Throwback Thursdays: Elgar’s Serenade

Discover more about the music we have performed with Firebird in this special lockdown series…

Today we explore the beautiful Serenade for Strings by Edward Elgar (1857 – 1934). 

This was filmed at St George’s Hanover Square on Thursday 22 October 2020 with George Jackson conducting the London Firebird Orchestra.

Conductor George Jackson tells us more about the fabulous central movement – the Larghetto …

Elgar composed his famous Serenade for Strings in E minor Op. 20, in March 1892. The composer conducted the first performance in private at the Worcester Ladies’ Orchestral Class. It was to be another four years before the first public performance took place in Antwerp in Belgium. He dedicated the work to the organ builder and amateur musician Edward W. Whinfield. 

However,  it is thought that the Serenade was a reworking of a suite from many years earlier and may even be part of one of the very first works ever written by Elgar.

Maybe that is why the work has a certain youthful charm with the central Larghetto generally regarded as containing some of Elgar’s most enduring writing and among the most frequently performed of all his music.

Did you know…

Elgar was not the only famous composer to write a Serenade for Strings. Both Tchaikovsky and Dvořák had written works with the same title in 1880 and 1885 respectively. Both of these also remain some of the most popular work for this genre to this day.

Watch the complete concert performed by the London Firebird Orchestra conducted by George Jackson. Elgar’s Serenade starts at 17:14

Throwback Thursdays: Firebird, Tchaikovsky, and me

Conductor Michael Thrift explores the music of Tchaikovsky which he last conducted in Firebird’s filmed concert in November 2020…

The beautiful Serenade for Strings in C major Op.48 by Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky 1840-1893 (pictured) was performed as part of From London to St Petersburg. 

This was filmed at St George’s Hanover Square on Thursday 19 November 2020 with London Firebird Orchestra.

Tchaikovsky had rediscovered Mozart’s Magic Flute in the summer of 1880. He said that the Serenade, written shortly after, was inspired by Mozart’s graceful style, in particular in the elegant first movement, though the music is very original and not mere Mozart imitation.

The second movement, a waltz, is a popular piece in its own right and contains one of the composer’s best-loved melodies.

i Pezzo in forma di sonatina: Andante non troppo Allegro moderato

ii Valse: Moderato – Tempo di valse

iii Élégie: Larghetto elegiaco

iv Finale (Tema russo): Andante – Allegro con spirito

The deeply felt third movement elegy begins with the same ascending scale that launched the waltz tune.

The finale draws on two folk songs, one featuring in the introduction, and the other as the main theme in the allegro.

Watch the complete concert: Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings starts at 46.39

B Minor With Love

Conductor Michael Thrift
Cello Aleksei Kiseliov

Thursday 10 June 2021
St.George’s Hanover Square 

This concert will feature Dvorak Cello Concerto in B minor, the world premiere of new work from the winner of the Firebird Young Musician of the Year, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no. 6.

Performer profile: Ruth Hallows

Welcome to our new monthly series where we profile some of Firebird’s performers. This month we meet cellist Ruth Hallows…

Watch one of Ruth’s solo lockdown performances: 

‘I have been a cellist with the London Firebird Orchestra since 2017 and have enjoyed every moment with them. I have been a part of some incredible concerts, performing some truly stunning works such as Dvořák’s Symphony no. 9, Brahms Symphony no. 1 and my personal favourite, Schumann’s cello concerto in A minor with soloist Raphael Wallfisch.’

Says Ruth

British cellist Ruth Hallows graduated from the Royal College of Music and was winner of both the Pendle Young Musicians Bursary Competition and the Reuben Burton Foundation Scholarship. Ruth has studied with famous cellists including Raphael Wallfisch and Gregor Horsch.

A keen orchestral musician, she completed a Professional Placement Scheme with the English Chamber Orchestra. Ruth performs with players of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Royal College of Music Chamber Orchestra and London Firebird Orchestra.

As a chamber musician, Ruth has performed on BBC Radio 3 In Tune, collaborated with the award-winning Sacconi Quartet and played at UK venues including the Wigmore Hall and the Royal Albert Hall. ​​

Ruth believes that Firebird provides a pivotal part in the transition from education to career for its players, often being the constant in what can be a time of great change for musicians. 

“The pandemic has been tough for all freelancers, especially those in the critical beginnings of their career. For me personally, as well as providing an opportunity to explore the online possibilities for music making, it has also given me a chance to write further about the issues tackling young musicians in the classical music world, through my blog: From a Cellist’s Perspective.


Ruth was delighted when Firebird came back in October 2020 providing some much needed hope for a return to normal life. She has no doubt that when this latest lockdown lifts, Firebird will be back stronger and better than ever!

Throwback Thursdays: Mahler’s Adagietto

In a new series during lockdown we invite you to discover more about the music we have performed with Firebird… 

Today we explore the exquisite Adagietto for Strings by Gustav Mahler (1860 – 1911). 

This was filmed at St George’s Hanover Square on Thursday 22 October 2020 with London Firebird Orchestra conducted by George Jackson.

