Behind the Scenes at Aldeburgh with the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme

Every time the Britten–Pears Orchestra are in residence, one thinks the quality, musicality, dedication and professionalism of its members can surely never surpass that of those who’ve gone before. Wrong! The BPE (Britten–Pears Ensemble), made up of 16 of the very finest young emerging professional instrumentalists assembled for our production of Owen Wingrave last month exceeded all expectations, providing the most musically sensitive and conciencious backdrop in the form of David Matthews reduction of Britten’s penultimate opera of 1970. One of those musicians, Oliver Pashley (clarinet), who writes for the online publication Interlude, decided to document his three weeks here as an Owen Wingrave Orchestra Member. The article was originally published on Interlude.hk, a website put together by Juliette Liu ‘’…created by lovers of music for those who share their passion’’. It is with her kind permission and that of the author that we are able to republish the blog below:

Behind the Scenes at Aldeburgh with the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme

Behind the Scenes 1Many think of big festivals in the UK as happening in the bigger cities – London, Cambridge, Huddersfield… But tucked away in the not-too-far reaches of Suffolk lies the quiet town of Aldeburgh, home to one of the most formidable festivals this country has to offer, a festival of which I was about to be a part. I was about to spend three weeks with the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme working on Owen Wingrave, Britten’s penultimate opera, originally written for television. We were performing a reduced orchestration for 16 players, and then touring to Edinburgh in August as part of the Edinburgh International Festival. This was the first time this piece had ever been performed at the Aldeburgh Festival, in addition to this being the very first event of the Festival this year… no pressure then.

Behind the Scenes 2Both Aldeburgh and the nearby Snape Maltings have strong connections with Britten; he was born just down the road in the village of Lowestoft and moved to Aldeburgh in 1947, where he founded the Festival. Britten was buried in the local churchyard in Aldeburgh, testament to his roots here.

The rocky beach, with the bracing wind and expansive views of the North Sea, forms an ideal backdrop to this idyllic town in the east of England where we were about to spend three weeks – and so off I trotted to get a dose of sun (well, sort of), sea, and sand (well, pebbles), in addition to a good dollop of Britten, and decided to blog about the most exciting bits along the way…

Behind the Scenes 3Day One

Greetings from day one of the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme! Looking forward to getting to know this bunch of incredible (and mostly still jetlagged) musicians from all over the world.

Day Three

The sea air definitely has a relaxing effect – well, it could also be knowing you’re only 100 meters from the nearest pub, but I’m pretty sure it’s the sea air… We’ve settled into rehearsals now, and enjoying using the wonderful Britten Studio at Snape Maltings for our tuttis. Apparently this is the first time the concert hall pit will have been used in quite a few years – better start dusting off the cobwebs then…

Behind the Scenes 4Day Five

Brief recording for BBC Radio 3, and then a dash to the train station to get back to London – I’m temporarily leaving the tranquil coast behind and diving back into the city for a gig with The Hermes Experiment.

Day Six

5.30am and on the bus back to the station to make it back to Aldeburgh for the 10 o’clock call! Spotted this on the train – we’re famous!

Later on…

Behind the Scenes 5It’s now a reasonable time of day, and I’m fully recovered from the coffee-induced daze of such an early start. Currently in the process of moving into the pit… mind that stepladder!

Day 11

Just had our final dress rehearsal – looking and sounding great (we hope!) Got a day off now (to dash back to London to teach), then we open on Friday 13th… hope no-one’s superstitious!

Behind the Scenes 6Day 13

What better way to prepare for the first show than a quick dip in the North Sea…that sea air is pretty bracing!

All ready to go!

Later on…

Behind the Scenes 7A full house, and a great show! Now for the swanky drinks reception…

Day 17

A day off after our third show – and what better way to spend it than to sightread the Schubert Octet in a kitchen?

Behind the Scenes 8Day 18

Our final show done – what an amazing few weeks! Sad to leave the Land of No Mobile Phone Reception, but we have Edinburgh to look forward to. Thanks to everyone for such a memorable time, and here’s to the tour!