Meet the Soloist

We meet the soloist performing in Firebird’s A Major Evening on 26 September – he is a clarinettist who is currently principal with the New European Ensemble in The Hague…

Fast establishing himself as an exciting and versatile clarinettist in the UK and Europe, James Meldrum has developed a busy career as an orchestral and chamber musician as well as a recital and concerto soloist. 

James achieved a Distinction in his Advanced Postgraduate Diploma from the Royal College of Music, and whilst studying held the MBF Music Education Award, MBF Ian Flemming Award, Countess of Munster Musical Trust Award, and the Wilkins-Mackerras Scholarship.

After winning his first orchestral trial at the age of 20, James has played with the Philharmonia Orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra and the London Chamber Orchestra as well as being guest principal clarinet with international orchestras including Iceland Symphony Orchestra, de Filharmonie Antwerpen, the Young Janacek Philharmonic and the Kazakhstan Philhamonic Orchestras.

“… James Meldrum is one of the most talented and musical clarinettists of his generation. He has performance flair and a natural communication with audiences, both as a soloist and chamber musician.” 

Janet Hilton, International award-winning recording artist and soloist

A Major Evening

Thursday 26 September 2019
7:30 pm – 9:30 pm   

Beethoven Coriolan Overture, Op. 72
Mozart Clarinet Concerto in A, K. 622
Mozart Tamino’s Aria: Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön (from The Magic Flute)
Beethoven Symphony no. 7 in A, Op. 92

Conductor George Jackson
Clarinet James Meldrum
Tenor Ben Thapa

The Soloist’s Perspective

The dazzling young Russian cellist Aleksei Kiseliov takes the solo spot on 14 March in Schumann’s heart-rending Cello Concerto – one of the three great Romantic works for this instrument. We hear more from Aleksei himself…

Schumann might be better known as a composer for the piano. How successful has he been in writing for the cello and orchestra?

Perhaps not very successful at the time it was written, purely because of the circumstances and the fashion of those days. It was not performed until after Schumann (pictured) died. While being a musical masterpiece, this concerto is very awkward and difficult to play from a technical point of view.

Robert Schumann
Robert Schumann

However, the cellists at the time criticised the piece for not being virtuosic enough. It is not a typical Paganini style concerto, but a very delicate, fragile yet temperamental piece.

What makes Firebird, and Michael Thrift as conductor, the perfect combination to support you as a soloist in this piece?

I have a long relationship with Firebird and it is always nice to come back and play with this orchestra that has a vibrant and youthful energy in it. Also, I am looking forward to working with Michael Thrift (pictured) for the first time, and since he has worked with Firebird previously it will make our collaboration even more exciting.

Michael Thrift, conductor
Michael Thrift, conductor

How do you bring something fresh and exciting to such well-known and often performed works like these?

Even if the same piece has been played for one hundred times by the same soloist and the same orchestra, it is impossible for them to remain the same. People change every second, so does their perception of music. Whether you want it or not, it will be different. As for the freshness, I do not think that our concert on the 14th of March has the risk of being out of date.

Aleksei Kiseliov
Aleksei Kiseliov

What do you expect to be the main areas you will need to focus on during the rehearsals with the Orchestra?

At the rehearsals I think is very important to find and establish understanding between the soloist, the conductor and the players. Once it is there the working process becomes very enjoyable and productive. My favourite part of it is the end result, of course, when you forget everything and just give yourself into the hands of music.

And what else is in the pipeline for you in 2019?

This year is quite busy with various projects. I am working on different concerti at the moment including projects with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) as a soloist. I am developing a collaboration with a fantastic pianist Alasdair Beatson, chamber music concerts with my colleagues from RSNO, BBC Scottish and Scottish Chamber orchestras! Also, I spend some time guesting in other orchestras in the UK and Europe as a Principal Cellist.

