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Battle of the Bands at Blackheath Halls

Trinity Laban’s inaugural Battle of the Bands for young musicians took place on 9 July with a huge diversity of talent on show, spanning genres from R&B to metal. Each band presented one cover song and one original composition on the main stage at Blackheath Halls, compered expertly by recent BA Music Performance and Industry graduate Leon Tilbrook, who also performed.

First on, and highly commended by the panel, were the aptly named Rock Band One from Lewisham Music. They opened the night with a confident performance of ‘The Ballad of Mona Lisa’ by Panic! At The Disco and impressed the judges with tight vocal harmonies and onstage rapport. The first half continued with a beautifully sung R&B duet from Platanos College, fantastic stage presence and songwriting from Leigh Academy Blackheath, and well-arranged call and response vocals from Deptford Green School.

The second half was kicked off in epic style by bands from Sedgehill Academy: rock trio Spitflame in Year 10, and the appropriately named Mellow in Year 9. The cover version choices were particular crowd favourites here, with a surprise choice of ‘Careless Whisper’ followed by TLC’s ‘No Scrubs’. Lewisham Music band Red Box followed up with a classic indie guitar set.

After seven fantastic performances, the panel – chaired by Joe Townsend, Head of BA Music Performance & Industry, along with legendary bassist Yolanda Charles and Rudimental member Mark Crown – selected Spitflame as the winner. The band will visit Trinity Laban in the Autumn for a day of expert coaching and studio recording.

This event was part of Trinity Laban’s extensive programme for children and young people, in partnership with the BA Music Performance and Industry programme.

Image Credit: John Williams
The six Innovation Award winners sit on the floor in a row.

Announcing our 2024 Innovation Award winners

A huge congratulations to the winners of our 2024 Innovation Award: Hope O’Brien, Caitlin Howe, Harshita Parekh, Alessandra Felci, Kornélia Nemcová, and Shannon Hill.

The Innovation Award is an exciting opportunity for final-year undergraduates to pitch an idea for an original project. We support successful candidates to turn their idea into a reality by providing funding, mentoring from Trinity Laban alumni, and expert guidance from industry professionals.

Launched in 2019 and open to all final-year undergraduate students at Trinity Laban, the competition provides a unique opportunity for emerging artists to access professional development support as they establish themselves within one of the fastest growing sectors of the UK economy. Made possible by The Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF), each winning project receives an award of up to £4,000 to use on development, and will benefit from a specially tailored mentorship programme.

Find out more about the winners, their projects, and their mentors below.

Winners:

Hope O’Brien and Caitlin Howe (Eye to Eye)

Hope O’Brien and Caitlin Howe are in their final year of the BA in Contemporary Dance and have formed the collective Eye to Eye. It aims to create interdisciplinary art, derived from research around social issues, particularly through a queer feminist lens. Working across dance, textiles, fine art and poetry, the collective believes a multimedia approach can build informative projects that speak to the complexity of human experiences. They want to utilise this range of skills to create safe spaces and open up conversations about challenging topics. Eye to Eye will be utilising the Trinity Laban Innovation Award to build a multimedia collection of research about consent.

Hope and Caitlin say: “We are excited to begin creating our Consent Event, this work is very necessary, and we are incredibly proud to have the support of Trinity Laban to make it happen.”

Harshita Parekh

Harshita Parekh, a British- Indian classical pianist, started her musical journey at the age of 8, under the guidance of Yuriy Chubarenko and is currently under the tutelage of Alexander Ardakov. Harshita is the founder of BM Piano & Music Theory Lessons, a practice which has been running for almost five years. Coming from a background where studying music is not common practice, she continues to introduce students to the journey of piano playing.

Alongside her studies, Harshita’s work focuses on exploring connections between classical piano and Bollywood music. Her project, ‘Bollywood at the Piano’ – Bach, Beethoven and Bollywood!, aims to explore how Bollywood music can be performed in classical settings and provide a new perspective on the piano.

Harshita says: “I feel very honoured and privileged to receive this year’s Innovation Award in a project which has been a vision for many years. I am grateful and excited to receive mentorship and recognition to start this new journey.”

