What’s On Spring 2017

Welcome to our Spring Concert Diary!

Whenever it’s time for me to write my ‘welcome note’ for our concert diaries, I am amazed by the breadth and diversity of the music and performers that we will be offering during the months ahead.

This spring diary is no different. In addition to our roster of distinguished visitors – which counts Louis Lortie, Jennifer Pike and Nobuko Imai amongst their number – you can hear music and musicians from across the spectrum and Birmingham Conservatoire-related concerts all over the city.

During the absence of our main concert hall we have been enjoying our performances in venues ranging from Selfridges to Symphony Hall. We have learned a lot and we look forward to continuing our musical activities well beyond the new Conservatoire’s walls.

Regular readers will know that I dislike singling out individual performances but – as they always insist that I must! – please take on board a rare performance of Frederich Gulda’s wacky Concerto for Cello and Wind (20 Jan) and the Birmingham Conservatoire Ellington Orchestra’s inaugural concert (3 Feb).

Happy listening!

Julian Lloyd Webber
Principal, Birmingham Conservatoire

Please note advance tickets will be on sale soon


What’s On at Birmingham Conservatoire Autumn 2016

As we count down towards our arrival at the new Conservatoire in less than a year’s time, things are undoubtedly different this year.

But, although we have lost our beloved Adrian Boult Hall, we have taken this as an opportunity to get ‘out and about’ in the city and we will be performing at Symphony Hall, Town Hall, the cathedrals of St Philip’s and St Chad’s, the CBSO Centre and St Paul’s Church in the Jewellery Quarter to name but a few.

At the Conservatoire itself we continue to offer world renowned artists at less than half the price you can hear them anywhere else! Singers are particularly well represented this autumn with concerts and masterclasses from charismatic
soprano Danielle de Niese and distinguished tenor Christoph Prégardien (will you EVER get the chance to hear such artists at such close quarters again?)

Johannes Goritzki (cello)

Reger Centenary Festival: Johannes Goritzki (cello) Celebrity Recital

And our exciting Max Reger Festival includes recitals by organist Thomas Trotter and cellist Johannes Goritzki, who will be partnered by our own Head of Keyboard Studies, John Thwaites.

So, as always, much to discover, learn and enjoy this autumn at the Conservatoire and once again. I urge you to ‘comb through’ this diary’s pages very carefully so that you don’t miss out!

Julian Lloyd Webber
Principal, Birmingham Conservatoire

Read the Concert Diary here.

Please note that advance tickets will be on sale soon.

Big bass man flies in to say goodbye to the ABH


Dave Holland in Birmingham (Picture Russ Escritt) Dave Holland in Birmingham (Picture Russ Escritt)

Bassist Dave Holland will be in the city centre on Friday evening, along with saxophonist Stan Sulzmann, drummer Nate Smith and the Birmingham Conservatoire Jazz Orchestra, to bid a final jazz farewell to the Adrian Boult Hall.

He’ll be the last of many jazz masters to have played in this hall down the decades. They include Jack DeJohnette, Charlie Haden, Joshua Redman, David Murray, Kenny Wheeler, John Zorn, Bill Frisell, John Scofield, Henry Threadgill, Michael Brecker, Joachim Kühn, Michael Wolny… and those are just the ones I remember as I write.

Holland has had a close relationship with the Conservatoire’s jazz students, and for a few years he was an annual visiting teacher and guide (the picture above is from one of those visits and was taken by the late and much-missed Russ Escritt). It’ll be a fitting sending-off for the old hall to…

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Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir with Paul Spicer @ City of Sounds

Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir has built a reputation as an outstanding chamber choir. They have recorded a CD annually for the last six years, eliciting high praise in the national press. On Friday 17 June, Paul Spicer leads the choir in a performance of music by John Joubert.

We spoke to Paul to find out more…

Who was it that chose the programme for this concert?

I chose the programme as a good opportunity for us to air much of the music we will be recording for Somm Records immediately after the end of term.

How successful is Joubert in writing for choirs, what does he do particularly well?

