Celebration of the Sea: Day 2

On Tuesday morning, creative writer Dean Parkin visited the 60+ Club in downtown Lowestoft to chat with members about the area’s sea heritage and to receive their help devising a short poem about their memories. To get people talking, we brought along two reminiscence boxes featuring objects from the Lowestoft Maritime Museum, such as old photographs of skippers, knitting needles and fishing nets of various sizes and heavy duty raincoats, amongst others.

Most of the people in attendance had fathers or older siblings who worked in the fishing industry years ago, so we heard many expert accounts of what each of the tools in the box were used for and even watched demonstrations of how to tie various fishing knots!

After speaking to individuals and small groups to hear about their memories of Lowestoft’s fishing heyday, Dean asked the whole group to help him write a poem all at once. There was a bit of enthusiastic chaos, with people shouting out words and ideas, but by putting together phrases and snippets of memories from all the participants, a poem slowly emerged, called That’s What the Sea Is.

After a rousing group performance, it was time for lunch.

This poem, and other poems written by other local groups, will be incorporated into the music and word performances on Friday aboard the Mincarlo and outside the Marina Theatre.

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Celebration of the Sea: Day 1

Monday was a busy day for the Celebration of the Sea group with special access visits to two local heritage sites and a brainstorming session bringing together participants from a variety of backgrounds for the first time to explore Lowestoft’s relationship with the sea.

Creative writing participant and local resident Anne, had the following to say about the day:

“I was thrilled to receive an open invitation to write and do music with the finest people around, organised by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. I have had an amazing day with these people visiting the Mincarlo Trawler and learning about life at sea. After the Trawler, we visited the Lowestoft Maritime Museum where I found pictures of the Telesia LT1155, the old boat my Grandad sailed on, as well as images of the Spithead Review of ships in 1935 featuring King George V and Skipper Moxey. And to top it off we had a trip down memory lane riding around town on a double decker bus from the Lowestoft Transport Museum.

Anne Trawler enjoying the workshop, learning about life at sea.

Anne Trawler enjoying the workshop, learning about life at sea.

“I’m enjoying the writing side with Dean Parkin, our local professional writer and poet. He has already taught me so much, and the music team’s involvement is amazing; they are teaching us to put a piece of music together, right from scratch. They’re lovely people to work with.

Working on the group's piece of music.

Working on the group’s piece of music.

“I will certainly enjoy the next four days of creative work and am so looking forward to the final outcome of our music performance. It’s very, very interesting. If you ever have a chance to do this, you must!”

Beginning Tuesday morning, participants will continue to work alongside the professional musicians and writer to devise their own music and words about the sea and what it means, and has meant to Lowestoft. In addition to our main core of local participants, words and memories are being gathered from older Lowestoft residents at the 60+ club and residents of Flagship’s Coppice Court, giving a wide range of perspectives about Lowestoft’s shore.

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Celebration of the Sea: project preview

This week, three RPO musicians, a creative music leader and a creative writing leader will spend a week at the beach working with local adults to explore and celebrate the maritime heritage of the historic marina town of Lowestoft, Suffolk.

We’ll begin on Monday with visits to the Lowestoft Maritime Museum and Mincarlo Trawler, the last surviving sidewinder trawler in the area, for guided tours of their historic collections and sites. The group will then have a brainstorming session to pick out specific themes, objects or stories that really inspired them during the visits, which they will use as guides during the next three days of creative workshops.

Tuesday through Thursday will see around fifty adults take part in either creative music or writing workshops alongside the professional artists. We’ll have a wide range of perspectives with participants from local community music groups, Access Community Trust, the 60+ Club, Flagship Housing and other Lowestoft locals joining together to create pieces in response to Lowestoft’s relationship with the sea.

The week-long project will culminate on Friday with two public performances featuring the original compositions performed by participants: first aboard the Mincarlo Trawler for a lunchtime performance and again outside the Marina Theatre, ahead of the RPO’s thematically linked concert, Celebration of the Sea.

Throughout the week we’ll be sharing our progress with posts by artists, participants and audience members, so check back here for updates!

Find out more about our project events on the RPO website.
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Day 1:

Monday was a busy day for the Celebration of the Sea group with special access visits to two local heritage sites and a brainstorming session bringing together participants from a variety of backgrounds for the first time to explore Lowestoft’s relationship with the sea.

