The CBSO will be making their final appearance at Birmingham Conservatoire on Saturday, 4 June at 7:30pm. They will be led by CBSO Associate Conductor and Conservatoire alumnus, Michael Seal, who will share the podium with Conservatoire Principal, Julian Lloyd Webber. CBSO principal cellist and Cello Tutor at Birmingham Conservatoire, Eduardo Vassallo, will perform Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1 in C, conducted by Julian, and Michael will conduct Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro Overture and Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ symphony.
The CBSO and the Conservatoire go back a long way, with the Adrian Boult Hall stage acting as the home for the orchestra, before they moved to CBSO Centre on Berkeley St. This concert is part of Birmingham Conservatoire’s City of Sounds Festival, and celebrates 25 years of the two organisations working together, as well as saying farewell to the ABH.
We caught up with Michael Seal to ask him about his memories of the ABH and how he came to work with the CBSO.
Can you give me a brief history of your connection with Birmingham Conservatoire and CBSO?
I was a student at the Conservatoire between 1988 and 1992. I applied for the very first CBSO Training Scheme in 1991, and was offered extra work as a consequence. I trailed for a job that summer and was offered a job in October 1991, starting my CBSO contract on September 7th 1992.
When did you first encounter the ABH?
I would have first entered the ABH during my Fresher’s week in 1988. I remember induction meetings and a few rehearsals from those early days quite well.
Whilst studying here what was it like to have CBSO and Simon Rattle in the same building?
It was amazing to have the CBSO and Rattle in the building. To see the players queueing for tea in their break would inspire some of us students. I also remember vividly sneaking in to the top of the ABH and hiding behind the chairs to listen to Henryk Szeryng playing the Elgar Violin Concerto with the CBSO & Simon. I daren’t make a sound as I didn’t want to be discovered but I desperately wanted to eavesdrop on this amazing rehearsal.
Did you rehearse in the ABH? How was it going from a student to a member of the CBSO and using the same rehearsal space?
My very first CBSO rehearsal as an extra player was in the ABH and I think it probably helped. I was 21 years old and frightened to death! But at least it was in a familiar place and this helped a little – even so, I still couldn’t get the bow to do what I wanted it to for at least 5 minutes!!
What is the most interesting thing you have conducted in the ABH?
I have conducted quite often in the ABH with both Conservatoire orchestras and the Birmingham Philharmonic. I shall never forget conducting Shostakovich Symphony No.7 in there with the BPO – the review said “there is no stereo yet built that can replicate the aural violence we experienced last night”! It was just about the loudest thing I have ever experienced on stage!!
What will be your lasting memory of the ABH?
Having done 2 weeks of freelance work with the CBSO in July 1991, I was in the ABH with a friend trying out violins during the summer break. We had the doors open and not long in to our session, the orchestra manager of the CBSO walked past. He stopped, walked in and asked if I was free for a patch of work with the CBSO in one month’s time – I was, and so said yes. It was two BBC Proms concerts with Simon and then a tour to Helsinki, Berlin and Paris. It was this trip that led to me getting a trial and eventually a job.
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