Orchestra of the month
ENUO intend on putting one member orchestra in the spotlight every month. With this we hope to offer you a peek behind the scenes of how each orchestra is organized, by whom the orchestra is run, what kind of programs have been played and are to be expected in the future etc. The only criteria is that all information should be in english, otherwise we give the member orchestras the complete artistic freedom to present their orchestra and university in their own way. Do you think your orchestra should be next on stage? Contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org and find out when you will be next.
June 2021: Collegium Musicum RWTH University Orchestra
Staging of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Requiem” - Photo: Kelvin Hoffmann
The Collegium Musicum (CM), student orchestra at RWTH Aachen University,is honored to be featured as ENUO "Orchestra of the Month". In the following we want to present our history and recent developments as well as a few remarks on how we organise such a big ensemble.
If you want to get in touch, take a look at our website: www.cm.rwth-aachen.de
Since Professor Helmuth Schepp founded the orchestra with 30 members in the winter semester of 1952, the Collegium Musicum has had a varied and colorful history. What once was a small ensemble, has now grown to a full symphony orchestra as well as a large university choir. The first years of the ensemble were largely influenced by Rudolf Bremen, who led the musicians for many years and started the tradition of collaborating with other universities. Renowned conductor Fritz ter Wey (Founder of „Junger Chor Aachen“), expanded the orchestra to philharmonic size when he was handed the baton by his predecessor. During this time, an exchange with the university choir from Szeged in Hungary took place. Ter Wey’s successor in 1994 was the Dutch national Hubert Pittie, who started to reach out to Netherlands-based ensembles. His many years at Collegium Musicum included several performances of premieres as well as special collaborations with other Aachen ensembles. Also in his later years at CM, Pittie brought many demanding performances to audiences, such as the “Unfinished Second Symphony” or Karl Jenkins’ “The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace”, which were performed on the special occasion of the ensemble’s 60th anniversary. In September 2015, Ernst von Marshall took over the position of music director. From summer semester 2017 to summer semester 2019, Raimund Laufen was the general music director of Collegium Musicum. In his time with the CM, he conducted, among others, “A German Requiem” by Johannes Brahms as well as a choral concert in the Coronation Hall at Aachen City Hall.
At the beginning of the 2018 summer semester, Laufen gave the stage to the 26-year-old conductor of the Japanese Philharmonic Düsseldorf, Julio G. Vico, while Maximilian Friedrich took over choir rehearsals. Laufen continued to support the musicians in his function as Collegium Musicum's music director. Together with soloists from the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln (Aachen branch), the orchestra and choir of the CM performed Giuseppe Verdi's "Messa da Requiem" together on stage. In the summer semester 2019 Raimund Laufen celebrated his farewell with the performance of Carl Orff's “Carmina Burana”. The concert at the Eurogress Aachen was attended by 1,400 listeners. He handed over the Collegium Musicum to Tobias Haussig, who took over the direction of the choir shortly before and now is Musical Director at RWTH Aachen University.
(Just) the orchestra performing its last concert in 2020 - Photo: Richard Chojetzki
Our host university
RWTH Aachen University is a place where the future of our industrialised world is thought out. The University is proving to be a hotspot with increasing international recognition where innovative answers to global challenges are developed meanwhile educating over 47,000 students enrolled in 150 courses. Within the variety of programs, students are enrolled at 9 different faculties, covering courses from technical to philosophical topics. The student body consists of more than 12,477 international students from over 138 nations.
The Collegium Musicum is the official university ensemble. Consisting of both an orchestra and a choir, it is made up not only by students, staff and teachers of the RWTH Aachen University but also includes music enthusiasts from the entire student community in Aachen. At the moment, the orchestra currently consists of 60 musicians.
Rehearsals usually take place once a week in one of RWTH Aachen University’s largest lecture halls. Towards the end of each lecture period, two concerts are held with every other semester containing a joint programme performed by choir and orchestra. In addition to the regular semester concerts, the Collegium Musicum orchestra also performs at other university or industry events as well as at cultural events in Germany and abroad. For a few years, RWTH Aachen University’s very own Carbon Quintet, consisting of orchestra members, performs as an impressive combination of science and music on numerous occasions with carbon fibre instruments.
