University of Cambridge Museums

Projects, events and news from the University of Cambridge Museums

Music on the move!

On 1 February the Britten Sinfonia Academy performed eight pieces of chamber music in two concerts at the Fitzwilliam Museum, playing in four different galleries and introducing their audiences to the connections with works of art in each setting.  The group of thirty talented young musicians from the East of England, worked all weekend with four members of the Britten Sinfonia.  The resulting two Sunday afternoon concert programmes enchanted capacity audiences at both performances.

Rehearsing in Gallery 1“Britten Sinfonia Academy is now in its third year and has been extremely privileged to work with the Fitzwilliam museum each year. Our partnership has gone from strength to strength. In our first year, we came and performed in gallery 3, then in our second, we were inspired by the artwork in the 20th Century gallery and composed our own pieces in situ. In this, our third year, the bonds between art and music have been stronger than ever. Selecting repertoire to complement individual paintings from around the museum and taking our students, and audiences on a journey through classical music was fun and inspiring. I hope it brought the music and artwork to life for our audiences – it certainly did for our young musicians.”

Isobel Timms, Britten Sinfonia Academy Manager

“Coming to coach and play with the Academy for the first time has been an eye-opener for me. The Academy really feels like a mini Britten Sinfonia, especially as we’ve been totally immersed in a creative project. The combination of art and music, and beautiful surroundings have been inspiring and have helped us to keep a clear creative focus.”

Ben Chappell, Cellist – Britten Sinfonia

Performing in Gallery 7

Performing in Gallery 7

In Gallery 3 we have a small oval painting by George Stubbs, dated 1782,  painted in enamel on ceramic, showing the young actress Isabella Saltonstall as Una in Spenser’s ‘Faerie Queene’.   Here was an 18th century painting becoming the backdrop for a performance of a work by a 17th century composer, both inspired by 16th century Edmund Spenser’s poem “Faerie Queene” :

“Rehearsing extracts from Purcell’s The Fairy Queen was a rare chance do detailed work on ensemble in such a small group. There was plenty of laughter as we attempted to play together whilst facing away from each other, but it noticeably improved the balance of our playing and allowed the parts to complement each as we switched our attention from ourselves, to the others in the group. The four of us received excellent coaching and were also able to take the time to find the right technique to capture the style and character of the baroque work. Most significant was the absence of vibrato, a habit which is difficult to kick, and the use of a baroque bow holds helped to lighten our playing. It was such a brilliant project, I thoroughly enjoyed it!”

Lucy Bett, Violin & Viola BSA

Two comments from Britten Sinfonia Academy members sum up the weekend for me:

“It was lovely to be performing in the gallery where the audience got to see the paintings that we were getting inspiration from.”

Britten Sinfonia Academy performing in Gallery 3

Britten Sinfonia Academy performing in Gallery 3

“It was really lovely to be able to learn about the history surrounding the pieces we’re playing through the study of the art and performing within that gallery.”

Rachel Sinfield, Head of Communications and Engagement, The Fitzwilliam Museum

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