Read more about Day 1.


This project is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and the Suffolk Community Foundation Michael Ben Howes Fund.

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An Insight into The Bach Choir

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Written by Hannah Nepil.

How do you sum up The Bach Choir in a nutshell? Answer: you can’t. Don’t let the title fool you – this 140-year-old ensemble reaches far beyond the works of Johann Sebastian Bach.

In June, The Bach Choir joins forces with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for one of the stalwart pillars of the repertory: Mendelssohn’s Elijah. In November, the ensembles celebrate John Rutter’s 70th birthday with the London premiere of his The Gift of Life: Six Canticles of Creation – conducted by the composer. Contemporary composers, from James MacMillan to Jonathan Dove, are regularly, and enthusiastically profiled. ‘The Bach Choir isn’t just about doing standard repertoire. It’s about doing new pieces that will extend the choral tradition,’ says Nick Cutts, the Choir’s General Manager.

Its members are similarly hard to categorise. ‘We have 260 people from all walks of life. From students to barristers and someone who’s in the House of Lords.’ But whatever their background or profession, ‘members come to rehearsals week in, week out, practise at home and reaudition every three years, so there’s a certain amount of dedication to being part of the Choir,’ says Cutts.

If that sounds gruelling, the perks are worth it. ‘For a lot of the singers, being part of the Choir means gaining something that they once lost. There are people who were singers in their early years, then had families and only found time to pick it up again later. One of our members has recently won a place on the Sixteen’s Genesis scheme, so The Bach Choir can lead to all sorts of things.’

Among them, rubbing noses with the Great and Good. ‘One of the most amazing concerts for me took place during Queen’s coronation anniversary celebrations at Buckingham Palace. We were there with Kiri Te Kanawa, Katherine Jenkins, Eric Whitacre and the entire household cavalry,’ reminisces Cutts, ‘and I’ve got some pictures of myself, Eric Whitacre and his wife all pulling silly faces at each other backstage. It just goes to show that you have that moment of absolute relaxation – then you hit the stage, and everything changes.’

Does Cutts ever perform with the Choir himself? ‘No no,’ he says. ‘I’m just a simple brass player. But organising a concert brings its own excitement: that feeling when something goes amazingly and the audience are loving it. For me, that’s what it’s all about.’

The Bach Choir performs the London premiere of John Rutter’s ‘The Gift of Life: Six Canticles of Creation’ at St Paul’s Cathedral on Thursday 5 November 2015.

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An Interview with Freddy Kempf

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We Are Family – the 1979 hit song – could have been penned for Freddy Kempf and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The relationship between the concert pianist and the Orchestra goes back to 1985 when, aged just eight years old, Kempf made his concerto debut performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.12 in A major, K.414.

“I’d been spotted playing at various music festivals and it was suggested I give a concert with the RPO,” Kempf – now 37 – tells me, midway through a concert tour he is undertaking in Russia.

It was a life-changing event. The young Kempf had already begun to be noticed, but his RPO concert fanned the flames of his emerging talent. Within two years, he’d won the National Mozart competition, before two years after that, winning BBC Young Musician of the Year.

“Some years later when I was eighteen and in the US, I was chatting with some student friends about the UK music scene,” he says. “They were amazed that by that age I’d played the Tchaikovsky concerto twenty times. I told them it was all down to the UK’s unique professional and semi-professional music scene that gives young musicians an opportunity they won’t get anywhere else in the world.”

Today, Kempf really values his long relationship with the RPO. As a student at the Royal Academy of Music, many of the Orchestra’s current members were his friends and contemporaries. Now, as a soloist travelling the world often on his own, he says it’s wonderful to meet up with them for performances.

“There’s a chemistry between us,” he says. “A concert pianist’s life can be lonely, but it’s been nice growing up with the RPO and working with its players. They’re my friends, and the RPO is like a second family to me.”

And now we can enjoy the fruits of that relationship when Kempf and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra perform Grieg’s Piano Concerto at Hull City Hall on Thursday 28 May and at Cambridge Corn Exchange on Saturday 30 May. The pianist regards it as a very special concerto. Considering how many he has in his repertoire, he actually came to it later in life. He says, simply, that he loves it.

“It’s so well written and contains some of the most beautiful music you’re ever likely to hear in a concert hall. It’s fantastic and I always enjoy playing it.”

Written by John Evans

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