More of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Requiem” - Photo: Benedikt Dannbeck
Structure and Organisation
Although part of the university structure, the main organisation of the ensemble is done by its student members. Choir and Orchestra are each led by a committee of about a dozen students that share the recurring work amongst them. These range from almost weekly tasks like rehearsal planning to dedicated project leads that work on bigger concerts.
As knowledge retention is a big challenge for any student orchestra, great care is placed on standardized documentation of work, meetings and external communication. This is facilitated by documentation templates and “HowTo”-documents residing in a shared drive. Even with this structure, some questions remain and keeping in touch with former members often proves to be invaluable.
Project spotlight: Carmina Burana
One of the most challenging, but also rewarding experiences of the past years has been the staging of Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” in 2019. Performing this masterpiece of contemporary orchestral music had been a dream in the book for a while. About a year ahead of the eventual performance, the CM orchestra and choir felt uniquely positioned to tackle this task. Contributing to this were a stable planning perspective with newly inducted student representatives, a large body of musicians and good relations to sponsors.
Initially starting rehearsals separately, over the course of the semester the choir and orchestra repeatedly met on rehearsal days and weekends. Between said meetings, the individual ensembles were able to incorporate impressions from the joint rehearsals and improve their musical execution in order to approach the opus as a whole up to the dress rehearsal the day before the concert.
Staging of “Carmina Burana” by Carl Orff 2019 - Photo: Andreas Schmitter
One of the last offline acts from last year: Recording a piece from Mendelssohn in the biggest room we could find: an ice skating rink
Of course, the musical experience and collaboration were strongly affected by the social interaction within the choir and orchestra as well as between the ensembles. Thankfully, the recreation team had arranged potluck lunches and various games to break up the draining rehearsal days and keep up the socializing going into the evening. This enabled us to bring the two ensembles closer together and maintain morale up to the big day.
On July 5th, excitement and anticipation rose as we arrived at the venue. The coordination of the various groups had been planned meticulously, but warm-up and tuning were still a bit nervous. The concert was sold out and at 7pm we were able to set in with the familiar tunes of “O Fortuna”.
With the ending chords retreating, so did tension in the performers. The applause was great and from an orchestra and choir perspective, the project was more than worth it. As we found, there was a considerable effort behind it and one rarely gets the opportunity to participate in a project of this magnitude. The cooperation between the orchestra and a large choir, as well as with soloists and, in this case, even with a children's choir, contributed to the unique experience. In hindsight, the project went better than expected, which can likely be attributed to the early planning by a joint project management team. Finally, the success of the eventful day of the concert has been celebrated appropriately among all participating musicians and organizing supporters.
(Pre 2020) Rehearsal retreat
CM during the Pandemic
Currently, the orchestra rehearses regularly despite the difficult time for cultural events. The rehearsal programme has been moved to online rehearsals and now features several small projects rather than a few large pieces in a semester. This semester, for example, the "Hallelujah" from the Messiah by G.F. Händel, "Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich" by F. Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, as well as the "Cantique de Jean Racine" by Gabriel Fauré are prepared one after the other. The declared goal of concluding the semester's work with a concert has meanwhile given way to the aspiration of producing high-quality recordings for a shared sound experience. The musicians of the orchestra continuously record their voices and instruments, the sound tracks are carefully mixed by conductor Tobias Haussig, and in the end everyone can listen to the jointly produced work almost as if they had recorded it together.
In addition to making music together, an important aspect of our orchestra and choir is social interaction, especially in this time of physical distance. During the semester, a weekly "get together" is held after almost every rehearsal. The evening can be spent over a beer or soda and occasionally there are joint cooking evenings or board game activities. Despite current covid measures, our team for social events always develops new ideas for us to spend a beautiful evening. After the current online rehearsals we meet on Zoom and play online board games, chat with each other or drink a virtual beer together. In regular, non-pandemic semesters, an important highlight is the party after the final concert. First we feast from a bring-your-own buffet and afterwards everyone is free to dance to music of different styles or to hang out and enjoy a few drinks.