Alessandra Felci

Alessandra Felci is an Italian-Swiss dancer and artist who discovered her passion for dance at the age of 7. She had the opportunity to train at the Accademia Ucraina di Balletto in Milan and later at the Ashkenazy Ballet Centre in Switzerland, where she passionately performed in ballet performances and international competitions. In addition to her dance journey, she also attended the linguistic high school and graduated with top marks. She continued her dance studies at Trinity Laban, where she received a scholarship for admission. Here, she developed and is still developing my technical ability, performance skills, and choreography, and she has begun to grow her artistic voice. In the last three years, she has had the opportunity to share her own creative work and perform on a variety of occasions. Finally, starting in September 2024, she is very enthusiastic about joining the company MA Emergence for which she has been selected. Her project is called Dance Has No Age.

Alessandra says: “Winning the Innovation Award fills me with immense pride and excitement. As a creative, I feel grateful for this opportunity and for the people who believe in me and will help me bring my project to life. This recognition energizes me to continue striving for excellence and pushing for more creativity.”

Kornélia Nemcová

Kornélia Nemcová is a London-based composer and musician from Slovakia. Her work often involves multidisciplinary collaborations, while aiming to bring about awareness of social issues and groups who are otherwise overlooked. The Stories of the Silent Voices project series will highlight music and art for social change, incorporating direct journalism and research from subject matter experts. The first one is premiering soon: A Woman’s War is a performance about the untold stories of Ukrainian women who had to flee Ukraine after the full-scale invasion of 2022, that directly incorporates spoken accounts acquired from interviews.

Kornélia says: “The transition into industry after university is tough for any artist. The Innovation Award smoothens that transition, while allowing me to tackle more ambitious, professional and impactful projects.”

Shannon Hill

Shannon Mairead Hill is a multidisciplinary artist. She has a strong passion for dance, circus, and bringing about constructive change in the larger creative industry. The project Atypical Creative has a specific interest in bridging the gap in the transition, from student to professional life. The main objective will be to help students become more confident, experienced, and educated about the evolving creative industries. While also providing them with the chance to interact in person, exchange knowledge and first-hand experience with one another. She plans to use the innovation award to host multiple events aimed at encouraging students in building their careers whilst still in education.

Shannon says: “I consider myself incredibly blessed to have this opportunity and to provide something that I think will help future generations of creatives. I am very excited, huge thanks to Trinity Laban for your support!”

Mentors

Becky Dell 

Becky Dell is the Conductor and Co-Founder of the Citizens of the World Choir, the UK’s leading refugees and allies choir. The choir has performed at Glastonbury Festival, regularly on the BBC, at Buckingham Palace for the Platinum Party at the Palace (winning a BAFTA for Best Live Event), The Royal Opera House and on the Great British Bake Off. She also runs a Music Academy in Blackheath and Greenwich and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Kate Scanlan

Kate is a Creative Producer working in the cultural sector since 1998. She has a track record of producing pioneering projects and curating transformative events with artists, young people and communities.

She is the Founder of Scanners’ Inc, a creative non-profit that creates connection in public spaces through culture, retail partnerships and the arts. Events like The Bridge, Popin’ Pete’s Pop Shop, Sofa Sessions and Fit Street bring people together and create joy. In a time when we’re lonelier than ever, this work boost mental health, provides positive intergenerational activity and makes a positive economic impact.

Kate is joint Creative Director/CEO of East London Dance with Tia Hassan, and together they have been Creative Directors for MOVE IT for nine years. She has also producer for Breakin’ Convention, Fuel, Sadler’s Wells, Battersea Power Station, Studio Wayne McGregor: Random Dance, EcoWorld London, Rambert, Lendlease Elephant Park, Croydon Council, English National Opera and others. Kate is a Clore Fellow and gives guest lectures at a range of organisations including Goldsmiths, Ravensbourne, UEL, Swindon Dance, Matthew Bournes’ Re:Bourne and for Shechter II.

Roswitha Chesher

Roswitha is an award winning director and film maker and has had many films and installations screened extensively both nationally and internationally, at various venues and film festivals. Her most recent collaboration with choreographer Rosemary Lee, a seven screen installation ‘Orchard Portraits’, was recently on show at Limerick City Art Gallery.

Originally trained as a dancer and choreographer, she enjoys bringing that knowledge to her work in all aspects of film making. Looking, watching and giving contributors time and space, capturing, editing and framing their presence. Roswitha has had the wonderful opportunity of collaborating with a really diverse mix of contributors and artists and enjoys the richness that this brings to her work.

