BPO, Di Xiao and LEAP Ensemble @ City of Sounds

On Saturday 11 June, the Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO) will take the to Adrian Boult Hall (ABH) stage for the final time. Conductor Michael Lloyd will lead the BPO in two piano concertos, the Mozart d minor (No. 20) and Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G, performed by Birmingham Conservatoire alumna, Di Xiao.

To make this concert even more special, they will be joined in the first half by the LEAP ensemble, consisting of talented young musicians from the Conservatoire’s Aspire programme performing orchestral favourites selected from the pioneering BBC Ten Pieces initiative.

The BPO on stage in the ABH

We caught up with  BPO clarinetist, Alastair Moseley to find out more about this concert and the BPO’s relationship with the Conservatoire and the ABH.

How excited are you all to be performing  with Di Xiao and the LEAP ensemble as part of the City of Sounds festival?

This will be the first time that the BPO has worked with Di Xiao, although our Music Director, Michael Lloyd, has long wanted the Orchestra to accompany her. This opportunity has arisen partly as Di Xiao has been offered performance opportunities with Valery Gergiev in 2017 and her performance on Saturday will be partly in preparation for this momentous occasion. The BPO has long been known for giving opportunities to up and coming musicians to develop their professional careers and we are delighted to be doing this now for Didi. We are also proud to be taking part in City of Sounds along side so many other inspirational groups including our dear friends, the CBSO.

The BPO and Birmingham Conservatoire have a longstanding relationship. When did it all start? 

The BPO has been associated with the Birmingham Conservatoire for many years, indeed going back to when it was the Birmingham School of Music. Our Concerto Prize, formerly the Ludlow Philharmonic Prize was founded jointly with the School of Music as long ago as 1983, and we have associations with the School going back well before that. However it wasn’t until the late 1990’s that we adopted the Conservatoire as our ‘home’. Before that we used a variety or rehearsal and performance venues including Schools, Churches and concert halls. Our move to the Conservatoire marked a step change in the quality of our performances, and we regularly gave at least five performances each year in the Adrian Boult Hall until we moved to Birmingham University in 2014 – a move driven primarily due to the need to secure our high quality base for the Orchestra while Conservatoire moved to its new location at Eastside.

How many years have you been performing on the ABH stage? 

I think that our first performance in the ABH was on Sunday 17th October 1993 in a programme including Schumann’s Piano Concerto, Nielsen’s Overture Maskerade and Mahler Symphony No 1. The soloist was Andrew Massey and the conductor was our then MD, Robin Page.

What is it about the ABH that is so special?

It has always been the ideal venue for us in many ways – not too big, comfortable to play in with good back stage facilities, and acoustically quite satisfying. Its central location has also always been a strong point for our audiences.

Michael Lloyd

BPO Conductor, Michael Lloyd

It must be almost unique among amateur orchestras in the UK to have such a close relationship with a conservatoire. Using soloists and conductors, rehearsal and performance spaces, providing a concerto competition. How special is this relationship for the BPO? 

The relationship that we have with the Conservatoire is indeed special and we see it as a key part of our activities to give performance opportunities to Conservatoire students. Virtually every BPO concert will have four or five students from the Conservatoire taking part – and many of our members are Music School/Conservatoire alumni. The jewel in the crown of this relationship is our Birmingham Philharmonic Concerto Prize the Final of which is of course now accompanied by the orchestra.

Are you excited about the new Conservatoire building, and will BPO continue their relationship with the Conservatoire there? 

We hope that when the Conservatoire moves to its new location that we will be able to strengthen our links still further through other collaborations along the lines of the concert on Saturday where we will be sharing the platform with the Aspire Students. We hope to be one of the first Orchestras to perform in the new concert hall there.

This concert sees the debut of the Conservatoire’s Aspire programme, conducted by Dan Watson, and culminating in a collaborative performance of Bernstein’s Mambo. How important is education for the BPO? What is it about these projects that inspires the BPO to do more of them, and what does the BPO get out of them?

As I have mentioned already, the BPO regularly features Conservatoire Students in its performances, and we would like to make this arrangement more formal in the future. This blend of amateur, semi-professional and aspiring professional players is what makes the BPO so successful. Our performances are often highly acclaimed in the press – witness our fantastic performance of Mahler’s 8th Symphony in Symphony Hall in March – and so the quality of our playing is an ideal place for music students to learn their craft. They are after all our future if the current membership of the BPO is anything to go by! Long may it continue!!

The concert on Saturday 11 June starts at 7:30pm. Tickets are available from the THSH website.

You can read more about the BPO on their website and Di Xiao’s website can be found here.

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