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A couple of weeks ago our press team were busy getting papers and the Today programme interested in our story around Mozart Piano Concerto No.23. The press always like a picture to go with a story, so we hunted high and low for a picture of Barbara Ployer – Mozart’s pupil, who the concerto was most likely written for. We searched. And searched. And searched. But came up with nothing. It started to look hopeless. However Natasha, our communications intern, came to the rescue with some highly advanced photoshop skills and, using photographs of OAE staff members Katy Bell (Press Manager) and William Norris (Communications Director) as a starting point, and also piecing together documentary and historical evidence pointing to what Barbara Ployer looked like, she presented to us two startlingly lifelike images. These advanced photomontages are probably the closest we can get today to knowing what Mozart’s pupil looked like.

And, slightly more seriously, we did in the end source a sketch of Barbara Ployer, see it with the Guardian press story here.

Pride meeting

They weren't at all embarassed about having their picture taken...

I might have just been paranoid, but I’m pretty sure that when I stood up and took this picture in a meeting, announcing that I was going to write a blog article, that everyone thought I was a bit mad. And probably wondered how I was going to make this meeting sound in any way interesting to people.

But I thought that you, our readers, fans and concert-goers might be interested in some of the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes on at the OAE, and indeed, other Orchestras.

This relates a little to a favourite anecdote of our CEO, Stephen. He was asked at some function-or-other if being Chief Executive of the OAE was a full-time job. The person asking was pretty surprised when he said yes, and even more surprised when he said it was also a full time job for the 17 others in the office too.

So when you look at the Orchestra’s staff list in the concert programme you may well be thinking ‘what do all these people actually do?!’

Well, in the Communications team, one of the things we do is (and this may come as a surprise to you) talk and plan with other Orchestras and our main London venue, Southbank Centre. This is where Pride comes in. Pride is not anything to do with a march or a type of bread but is instead, rather more mundanely, the name of the regular marketing meeting the four Resident Orchestras; the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia, London Sinfonietta and ourselves, have with Southbank Centre. The name ‘Pride’ comes from around 10 years ago, when these meetings first started off life as a group working on exhibiting ‘pride’ in the Resident Orchestras. Read the rest of this entry »

OAE Projects Manager Megan Russell is a keen photographer and took some great pictures from the Luxembourg and Paris legs of the tour – here are a selection:

When I go to conferences and seminars and the like one of the recurring themes seems to be that of organisational structure and the need for successful organisations to break down the ‘silos’ that often occur within them – i.e. departments that work in isolation from each other, with little understanding of each other and what they’re up to – sometimes even being hostile to each other.

That such a situation occurs within big organisations is perhaps understandable, but its surprising that even in an office of just 18 people that we do sometimes have some small symptoms of this – not everyone realising that an education event is occurring, that the orchestra is that morning off on tour, being unaware of a Financial deadline looming, or that two people have been emailing the same person at the Southbank Centre the same question…. Little things. Read the rest of this entry »

At lunchtime today my colleague Megan produced 10 metres of hand-made bunting from her bag (as you do). We were all pretty impressed with it and immediately started to put it up in the office. While we were doing this my colleague Zen starting filming and taking pictures – I remarked that it would be great to get some pictures for the blog as ‘there’s nothing else interesting going on today to put on there’. At this point Megan remarked to me that in fact there was a 50 piece orchestra rehearsing two floors below us and that was maybe quite interesting.

Of course she’s right.  Its amazing how quickly something like that becomes routine and ordinary, and you have to be reminded how special it is. After lunch I took the escalator down to level -2 here at Kings Place to listen to the Orchestra, conductor Roy Goodman and pianist Artur Pizzaro rehearse Beethoven’s 4th Piano Concerto. Lovely as Megan’s bunting is, listening to the OAE play Beethoven is always going to trump most things. Here are pics of both bunting and rehearsal.

