A performance for school children with award-winning composer and musical educationist Paul Rissmann, and a concert this weekend…BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra has its itinerary full

The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra’s (BBC SSO) much-awaited visit to the city this week has been five years in the making. The concert, to be held at the Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall on March 29, was something of a dream project for its organisers.

“Six years ago we wanted to focus on the presentation of world-class performances at our hall, and it doesn’t get better than the BBC SSO,” says Krish Kumar, head of operations at the Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall. “With that in mind we got in touch with Intermusica (a leading artist management agency) in 2008. This concert is the culmination of about five years of correspondence and numerous recce trips.”

The visit is particularly special because it is being presented by the Madras Seva Sadan, the 87-year-old charitable organisation which works for the upliftment of women and children through education, and of which the concert hall is a subsidiary. “It is an honour for the Madras Seva Sadan to be presenting the BBC SSO,” he says. Not only do all the proceeds of the concert go towards the charitable organisation, but the show also “serves to carry the name of the Madras Seva Sadan overseas.”

It’s not just the main concert that’s been painstakingly planned for years. The workshops and performances which are being held specially for children on March 27 and March 28 in association with the Rhapsody Music Foundation (started by noted pianist Anil Srinivasan and reaching 95,000 children across the State) have also been in the works, in a sense, since 2011.

“I met with Gavin Reid (conductor of the BBC SSO) in 2011, when I was a delegate at the conference of the Association of British Orchestras (ABO) in Liverpool,” says Anil. “The idea of doing children-focused events took shape then, and through the intervening period, we have all been in touch. Since I work closely with the Madras Seva Sadan on music education, it just became a happy collaboration of like-minded professionals.”

On March 27, the BBC SSO will conduct workshops focussing on orchestral performance and ensemble playing for about 450 children from over 10 city schools, and on March 28, there will be two exclusive concerts for over 2,200 children from 20 city schools that work closely with Rhapsody, all at the concert hall.

“This is the first time such a programme is being executed in India exclusive to children,” he says. “It’s especially important as children get to experience ideas of professional artistry, working in ensemble, and of course, the wonderful music that an orchestra of this stature creates. It is a whiff of a different world, and I am sure it will be an inspiring and meaningful experience.” 

A special visitor will be joining the members of the Orchestra, conductor James MacMilan, and violinist Nicola Benedetti in these workshops and performances for children — Paul Rissmann, award-winning composer, musical educationist and animateur who has given performances and worked with children the world over.

“I think young children are undoubtedly the most musical members of society. When they hear music — any kind of music — their bodies immediately respond,” he says. “For me, the symphony orchestra is the ultimate band. I adore its sound, flexibility and range of repertoire. So what an honour it is to be responsible for a child’s first introduction to this incredible world.”

 “This will be the first time I’ve performed in India, so I am looking forward to absolutely everything,” he adds. “We’ve worked really hard to create concerts that are fun and interactive for the children, but never shy away from playing real orchestral music or challenging the audience.” 

Clearly, for music lovers in the city, both young and old, this visit has been more than worth the wait.

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