Luke Birch

Luke began training at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance and completed his BA Hons degree at Trinity Laban. In 2009, he joined post graduate dance company Edge at London Contemporary Dance School. Professionally, he has performed for a variety of companies (Punchdrunk, Flexer and Sandiland, Janine Harrington) internationally alongside working with visual artists performing in galleries (Tate, Hayward Gallery). His choreographic work has been shown at Canterbury Festival, Saddlers Wells (Damn Fine Dance at Elixir Festival), The Place, Siobhan Davies Studios, Move it 2016 and Arts Depot. His most recent work commissioned by Loop Dance Company is currently touring the UK. Luke also has a passion for teaching and has delivered classes and workshops with Greenwich Dance, The Place, Independent Dance, Laban, London Studio Centre, Salzburg Academy of Experimental Dance, Shobana Jeyasingh and Candoco.

Celebrating the successes of our inspiring harp alumni

Congratulations to Trinity Laban alumni harpists Juan Antonio García Díaz and Noelia Cotuna on their recent orchestral successes.

Juan Antonio García Díaz, who graduated from Trinity Laban with a MMus and Artist Diploma, has recently been appointed as Principal Harpist of the celebrated Essener Philharmoniker, the main symphony and opera orchestra of the city of Essen. Founded in 1899, the orchestra enjoys an excellent international reputation with regular guest appearances at the Concertgebouw Amsterdam and the International Dvořák Festival under the baton of Principal Conductor Andrea Sanguineti. In addition to regular opera services at the Aalto Theater, the Essener Philharmoniker performs in more than 30 concerts per season: symphony concerts at the Philharmonie Essen as well as children’s and youth concerts and their own chamber concert series. The orchestra can also be seen and heard on tour: in the Semper Opera House at the Dresden Music Festival, at the Penderecki Festival in Zabrze and Krakow, at the Richard Strauss Festival in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and in the Frauenkirche in Dresden.

Reflecting on the appointment, Juan said: “The day I received the news of successfully passing my trial in the orchestra, I felt a very surreal feeling of relief and joy. I have dreamt of becoming a member of a professional orchestra since as long as I can remember. Now that I have accomplished it, I can only say thank you to all the people who helped me get to where I have arrived, especially to dearest Gabriella Dall’Olio and Frances Kelly, who helped me become the musician and harpist that I am today during my three years at Trinity Laban.”

Noelia Cotuna, who graduated from Trinity Laban with a first class BMus (Hons), has won the audition for post of Principal Harp at the Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana – Palau de les Arts Valencia. While studying at Trinity Laban, Noelia won several solo competitions and the prestigious soloist Competition with Renié Concerto, and immediately after became a member of the Karajan Academy of the Berliner Philharmoniker (2019-2022). Noelia finished an MMus in Solo Performance at the Universität der Künste in Berlin in 2023 and she is currently at the Academy of the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

Noelia stated: “I am still in disbelief at the news, but I am so excited to join the Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana and to start my trial period in the coming months! I really look forward to playing alongside their many fantastic musicians and working with such a versatile ensemble that performs a wide range of opera, symphonic, zarzuela and ballet repertoire each season in the beautiful house of Palau de les Arts in Valencia. I am incredibly grateful to all my family, friends and teachers for their unwavering support, and in a special way to my wonderful Professor Gabriella Dall’Olio, Frances Kelly, Head of Strings Nic Pendlebury for all their help and guidance, and to all the generous donors that made my studies at Trinity Laban possible.”

Image credit: Daniel Delang (for Noelia’s photo), Björn Hickmann (for Juan’s photo)

BBC Symphony Orchestra at Trinity Laban

Last week, our brass students participated in a fantastic masterclass with principals from the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Our trumpet and trombone students took part in two exceptional masterclasses with Helen Vollam, Philp Cobb, and Liz Burley (Principal Trombone, Principal Trumpet, and Principal Piano of the BBC Symphony Orchestra respectively). The students were also treated to a wonderful recital by the professional trio.

Helen Vollam, Principal Trombone of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, comments on the event: “It was great to work on some key aspects of brass playing with the enthusiastic Trinity Laban brass students in our trumpet and trombone masterclasses. Also, it was exciting to perform to them some of our brand new trio repertoire for trumpet, trombone and piano.”.

Kevin Ashman, Woodwind, Brass, and Percussion Department Coordinator said: “It’s always a pleasure to welcome guest masterclass leaders to Trinity Laban. The recent visit by BBC Symphony Orchestra principals Philip Cobb (Trumpet), Helen Vollam (Trombone) and Liz Burley (Piano) was a truly memorable event. Philip and Helen spent time with a number of our trumpet and trombone students, with Liz accompanying them. Their insights and observations were so helpful and constructive, giving the students plenty to think about in terms of technical and musical ideas. They also added some valuable comments about working with an accompanist! The two masterclasses were separated by a recital of music for trumpet, trombone and piano that included the UK premiere of a work by composer Julia Simpson (who was present for the recital) along with a wide and varied range of repertoire that showcased the versatility and instrumental mastery that our guests possess!”