Mendelssohn in March

Thursday 14 March 2019 7.30pm
St George’s Hanover Square, London

Mendelssohn Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream in E major, Op. 21
Schumann Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. 129
Brahms Symphony No.1 in C minor, Op. 68

Michael Thrift conductor
Aleksei Kiseliov cello

Join London Firebird Orchestra in this spectacular central London venue for a wonderful evening of music with these three great works from the very heart of European classical music in the 19th century.

Tiffany Cheng

Musician of the Month: Tiffany Cheng

This month we are delighted to feature Tiffany Cheng, one of the viola players  from the London Firebird Orchestra and find out more about her life in music…

Tell us something about your musical training to date…

I am currently studying for my bachelor degree with Yuri Zhislin at the Royal College of Music. Viola has been my main instrument for over 10 years. Growing up in one of the smallest cities in the world, Hong Kong, I am lucky enough to be part of the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts as a junior student and receive professional musical training in an early age. 

How long have you been involved with Firebird?

My first concert with the London Firebird Orchestra was in March earlier this year. I had two concerts with LFO in total and was allocated as the leading desk of the viola section. Initially, this was an exciting challenge for me, but it was definitely a very rewarding experience as a performance student as I plan to be a full time performer in the future. 

What other musical groups are you involved with?

I have performed with various orchestras in London including the University of London Symphony Orchestra, the Southgate Symphony Orchestra and I am actively involved with the RCM Orchestras. I also frequently perform with my quartet and duo formed in college.

Tell us some of the highlights of your career to date…

One of my most unforgettable performances was playing Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No.2 with the RCM Philharmonic Orchestra. I was especially touched by the third movement and ‘teared up’ during the actual concert. That was also the moment I realised music is truly what I want to do in rest of my life.

In my first year of college, we participated in a chorus project and were very fortunate to have maestro Bernard Haitink as our conductor of the performance. Even though I was in the chorus, I was so excited and honoured to perform on the same stage with one of the greatest conductors in the world. This was a totally inspiring and rewarding experience for any musician. 

And what about your future ambitions in music?

Performing in both orchestra and chamber groups is definitely the future path I want to pursue. Hong Kong is a place full of rules which I think also strongly reflects in music learning. I was always told to follow rather than to think or create. I was quite amazed by the teaching style in Europe when I first came to London. One of my ambitions is to bring these teaching ideas to the new generation in Hong Kong.

Other than music, I am also into cooking. Lately, I have been thinking about creating a place for people to enjoy music and food at the same time. Ideally something like a music cafe for musicians to relax and to make friends.

What do you see as the value of Firebird to musicians like yourself?

As a young musician in the music industry, it is extremely important to learn as much orchestral repertoire as possible. Being able to learn music quickly is an essential skill for any orchestral players. Therefore, I think an orchestra like the London Firebird is providing a great opportunity for us to learn and to build our professional skills which we need for our future careers. 

Meet the Soloist: Leonard Schreiber

London Firebird Orchestra’s spectacular opening to the 2018/19 season featuring talented soloist Leonard Schreiber is just around the corner.  Let’s hear his story…

Tell us a bit about yourself and your training as a violinist.

I have played the violin since I was 5 years old. I immediately loved it – such a small piece of wood producing so much sound – so what was there not to love for a hyperactive kid who wanted everyone’s attention! My first concerto appearance was with a Vivaldi concerto with the Flanders Philharmonic Orchestra when I was 6 years old in front of 2000 people! From that moment on I knew that I wanted to become a Violinist.

Leonard Schreiber aged 5

After winning several small local competitions, at 13 I obtained a full scholarship to study with Professor Andrievsky while simultaneously doing my A-levels at the wonderful Purcell school. This was followed by studies at the Royal College of Music.

Alongside my international solo career, I became very active in chamber music with the Trio Chausson. I have found some of my favourite repertoire here bringing the most rewarding feeling of uniting with friends and playing such treasures of the musical literature. One month ago I have sadly decided to leave the Trio Chausson to dedicate more time to solo concerts again. I will still be doing some chamber music but it’s all about finding the right balance I suppose… 

Leonard Schreiber with orchestra

What other music ensembles/orchestras have you performed with?