Joubert writes very challenging music for choirs and much of the music we are singing is very rarely heard. This is partly because Joubert is comparatively unknown except for a couple of carols, notably ‘Torches’ which we are NOT recording! His music is very personal, very emotional, very engaging, rather dark and intense. There is not a lot of light relief, though in the Three Portraits, he does let his hair down a bit.

Director of Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir, Paul Spicer

What accompaniment will be used for these pieces, and how does that affect that the soundworld?

For this concert the only accompanied work is ‘South of the Line’ which is accompanied by two pianos, timpani and four percussion players. This, as you can imagine, creates a very individual sound world and each movement is slightly different with two movements being solos with piano only and one choral movement being only for percussion and voices. It is imaginative and powerful.

Joubert has a longstanding relationship with Birmingham, the University of Birmingham and Birmingham Conservatoire. What is the Chamber Choir’s relationship with him and his music? Have they performed much Joubert before?

We recorded a work I commissioned from John on our first chamber choir CD (To Music) which was written for my Finzi Singers: a setting of John Donne’s famous Hymne to God the Father. He attended the recording sessions as we hope he will do this time.

Composer, John Joubert

Will Joubert be at the concert?

Yes, he will be. He is now very frail as he turns 90 next year. But he has attended all our concerts featuring his music this year.

How important do you believe it is for young singers to sing in choirs?

It is one of the most important things they can do on many levels. Few of these young singers will go straight on to concert platforms and take starry roles for some time. Many good young singers take the route of singing in the wonderful professional choirs which we have in the UK. Singing at the professional level we do in the chamber choir here prepares them in the best way possible for this work. It is wonderful for their ears, for their sight-reading, for learning to mould their voices to a group dynamic and for the sprit de corps that comes with singing in a friendly and purposeful, high-achieving ensemble.

How important is it for you to work with choirs on a wide range of repertoire, from choral standards through to contemporary and perhaps experimental compositions?

Range of repertoire is important but we are severely hampered by lack of rehearsal time. It is amazing what is achieved in one weekly 2 hour rehearsal. So there is a practical side to choice of repertoire as well as being driven by what will work for our annual recording.

Previous recording of choral music by Herbert Howells

You are recording next month. Will that be all of the repertoire for this coming concert?

Yes, but we are doing more music on the disc than will be heard in the concert. There are some organ accompanied pieces, for instance, which we cannot do in the ABH.

The Chamber Choir’s CDs have been receiving rave reviews in recent years. What is it about the vocal department here which is producing such fine young choral singers?

The Birmingham Conservatoire has been on an upward trajectory for some years now and many excellent young singers choose to come to us over other places. It has a very good reputation. But the choir itself has a growing reputation which also helps the Vocal Department and the Conservatoire as a whole. We recently broadcast a concert on BBC Radio 3 for the first time which was repeated this week. The BBC Philharmonic approached me to ask for a collaboration (sadly not possible owing to date clashes) and the recordings we make achieve consistently fine reviews. We are always asked to give an annual concert in the Town Hall with City Organist Thomas Trotter. Compared with where this group was even a few years ago this exciting progress indeed.

Are there any exciting projects in the future with the Chamber Choir that you can tell us about?

No further projects at this time though a tour is what I would ideally like to achieve if funding could be found.


The concert begins at 7:30 in the Adrian Boult Hall, and tickets can be purchased here.

‘We have to get on well and use plenty of deodorant.’

19 Jun Folk Ensemble

Personal hygiene is important. So too is personnel hygiene when you’re part of such a super-huge, energetic (and often sweaty) outfit like the Birmingham Conservatoire Folk Ensemble.

Boasting dozens of immensely-skilled musicians, all putting their collective backs into electrifying performances, the ensemble, led by Joe Broughton (Albion Band, The Urban Folk Quartet, Joss Stone) are joining forces with The Destroyers for Destruction Party – a rabble -and rubble- rousing send off for the Adrian Boult Hall (ABH) on Sunday 19 June.

