Every summer since 2010 we have been fortunate enough to spend much of July in the beautiful town of Aix-en-Provence in the south of France. The Festival d'Aix takes over the town for most of the month, putting on world-class opera productions and concerts, and the LSO has been privileged to have been the Festival's resident orchestra.
Our residency usually means that the full orchestra visits every other year, but throughout the last decade a handful of players have visited every year to take part in coaching one of the Festival's education and outreach initiatives, the Mediterranean Youth Orchestra (in French, L’Orchestre des Jeunes de la Méditerranée, or OJM). Each year the musicians help coach 100 young musicians from nearly 20 countries chosen from across the Mediterranean Basin – this year there are participants from France, Spain, Portugal, Slovenia, Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, Albania, Tunisia, Lebanon, Kosovo, Palestine, Malta and Italy.
Split into two parts — one symphonic, the other bringing together traditional musicians from a range of countries who play on non-classical instruments ('Medinea' or MEDiterranean INcubator of Emerging Artists) — the MYO helps young artists to exchange ideas and learn from each other. It supports the transition to professional musical life and offers career development paths that bring occasional professional engagements to MYO musicians.
This year's resident LSO coaches – Ginette & Iwona (violins) Robert (viola), Amanda (cello), Jani (bass), Trish (flute/winds), Jonathan (horns), Jim (trombone/brass) and Nigel (timpani/percussion) – travelled out at the beginning of July and have spent a fornight with the young musicians in the symphonic session in a series of intensive workshops. The culmination of the project will be a series of performances this week, conducted by their resident conductor Duncan Ward, and they've been working hard on the repertoire for this concerts: Lili Boulanger's D’un matin de printemps, Xavier Montsalvatge's Cinco Canciones Negras (with mezzo-soprano Adriana Bignagni Lesca) and Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. There is also a collaboration with the musicians taking part in the Medinea session.
Trish conducts the woodwind
Ginette leads the violin section
Nigel demonstrates the timpani
But it hasn't all been about learning the repertoire for the concert. The young musicians have also taken part in workshops that raise awareness of outreach activities, an important part of the life of a professional musician. Animateur Mark Withers, a regular collaborator with LSO Discovery in the UK, flew out to deliver a series of workshops on working with non-musicians, for example patients in a healthcare setting, empowering them to create music.
And there were also sessions where the sections worked on special arrangements for their instruments – check out this version of Queen's We Are the Champions...
Wishing all the young musicians and coaches the best of luck in their concerts this week.
Tuesday 19 July: Le Corum, Montpellier (live on Radio France 8pm CET)
Wednesday 20 July: Grand Théâtre de Provence, Aix-en-Provence
Thursday 21 July: La Friche la belle de Mai, Marseille
Assistant Conductor Quentin Handley rehearses the whole group together