Trinity Laban extends its thanks to the BBC Symphony Orchestra musicians for their wonderful help and guidance.

About the BBC Symphony Orchestra

The BBC Symphony Orchestra has been at the heart of British musical life since it was founded in 1930. It plays a central role in the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, performing at the First and Last Nights, as well as throughout each Proms season. The BBC SO performs an annual season of concerts at the Barbican in London, where it is Associate Orchestra. Its commitment to contemporary music is demonstrated by a range of premieres each season, as well as Total Immersion days devoted to specific composers or themes.

Highlights of the 2022–23 season at the Barbican included Total Immersion days exploring the music of George Walker, Kaija Saariaho and Jean Sibelius, the last two led by Chief Conductor Sakari Oramo, who also conducted concerts showcasing the music of Grażyna Bacewicz. Principal Guest Conductor Dalia Stasevska conducted two concerts, one featuring Elgar’s Cello Concerto with cellist Sol Gabetta and a family concert celebrating the work of French animator Grégoire Pont.

A literary theme ran through the season, which included Neil Brand’s new version of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles and the world premiere of Iain Bell’s Beowulf, with the BBC Symphony Chorus and with soloist Stuart Skelton. Ian McEwan, one of the most admired storytellers of our time, joined the orchestra to read from his own works, with music curated around his readings. The BBC Symphony Chorus also joined the BBC SO for Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time, under Conductor Laureate Sir Andrew Davis, with soloists including Pumeza Matshikiza and Dame Sarah Connolly. Among this season’s world and UK premieres were Victoria Borisova-Ollas’s Portrait of a Lady by Swan Lake, Kaija Saariaho’s Saarikoski Songs and Valerie Coleman’s Umoja (Anthem of Unity) conducted by Gemma New, and the season came to a close with the UK premiere of Joby Talbot’s opera Everest.

Blackheath Halls celebrates remarkable venue transformation

Sir Bryn Terfel, the Blackheath Halls Youth Choir and TL Jazz students performed for HRH The Duke of Kent to celebrate the completion of Blackheath Halls’s remarkable renovation.

The enthusiasm and dedication to the arts in the community of Blackheath has meant that this year, Blackheath Halls has completed a project to redevelop and modernise the interior and exterior spaces of its beautiful Grade II listed building.

This work has transformed the venue into a more versatile, accessible and welcoming performance space to serve and inspire the local community who have helped fund the project. In 2018, it had the stage levelled, retractable raked seating bank installed, acoustics improved, and overall décor modernised whilst retaining the original barrel- vaulted ceiling. The Bar, Box Office and communal areas were also modernised, creating light and airy spaces.

During summer 2023, the exterior was transformed with new paving, stone benches and planting, providing an inviting spacious and open area for the local community as well as audiences visiting the venue. The outdated signage was replaced with a backlit pillar and digital totem display.

To improve accessibility, a lift to the more intimate The Hearn Recital Room was fitted, the entry ramp to the building resurfaced, and a bespoke stage lift installed for performers, community participants and students with access requirements. With the arts being one of the hardest hit industries during the pandemic and one still struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, this project is a real triumph of community commitment and passion.

As part of the oldest surviving purpose-built cultural complex in London, Blackheath Halls has a rich history dating back to its construction in 1895, funded by public subscription. Saved from demolition in the 1980s by the local community, this iconic venue has evolved into a vibrant hub for arts and culture. Since becoming part of Trinity College of Music’s estate in 2004, Blackheath Halls has flourished, hosting around a thousand events annually and attracting over 50,000 visitors. From classical music to folk, comedy, talks, literary events, and children’s theatre, the diverse program caters to all tastes. At the heart of their mission is community engagement, exemplified by initiatives like the annual Blackheath Halls Opera, Musical Theatre courses, choirs, and youth programs nurturing young talent from our local boroughs. Their esteemed reputation has also drawn renowned groups like the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and English National Opera, as well as the London International Festival of Early Music, all seeking the unparalleled acoustics of their spaces. Partnerships with parent company Trinity Laban and Greenwich and Lewisham Music Hubs further enrich their offerings, making Blackheath Halls a vital center for artistic collaboration and education.