May 2021: Universitätsorchester Dresden
The University Orchestra Dresden (Universitätsorchester Dresden) unites more than 100 members in its symphonic and chamber-philharmonic ensembles. The orchestra is primarily made up of students, employees and graduates of the TU Dresden, who find great pleasure and companionship through shared musical experiences in their free time. Rehearsals take place weekly, and at the end of the semester both ensembles present performances with a varied, wide-ranging repertoire at a widely recognized high level. Helmuth Reichel Silva, principal conductor and artistic director of the University Orchestra Dresden, has been with us since the summer semester of 2020.
Principal conductor and artistic director Helmuth Reichel Silva.
The University Orchestra Dresden during rehearsal.
The University Orchestra was founded in 1961 and has been affiliated with the TU Dresden since 1991 as a non-profit association. The TU Dresden supports the orchestra alongside the Studentenwerk, the Gesellschaft von Freunden und Förderern der TU Dresden e.V., the Landesverband Sächsischer Liebhabeorchester e.V. and the Kulturstiftung des Freistaats Sachsen. As the very resonance of the TU Dresden, the University Orchestra also accompanies academic milestones such as the ceremonial matriculation (Feierliche Immatrikulation).
The blend of change and continuity, of youthful ambition and the seasoned experience of the members of different generations keeps the orchestra alive over its already more than 50-year history. Music and orchestral life also emerge from the coexistence between student and professor, doctoral student and alumnus, and the new and old “Dresdeners” alike.
In 1997, a second ensemble was established—initially the TU Chamber Orchestra (TU-Kammerorchester)—whose membership grew steadily into a small symphonic ensemble and, ever since 2004, has consequently been called the TU Chamber Philharmonic (TU-Kammerphilharmonie).
The bass section during rehearsal.
The TU Chamber Philharmonic ensamble.
The Symphony Orchestra, with about 70 members and a large proportion of longstanding players, rehearses on Monday evenings throughout the year, with the exception of a summer break of about six weeks. The TU Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra, with about 40 members and a larger share of alternating student players, rehearses exclusively during the semester on Tuesday evenings. One rehearsal weekend per semester in Dresden or the surrounding area serves to reinforce concert preparations. In addition to the parallel rehearsals of both ensembles, there are project-based initiatives for members of both ensembles.
Both orchestras can proudly reflect on a variety of interesting past projects. In addition to the semester concerts held in Dresden with an impressively rich repertoire, other projects have included choral symphonic concerts, e.g. with the University Choir Dresden, as well as unconventional projects such as the “Queen Classic Night” and participation in the Dresden Art Festival ORNÖ, or even the “Children’s University” of the TU Dresden. Exchange projects with partner orchestras and choirs have taken the Symphony Orchestra to Poland, Spain and Switzerland in recent years, and the TU Chamber Philharmonic to Norway, France and England.
The University Orchestra Dresden during rehearsals.
TU Chamber Philharmonic ensamble tour in Norway 2016.
During the last year of the SARS-Cov2 Pandemic, the orchestra has been able to keep close connections and maintain creative. Because in-person rehearsals and shared practice spaces have not been available over the last year, the orchestra has produced online performances through recordings from each individual member, compiled together. These include “Hungarian Dance No. 1” by Brahms, and the “Barber of Seville” by Rossini. We are currently celebrating our 60th anniversary as an orchestra and are planning a jubilee concert for July 18th in the historical “Kulturpalast” of Dresden, which will include works by Bartók, Schumann, and Stravinsky.
December 2020: Universitätsorchester Konstanz
The Universitätsorchester Konstanz was founded in 1973, starting out as a small string ensemble. From the very beginning it was designed as an amateur orchestra, giving hobby musicians the opportunity to carry out their passion for orchestral music. Apart from members of the university, the orchestra was and is still open to everyone.
After mostly limiting the repertoire to baroque and early classical compositions for the first couple of years, British conductor Howard Griffith took over the musical direction in 1984 and expanded the orchestra to its fully fledged symphonic instrumentation it has since. Five years later, Griffith was replaced by Peter Bauer who still conducts the orchestra to this day. Besides directing the Universitätsorchester, he also conducts the university’s choir and he was officially appointed as musical director of the university in 1995.
General rehearsal for Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition in the university’s Audimax lecture hall in 2018.
Dvořák’s Cello Concerto with the wonderful young cellist Sinéad O’Halloran in 2019.
