RNCM students on tour with the Britten-Shostakovich Festival Orchestra

Our students have joined the inaugural tour of the Britten-Shostakovich Festival Orchestra through Russia and the UK.

The project brings young musicians from conservatoires in England and Russia together to play and perform, inspired by the fascinating friendship between Benjamin Britten and Dmitri Shostakovich. Beginning in Russia, the tour moved to the UK, where it will join us for a concert at the RNCM on Saturday 21 September.

We caught up with Abigail Davies (Cello, MMus) and Elizabeth Lister (Violin, BMus) to find out more about the experience so far:

RNCM students performed in the opening concert of the tour in Sochi, Russia.

What an exciting opportunity! What point of the tour are you up to?

Abigail:  We’ve just finished a weeks rehearsal in Sochi and two concerts there and we’ve just arrived in Moscow for a few days. Then we’re off to St. Petersburg!

Elizabeth:  We’ve just performed our first concert in Moscow and will be travelling to St Petersburg on Sunday, then back to the UK for the rest of the tour on the 16th. We have spent a week in Sochi so far, mostly rehearsing all the pieces for the various concerts – and we just performed in two concerts at the Sirius Centre.

What has the project involved?

Abigail:  In Sochi we had rehearsals every day for a week from 9am-9pm, so this was very intense! We began with sectionals which gave us a chance to blend together as a section as well as comparing each other’s thoughts and ideas on how the music should be played. There has been lots of press involvement in Russia, including a segment of us on the Russian news! We are now into the full swing of the tour in Russia but are very excited to come back and play in the UK! Especially us from the RNCM as we’ll be playing there on the 21st September!

It’s been a very exciting but busy schedule. But it has been an incredible experience! I’ve developed so much as an orchestral player and it’s been good to learn about a completely difficult musical culture as well.

Elizabeth:  The experience has been amazing so far! We have all been working very hard with a busy schedule, but the other musicians are a pleasure to work alongside and the beautiful scenery around Russia has made it worth it.

Since we arrived in Moscow a few days ago we’ve had some free time to explore, so we visited St Basil’s Cathedral before heading into our first concert in the Great Hall at Moscow Conservatory. We’ve also explored local areas such as Gorky Park, and have toured inside the Kremlin.

What’s been your highlight so far?

Abigail:  My highlight was our first concert in Moscow. The audience was brilliant and it was an honour to play in front of Mrs Shostakovich!

Elizabeth:  I have particularly enjoyed the concerts we have performed so far, including some great pieces that I’ve always wanted to play, like Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, and Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis. It’s amazing seeing the Russian musicians’ approach to the music and we are all learning from each other along the way.

What have you learned from the experience?

Abigail:  I’ve learnt how to communicate with my specific section (cello), even with a very big language barrier. I’ve also learnt that an important part of orchestral sectionals is to explore the different sounds you can create together… even if it starts a hearty debate!

This project was very much about the union of two great countries. Music is a universal language and it is important for all people of different cultures and ethnicities to play together and learn from each other.

Elizabeth: Our conductor, Jan Latham Koenig, has been speaking both English and Russian during rehearsals, so I am picking up the language very quickly!

This kind of project is so beneficial becaise it not only gives young musicians a chance to explore a new culture, but also to learn from the extremely talented musicians and see how they approach the musical challenges that they encounter.

Join us at the RNCM on Saturday 21 September, at 7.30pm, to see the Britten-Shostakovich Festival Orchestra in action.

19 September 2019