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A few months back we were approached by TV Channel Sky Arts about a project they were working on. They had a big new marketing campaign coming up and were getting famed photographer Rankin to take pictures of artists from various disciplines for it – the idea being that these would then be used on billboards across the UK as ‘street galleries’. We in the office got in contact with several OAE players to see if they would be interested – and here is our Principal Double Bassist Chi-chi Nwanouku’s account of her experience:

As with all these things, the build up time spent in preparation always takes so much longer than anyone would imagine. There were several casting days, and I found it strange on my day, because Rankin wasn’t there, and his assistants took the shots, and filmed. I don’t think I’d properly realised it was an audition for one of 16 places! We each had to talk about why we do what we do, and then perform a bit in our various ‘fields’ of the arts… (Had I known I would have properly practised a piece!) Then it was a case of ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’. Literally! I got the taste of what it must be like for all those actors who go for castings throughout their careers… a kind of ‘disposable’ feeling. Well, they let me know very quickly, and I even got to choose the time slot to suit me.  Having been photographed before by Rankin (for the opening of the refurbished RFH a few years ago. ‘Rankin’s Front Row’ I knew he had a lot of assistants. But this time, there seemed to be loads more. Probably because of the film crew for the Sky Arts programme. Anyway, everyone was really friendly and pretty funky. Why oh why I ask myself is deciding what to wear always an issue…? Rankin wanted everyone in black anyway, making it easy… they could have told us beforehand!  At 9am I walked into Rankin’s studio in Kentish Town and was whisked off into a dressing room, where an army of gorgeous young people awaited me to ‘do me up’, nails, hair, dresser, make-up, the biz! The hairstylist who does Naomi Campbell’s hair styled my very own curly locks!  He snipped away at a few stray ones, got me to shake my head, hold it upside down, then drowned it in Shockwaves hairspray! When they finally let me out of hair and make-up (yes, as you know…I don’t normally look this good! :-)), I took up my position on the whited out set. Having never been faced by so many people behind lenses of all shapes and sizes at such close range, to say I felt ever-so-slightly overwhelmed is an understatement. Lovely Rankin was gently pacing around, very calm and chatty, making me feel at ease, so that was great. He always gives you the feeling you have as much time in the world to strut your stuff (as I got tangled up at the end of one of my solos a couple of times…my own fault…you know, when you do a last minute change of fingering, then end up trying to do both at the same time kind of thing!!  :-)) Well he got me looking very foxy in the close up of my full face shot, but then decided to put me on a box and get my eyes in line with the curl of the scroll… and that was it!


This Monday we revive our recent tour of the Monteverdi Vespers for one last performance in London, at our Kings Place HQ, which will be Robert Howarth. Credit: Eric Richmond / Harrisonrecorded for future release. We took some time out with director Robert Howarth ahead of the show to ask him a few quick questions…

(by the way, the performance is now sold out, but returns may become available closer to the performance)

What do you fear the most?

Loneliness, or spiders.

Which mobile number do you call the most?

My wife’s.

What – or where – is perfection?

Unfortunately perfection is impossible, but my cat Basil comes close.

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

Charlie Brown, I can relate to his many disappointments.

Which living person do you most admire (and why)?

My wife, for her manifold talents and infinite beauty. She is a constant inspiration to me and without her I would be useles Read the rest of this entry »

Last Friday saw The Night Shift (our late-night informal concert series) take place for the very first time at Wilton’s Music Hall. The evening started off with music from Nathan ‘Flutebox’ Lee and guests – as you might glean from his name, he plays the flute and beatboxes at the same time – stunning. At 9 the OAE came onto the stage for a concert of music by Purcell and Handel, led by Matthew Truscott and featuring soprano Anna Dennis, and the evening was capped off with a DJ set from Nick Luscombe. Wilton’s was packed to the rafters with a very appreciative crowd, and the Orchestra sounded fantastic in the acoustic of Wilton’s. We hope to return!

Our resident Night Shift photographer Joe Plommer was there to capture the evening. Here is a selection, and the full set can be viewed on our Flickr page.

