Local resident Margaret Dyke shares her impromptu experience with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra last week, after following musicians from Sainsbury’s to a First Time Live concert at The Baths Hall in Scunthorpe.
It’s not usual for the crowd at our local Sainsbury’s café to wear black for lunch, and it’s not usual for anyone to wear dress trousers to lunch at a supermarket. My partner and I were considering this at some length, especially since if dress trousers are not usual, dress trousers twinned with a high-vis jacket are not so much unusual as not quite normal. Just what sort of people would wear such odd attire at lunchtime on a Friday? Our branch of Sainsbury’s in sunny Scunny is just opposite the newly opened Baths Hall and we eventually worked out that anyone who wears a DJ to lunch at a supermarket must consider it a uniform and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra had been performing at The Baths Hall the previous night. As the musicians drifted off we noticed the swarms of children descending on the venue and guessed it was a masterclass or a concert. Being at a loose end (that time of year when annual leave has to be used up) we thought it a good idea to gatecrash, and the venue was flexible enough to let us in. Since we don’t travel with our criminal records bureau numbers we were not allowed near the children and were seated alone on the side balcony. I came to classical music late in life and am still fascinated by being able to see which instrument makes which noise so I couldn’t have had a better seat. What we had stumbled upon was a First Time Live concert.
First Time Live is a new touring programme devised and led by the national music charity Orchestras Live. It aims to bring high quality orchestral concerts to nearly 14,000 young people aged between 10 and 14 years living in 10 locations in England that fall in the bottom 20% for arts engagement, including Scunthorpe. First Time Live is not a passive experience; it is not only about listening to a concert. Neither is it just an opportunity for the top music students in an area. Yes, First Time Live gives some kids the chance to play with an internationally famous orchestra and that’s great, but it also gives others chance to develop their skills through opportunities to choose the programme, compose the music, film the event, organise publicity and arrange and carry out interviews. They also get involved in presenting, stage management, lighting, front of house, blogging, internet advertising and for all I know making cups of tea.
First Time Live gives students the opportunity to contribute to all that makes a concert, on or off stage, seen or unseen, heard or unheard, and the result in Scunthorpe was outstanding. The presenters were polished and confident, and had devised good scripts. The programme was fun; the inclusion of the music from Angry Birds was a bit wasted on me but is apparently known to 12 million iTunes users. Murray Gold’s version of Dr Who was good but for one who hid behind the settee for the first episode, nothing compares with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. There was teaching without boredom. Now I know length of the tube in a French Horn and which instrument chimes midnight in Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre. I was especially taken with the use of night-time traffic on the Humber bridge as a video to Adams’ Shaker Loops (which gamers may recognise from Civilization IV) it appealed to the Koyaanisqatsi fan in me. It would be great to see it worked up a bit, with the footage speed matched more to the music’s tempo.
We left on a high after a rip-roaring version of John Williams’ Star Wars Theme and trundled back to Sainsbury’s to go shopping. I pounced on an unfortunate violinist buying a bunch of flowers and – trying to thank him for the opportunity First Time Live has given to local teenagers – became surprisingly emotional.
I’m not sure that the best things in life are free, but they often happen unexpectedly. Thank you and congratulations to all involved: professional or amateur, young or old, in public or behind the scenes.