I have had the immense pleasure to play with the London Symphony Orchestra and recorded a CD of Belgian music with the LSO conducted by Dirk Brossé. I also loved playing with Russian orchestras like the Russian Philharmonic with Maestro Jurowski and the Moscow soloists conducted by Yuri Bashmet. But a great memory for me was with a smaller ensemble which included playing Chausson’s ‘Concert’ with Andrei Korobeinikov at the piano and the legendary Borodin String Quartet.

Tell us some of the highlights of your career to date.

A definite highlight in my career was touring with the Moscow City Symphony orchestra conducted by Maestro Kazuki Yamada in some of the most beautiful European concert halls…. and ending the tour with a full house at Moscow’s famous Tchaikovsky Hall performing the Khachaturian Concerto.

Also, I have had the honour to play several times for HRH Prince Charles. The first time was when I was 15 years old at Windsor Castle and a few years later at Buckingham palace, and Spencer House… all very sparkling and happy memories!

What are your future ambitions in music?

To always be true to myself and always try to improve and give my very best. Also, as an artist, I believe it is important to be curious and continuously seek novelty and how to re-invent yourself as well as your interpretations. You can’t just be as good as your last concert. But to answer the question more accurately, a childhood dream has been to play at The Carnegie Hall.

What do you see as the value of an orchestra like London Firebird to younger professional musicians like yourself?

For me music is all about passion and sharing strong emotions. Rather than a ‘job’, for me it is rather more of a religion, a belief, a lifestyle. So when I play with such an orchestra, you can feel everyone’s full involvement which is so refreshing and reassuring. They are technically already at the top of their craft, and emotionally striving for more. I am truly looking forward to this next concert with London Firebird and performing Bruch’s beautiful Violin Concerto.

Meet the soloist: Verity Wingate

We look forward to a spectacular opening to London Firebird Orchestra’s 2018/19 season on 9 October featuring the full orchestra, conductor George Jackson and two talented soloists. In this article we meet soprano Verity Wingate…

Verity Wingate
Verity Wingate

Tell us something about your musical training to date…

My early career has been largely based around song repertoire, Russian and German in particular and I have been very fortunate to have performed at some of London’s most prestigious venues such as the Barbican and Wigmore Hall. 

I began my training at Wells Cathedral School as a specialist singer. I then went on to do an undergraduate course at the Royal Academy of Music and a Masters at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Since then I am just breaking into the opera scene as a lyric soprano having recently performed at Garsington Opera, where I was fortunate enough to be awarded the Leonard Ingram Award.

This will be your first collaboration with Firebird. How did that come about?

I was very fortunate to meet and work with the conductor George Jackson on a recording project earlier this year and he very kindly suggested me for this particular concert. I have a history of performing in Russian quite a bit in my song work, so to perform such a famous aria in Czech is very exciting but also a language not too dissimilar to one I am used to singing in.

Verity Wingate
Verity Wingate

Which other ensembles do you perform with?

I am a part of an ensemble called The Prince Consort, a group of singers, pianists and artists, founded by pianist Alisdair Hogarth. We perform a wide range of song and collaborate with film artists, poets, jazz and folk musicians to create something really quite new, including a series of really beautiful classical music videos, of which I have performed in several. It is a really exciting thing to be a part of and is a fantastic platform for performing a lot of my favourite music.

Tell us some of the highlights of your career to date…

Performing the Brahms Liebeslieder Waltzes with The Prince Consort at The Wigmore Hall (which is how I came to work with the group) was certainly one. My recent performance as Pamina at Garsington Opera was thrilling, I was understudying the soprano Louise Alder who was unfortunately unable to perform one evening and I went on to play the role. Finally Alisdair Hogarth, Aisa Ijiri and I recorded a group of love songs for Classic FM at The Wigmore Hall on Valentines Day. That was just really special and I loved every minute of it.