During the lecture periods, we usually rehearse once a week in order to prepare for one or two concerts per semester. In addition to the weekly rehearsals we have two intense rehearsal weekends per semester and occasional section rehearsals lead professional musicians from the Südwestdeutsche Philharmonie Konstanz. In the winter term, the concert is normally comprised of orchestral pieces following the classical sequence of an overture piece, followed by a solo concerto for which we invite professional soloists and a symphony or a comparable large piece.
Our repertoire covers classical and romantic as well as contemporary orchestral music and is enriched by large choral works, for which we collaborate with the university’s choir each summer term. Over the last years, several international academic choirs have joined us for these large projects, like the DNIPRO choir of the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv and the Chœur de l’École normale supérieure de Lyon for Orff’s Carmina Burana in 2016 or the Coro dell’Universià degli Studi di Perugia for Verdi’s Requiem in 2019.
Absolutely massive performance of Verdi’s Requiem together with the Universitätschor Konstanz and the Coro dell’Università degli Studi di Perugia in the St. Stephan’s church in Konstanz (June 2019).
Summer serenade “Matinée Française” with Bizet’s Carmen Suites and other chamber music pieces, played in the university’s foyer in 2017.
In some years, the summer term schedule leaves room for a second serenade-like soirée or matinée concert where we get the opportunity to play chamber music and smaller orchestral pieces. Every few years on a non-regular basis, we furthermore undertake concert tours in Germany as well as all over Europe. Previous destinations include Freiburg (DE), Grenoble, Lyon (FR), Bologna, Venice, Cremona (IT), Innsbruck (AT), Warsaw (PL) and Kyiv (UKR).
Before the start of our rehearsals each winter term, we get the possibility to have an influence on the upcoming program. For this, all members of the orchestra are invited to meet with our conductor Peter Bauer in order to propose pieces that should be played. Considering these suggestions, he then prepares three to four different programs which are up for election among the orchestra members.
We are a very well-connected and friendly community in our orchestra from where many good friendships have already been established. Apart from seeing each other immediately before and after the rehearsal, we have the tradition to go to our favourite pub to have a couple of drinks or a late dinner after every rehearsal. In recent years, it has become somewhat of a tradition that we also meet more or less regularly for voluntary and self-organised “just-for-fun-rehearsals” during the lecture-free periods. With this, we want to provide a platform for anyone who wants to play a long-practiced solo piece in an orchestral setting and without the pressure of an upcoming concert. Furthermore, we play various smaller orchestral pieces including film music medleys arranged by members of the orchestra. In addition, several chamber music groups have found themselves and meet on a regular basis.
In order to join our orchestra, you can apply for an audition at the beginning of every semester where you present one piece of your own choice that showcases your skills. Together with our conductor, the respective section leaders then decide on which of the applicants are going to join the orchestra.
Dress rehearsal for our first “concert” during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic in July 2020 where we played open air while keeping the social distance. The program included amongst others Alfvén’s Midsommarvakta and Marquez’ Danzón No. 2.
Necessity is the mother of invention: since booking a room at the university was out of question due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, we overcame this constraint by rehearsing open-air!
This year (2020) we were lucky to have our first concert of the year to be scheduled for February, so we avoided cancellation or postponing due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Nonetheless, this year’s summer term was anything but normal. During the lockdown period, we passed several months without knowing how and when we would be able to continue our rehearsal work. Thanks to the immense dedication of our conductor Peter Bauer, we got the opportunity to resume rehearsals in an external hall in the city and prepare for a small summer program by June. In order to comply with the social distancing requirements, we had separate rehearsals for the wind and string sections and only assembled the entire orchestra for the general rehearsal one day before the concert. The concert was scheduled for the beginning of July and was performed open-air in the university’s courtyard in front of a greatly reduced audience. The pandemic did not stop us from meeting for our holiday rehearsals however. Since booking a room at the university was out of question, we just met in one of our bassoonists’ garden, to the great joy of the neighbours and the passers-by.
Until now, we are still not allowed to use our familiar rooms at the university, but we hope to be able to continue the rehearsals by the start of the new winter term, albeit separated by sections. Nevertheless, we are very grateful to be able to pursue our hobby and carry on making music, especially in these challenging times!