We caught up with Joe to talk about the gig, Gremlins and anti-perspirant…

There is an awful lot of you. How do you manage to all be in the same place at the same time?

Easy! Everyone wants to get together to play some great music so quite frankly why wouldn’t you want to be there!

It looks like incredible fun to be part of, what can we expect to see at the Destruction Party? I’m assuming no dour Joy Division covers…

I would sincerely hope not! You can expect to see 70 musicians on stage together ripping it up and absolutely giving their all. Wherever we go we are the biggest band there and generally people don’t ask us to collaborate on things for fear of stages collapsing under the weight of suspect folk dance moves but the Destroyers are made of stronger stuff and the ABH… well the ABH is due to be demolished anyway so this is it, it may never happen again but the Folk Ensemble at nearly 20 years old is ready to party like 20-year olds do.

Can anybody bring an instrument and join in, or do you have specific requirements for playing with the ensemble?

To join the folk ensemble you need to be studying at BCU but we don’t run auditions, we take any instrument and anyone with any level of folk experience. Sometimes the best ideas come from the people with the least experience and sometimes the best playing comes from those who are not playing their first study instruments.

I love the folk process where everyone brings something to the mix… The Folk Ensemble always sounds like the Folk Ensemble but every year it has a new twist as different people come in and out of the band. This year we have three electric guitar players – that’s a first and makes it extra noisy, just the way I like it.

Did you always intend to have such a big ensemble, or has it just kept on multiplying? Did you once get a fiddle player wet, Gremlins style?

People just kept joining the folk ensemble… it’s infectious and people never want to leave, apart from me perhaps but that’s because I have to do the paper work… Gremlins? I don’t know about that but there was once an incident with a goat, a tuba and a soil profile diagram.

How much of your material is pre-written? It must be hard for that many of you not to get carried away. Is improvisation encouraged? It certainly appears very spontaneous.

Everything we play is devised by the band standing round in a room together. Written music is never used. The band members have never seen a single note of any of the music written down. In that sense we’re really a very traditional outfit, learning by ear, passing tunes on to each other, responding to the present world around us. For me, that is folk music. The fact that you might hear an out and out funk or ska groove is really beside the point. We live in Birmingham, what’s trad folk here and now? Heavy metal?!

Your recent Sunday Classics gig at the Spotted Dog was pretty rammed, not least because of the amount of musicians on stage – I bet there aren’t many claustrophobics in the band?

We do end up in some pretty tight spaces, you can find a youtube film of 47 of us playing in a small tent for Bob Harris a few years back… we have to get on well and use plenty of deodorant.

You’ve played some incredible places and festivals such as the Royal Albert Hall and Shambala. Do you have any specific memories of performing there? And do you have any fond memories of Adrian Boult Hall?

It’s great playing on these famous stages of the world and it’s always nice for this band to play on a stage that is big enough to fit us on! A home town gig is always a special one though. I remember playing my first solo on the stage at the ABH back in 1995 and I loved every second of it.

In the ABH, over the years, I have done workshops with primary school children, played with the folk ensemble, done solos and put on big concerts, I’ve seen more outstanding concerts than I can remember and now that it is coming to the end I’m so pleased that the band I have invested so much in over the last 19 years can make a final salute to this great venue.

The Birmingham Conservatoire Folk Ensemble join The Destroyers for Destruction Party at Adrian Boult Hall on Sunday 19 June.

Book now at THSH.co.uk

Read an interview with The Destroyers here.

Di Xiao performing Mozart & Ravel @ 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. Birmingham Conservatoire alumna, Di Xiao will perform with the BPO in two piano concertos, the Mozart d minor (No. 20) and Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G, conducted by Michael Lloyd.

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.

We spoke to Di Xiao, a tutor and former student at the Birmingham Conservatoire to get her thoughts ahead of the concert

Birmingham Conservatoire alumna and tutor, Di Xiao

Have you performed with Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra  or Michael Lloyd before?

I have met Michael and know he is an excellent conductor but this will be my first performance with the BPO, which I am really looking forward to.