Verity Wingate
Verity Wingate

And what about your future ambitions in music?

To perform the music I love, with musicians I like and respect. Working with wonderful people is so important. There are certain roles of course, which are a dream; in particular for me would be Eva in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger, but we shall see. Pamina was also a dream and I really didn’t expect to have achieved that one so early in my career. I will happily perform that role for the rest of my life!

Finally, what do you see as the value of Firebird to musicians like yourself?

We all need platforms when leaving our training and working in this business. I have been out of music college for a little over a year now, I absolutely love it. However it is challenging finding work and this orchestra provides young orchestral players and soloists alike the opportunity to perform and it bridges that gap between study and the profession. Also as a vocal soloist, its rare to have the opportunity to perform arias with an orchestra and it is such a vital part of our job and is a completely different skill to performing with a piano. I am also grateful for the opportunity to meet new colleagues who I hope to stay in touch with.

Ben Faulden

Musician of the Month: Ben Paulden

This month we feature another violinist from the London Firebird Orchestra in a conversation with Ben Paulden who has been playing with the Orchestra for three years…

Tell us something about your musical training to date…

I started playing the violin when I was 5, in the Junior Strings Programme, which is based at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Following that I went on to study at Chethams before moving to London where I am starting my final year of MMus at Trinity Laban. Here I have been studying violin with Rivka Golani.

How long have you been involved with Firebird and what other musical groups are you involved with?

I’ve been involved with the London Firebird Orchestra for three years now. During that time I’ve had the pleasure of sitting as co-principal on the front desk of both first and second violins.

I play with several other gigging orchestras and foremost with my conservatoire orchestra. I am also a member of Duo Karma, with whom we give recitals around various London venues.

Tell us some of the highlights of your career to date…

Since arriving in the capital, I’ve been fortunate enough to perform chamber concerts in lots of fantastic venues including Kings Place, Wigmore Hall and most recently St Martins-in-the-Fields. A particular highlight for me, was giving the world premier of David Jaeger’s quintet, Sun Moon and Snake at a concert dedicated to the First Nation people of Canada, some of whom attended the event, where they also gave a very special performance of their own.

And what about your future ambitions in music?

My ambitions for the future is a big question for me – as with most musicians! At this point, I really want to continue making music, learning and improving. From everything I’ve experienced so far, music has such an all encompassing way of involving itself in every aspect of your life that it really feels like anything is possible.

What do you see as the value of Firebird to musicians like yourself?

Firebird offers young professional musicians a great opportunity to learn new repertoire and to work with fantastic conductors and soloists. It’s also a great place to meet new people and grow your network of musicians. Most of all, I really appreciate these opportunities to continue to throw myself into the process and continue to stretch and grow.

Stella Di Virgilio

Musician of the Month: Stella Di Virgilio

Italian violinist Stella Di Virgilio is our musician for the month of May. This is her second year of playing with the London Firebird Orchestra. This is her story…

Can you tell us something about your musical training and professional development?

I grew up in Italy where I started playing piano from the age of 5. I still remember how much I loved playing duets with my sister and best friend. When I was 8 I realised I wanted to play violin. After studying violin for 9 years at the Conservatoire in Milan I moved to London and graduated with a Masters from Trinity Laban Conservatoire, after studying with John Crawford.

Since then I have been teaching for Lambeth Music Service, freelancing with orchestras and ensembles around London and abroad, and performing in music festivals in Cornwall, Estonia, Sweden and Turkey.

Stella Di Virgilio

How long have you been involved with Firebird and what other musical groups are you involved with?

I have been involved with the London Firebird Orchestra since 2016. Over the past couple of years I have also:

performed in Ivan Putrov’s ‘Men in Motion’ ballet gala at the London Coliseum
played with the BBC Concert Orchestra in a conducting masterclass with Marin Alsop
Lead the second violin section with the London Mahler Orchestra conducted by Daniel Capps
Participated in the St Endellion Festival working with artists including Martyn Brabbins, Mark Padmore and Susan Bullock.