June 2020: Orchestra dell’Almo Collegio Borromeo - Pavia
Almo Collegio Borromeo, founded in 1561 by Saint Carlo Borromeo, is the oldest university College in Italy for merit students. Every year it hosts deserving students of the University of Pavia who pass an entrance test, even if without economic means. Here students supplement their university education. They study, eat, sleep and spend their free time together also doing sports, singing in the choir or playing in the Orchestra, growing together as a community, based on interdisciplinarity and internationalization.
Almo Collegio Borromeo provides to the students courses, seminars and workshops, foreign languages concerts, conferences, talks from important people of the academic and transversal skills sectors.
Almo Collegio Borromeo - view from the sky
Almo Collegio Borromeo - facade
Besides academic activities, the College organizes concerts with international acclaimed artists and young talents, musical lectures and courses with important personalities, in an interdisciplinary viewpoint. The importance of music and music education since XVI century is one of the leading activities at Almo Collegio Borromeo, with the Choir and the Orchestra of students and professional mentors from important Orchestras (like Teatro alla Scala) and Choirs (Ars Cantica Choir).
The current Rector is Alberto Lolli, one of the leading personality of culture and education in Italy, member of the scientific committee of the Master in Cooperation and Development of the University of Pavia and member of Senato Accademico member of IUSS.
Denis Zanchetta is the principal conductor of the Orchestra dell'Almo Collegio Borromeo: he is a conductor of great international experience, especially devoted to student Orchestras. He was first clarinet piccolo at Teatro alla Scala for 40 years.
The Orchestra performing in Sala degli Affreschi
The orchestra in action under the leadership of conductor Denis Zanchetta
Alessandro Marangoni is the artistic director: he studied Philosophy as merit scholar at Borromeo and he is one of the leading Italian piano performers (more than 20 CDs recorded and concerts in Europe, Americas, China and Australia).
The repertoire of the Orchestra starts from Bach and Mozart’s family to the contemporary music, including annual first performances of new compositions committed by Collegio.
Beside the Orchestral activity, with rehearsals, workshops and masterclasses, the college organizes a chamber music course, once a week, lead by Denis Zanchetta, to give Orchestra members the opportunity to play together also in chamber groups and to learn new and uncommon repertoire.
April 2020: Orchestra of Charles University in Prague
Our Orchestra was founded in 2001 by our Chief Conductor, Haig Utidjian, at the invitation of the Rector of Charles University, whom a number of students had approached, asking for the establishment of an orchestra and chorus under the official auspices of the University. Prior to the Velvet Revolution of 1989 the University had a number of such ensembles, but as they had been under the umbrella of the then Communist students’ union, they were abolished in the aftermath of the Revolution; as they say, the baby had been thrown away with the bathwater. Yet there is no doubt that the Czechs are a highly musical nation, with a very fine musical tradition, and so clearly the premier University of the Czech Republic could not long remain without an orchestra of its own.
The Orchestra started from very humble beginnings, and the first few rehearsals were attended by a handful of violinists, flautists and one clarinet – making it quite a challenge to find suitable repertoire. The University being highly decentralised, it was surprisingly difficult to ensure that everyone who might be interested knew about us (and even today, we are surprised to find how many students are unaware of our existence, despite all our publicity effort!). But we grew in strength from year to year, and started being invited to play in various places on various occasions, in Prague as well as further afield. We have had the opportunity of making music in some extremely beautiful buildings in the Czech Republic, and further afield. We found ourselves increasingly also performing abroad, playing (for example) in beautiful cities such as Paris, Pizza, Cologne and Vienna. We collaborate with a number of groups, including our very own University Chorus, and increasingly we have enjoyed opportunities of sharing concerts with friendly visiting ensembles from other European countries. Particularly memorable were concerts we shared with the Exeter Chamber Orchestra from the UK, the Cologne University Collegium Musicum, the Vilnius University Chorus, the Strasbourg University Orchestra and the Copenhagen University Orchestra. We find this to be a good way of inspiring each other, learning more about other nations as well as beautiful music we would not have otherwise encountered, as well as forming lifelong friendships.
