Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Sketching the BBC Philharmonic.

Caroline had allowed her collage/drawing of Ordsall Hall to be used by the BBC Philharmonic for a poster and flyer of their upcoming local events, and so in return she has permission to spend a couple of days drawing the BBC  Philharmonic Orchestra in rehearsal, at their home in Media City, Salford. I'm her plus one.
For those who haven't attended a performance, the studio is a tall, cavernous white space, large enough to hold  60+ musicians comfortably, with a bank of seating for a small audience. The orchestra are in rehearsal, so the atmosphere and clothing is informal, although there is a tangible sense of  their professionalism and concentration in the air. The conductor, a flamboyant Italian, is an old friend of the orchestra and popular with the musicians. There are fascinating hierarchies at work. Rehearsals begin with short passages, instructions to sub groups flying in a mixture of English and musical Italian.
To begin with we draw from the seating, self consciously nervous of dropping pencils or making loud noises with our paper, but welcoming smiles from the musicians put us at ease. In a break, a kindly violinist, who we've met before, takes us for a tea in the band room, and on a lightning trip in the lift to the top of the building. We look down on the new Coronation Street set, now visible across the Ship Canal. Despite my fear of heights, this would be a great place to sketch from!
Time passes too quickly, and the first day's efforts don't feel like anything special. There is such a clutter of chairs, coats, music stands and instruments that it feels difficult to focus.
On the second day we're aware of the public queuing for recordings of the Jeremy Kyle show in an adjoining studio- from the sublime to the ridiculous! Working on larger paper helps, with the confidence to add some colour, and I move down nearer the double bass players for a different perspective, the power of the music is overwhelming. Yesterday Strauss, today Tchaikovsky.
The musicians make kind comments about our work, and recognise each other in our sketches. I feel that a week or more would be needed to get to grips with such a wonderful subject, and we hope to return at some point.

Alastair Price.

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