Can you talk about your role as ‘an ambassador for the piano’? Is education and passing on passion for music to young people an important part of your career?

Sharing the beauty of music on the platform, in the studio, lecture hall or wherever it may take me is my passion and has given me so much. I was born & trained in China then developed a base in the UK, my cultural background, language skills and understanding of both systems gives me a unique perspective. I am a very sociable person and have a real zest for art and performance so acting as an ambassador to bring people from different backgrounds together through music, and show them how exciting classical music and performance can be is a real privilege.

I enjoy passing on my knowledge and find teaching extremely rewarding, I am very fortunate to have many mentors in my life and without them I could never have achieved half that I have.  I feel a sense of duty as well as honour to do the same for my students. My career on the stage and in the classroom enrich each other,  my own performance experience refreshes and injects new ideas into my teaching.  Then through explaining and teaching, it comes full circle and deepen my own understanding in music further still.

You are learning two concertos for this concert, Ravel and Mozart. Is that particularly challenging? Have you discovered anything about the two pieces/composers which complement each other?

Ravel & Mozart are two composers I greatly admire and feel very close to, their compositions are both ingenious and charismatic. These two concertos are in 2 completely different characters: Ravel G Maj is a playful and dazzling piece, but the Mozart D minor is tragic and dramatic.  What they have in common is that they both have the most breathtakingly beautiful slow movements. I think their contrasting moods will bring a beautiful balance to the evening.

Birmingham Conservatoire alumna and tutor, Di Xiao

As a graduate and tutor of Birmingham Conservatoire, you must have fond memories of the ABH. What are you going to miss the most about it? Are you excited for the new performance spaces in the new building?

Yes I have lots of wonderful memories of the hall: I won many awards including the symphony hall prize in the ABH when I was a student and that led to a recital at the Symphony Hall and many more performance opportunities. I have listened to so many great concerts and met many great musicians in the ABH as well as sat exams, given performance classes, adjudicated on competitions, given concerts and master classes and attended ceremonies.  It is the atmosphere and spirit of the hall I will miss the most. However, the future is very exciting so I look forward to the new performance spaces in our new home. It’s giving to be great to have all those facilities and specially design spaces.

How special did you find Birmingham Conservatoire when you were studying here? What was it that made you want to learn here, and ultimately become a tutor here as well? Are you proud to work for the Conservatoire, and why?

I think everyone who has studied in the Birmingham conservatoire will agree it is a very special place. What makes a place special is the people here, the friendliness, everyone willing to help, they not only do their job, but really invest in the institution and truly believe in what they are doing.  I feel so proud to be part of this family and I feel a sense of duty to give my all to help our students to find their own path, to reach their full potential and be the best that they can be, after all  that’s what I learned and achieved with my student years and now I am passionate about helping other young musicians to do the same.

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.

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.

Summer Chamber Music Celebrations

Chamber music is flourishing as never before at the Conservatoire and we are pleased to present a very special edition of the Conservatoire’s summer chamber music celebrations for City of Sounds.

Featuring all of Shostakovich’s String Quartets, performed by students and former students, we also welcome the Gildas QuartetSchubert Ensemble, Atéa Wind Quintet and Cassia Quartet.

12 June Schubert Ensemble by jack liebeck

The Schubert Ensemble – 14 June. Photo by Jack Liebeck

The festival provides a showcase for student ensembles from each department in the Conservatoire, as well as an opportunity to hear some of our superb Ensembles in Residence and teaching staff.

One of the highlights will be the performance of Shostakovich’s great Piano Trio performed by Oliver Willie, Alexander Baillie and Daniel Tong, three celebrated musicians who are currently playing a big role in the Conservatoire as teachers.

15 June Gildas Quartet

The Gildas Quartet – 15 June

This year the Strings students are taking on the challenge of presenting the cycle of 15 Quartets by Shostakovich. This is testimony to the breadth of talent and growth of experience in the arena of Chamber Music at the conservatoire in recent years. The experience of listening to the Shostakovich cycle of quartets is extraordinarily powerful, revealing as it does the inner life of one of the 20th century’s great musical geniuses, as well as one of its most tormented.