The transformation has only been made possible by donations from the Friends and Patrons of the venue (the majority of whom are local residents) as well as a major donation from arts charity The Hearn Foundation, Arts Council England, Viridor Credits and others. To celebrate the completion of the project, HRH The Duke of Kent attended a special event on Wednesday 17 April attended by all those who donated to the project as well as local businesses, who enjoyed performances from Sir Bryn Terfel, the Blackheath Halls Youth Choir and jazz students from parent Trinity Laban.

Trinity Laban Symphony Orchestra celebrates the work of Black British composers

This spring, Trinity Laban Symphony Orchestra performed works by Eleanor Alberga and Daniel Kidane, alongside Britten’s orchestral interludes from his best-known opera and a new work by one of Trinity Laban’s talented composition students. The concert, led by emerging conductor Matthew Lynch, forms part of Trinity Laban’s Kaleidoscope initiative, which celebrates the work of Black British composers and musicians.

“Symphony is a loaded word with a long history. It can be programmatic or related to dance. I wrote this symphony because I thought it’s about time I did. It was the perfect opportunity. The title symphony is non-restrictive: it can be a freeing form if one wants it to be.” says composer Eleanor Alberga in the pre-concert talk at Blackheath Halls, in conversation with Dr Emilie Capulet and fellow composer Daniel Kidane. Ahead of the evening performance, the audience gained an exclusive insight into the behind-the-scenes of Eleanor’s Symphony No. 1 Strata and Daniel’s Sun Poem.

Symphony No. 1 Strata was commissioned by the Brandon Hill Chamber Orchestra in memory of David Nash, the orchestra’s principal viola and chairman who died in 2017. It premiered in spring 2022 in Bristol and the co-commissioners, the Meadows Chamber Orchestra, performed the work in Edinburgh a few months later. Named by the BBC as one of the best symphonies by female composers, Symphony No. 1 Strata comprises six movements and revolves around two of David Nash’s interests: geology and sailing. The first movement, ‘Firmament’, is based on the old Hebrew idea of a vast glass dome created by God that divides the ocean into upper and lower sections so that dry land can form. ‘Core’ is the “sonic centre” characterised by “constant vibrations” revolving around the notes F and E and creating a tense atmosphere. The heat and pressure rises to form ‘Mantle’, a movement containing a canon that represents the Earth sending signals in Morse code to the sun to not destroy it. ‘Crust’, ‘Sailing on Tethys’, and ‘Plumes’ complete the second half of the composition: an exploration of the Earth’s surface, a voyage along a pre-historic ocean, and the process of subduction where the ocean’s water bursts through the crust with great energy. “Geology told me where to stop”, explains Eleanor.

When writing, Eleanor uses material that reflects her Jamaican musical heritage, but her Western classical training also plays an important role. Her artistic journey started in Jamaica, where she studied the piano from the age of five, progressing to study music at the Jamaica School of Music. She then attended the Royal Academy of Music, became the company pianist – as well as Music Director  – of the London Contemporary Dance Theatre, and launched a career as a world-renowned composer, with works commissioned for the BBC Proms and the Royal Opera. Her compositions consistently make use of the dichotomy between tonality and atonality, a prominent trait of twentieth-century music. “My world was tilted upon introduction to Béla Bartók’s music.” she states. Eleanor equally emphasises that she “draws on so many composers and different ideas” while putting a unique stamp on her music, meaning it never becomes a pastiche of pieces she has previously heard.

Daniel Kidane’s Sun Poem provides a beautiful contrast to Eleanor’s expansive symphony. A profoundly personal piece, it commemorates the journey of fatherhood and two emotional family milestones: the death of Daniel’s father and the arrival of his first child. Co-commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra and the San Francisco Symphony, Sun Poem premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival in August 2022, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle. The opening trepidation of the woodwind contrasts with reflective string passages, portraying the “nerves and excitement of being a father”. Daniel explains that he found it more difficult to write fast movements when he was younger. However, the challenge was something that enticed him: an energetic, pulsing rhythmical movement thus became his trademark. The inspiration for this piece came from a poem by Kamau Brathwaite, also called Sun Poem, exploring the idea of heritage and paternal lineage. The composition comes full circle, evoking the excitement and turbulence of the journey of fatherhood up until the point that the newborn comes into the world.

