Young conductor Michael Thrift made his spectacular debut London Firebird Orchestra performance with Fantasia, a concert of orchestral music in the glorious setting of St James, Sussex Gardens on 24 February.
Fantasia concert underway
Audiences were thrilled by the richness of the strings in classics by Elgar and Vaughan Williams in the first half, and by the passion and power of the full orchestra in Beethoven’s 7th symphony after the interval.
Marc Corbett-Weaver introduces the concert
The Orchestra’s Chief Executive & Artistic Director, Marc Corbett-Weaver was delighted with the success of the concert and said: “This was a great leap forward for Firebird and places us firmly on the London stage.”
As a platform for emerging instrumentalists the London Firebird Orchestra is the perfect opportunity for newly trained instrumentalists to carve out a role as orchestral players as they launch their careers as performers.
Violinist and orchestral leader Jacqueline Martens said: “I had a wonderful time leading firebird last night and am always so grateful for the opportunity to lead this orchestra.”
https://www.londonfirebird.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/The-concert-underway.jpg12001600London Firebird Orchestrahttps://www.londonfirebird.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/firebird11.pngLondon Firebird Orchestra2016-02-25 20:15:192016-02-25 20:28:02Firebird firmly on London stage after thrilling Fantasia concert
24th February sees the Firebird debut of conductor Michael Thrift. We asked him a few questions about his career to date and the role of the conductor.
1. You are originally from Sydney, Australia which has quite a reputation of having a lively musical and cultural scene. Why the relocation to Europe?
In a word – opportunity. The Sydney scene is indeed vibrant and of high quality but for a conductor building a career it has some limitations. There isn’t much between music school and the upper echelons of the industry. I was conducting 5-6 days a week with youth orchestras and university ensembles but I quickly found that this was where the ladder ended in Australia. London has an abundance of orchestras and opera companies giving many exciting experiences to the younger professional. Furthermore, London is a city rich with high-quality companies that see training as central to their values and providing crucial stepping stones for people breaking into the top level of their field.
2. Since you’ve been in Europe you have conducted opera performances in Graz and Vienna, the Cheltenham Festival, The Queen’s Opera and Fulham Opera. Which was your most memorable experience and why?
A year after arriving in London, a strange convolution of circumstances led me into some work in opera. It went well and led to more and more work in this genre. Now I think of it as central to who I am as a musician, and equal to my work with orchestras. ‘Opera’ and ‘orchestra’ aren’t adversarial but complimentary. The skills you need for one inform the skill set of the other, especially when it comes to active listening, blending of sounds and finding balance between lines. This year I am already scheduled to conduct four operas – I can’t wait!
3. This next concert will be your debut performance with the London Firebird Orchestra. What sort of preparation do you need to do before you and the orchestra start rehearsing?
Like an iceberg, most of the hard work is ‘under the surface’ and never seen by the audience. Preparation is the key and knowing what you want to achieve musically and working out the best way to achieve it within the rehearsal time is crucial. I’m really looking forward to conducting the Beethoven, but as he had one foot in the classical period and one in the romantic there is even more to think about. For me, much of the preparation is determining a set of guidelines as to how I – and the orchestra – will respond to Beethoven’s instructions, so that we can develop an orchestral sound that is consistent and homogeneous. Otherwise, with so many players on-stage, we would run the risk of all playing Beethoven differently and the performance would lack cohesion.
4. What are the key things you need to focus on during the actual rehearsal?
Listening. All music is listening – it informs everything. Insisting upon active listening from all involved always leads to good music-making. When the players of an orchestra are switched on to each other they balance better, they play in time easier, they are more sensitive to dynamic needs and they play more musically. When you encourage players to listen you can empower them to rely on their own musicianship to help them make decisions in the moment. This actually frees me up as a conductor – I don’t have to spend as much time fixing tuning errors or timing issues but can focus on bringing out the best musical qualities of the piece.
5. And when it comes to the concert itself, what would you say is your key function then?
To be a navigator through the music. If the players have been rehearsed well, they know all that they require, they just need to be reminded of what is happening and what is coming up, who they should be listening to now, and what they should next be getting ready to engage with. It’s actually one of the hardest lessons to learn as a conductor – to remember that the players are highly skilled and don’t need constant micromanaging. ‘Over-conducting’ creates tension and removes a player’s impetus to take charge of their own performance. If I do my job well, the performance will feel like an organic collaboration between myself and the players.
6. Any other exciting projects in the pipeline you can share with us?
The aforementioned operas for starters. I’m rehearsing Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra at the moment for a show in March. Sticking with Verdi, I’m part of a revival of Falstaff in a couple of months. In the second half of the year I’m leading a run of Strauss’s Die Fledermaus and I’m hugely excited to be conducting Wagner’s epic Parsifal too. There are several symphony concerts in the diary not least of which is the Firebird Orchestra’s June concert with Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky on the ticket. This will be an awesome night.
A cookie is a small file of letters and numbers which we save on your browser or on the device you access this site from. Some of these are vital to make the site work (particularly to ensure safe access to any secure areas of the site). Others enable us to analyse usage of our sites so that we can make improvements and ensure they are relevant and user-friendly.
We also save cookies which identify you so that we can tell you apart from other users and tailor the site to you when you return to it: for example, by greeting you by name and remembering your preferences.
Click on the different category headings to find out more about the cookies we use. You can also change some of your preferences. Note that blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience on our websites and the services we are able to offer.
You have consented to our using those identifying cookies, by clicking "OK" on the banner that appeared when you first visited the site, or by navigating to another part of the site from that banner.
You can withdraw your consent to our saving cookies which identify you at any time by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also block cookies by activating the setting on your browser that allows you to refuse the setting of all or some cookies.
However, if you use your browser settings to block all cookies you may not be able to access all or parts of our site. It may be that your concerns regarding cookies relate to so-called ‘spyware’. Rather than switching off cookies in your browser you may find that anti-spyware software achieves the same objective by automatically deleting cookies considered to be invasive.
Essential Website Cookies
These cookies are strictly necessary to provide you with services available through our website and to use some of its features.
Because these cookies are strictly necessary to deliver the website, you cannot refuse them without impacting how our site functions. You can block or delete them by changing your browser settings and force blocking all cookies on this website.
Google Analytics Cookies
These cookies collect information that is used either in aggregate form to help us understand how our website is being used or how effective our marketing campaigns are, or to help us customize our website and application for you in order to enhance your experience.
If you do not want that we track your visist to our site you can disable tracking in your browser here:
Other external services
We also use different external services like Google Webfonts, Google Maps and external Video providers. Since these providers may collect personal data like your IP address we allow you to block them here. Please be aware that this might heavily reduce the functionality and appearance of our site. Changes will take effect once you reload the page.
Google Webfont Settings:
Google Map Settings:
Vimeo and Youtube video embeds: