This week we’re running our seventh London Sinfonietta Academy and participants Emma Halnan and Matthew Scott are sharing their diary day-by-day. Here is Matthew’s account of Day 4.

The course culminates on Saturday 11 July in a public Musicians of Tomorrow performance at LSO St Lukes. Tickets are free but advance booking is essential.


Its Day 4 already of the London Sinfonietta Academy and despite the tube strike, we pretty much started on schedule!

After another intense day yesterday, we had a bit more space with today’s rehearsals. We began with Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Snapshots, joined again by Joan Atherton (Principal Second Violin), John Constable (Principal Piano) and Mark van de Wiel (Principal Clarinet). Much of the focus here was on relative dynamics and ensuring absolute rhythmic stability. Pierre-André made more comments about ‘mezzo dynamics’; this time reminding us they are movable and context sensitive, i.e. an mp next to a f must actually be nearer p in dynamic to achieve the required contrast. Other comments that resonated included some work on tuning issues, where you must adjust to the fixed instruments of the ensemble (such as a piano, which has to be specially tuned) regardless of whether it is correct or not. Secondly, after some intense concentration from the strings on a rhythmic passage, Pierre-André chimed in to comment “too much effort in your counting actually hinders the rhythm, just relax”, and suddenly, with the tension released, it flowed better.

The second piece for the morning was Mark Simpson’s Straw Dogs. Not being involved in this work, I crept off to find a spare studio to practice; taking a quick snapshot (sorry – couldn’t resist!) from the observation window above the rehearsal room.


Pierre-André decided to take an early break for lunch; so the Simpson must have gone well!2

Small revelations: I discovered the little deli we had been eating lunch at each day had a meal deal – the catch being very little choice. I was however amused to discover a rather unusual package promotion on my yogurt pot lid! Rather than the 3standard array of monetary prizes or useless junk offered to try and convince customers to buy said yogurt, this company were offering to pay some lucky stranger’s mortgage or rent for a year! Sorry to diverge from the agenda, but this struck me as one of the stranger promotions I have seen over the years!

The afternoon session promptly began with Milhaud’s Chamber Symphony No.5, joined again by Simon Haram (Principal Saxophone), Philippa Davies (flute), Lionel Handy (cello) and Helen Tunstall (Principal Harp). The main focus was on ensemble balance and the lengths of various articulations. Although a short piece, there are a lot of colours to explore, and Pierre-André knew exactly what he wanted from us.

The final work of the day, before the daunting travel home with no tube system, was Deborah Pritchard’s Waves and Waterfalls. Deborah joined us again for the rehearsal and has made a few adjustments to her score over the last couple of days – this is standard practise upon composers hearing their work performed for the first time, finding out which ideas work the best and how the overall balance sounds off the paper. Beyond that, Pierre-André sought to unify our phrase lengths in order to maintain a ‘water-like’ flow, and discuss where the tension points were.

It’s been an awesome week so far, and we are all very much looking forward to the performance on Saturday at LSO St. Lukes!

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