Daniel began his musical education at the age of eight when he started playing the violin. He studied composition at the Royal College of Music Junior Department, before studying in St. Petersburg with Sergey Slonimsky and graduating from the Royal Northern College of Music. In 2018, he was appointed Jerwood Composer+, giving him the opportunity to write for and curate a series of concerts with players from the London Symphony Orchestra. He has written music for the likes of the Chineke! Orchestra and the BBC Proms, and is currently a Visiting Tutor in Composition at both the Royal Northern College of Music and Cambridge University.

Trinity Laban student Sam Pugh’s composition À la Baie dé St. Ouën is a prelude for symphony orchestra, written about Jersey’s largest bay. The beach spans almost five miles along the entire west coast of the Island, and across three of Jersey’s twelve parishes; its soft flat sand stretches far into the sea during low tide, contrasted by the surrounding sheer cliffs and sand dunes. Inspired by many visits to St. Ouën’s Bay, and experiencing its vast and expansive landscape across all seasons, Sam kept returning to it as a place of creative inspiration. He therefore sought to create a descriptive piece that depicted the bay in its entirety. Sam’s compositions showcase a unique style, using intricate harmonies and rhythmic complexity, while drawing inspiration from a range of classical, experimental, and electronic music. He continues to push the boundaries of contemporary classical music through his performances and compositions.

À la Baie dé St. Ouën features a recurring motif representing the bay, used to create continuity throughout. The harmony focuses on consonance, gradually evolving in complexity as the piece develops, and the quality of the harmony continuously shifts, much like the slowly changing tides. To further simulate the ebb and flow of the sea, the woodwind swell in and out softly, with support from the brass who gently interject with bell-like tones. A rainstick and suspended cymbal also create a gentle backdrop to the piece, contrasting with the tempestuous timpani and bass drum, who imitate the sound of a far-away storm over the Atlantic Ocean. The strings play a crucial role, serving as the foundation that permeates the entire piece, creating an atmosphere of tranquillity that mirrors the overall calmness of the bay. This is enhanced by the harp, which punctuates changes in harmony and, at the end of the piece, gradually fades away like distant bells. The composition marks the perfect ending to a magical concert by Trinity Laban’s Symphony Orchestra.

Celebrated pianist Hiroaki Takenouchi visits Trinity Laban

We welcomed acclaimed pianist Hiroaki Takenouchi to Trinity Laban in March for a special event celebrating International Women’s Week.

Hiroaki Takenouchi presented a lecture-recital exploring the work of four female British composers: Doreen Carwithen, Dorothy Howell, Caroline Reinagle and Madeleine Dring. For the final performance piece of the session, Dring’s Sonata for Two Pianos, the celebrated pianist was joined by frequent collaborator Simon Callaghan; their CD Danza Gaya: Music for Two Pianos is now available on Lyrita. Hiroaki complimented the lecture-recital with a morning of 1-to-1 lessons with select piano students.

TL student Lucas Saraiva Cunha (BMus2 Piano) commented on the concert: “I really enjoyed Prof. Takenouchi’s lecture recital, which had a focus on Female British Composers. What made it especially captivating for me was how strongly he felt about shining a light on these underrepresented composers, and how that resonated with his personal experience as a musician. It was a thought-provoking session that brought me to consider my own connections to the music I play, as well as inspiring me to keep bringing rarely played works into the concert space. The performance had a captivating emotional intensity that I think can only come from a strong sense of identification and understanding of both the composer and the music they wrote.”

About Hiroaki Takenouchi

Hiroaki Takenouchi’s curiosity and a natural penchant for integrity makes his playing and vast repertoire unique amongst his generation of pianists. His love for the music of classical masters – particularly Haydn, Beethoven and Chopin – sits side by side with his passion for the music of Medtner, lesser-known British composers such as Sterndale Bennett and Parry, and the contemporary repertoire.

As a soloist, Takenouchi has appeared on many concert platforms including Wigmore Hall, Tokyo Opera City and the South Bank Centre, and has given recitals across Europe and North America. 2022 saw the release of his latest solo disc on French specialist piano label Artalinna, featuring works by Grieg, Medtner and Dupré. Hiroaki is also editor of the published scores of Sherwood’s two-piano works (as recorded for Lyrita), now available from Nimbus Music Publishing. He is frequently invited to make recordings for BBC Radio 3’s Composer of the Week.

Hiroaki Takenouchi is a Blüthner Artist and owns a beautiful 1922 Blüthner piano. He gave a concert in Leipzig’s Weißes Haus as part of the Blüthner Master Series in September 2020. Hiroaki teaches piano at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (Glasgow). He also returns every summer to give masterclasses at the ingenium International Music Academy (UK).

