In 2012, as part of the London Cultural Olympiad, Aldeburgh Music embarked on its most ambitious young artist project to date, the inaugural Aldeburgh World Orchestra, comprised of emerging professional musicians from over 30 countries.
The World Orchestra performed twice at Snape, made a short European tour and culminated its work with a concert at the BBC Proms. Among the World Orchestra musicians was a group from Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Territories who were awarded financial support by the British Council to attend as part of its Overseas Development Assistance programme.
It was quickly realized that many further players from these regions would benefit hugely from the professional training and performing experience so much more accessible to their colleagues in Europe and America. A four-year project was therefore set up in 2013, with British Council support, to enable leading UK orchestral professionals to work with these musicians via distance-learning technology, developing their skills and preparing them for future learning and concert opportunities in Suffolk and beyond.
The New Nocturnes Project
Fast-forward 18 months to the 2013 Britten Centenary Weekend, when a group of aspiring Britten–Pears string players joined forces with some exceptional younger instrumentalists from Aldeburgh Young Musicians to prepare a new work by Alex Woolf, an AYM alumnus. Alex’s piece was inspired by Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings and the exhilarating success of that concert, which acted as a prelude to a performance of Britten’s original, inspired Aldeburgh Music to develop the collaboration further this year. A golden opportunity presented itself to bring the first wave of these young Middle Eastern players to Snape.
While in the UK, these 7 musicians from Egypt and Jordan will not only be able to share their knowledge of Arabic music, but will also work with members of the Britten-Pears Programme, receive one-to-one tuition, and observe rehearsals with Spira Mirabilis at Snape and the Philharmonia Orchestra at the Southbank Centre. Egyptian trumpeter Mohamed Ahmed Helmy will also join Aldeburgh Brass in a programme of Britten and Mussorgsky, as well as the world première of John Woolrich’s Call to the Mirrors.
Participants, who were auditioned by Aldeburgh Music in the Middle East over the past 18 months, took part in a series of remote master classes prior to coming to the UK. The classes in Snape, London (Royal College of Music) and Glasgow (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland), were given by prominent orchestral principals including Clio Gould, leader of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; David Watkin, former principal cello of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra; Andy Barclay, principal percussion of the London Philharmonic Orchestra; and, Mark O’Keefe, principal trumpet of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.
Future plans for the Aldeburgh Middle East Orchestral Development Programme include the opportunity for Middle Eastern musicians to be part of the Britten-Pears Orchestra, that will perform Britten’s ballet score, The Prince of the Pagodas at the 2015 Aldeburgh Festival under the baton of Oliver Knussen.