We are extremely grateful to the University, by whom we are regularly invited to perform on official occasions, and to the Hlávka Foundation, who have done much to foster our development over the years, not least by regularly inviting us to perform on 17 November every year (when the Czech Republic marks the Velvet Revolution, as well as the execution of anti-Nazi student demonstrators during World War II). We have also collaborated with the National Museum of the Czech Republic, performing at the beautiful Pantheon of the Museum in televised concerts on three occasions, and more recently performing at the Czech Museum of Music (one of our favourite venues) to celebrate 100 years since Czechoslovak women gained the right to vote. On this occasion – on 14 May 2019 – we performed works by five women composers, including the magnificent “Canticle of the Sun” by the American composer Amy Beach (which had not hitherto been played in the Czech Republic), and the world première of the lovely piece for strings by Susan Martin “Calming of the Sea”, which, since then, we have performed several more times.
Performing at the Aula of the Karolinum, 19 December, 2018
Charles University Orchestra and Chorus at the Dvořák Hall of the Rudolfinum
Our Orchestra caters for a reasonably wide range of abilities, although a high proportion of our players will have already gained considerable orchestral experience before joining us. Most study a variety of subjects, including Medicine, Mathematics, Natural Sciences, and various Humanities and Arts disciplines including but not confined to Music. We do not hold formal auditions for strings; rather, we invite them to play for us for a trial period, at the end of which desk partners and section principals have a say, advising the conductor. In most cases membership of the Orchestra is readily confirmed, provided that players display a good record of attendance at weekly rehearsals and weekend workshops/retreats (where a high proportion of our rehearsing is done). For wind players, we do hold auditions from time to time, depending on need. We have enjoyed a very fine flute section for a number of years now, but it is sometimes less easy to find suitable oboes and bassoons. From time to time we have to have recourse to external players to fill the odd gap in the Orchestra – such as the tuba, extra horns or percussion, or a harpist. Players are encouraged to go on performing with us after graduation, and we have a substantial proportion of recent graduates who have chosen to remain in the Orchestra, having completed their studies. We also have a policy of performing concerti with soloists drawn from the ranks of the Orchestra.
A typical semester will entail two weekend workshops as well as weekly evening rehearsals, and we tend to have several big concerts per semester – with a string of Christmas concerts in December, some of which are held in freezing churches (in places like Karlštejn Castle) where it has not been unknown for a bottle of “slivovice” – plum brandy – to be circulated amongst members and then mysteriously disappear! Each semester also features at least one concert where we are joined by our Chorus and professional soloists (many of whom are active on the opera stage, and have worked with our Chief Conductor, who himself conducted in various theatres in the past) for a major choral/orchestral masterpiece. Works for which we have been joined by our Chorus include Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Brahms’ German Requiem, many works by Dvořák (including the Stabat Matter, Te Deum, Mass in D, St. Ludmila, Hymn to the Heirs of White Mountain, and the unduly neglected Slavnostní zpěv), Fibich’s Jarní Romance, the Rossini Stabat Mater, the Bach Magnificat, the Alan Hovhaness Magnificat (of which we gave the Czech première, in St. Vitus’ Cathedral in 2015), the Fauré Requiem, Amy Beach’s Canticle of the Sun, Nielsen’s Hymnus Amoris (both Czech premières), Smetana’s Česká píseň, and much else besides. Our orchestral repertoire includes symphonies, symphonic poems and incidental music by composers such as Beethoven, Smetana, Dvořák, Suk, Sibelius, Nielsen, Hovhaness and many others. We have also been honoured to give world premières of works by living composers such as Milan Iglo (his Piano Concerto), Stanislav Poslušný (“The Little Prince”) and Susan Martin (“Calming of the Sea”).
Though we are not in a position to hire concert venues ourselves, we have been very fortunate to have been invited to perform in all the finest venues in Prague. In addition to the Karolinum at the heart of the University, we have performed at the Dvořák Hall of the Rudolfinum, Smetana Hall, the Czech Museum of Music, the Pantheon of the National Museum, Vladislav Hall of Prague Castle, and the Church of the Holy Saviour (where the Prague Academical Parish is based, and where we have been giving annual charity concerts for many years).