Beijing Dance Academy at Trinity Laban

In late March, Principal Anthony Bowne welcomed the Beijing Dance Academy to Trinity Laban to meet with senior colleagues, view work from our current dance and musical theatre students, and sign a memorandum of understanding between the two institutions.

The Beijing Dance Academy attended our Master’s Dance Performance, featuring a piece by Wayne McGregor which included music from Head of Strings Nic Pendlebury and musician John Marc. They also watched the BA3 Musical Theatre showcase at Laban Theatre and observed a Dance Science Lab demo, where a BSc Dance Science student, Julie (Chung-Yi Lo) ran a presentation on her current project.

The main areas of cooperation between the two institutions include:

  1. Developing joint dance programme collaborations at both Undergraduate and Postgraduate levels.
  2. Developing a mutually beneficial cooperation in teaching and research to further the advancement and dissemination of learning.
  3. Establishing an academic exchange, including short-term educational programmes, student exchanges, and mutual visits of faculty and school members to pursue research and to deliver masterclasses, workshops and lectures.
  4. Trinity Laban will participate in World Dance Education Alliance which organised by BDA and joined by art institutions across the world.

“I am so glad to welcome Beijing Dance Academy to our campus in London. We have known each other for more than 20 years and we both hope to deepen partnership relationships between us. We believe it’s vital for both leading artistic institutions to connect across the globe, to create, collaborate and enhance our teaching, research and performance excellence.” says Li Yu, our Student Recruitment and International Relations Manager.

World-renowned pianist and composer Sir Stephen Hough visits Trinity Laban

We were delighted to welcome Sir Stephen Hough (CBE) to Trinity Laban this March for a set of masterclasses and a brilliant performance of his Song Cycles alongside our students and Head of Keyboard, Dr Ji Liu.

This year’s Keyboard and Voice Festival: Coming Together! celebrated the rich tapestry of vocal and keyboard music, embracing essential works from the core-classical territories as well as dynamic works of contemporary British Composers and those from beyond our shores.

Our final concert featured acclaimed artist Stephen Hough, our Head of Keyboard Dr Ji Liu, and Trinity Laban piano and voice students performing an afternoon concert of Stephen’s song cycles. The concert featured the complete collection: Dappled Things, Herbstlieder, Lady Antonia’s Songs, Songs of Love and Loss, Songs of Isolation, and Other Love Songs, described by Bachtrack as “witty, intricate, intimate and beautifully arresting art songs”.

Discussing his visit, Stephen commented: “It’s been a wonderful couple of days. We’ve had 31 students in all working on these song cycles, so more or less a different student for each song. There’s a huge variety, but everyone really did their best and performed beautifully. There were a few performances that were really spectacular in the way that the students got inside the text and the song, and absolutely lived that song whilst they were singing, and that is what you are ultimately looking for. The songs are brief. The longest one is maybe five minutes, but in this time, a whole world can be uncovered and I think they got that and it was thrilling.”

“I don’t play with singers very much, so putting words and music together is a whole different level of emotional involvement. I’m very moved by songs. Many of the texts that I chose are very deep human emotions – as deep as it gets – about what life means, what love means. To have that and to work with the students with that is very touching and I actually had to hold back a tear or two during the concert.”

Our Head of Keyboard, Dr Ji Liu, stated: “It’s been a wonderful journey and Stephen has been such a wonderful motivator and role model to all of us. Every time I work with Stephen, he’s very generous with his comments and time, and he’s also very encouraging and very open with performing his work. It’s quite nerve-wracking for performers to play a composer’s work in front of a composer. This time, for me, it’s like that when playing together with Stephen! But it’s been wonderful, it’s been a memorable experience for me and all of our students.”

About Stephen Hough

One of the most distinctive artists of his generation, Sir Stephen Hough (CBE) combines a distinguished career as a pianist with those of composer and writer.

Named by The Economist as one of Twenty Living Polymaths, Hough was the first classical performer to be awarded a MacArthur Fellowship (2001). He has been awarded a multitude of awards and prizes, including the Royal Philharmonic Society Instrumentalist Award and first prize at the Naumburg Competition in New York. Sir Stephen has appeared with most of the major European, Asian and American orchestras and plays recitals regularly in major halls and concert series around the world from London’s Royal Festival Hall to New York’s Carnegie Hall. He has been a regular guest at festivals, including Tanglewood, Verbier, and the BBC Proms, where he has made 29 concerto appearances.