George Jackson explains more about the music…

Gustav Mahler wrote his monumental Symphony No 5 throughout 1901 and 1902. The symphony, in five movements, takes over an hour to perform and its scope and emotional landscape are vast. 

The fourth movement of it, the Adagietto, is often performed as a standalone piece – in fact it was performed for the first time in Britain 36 years before the first British performance of the entire symphony.

The Adagietto is perhaps Mahler’s most famous composition and is the most frequently performed of all his works. It is based on a love poem that the composer wrote for his new wife, Alma:

Wie ich Dich liebe, Du meine Sonne,

ich kann mit Worten Dir’s nicht sagen.

Nur meine Sehnsucht kann ich Dir klagen

und meine Liebe, meine Wonne!

In which way I love you, my sunbeam,

I cannot tell you with words.

Only my longing, my love and my bliss

can I with anguish declare.

Mahler marked the score “very slow”, “soulful” and “with the most heartfelt sentiment”.

It is music of great delicacy, reducing the orchestra down to harp and strings. Beginning very quietly, this music is quickly enthused with longing.

Arching, graceful melodies unfold with a bittersweet intensity, rise gradually to a soaring climax, and finally fall back to a peaceful close.

Watch the complete performance…

Happy New Year from Firebird

Firebird would like to thank everyone for their kind and loyal support in 2020, and to wish all of our Friends, Benefactors and Supporters a healthy, happy and prosperous 2021.

Most recently, we were delighted to be able to perform two concerts from our season at St George’s Hanover Square in the Autumn. Although we were very restricted with audience, both of these were filmed. And you can still enjoy these fabulous concerts here…


Filmed live on Thursday 22 October 2020 by Europik Music

Vaughan Williams 

Principal Guest Conductor
George Jackson


Filmed live on Thursday 19 November 2020 by Europik Music

Vaughan Williams 

Principal Guest Conductor
Michael Thrift

Looking ahead, our Young Composer of the Year Competition is now well underway. The winning piece will be given its World Première as part of our concert B Minor with Loveon Thursday 10 June. 

We all hope that the vaccines will offer hope and light at the end of the current darkness – so that we can look forward to us all being together again for a musical 2021.

From London to St Petersburg: WATCH ONLINE NOW

We are delighted to present the film of Firebird’s latest concert from Thursday 19 November with From London to St Petersburg:

Filmed live on Thursday 19 November 2020

Corelli Concerto Grosso op. 6 no. 4
Holst St Paul’s Suite in C, Op. 29 no. 2
Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings in C, Op. 48

Principal Guest Conductor Michael Thrift

Filming & Editing by Europik Music


We are committed in our support of Firebird’s wonderful musicians and providing essential opportunities for them to perform – especially in these challenging times.

Clearly, without an audience to offset some of our costs through ticket sales we do need to asking for donations to support this essential lockdown project and to ensure we continue this valuable work.



From London to St Petersburg

We are delighted that the Firebird Strings will still be able to perform on Thursday 19 November with our musical journey From London to St Petersburg…

… but with a difference

Due the current Covid-19 lockdown, it will unfortunately not be possible for us to welcome an audience for this concert. However, this does give us an important opportunity to film the concert and professionally produce a video of the event which we shall release shortly after the concert for online viewing, via our website and social media.

© Copyright Huw Jennings

We are committed to support our wonderful musicians as always and provide essential opportunities for them to perform – especially in these challenging times. However, without an audience to offset some of our costs through ticket sales we are asking for donations to support this lockdown project and help us continue our valuable work:

From London To St Petersburg really does promise to be a special concert with the sumptuous sounds of the Firebird Strings. 

Our Principal Guest Conductor Michael Thrift will guide us through this musical journey from the English pastoral world of Vaughan Wiliams and Holst through the baroque splendour of Corelli’s Italy to the splendour of 19th century Russia and Tchaikovsky’s magnificent Serenade for Strings.

And to help you navigate your way through this fabulous music you will also be able to download the colourful and informative programme notes for free.

Filmed live on Thursday 19 November 2020

Vaughan Williams Fantasia on Thomas Tallis
Corelli Concerto Grosso op. 6 no. 4
Holst St Paul’s Suite in C, Op. 29 no. 2
Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings in C, Op. 48

Principal Guest Conductor Michael Thrift

And don’t forget you can still watch the video of last month’s concert String Fling With the audience capped at just 40 invited guests – this was the first Firebird performance since March.