Our most recent charity Christmas Concert at the Church of the Holy Saviour, 16 December, 2019
Performing Komitas’ Liturgy for Strings at the Vienna Mekhitarist Church of St. Mary the Protector, 4 May, 2019
Our plans for this semester included an all-Beethoven programme this month at the Aula of the Karolinum – Coriolan Overture, Romance in F (with one of our orchestral violinists as the soloist) and the Mass in C (with our Chorus and a fine team of soloists) – followed by a Nordic programme in May – Nielsen’s Helios Overture and Søvnen (a truly magnificent piece for Chorus and Orchestra, never performed in the Czech Republic before), and Sibelius’ Symphony No. 3. Unfortunately, the distancing measures necessitated by the virus pandemic mean that our rehearsals were interrupted, and our concerts postponed. But we hope to keep going in other ways, remaining in touch with each other and with our conductors via skype and other electronic means, practising our parts and continuing to make music, so that we are well prepared to perform those pieces and others as soon as we are allowed to do so. We also hope to organise live lectures and other informal sessions devoted to those pieces in the coming weeks, and hope that we shall be able to keep motivating ourselves and maintain our high spirits, as well as cheering up those in our physical – and virtual – vicinity.
Our most recent concert for the Hlávka Foundation was at the Bethlehem Chapel in the centre of the Old Town. Our programme included a celebratory piece by for Chorus and Orchestra by Dvořák (Slavnostní zpěv), a more lugubrious piece for strings composed in the aftermath of the bombing of Coventry by the composer Vilém Tauský (a pupil of Janáček, Suk and Talich), who taught our conductor Haig Utidjian, and much else besides.
Please feel free to visit our Web pages – on Sboraorchestruk.cz – and our YouTube channel – Chorus and Orchestra of Charles University in Prague – for further photos and recordings!
For our final video clip, performed by the Charles University Chorus and Orchestra, we were joined by the baritone Jakub Hrubý and the organist Martin Maxmilian Kaiser on 17 November, 2018. We have chosen the last few minutes of the magnificent but little known piece by Martinů, Czech Rhapsody – Mahlerian in style and in scope, though also very Czech in flavour. It ends with the words – which seem to have acquired particular poignancy as many of our fellow human beings are now ill and are fighting for their lives – addressed to the Czech Patron Saint, St. Wenceslas (“Svatý Václav” in Czech): “St. Wenceslas, do not let us perish!”
We are grateful to Mr Tomas Bazika of the Prague Music Connection for his kindness in sharing his photographs and video clips from our performances over the last year and a half. We are also grateful to our first violinists, Vojtěch Salajka of the Charles University Orchestra for the panoramic photograph of the Charles University Chorus and Orchestra above, and Vladimír Faltus for the sound recording of our concert at the Czech Museum of Music of 4 April, 2016.
We hope that during those days of uncertainty and frustration, music – performed by ourselves and by others, with conviction, commitment and passion – may prove to be a source of strength and comfort, and we send our orchestral colleagues all over Europe our very best wishes from Prague.
Members of the Charles University Orchestra and conductors Kateřina Maňásová and Haig Utidjian, 1 April, 2020
An excellent atmosphere prevails as we wait to begin to play at the Aula of the Karolinum, 24 April, 2019
In this photo (17 November, 2019) we were playing Smetana as if our lives depended on it!
March 2020: Orquesta de la Universidad de Oviedo
The University Oviedo Orchestra was founded in February 1979 by Alfonso Ordieres, from then onwards considered being the oldest university orchestra in Spain. Originally it was a string-based orchestra that focused on baroque repertoire. In its first chapter, the orchestra gained a good reputation and took part in several festivals and courses such as Cambrils, Granada, Madrid, etc. In addition, the orchestra got invited to perform for Spanish Kings at the foundational act of Fundación Princesa de Asturias in 1980. Also, some concerts have been broadcasted on the National Spanish Television (TVE).
After several years of non-activity, Pedro Ordieres started as conductor. So since, October 2017, Orquesta de la Universidad de Oviedo is considered to be a full-size symphonic orchestra with more than 70 enrolled students. Today, each term is musically colored with ten concerts. With it is main purpose to promote classical music also comes premiers by composers such as Gabriel Ordás, Pablo Moras, Guillermo Gonzalez, Fernandez Languasco o Ruben Díez. Also, it has recorded the original soundtrack to a documentary produced by TPA “Desde la otra orilla”.
