fantastic wind solos (particularly during ‘Morning mood’) and a cameo from Louise Rapple Moore, director of Tamesis, on the organ.
But it was two pupils from Reading Blue Coat School, 12 year olds Ted Aplin and William Peters, who stole the show with their entertaining and engaging performance of the narration. Here they are, with Tania, at the end of the performance, quite rightly looking pleased as punch!