Throughout this pandemic Firebird has strived to find a safe and viable path to ensure that our orchestral concerts can continue to be staged. At last, on Thursday 22 October we were able to present our first live concert since February – and we have made this wonderful video of the event which we want to share with you…

Filmed live on Thursday 22 October 2020
Available from Thursday 29 October at 7.30pm

Vaughan Williams Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus
Elgar Serenade for Strings, Op. 20
Mahler Adagietto (from Symphony no. 5)
Grieg Holberg Suite, Op. 40
Principal Guest Conductor George Jackson

Filming & Editing by Europik Music

Our players have had the most difficult year imaginable so it is essential that we can provide a platform for them to perform. It is also vitally important for the Orchestra’s supporters and anyone else who gets so much out of hearing us play together. At the start of the concert, Artistic Director and CEO Marc Corbett-Weaver spoke of the importance of music in difficult times: 

‘Music has been with us throughout human existence – music is there when we celebrate, it’s there when we entertain and it’s there when we commiserate. Music has the power to take us on a journey and change our mood. It can comfort those who are nervous or afraid, lonely, isolated, vulnerable or bereaved. Which is why I think tonight’s concert is so important for us all by helping music stay alive.’

By the end of the summer, plans were adapted as necessary to meet the latest guidance and legislation. As autumn approached, a series of national announcements meant we had to revisit our plans again. The London musical world is not only small but also very international. Many of our regular players are scattered across the globe, currently unable to return to the UK. Conductors and soloists have been unable to join us because of changing quarantine restrictions. Consequently, the programme for this concert has changed at least four times.

Our first few concerts will focus on the string section with 23 of our finest string players and a harpist coming together to make superb music together.

With the audience capped at 40 invited guests – this was the smallest number we have performed to since Firebird was formed in 2012. And this was one of the reasons we decided to film tonight’s concert – bringing it into the homes of those who cannot be with us during the present times.

Thank you and we hope you enjoy the concert.

Thank you to all our Friends

These are challenging times for the arts. Nevertheless, as our Artistic Director Marc Corbett-Weaver explains, Firebird plans to resume its concert season later this year…

Marc Corbett-Weaver

Dear Friends

London Firebird Orchestra & The Pandemic

As the UK went into lockdown in March, we had engaged our players in two projects – our concert at Kings Place and an engagement concert with Middlesex University. Both had to be cancelled because of venue closures and the lockdown. Fortunately, we were in a position to support our players with payments for both projects. We are grateful for the generosity of our Friends & Benefactors, and the University, for this.

At present I am working with our conductors, George Jackson and Michael Thrift, and colleagues at St George’s to adapt our autumn programme. Orchestras are now performing on the continent with safety measures in place and we are watching developments closely.

Our home venue, St George’s Hanover Square, is currently closed but plans to reopen in time for the autumn. 

As things stand therefore, we aim to proceed with our two orchestral concerts, Firebird for Schools Concert and Firebird Young Composer of the Year Competition, with our audience socially distanced. We also plan to bring these performances to a wider audience via online streaming.

This is a desperate time for young musicians, many of whom have had all their concerts cancelled. We look forward to announcing more details of our 2020/21 Season soon. Once again, all the musicians and the Board of Trustees would like to say a big thank you for your continued support. We look forward to having you with us for the journey ahead.

Meanwhile we would like to share the wonderful video performance below created by one of our regular soloists.

With our very best wishes at this challenging time,

Marc Corbett-Weaver
Artistic Director & Chief Executive, London Firebird Orchestra

We hope you will enjoy this video clip featuring part of the marvellous Finale from Sibelius Symphony no. 5, performed by our orchestra in June 2019 at St George’s Hanover Square.

The resplendent horn theme came into the composer’s mind while he was climbing mountains in Finland and suddenly saw the amazing spectacle of sixteen swans in flight above him – he wrote in his diary ‘This was the greatest day of my life!. 

We hope our performance offers a little inspiration to our Friends at this challenging time.

If you are not already one of our donors, please do support us by joining the Friends & Benefactors Society.

Firebird Orchestra Sunday 8th February 2015 @ Kings Place © Huw Jennings

To find out about the benefits of being a Friend and to join online, go to our Friends page.

Meet the Soloist: Sherry Shen

Meet one of Firebird’s talented violinists, Sherry Shen from China, currently a second year masters’ student at London’s Royal College of Music.

Tell us about your involvement with Firebird and other orchestras and ensembles…

I have been playing with London Firebird Orchestra since March 2019, playing the violin in the Orchestra. 

Sherry Shen

I also have a quartet and a piano trio at RCM, and I am also involved in London City Philharmonic, London Film Orchestra, Brixton Chamber Orchestra and RCM Symphony Orchestra.

What would you say are some of the highlights of your career so far?

I worked for four years as principal second violin in the Alexander Chamber Orchestra, which was one of the very first professional chamber orchestras in China. I also worked in a Chinese opera company as the orchestra leader, and toured Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Nanjing, and Suzhou.

What about your future ambitions in music?

I hope my future is as an orchestral musician. I would love to work in a top orchestra and also have a chamber group to work with long term. Simply put, my ambition is to keep playing music.

What do you feel is the value of Firebird to younger professional musicians?

London Firebird Orchestra has a great vibe and high quality. It helps young musicians including myself to familiarise themselves with life and work in a professional orchestra.

Clearly with things changing rapidly due to the coronavirus many concerts are being postponed or cancelled. Please check our diary for the latest status regarding each of our forthcoming concerts.

Jonathan Bloxham with the London Firebird Orchestra