The dark side of these works is only part of the full spectrum of human experience they express, from childlike innocence, tenderness and playfulness to great exuberance and irrepressible energy. You are enthusiastically invited to come to as many concerts as you can fit in!

Festival events:

Appetite for Destruction

MegaFolk misfits, The Destroyers have made a name for themselves as a band who break through the walls of musical genres.

However, this will be the first time that they have been invited to a venue which will become little more than a demolition site shortly after their performance. But before the  Adrian Boult Hall is blown to smithereens, The Destroyers will be joined by the incredible 49-piece Conservatoire Folk Ensemble for a double-headed Destruction party on Sun 19 June.


We spoke to the band to get an idea of what we should expect and whether we should fear the intriguingly/worryingly named ‘Vortex Cannon’…

As this concert is named ‘Destruction Party’ will you be handing out hard hats for the audience?

We were hoping that we could stretch to some mild destruction of the Adrian Boult Hall during the show – maybe removing a couple of breeze-blocks from a non-supporting wall or two.  But we’ve been told that this would be frowned on.


You’ve made a name for yourselves on the live music scene – for anyone who’s been living under a pile of rubble, what can they expect from your show?

They would probably just be relieved to be out from under the pile of rubble for an hour or so.  Anyway we’d describe it as sort of balkan/klezmer influenced party music, featuring instrumental virtuosity, audience participation and a bit of stage theatrics.  Our aim is to make the audience go a bit wild, even in a conventional concert venue like the ABH we expect to get them off their seats and dancing in the aisles.


Will there be anything left of the ABH once you’ve finished playing? We kind of need it for the rest of City of Sounds…

It is our policy to always adhere to the laws of physics, including local sub-regulations.  We actively monitor our compliance with the above, and any discrepancies are subject to a prompt and rigorous internal investigation so that lessons can be learned moving forwards.


Erm, what’s a ‘vortex cannon’? And should we be worried about you using it on stage?

The vortex cannon has the charming ability to make adults behave like children as they leap up to try and catch the vortices.  It is a weapon of love, not war.  It fires smoke rings which drift out over the audience representing the fragile patterns that emerge heroically from the beauty of the earth.

We didn’t invent it, however ours is the most beautiful because it has been expertly decorated with shiny things.


This gig coincides with the release of your ‘License to Sing’ EP. Sounds like a good idea, have you heard my next door neighbour? She’s awful. I’ve had to call the police on several occasions -frankly I’d like to ban her from ever opening her mouth again. What can we expect to hear on the record?

The title track ‘Licence to Sing’ a playful exploration of the paradox that any intangible thing – including recorded music – is infinitely reproducible for free, and yet impossible to sell without artificially restricting access to it.  The epitome of this being the way that it is illegal to sing or play anything in public if it was written by someone else, unless the place you’re in has the appropriate licence.  Their motivation is honourable but some of the consequences are perverse or stiflingly bureaucratic.  So next time you call the police on your neighbour, if she is not singing all her own material and doesn’t have a PRS licence then maybe they can lock her up for that, rather than just her lack of vocal talent.


Apart from that, the EP contains a couple of storming instrumentals, one of which ‘One more tune!’ we’ve used as our encore for years, and fans always ask us which CD its on, but we never recorded it before so hopefully this’ll make them happy.  It also includes the song ‘Sorrows Tears and Woes’ which somehow constructs a louisiana-style singalong knees-up from the iniquities and menace of late-era capitalism.   The Licence to Sing EP is phase two of a three-year writing and recording project which started last year with The Vortex EP and culminates in our much awaited third album next year.  Meanwhile Licence to Sing will be officially released on Fri 17th Jun and the Adrian Boult Hall gig on Jun 19th will be the first chance to get a signed copy!

Destruction Party takes place at Adrian Boult Hall on Sun 19 June with The Destroyers and The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble. Book now via THSH.co.uk


CBSO & Michael Seal @ City of Sounds Festival

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.

Book your tickets now to avoid disappointment.