I also regularly perform with the Little Orchestra, Orchestra Vitae, Amadeus Orchestra, Women of the World Orchestra and the London Musical Theatre Orchestra.

Tell us some of the highlights of your career to date…

On Remembrance Friday 2016 I performed Mahler’s Symphony No.2 with the London Mahler Orchestra to a sold-out Southwark Cathedral (in candlelight!). With over 100 musicians and 150 singers on stage, this was the biggest musical project I have been involved with, and it was a very emotional and  hugely inspirational experience for me.

In the last couple of years, I have also been performing with the Street Orchestra of London conducted by Gijs Kramers.
Our tours are always unique experiences performing around 5 concerts a day, with repertoire ranging from Haydn and Mozart to Bernstein, Sidney Bechet and Snoop Dogg. Our aim is to bring music to everyone, completely free of charge in parks, squares, schools, libraries, refugee and detention centres, nursing homes etc.

Playing with this orchestra is definitely one of the most eye-opening and exciting musical experiences I have ever taken part in bringing music to those who are least likely to be exposed to it as part of their daily lives. It’s so easy to lose touch with how instinctive and joyful connecting with other people can be, and it’s a wonderful privilege to be able to do this through music.

And what about your future ambitions in music?

I have a real passion for opera and I would like that to be a big focus of my future orchestral career. There are very few things which move me as much as a performance of Verdi or Puccini!

I also have a very strong belief in the educational and connective powers of music and I want to continue working with organisations which bring music to disadvantaged communities and people surviving war and other psychological traumas.

Stella Di Virgilio

What do you see as the value of Firebird to musicians like yourself?

I enjoy playing with the Firebird Orchestra because the level of musicianship is always very high, and there is a very friendly atmosphere in the orchestra. All the musicians I have met there are roughly in the same place in their careers. This means that there is little competition and that everyone always contributes positively towards each performance.

I believe the orchestra is a great opportunity for recent graduates to bridge the transition into professional playing, and working with them has been a great source of inspiration for me and other musicians alike.

Chris Quaid

Musician of the Month: Chris Quaid

Irish violinist Chris Quaid has recently brought his experience as an orchestral musician to the London Firebird Orchestra. Today we hear his story…

Can you tell us something about your musical training and professional development.

I’m currently studying at the Royal College of Music with Jan Repko for a Masters in Performance. I previously studied at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin. Before pursuing a career in music, I was determined to be a criminal lawyer and studied Law at University College Dublin. I loved the violin too much though and jumped ship!

How long have you been involved with Firebird and what other musical groups are you involved with?

My first concert with London Firebird Orchestra was back in June where I renewed acquaintance with Beethoven Symphony No. 5. Since moving to London, I’ve done quite a few projects with the RCM Symphony and Philharmonic Orchestras, covering a huge amount of repertoire with a number of international conductors and soloists.

Recently, I’ve become involved with a number contemporary music string orchestra- Tiresisas Ensemble. In July, I played in Royal Festival Hall for the first time as part of the New Music Biennial 2017. I’m lucky enough also to play regularly with the RTE National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland and the RTE Concert Orchestra.

Chris Quaid

Tell us some of the highlights of your career to date…

Several things stand out to me for various reasons. My very first performance of Mahler Symphony No.1 with the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland will always stick in my mind as I was absolutely blown away by the sound! Performing and meeting Ray Chen was incredibly exciting as he is a world star who isn’t much older than me. Performing at the Irish Embassy in London was probably the scariest and the nervous moment of all while getting the chance to sit beside members of the LSO and RPO at Chipping Campden Music Festival was very special.

And what about your future ambitions in music?

I’ve always wanted to become a professional orchestral violinist so that of course is my main goal. In my mind, I always saw myself as a potential principal player, but I know I have to work incredibly on everything to even think about that. I love to play chamber music also so developing a concert series with a chamber group is on my ‘to do’ list. Outside music, I love long distance running so I want to cover a few more marathons. I missed out on the London Marathon Ballot but there are plenty of city marathons around.

