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Another feature of tomorrow’s The Works event is a special speed-dating session after the show. Well, speed-networking is maybe a better way to express it, but we’re going to use the structure of speed-dating to enable the audience to meet the Orchestra. There will be 10 tables in the foyer post show each with a player on, who’ll be primed and ready to answer all your questions. Unlike a real date however there can be several audience members per player! You’ll have 5 minutes at each table after which time a bell will go and you’ll have to move onto the next table.

BBC Music Magazine picked up on this a couple of issues ago, with a great little article and brilliant cartoon by Jonty Clark of Double Bass Chi-chi Nwanoku enjoying a particularly hot date…

Speed dating chi-chi


Many thanks to BBC Music Magazine for allowing us to reproduce this article.

While on tour in Holland earlier this year we set OAE Projects Manager Megan Russell a challenge. She’d taken our little camera with her to take footage – but could she somehow find a complete A-Z of things in the tour?

Here’s the result, and we have to admit that its one of our favourite videos. Particular highlights include E for Enclosing Dyke and B for ‘is it Broken?’…


As I write this the OAE is downstairs in Hall 2 of Kings Place where they are in day three of rehearsals with Sir Simon Rattle. Sir Simon is one of the OAE’s closest collaborators and has worked with us almost since the Orchestras inception – his first concert was in 1987, just a year after the Orchestra was founded. Now one of the OAE’s three Principal Artists, (alongside Vladimir Jurowski and Iván Fischer) he works with us on a regular basis, with a tour most seasons. In the rehearsal yesterday we caught up with some OAE players in the break to ask them just what makes him such a special and exciting conductor to work with.

William Norris, Communications Director

Some of you may have missed the comment on the post below from Principal Double Bass Chi-chi, so here it is – complete with some pictures of the violin lesson!

“It was a great night out. Marco came to our rehearsal this afternoon, and invited Netty & I back to the restaurant for some nourishment (as nowhere else seemed to be open!). He plied us with cold meats, cheeses, grilled vegetables, vino bianco & rosso, sparkling water, a calorific pud with dollops of cream & a double espresso! Netty felt the least she could do was offer another violin lesson, & promptly taught him his first scale. D major :-)

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!

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.

Today we present Chi-chi Nwanoku, Double Bass

Chi chi Nwanoku, Double Bass. Credit: Eric Richmond / Harrison & Co

Last night was the second evening of our week of events Henry George Jospeh Felix at Kings Place, and it also saw the first Aftershow. This is a new idea whereby after the main concert the audience are able to enjoy a short informal performance in the bar afterwards. For this event Double Bassist Chi-chi Nwanouku and ‘cellist Richard Tunnicliffe played Rossini’s Duetto for cello and bass and also treated us to a special arrangement of the aria voi che sapete from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. A good crowd stayed for the event, and there will be another Aftershow after this evening’s 9pm concert of Bonduca when Soprano Elizabeth Weisberg and Alto Timothy Travers Brown will be joined by harpsichordist Steven Devine for a short performance of songs by Purcell.

As mentioned in our top moments post below, Chi-chi Nwanoku had a memorable, if rather stressfull moment from 2008…

‘As far as OAE stories go I think the best I can offer was the time neither my bass or stool arrived at Schipol airport, Amsterdam, for a concert the same evening at the Concertgebouw as part of our tour with Ian Bostridge. When Philippa (our Orchestra Manager) and I tried to ‘log’ it at the appropriate desk in the customs hall, we literally had the “computer says no” Dutch equivalent!….

Chi-Chi with her bass in happier times!

Chi-Chi with her bass in happier times!

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It’s not often that the names Pierre Boulez and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment are written in one sentence, but we had two close encounters with the great man in December. The first was at Southbank Centre, when he and the Ensemble Intercontemporain perormed the night after us at the Royal Festival Hall. The Ensemble actually arrived at the hall shortly before our concert on 9 Dec, and a few of their staff came and listened to our concert of Schumann with Sir Simon Rattle. Then, later in the tour, in Baden-Baden, Pierre Boulez himself came to the concert and was snapped by our Principal Double Bass Chi-chi Nwanoku chatting to Sir Simon backstage. He is reported to have enjoyed the concert!

Chi-chi sent me the pics and commented: “It was an honour to have Boulez in our audience in Baden-Baden, and  I grabbed the opportunity to snap the maestri. I later shook hands with Boulez and spoke briefly to him to tell him I’d admired his work all my life. He was very kind and friendly.”

Will, Marketing Director

OAE on Twitter

September 2020

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