Covid-19 news: live events suspended but new programme of online events announced

Following the success that our assistant MD, Mel, has had with Reading Youth Orchestra’s ‘virtual rehearsals’, we’re going to offer free, online workshops exploring orchestral playing, in terms of technique, theory, practice, interpretation and, naturally, the social aspect!

We hope these will provide APO members (and any musicians with a connection to them who wish to take part) with the motivation to pick up your instrument and join your APO friends. Those who’ve been super-productive during lockdown can help those of us who’ve struggled find our feet again. The aim is simple: we want to be ready and raring to go once we’re allowed to come together in person, so we can pick back up where we left off!

The way it will work is just how APO works: project-based. Each project will see a series of online workshops exploring a short work or movement from a larger work. We’ll choose a video of a top-notch performance that we can play along to, as part of an online meeting. If you’re wondering how everyone hears each other: we don’t. We all stay on mute and play along to our parts (or even someone else’s part – it doesn’t matter!).

This is a fun start, but it’s only the beginning. Andrew and Mel will work together to ‘rehearse’ the work just like we would in a rehearsal, either through demonstration or using the video to draw out the factors that make the benchmark performance as good as it is. This will involve working on aspects of technique, interpretation and listening skills, as well as exploring other videos where the same piece/movement is played differently (or not so well!). We’ll slow hard bits down (yes, even on the video – keeping the pitch the same!), work on extracts that we pull out and pick apart, and encourage everyone to record themself during play-throughs, as we progress each project, so you can watch/listen back to yourself and track your own development.

Throughout this process, you are in charge of how much you push yourself. There is no pressure as nobody can hear what you’re doing but you, yet you get all the support of the APO family as we can see each other on our video feeds, ask questions of the tutors and each other and more importantly, just be together.

As we move through each project, we might identify opportunities to go even deeper with certain sections, engaging professional tutors at a subsidised rate for sectional or even individual sessions. The nature and structure of these can be driven by participants and we’ll obviously listen to your feedback on the bigger sessions, too. We’ll also offer different levels of music theory, for those who either never had the pleasure of studying this in younger days, or who’d just like to brush up.

Each project’s workshops will run twice: once on a weekday evening and again during a weekend day. You can attend both if you like, but we hope that by doubling up like this we can give everyone a chance to take part if they’d like to. We’ll see if we can record them, too, so you can catch up if you can’t make either of any given session.

As we missed out on our Beethovenathon in June, we’re going to start with the finale of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. It’s a good play and there’s something for everyone (except tuba – sorry Eleanor – but you can always play another part). We’re happy to take suggestions for future repertoire and will try to mix it up a bit.

You’ll need to register – a process that takes about 30 seconds and helps ensure we avoid any unwelcome visitors. There’s no minimum standard and anyone can take part (a parent or guardian must be present for under 18s, while they’re online with us). Members’ friends can also register to take part (the registration form asks them to name the APO member they know, so we can check they’re a real person).