I can’t say I expected to have been to 3 such brilliant concerts within my first month as the OAE intern. The highlight of my first week here was trotting off to Glyndebourne to see how everything works backstage from the orchestra’s point of view. I had duly prepared myself by watching the recent BBC series about Gareth Malone putting together a youth choir for the Knight Crew opera, so I at least had an idea what it was all about. I had heard of Glin-de-born back in New Zealand (I purposely waited in my intern interview for Ceri and Megan to say it first) and knew it as one of the top opera places in the world, but didn’t realise it was in the country-side and in such a beautiful setting. Fortunately I was ushered into a free seat behind a tv camera about 10 seconds before it began and was able to watch the show. Read the rest of this entry »

Ahead of our Night Shift event this Friday at Wilton’s Music Hall we caught up with our Principal Double Bassist Chi-chi who is playing in the Image: Harrison / Eric Richmondconcert.

What do you fear the most?

Going blind or deaf…in that order

Which mobile number do you call the most?

My children’s.

What – or where – is perfection?

I’ve no idea

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

Roald Dahl’s Maitilda Wormwood, for her unassuming and magical powers and ways of making the best out of awful situations.

Which living person do you most admire (and why)?

Nelson Mandela, Maya Angelou and Martina Navratilova… there are too many reasons and not enough time to write them down.

What other talent or skill would you like to possess?

I’d love to be good at Languages, Maths, Lateral thinking, and … still thinking…

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Don’t rush it.

What is the most played piece of music on your MP3 player or in your CD collection?

‘Now and Again’ by Jake Hugh.

What’s the best thing about playing with the OAE?

The variety of repertoire and conductors.

Should the classical music world work harder to attract a wider audience?


Sum up ‘The Night Shift’ in one word.


Why should people come to the Night Shift at Wilton’s Music Hall?

Because you can enjoy the music in a more relaxed and off the beaten track crib.

Ahead of our special summer event at Wilton’s this Friday (the 13th) we’ve just released this new podcast which looks forward to the event. In it, we find out about the history of the venue – and why the can-can was banned, chat with OAE leader and violinist Matthew Truscott (who was in a rather windy Glyndebourne) about the music and get your reactions to the last event back in May. Find out more about The Night Shift and how to buy tickets at its special website. This podcast also features our Pod Idol winner Raul – making his debut as the voice of the pod.

Here’s a few pictures from the repeat performance of our Prom concert in Baden Baden – many thanks to the Festspielhaus for sending these to us.

The OAE had a fantastic experience earlier this week travelling on our very own charter plane to Germany for a performance in Baden-Baden.  Baden-Baden’s closest airport is Karlsruhe (about 20 mins away), which is served by Ryanair from Stansted twice a day – which would mean either leaving Stansted at 7am (eeek – a 5am check-in) or 7pm (whoops, we’ll miss the concert), also we all know what orchestras feel about travelling on Ryanair with their notorious baggage rules and restrictions… So, erm not a practical option.  Other options would have been to fly to Frankfurt then endure a 2 hour drive, or perhaps Stuttgart or Strasbourg (both at least 1 hourr away) and not necessarily with the right place sizes or flight times to suit out schedule. How different and exhausting the journey would have been had we not had the privilege of our own plane! Read the rest of this entry »

Well, our Prom on Sunday was a bit of an event. It’s not every day you get the OAE playing Berlioz and Wagner, and also not often that you get over 85 OAE players on stage! Plus, the Royal Albert Hall was packed to the rafters. If you couldn’t be there then you can still listen to the performance online, until this coming Sunday. Listen to it here.

The critics were out in force and here’s what they said


Tom Service Guardian Blog

Evening Standard



Musical Criticism

Classical Source

Here’s a few pics we took while in rehearsal at the Royal Albert Hall for our BBC Proms performance last Sunday. In the last couple you can see our Melgaard OAE Young Conductor Eduardo Portal on the podium – he probably took over for a bit so that Sir Simon could check the balance further back in the hall. On the night Eduardo conducted the off stage horns in Tristan and Isolde.

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