William Norris, Communications Director


A short video from our trip up to Sheffield back in February – a concert which was part of our Green Tour initiative which saw the OAE ditch individual cars in favour of coaches and trains. Though we now know that trains are noisy places in which to film interviews… turn the volume up to hear Ceri at the start! Sadly we didn’t get footage of the venue evacuation, we were too busy wondering what on earth was happening…

Here’s a little video diary from our trip to Paris back in January, when we took a supersized OAE there for a concert of Wagner, Liszt and Mahler with conductor Vladimir Jurowski and mezzo soprano Sarah Connolly. We armed Communications Director William Norris with a video camera, and here are the results:

A few weeks ago members of the OAE Office team were lucky enough to have a special backstage tour of the Royal Festival Hall. Now ordinarily this wouldn’t be *that* interesting, because we all get to see backstage whenever we have a concert. But this tour went beyond backstage, past the dressing rooms into the real guts of the Royal Festival Hall!

First off we were led up to a room near the roof, where an array of antique machines were whirring away. Turns out they are original 1950’s air circulating equipment, maintaining fresh air (but not air-con) to all the backstage areas. They are so well made and reliable they didn’t need to be replaced during the hall’s recent refurb. After this we climbed up onto the roof of the hall and then through a small door into the part of the roof that sticks up above the rest. It looked like we were inside a spaceship, as every surface was covered in foil. This was in fact the air-con plant for the hall, maintaining it at a steady temperature – all this is brand new equipment as before the refurbishment the hall didn’t have any air conditioning.

Section of original ceiling, held to the struts by cloth soaked in plaster!

Now onto one of the more fascinating/terrifying parts of the tour as we were led above the very ceiling of the Royal Festival Hall. Here we could see how the acoustic sails above the stage can be moved and sound and light equipment be lowered in. A series of metal gantries runs over the ceiling now, which was completely reonstructed during the refurbishment but looks to the observer (from below) exactly the same as before. This would have all been a good deal more scary before the refurbishment as then there were no gantries and instead technicians had to carefully slide on wooden boards over the metal struts holding the ceiling ups. One slip and their legs would have gone straight through the horsehair and plaster ceiling – which in any case was only tied to the metal struts with bits of cloth dipped in plaster! Luckily in 50 years there were no accidents. The last two sections of ceiling have been left as they were and you can see how fragile they are. As we walked over the roof you could glimpse the hall below, which personally I found pretty terrifying!

After this we went to the ‘follow spot’ area at the back of the hall to see the Read the rest of this entry »

This week, we speak to William Norris in the OAE office…

William NorrisWhat’s your role in the OAE office?

I’m the Communications Director. At a basic level it’s my job to make sure that we maximise ticket sales for our concerts in London. But really it’s about a lot more than this – looking after the ‘brand’ of the orchestra, enhancing the audiences experience, attracting different kinds of audience, and thinking about the orchestras public profile and press coverage.

What does your typical day involve?

There’s no typical day which is one of the reasons I enjoy my job. But an average day might include preparing sales figures, coordinating mailings, working with our designer, booking adverts, trying to avoid sales calls, writing copy, working on our social networking sites, commissioning programme notes, and adding to the large piles of paper which cover my desk.

Which mobile number do you call the most?

I think you’re supposed to say your partners/children’s but since I have neither no one number springs to mind…These question are getting very personal suddenly! I quite often call my own so I can find my phone…

What – or where – is perfection?

I’m not sure there is such a thing. A glass of wine outside on a balmy summers evening comes pretty close though.

Who is your favourite hero from fiction (book/comic/film/opera) – and why?

I’m really not sure I have one. I usually like the underdog. Like the cute but rather hapless aliens in Toy Story. Read the rest of this entry »

Leading up to the OAE’s forthcoming concert French Connections at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 9th November, we decided to play a piece from the programme to OAE office staff and film their reactions.  These are the responses from listening to Cherubini’s Overture Medée: 

Watch the Cherubini youtube clip we played them below and let us know your comments!

More info and tickets to French Connections concert on 9th November 2010 at QEH:  http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/find/music/classical/tickets/orchestra-of-the-age-of-enlightenment-50651

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