APO shortlisted in Making Music Awards

During a time of national sadness, we’re pleased to have had some good news that we’d like to share: APO has been shortlisted in the ‘Best project with a focus on new music’ category of the Making Music Awards. Details of all the shortlisted nominees can be found here, along with how to join the free online ceremony on Thursday 22nd September: https://www.makingmusic.org.uk/news/awards-2022-shortlist-announced

Our nomination is for the ‘Joy!’ project with composer Derri Lewis, which took place in 2021. The nomination can be found below. Also shortlisted is Michael Betteridge, both individually and for his work with The Sunday Boys. Michael is a former APO Young Composers Award winner and the work that was commissioned as part of that award, ‘Biscuits, Beer & Bulbs’, will be performed again at our 20th anniversary concert on Saturday 29th October.

Perhaps even more exciting than all of the above is the special mention given to APO’s assistant music director, Mel Le Breuilly, in the ‘Best music director’ category. This is in recognition of her work with Reading Youth Orchestra, who we’re proud to be sharing a stage with at the aforementioned 20th anniversary concert, as we premiere Caitlin Harrison’s ‘From Dawn to Dreams’, as part of Making Music’s ‘Adopt a Music Creator’ project.

Here’s details of APO’s nomination:

Making Music Awards

Best project with a focus on new music 2022

Aldworth Philharmonic Orchestra – ‘JOY’ project with Derri Lewis

With in-person music making severely restricted in late 2020 and the prospect of more Covid restrictions coming into force (which turned out to be the case just before Christmas and well into 2021), Reading’s Aldworth Philharmonic Orchestra (APO) commissioned Derri Lewis to write a piece of music that would not only give APO members something to look forward to when able to play as a full orchestra, but would also enable us to work towards in-person playing during the various levels of Covid restrictions. 

The piece in question would eventually be named ‘JOY’, which Derri described as ‘a celebration of community music; an activity at the heart of millions of musicians across the globe which suffered such a terrible blow at the hands of COVID-19.’

But the full piece was only part of the brief. Derri also created a flexibly scored chamber version with six individual parts. This number was not an accident – it was deliberately chosen so that the ‘Rule of Six’ could be adhered to as the restrictions were progressively lifted. The parts were written across different ranges, clefs and transpositions. Derri used the Contemporary Music for All (CoMA) guidelines to help with this process, and in his note to players explained: ‘I have made sure as much as possible for this arrangement to be completely ‘instrumentally neutral’…The result is a set of six lines which are completely free for interpretation, decoration, and improvement!’

Similar licence was allowed for the final element of the project: 3 miniatures developed in tandem with the larger orchestral piece. This enabled APO members to play the solo works while the most stringent restrictions were in place, informally sharing recordings of their interpretations, which pleasingly reflected the different characters of the players and their instruments.

As restrictions were gradually lifted, we organised a day of workshops for groups of 4 players, plus a pianist (playing a version of parts 4 and 6) and conductor, with different combinations of players booked into slots during the day. At the end of each session, an informal performance was recorded. This first step into in-person playing was such a boost to everyone. Then, later in the year, we workshopped the piece with a larger ensemble, with parts 1-6 appropriately distributed, working on different sound combinations and getting used to playing together again.

We finally got to play the full orchestral version in three concerts in February 2022, which were enjoyed by orchestra and audiences alike. We included performances of the 3 miniatures from 9 different players, interspersed between the other pieces in the programme.

The project was a great success at all its stages, presenting a different challenge to an up-and-coming composer, as well as our members. It certainly lived up to its title!