The University of Oviedo Orchestra is part of the “University Extension and International Promoting service”. The activities are organized according to the needs of the University’s community, but also contributes to the irrevocable and tangible commitment it has with the whole Asturian society, encompassing all kinds of cultural and formative activities. This Orchestra tries to bring culture to Asturias society as well as give the chance to the students to develop its artistic ideas. The Extension University department has made a big effort to support the orchestra for the past years.
The Orchestra rehearses on Mondays and is open to any student, professor or worker associated to the University of Oviedo. Also, some students from regional Conservatoire are invited to take part and extend their musical experience. The orchestra sometimes collaborates with guest professionals from Asturias Symphony Orchestra and other institutions, they sometimes perform as soloist or share their professional knowledge by giving advice to the students.
Upcoming projects include three concerts: one for Asturias Television at the historical cellar from “El Gaitero”, and one big Concert at the Oviedo´s cathedral, including Beethoven´s fifth symphony (celebrating Beethoven´s anniversary) and the world premiere of “El Aura” by Gabriel Ordas together with University of Oviedo Chorus and Asturias Conservatory Chorus. Later this year the Orchestra will perform at Alcalá de Henares University (Madrid) as part of an exchange program between both University Orchestras. Only exciting things ahead!
December 2019: Ghent University Symphony Orchestra
GUSO, or the 'Ghent University Symphony Orchestra', is an orchestra for and by students! It explicitly presents itself as an open and social orchestra, a group of close friends with the ambition to realise qualitative and musically ambitious projects, creating the opportunity for students in Ghent to further explore their musical interests. In line with the Ghent University slogan “Dare to think”, GUSO “Dares to play”, with a lot of musical enthusiasm and the guidance of their passionate conductor Steven Decraene. Take a look at www.guso.be or visit our facebook page and follow us on Instagram for more information!
November 2019: The UCD University Orchestra
The UCD Symphony Orchestra was founded in 2002. It has developed into the flagship instrumental ensemble of Ireland's largest university, University College Dublin, with a membership of around 90 players. It offers student scholarships and can be taken for academic credit irrespective of degree programme - traditionally there has been a large cohort of medical and engineering students in the orchestra. Sectional tuition is provided by principals from Dublin's two full-time professional orchestras, the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra. The orchestra has engaged in numerous joint projects with university orchestras outside Dublin, the first European destination being Mannheim, Germany in 2013. Connections made via our friends in the ENUO have led to further collaborations with orchestras from Uppsala in Sweden, Leuven in Belgium, and Strasbourg in France, as well as participation in the 2017 edition of ESOF.
The UCDSO’s repertoire centres on mainstream concert works from the 19th and 20th centuries – major symphonic symphonic repertoire performed has included symphonies by Beethoven (5, 7, 9), Shostakovich (5, 10) and Tchaikovsky (4, 5, 6). Since 2005, the orchestra has appeared annually at the National Concert Hall in Dublin, Ireland’s premier classical music venue. These concerts often involve the UCD Philharmonic Choir, most recently in performances of Brahms’s Deutsches Requiem and Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances. A wider audience has been cultivated by a number of themed concert series, such as family concerts, a "Night at the Movies" series, and concert performances with live bands, including the world-renowned tribute act the Bootleg Beatles.
The orchestra shall enjoy a very busy season in 2019–20 with five major events planned, the first of which occured on October 20th, joining forces for a second time with the Bootleg Beatles for an acclaimed performance to commemorate the release of the iconic Abbey Road album – a review in the national music journal Hot Press can be read here: http://tiny.cc/ucdbeatles. Next up is the second in the series entitled "Closer Reading" in which a major symphonic work is performed following a 30-minute critical introduction by our conductor, Dr Ciarán Crilly, who is also Head of the UCD School of Music. Into 2020, there are two performances planned at the National Concert Hall, including the fourth "Night at the Movies" programme, before we welcome the Strasbourg University Orchestra for a joint concert in the Spring. A new endeavour this year is the introduction of an apprenticeship for young conductors: the 2019-20 Conducting Apprentice is Ben Jacob from Waterford in the South East of Ireland.
As the orchestra approaches its 20th anniversary in the 2022-23 season, it looks for fresh challenges, and is always open to exchange partnerships with other ENUO members. We celebrate the fact that we have grown from just 19 members in our first concert to 90 in our last, and that this growth has been accompanied by an ever-increasing contribution to the cultural life of UCD’s staff and student population.