What do you see as the value of Firebird to musicians like yourself?

For someone like me who is aiming to become a professional orchestral musician, any organisation that facilitates the learning and experience of orchestral repertoire is incredibly important. The repertoire is so vast that it’s virtually impossible to cover everything at college. London Firebird means I can learn new repertoire very quickly and to a very high level.

The next concert in the 2018 Firebird Season is on Tuesday 12 June at St Paul’s Covent Garden with Firebird Flies to the States. Join us for our all-American-themed annual Summer Concert…

Firebird Composer of the Year Competition 2018

The next concert ‘Firebird Flies to the States’ on 12 June will include the World Premiére of a new work by the winner of the Firebird Composer of the Year Competition 2018.

The Winner’s Prize will consist of £500 plus a live début public performance of the composition by London Firebird Orchestra conducted by Michael Thrift.

An AV recording of the work will be produced, uploaded to YouTube and made available to the composer who will also be invited to the concert, share the applause, feature in the programme and publicity and receive 4 complimentary tickets.

But be quick – the deadline for applications is Monday 30 April 2018.

Click here to download the application form and for further details:

Ariane Alexander

Musician of the Month: Ariane Alexander

Canadian viola player Ariane Alexander has been playing with London Firebird Orchestra for over three years now and is involved in a range of orchestral and chamber music activities internationally. Today we hear her story…

Let’s start by hearing about your music training…

I began studying violin at age 8 in a school program in Canada with Robert McCausland. Performing Vivaldi in the school orchestra made me fall in love with playing, so I decided to pursue music seriously. I completed my undergraduate studies in violin with Nancy Dahn of Duo Concertante, (Memorial University of Newfoundland) and I completed my post-graduate studies in viola with Stephanie Griffin of the Momenta Quartet (City University of New York). Since moving to London, I have continued taking lessons, most recently with violist Roger Chase.

Ariane Alexander

And what other musical groups are you involved with?

I have been fortunate to be involved with a diverse group of ensembles since moving to London including St Paul’s Sinfonia, the Hastings Philharmonic, Opera de Bauge (France) Quartet Pro Musica, Kammerphilharmonie Europa (Germany), and more recently with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

Tell us some of the highlights of your career to date…

It’s difficult to name only a couple of career highlights because I’ve been involved in so many wonderful projects, both as a soloist and as an ensemble member. Last May I returned to Canada to perform Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante with the Timmins Symphony Orchestra, which was very special. I also performed a viola concerto, to be played with a laptop orchestra, from composers Margaret Schedel and Sarah O’Halloran, which I had the opportunity to perform with the Princeton Laptop Orchestra and again at Stony Brook University.

Eris String Quartet

Eris String Quartet

And what about your future ambitions in music?

My future ambitions are fairly modest. I simply want to keep doing a diverse range of projects, both with large orchestras and smaller ensembles. There was much to learn when I moved from New York, and the wonderful musicians of London have provided an incredible example of how to pursue a sophisticated artistry in music. When I am a bit more settled in London, I would very much like to do a solo recital, and perhaps re-visit the Shostakovich Viola Sonata and some other works, so I have a chance to apply some depth to the music, now that my musical voice is starting to mature and come into its own.

Ariane Alexander

What do you see as the value of Firebird to musicians like yourself?

Firebird has been an important part of my life since moving to London – working with some really inspirational conductors, meeting keen players and really delving beneath the surface of some of classical master works. I love the energy level. There’s always a feeling of spontaneity when we play. Everyone is in their prime, trying to make their mark on the musical world and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible – a little softer, a little faster – it really brings the music to life and makes the performances memorable.

The next concert in the 2018 Firebird Season is on Sunday 25 March at Kings Place with Firebird’s Little Surprise. Join us for a fabulous evening of Haydn, Strauss, Mozart and Schubert.