Many of his catalogue of over 60 albums have garnered international prizes including eight Gramophone Magazine Awards including ‘Record of the Year’, several Grammy nominations, and the Gramophone ‘Gold Disc’ Award in 2008, which named his complete Saint-Saens Piano Concertos as the best recording of the past 30 years. His 2012 recording of the complete Chopin Waltzes received the Diapason d’Or de l’Annee, France’s most prestigious recording award. His 2005 live recording of the Rachmaninoff Piano Concertos was the fastest selling recording in Hyperion’s history, while his 1987 recording of the Hummel concertos remains Chandos’ best-selling disc to date.

Published by Josef Weinberger, Sir Stephen has composed works for orchestra, choir, chamber ensemble, organ, harpsichord and solo piano. He has been commissioned by the prestigious organisations including the Cliburn, the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet, and Wigmore Hall, among others. A noted writer, Sir Stephen has contributed articles for The New York Times, the Guardian, The Times, Gramophone and BBC Music Magazine, and he wrote a blog for The Telegraph for seven years which became one of the most popular and influential forums for cultural discussion and for which he wrote over six hundred articles. He has published four books: The Bible as Prayer, a novel The Final Retreat, a book of essays Rough Ideas: Reflections on Music and More, a memoir Enough: Scenes from Childhood.

Sir Stephen is an Honorary Fellow of Cambridge University’s Girton College, an honorary member of the RPS, and holds the International Chair of Piano Studies at his alma mater, the Royal Northern College in Manchester. He is also a member of the faculty at The Juilliard School.

Junior Trinity perform at the Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey

Junior Trinity were invited by Commonwealth Resounds to perform at the Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey this year. JT students Adrianna Forbes-Dorant and Ben Atherton had their arrangements chosen to be performed.

This year marks 75 years since the signing of the London Declaration in 1949 that established the Commonwealth as a network of equals united by values and a shared aspiration for a better future. Organised by the Royal Commonwealth Society, the Commonwealth Day Service is the world’s premier, public event to celebrate the Commonwealth of Nations and provides an opportunity to focus attention on this voluntary association of 56 countries and their commitment to promoting democracy, human rights, the rule of law and equality for its 2.5 billion citizens.

The theme of this year’s Heads of Government Meeting and Commonwealth Day Service was resilience – 2024 is also the second year of the Year of Youth in recognition of the tremendous contributions of young people to society. This annual event, held at Westminster Abbey, celebrates the unity, diversity, and linkages of the modern Commonwealth and seeks to foster greater understanding of the Commonwealth’s achievements and role, particularly amongst its young people.

The service was filmed by the BBC and streamed across the world. Junior Trinity’s Vocal Consort performed in the pre-service concert as the dignitaries arrived and members of Composers’ Ensemble performed a forty minute programme of folk songs from across the Commonwealth, as well as new works written by two JT students, Adrianna Forbes-Dorant and Ben Atherton.

Trinity Laban Conservatoire Junior Department is well known for celebrating musical, cultural and creative diversity. Singing is particularly important to life in the Junior Department, and every single student sings in at least one of their many choirs. The Vocal Consort is made up of some of their most talented and promising students. This performance represented the collaborative spirit often at the heart of Junior Trinity’s music and involved music from across the Commonwealth, including a number of small island states such as Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

Adrianna Forbes-Dorant is a full bursary recipient and has attended Junior Trinity for five years. She is a first study pianist, second study voice, and third study violin, which have become interchangeable for her over time. She has recently discovered a love and talent for composing, and is a key member of Composers’ Ensemble. For the past three years, she has sung the role of Flora for Garsington Opera to high acclaim. She holds an offer from the University of Cambridge, as well as scholarships from several conservatoires.

The programme was as follows:

  • A Jamaican Celebration – composed by Adrianna Forbes-Dorant (Junior Trinity student)
  • Meguru – arranged by Russel Robertson
  • The Jones Boys – arranged by Ben Atherton (Junior Trinity student)
  • Pokarekare Ana – arranged by Andrew Carter
  • Nani and Nana – composed by Sundar Popo, arranged by Cole Lam
  • Thank you for the music – arranged by Jerry Estes
  • Keel Row – arranged by John Rutter
  • Sing from The Song Sound True – composed by Judith Weir
  • Somebody to love – arranged by Roger Emerson
  • Kenek Kenek Lah Udang – arranged by Dan Miller (Junior Trinity Vocal Tutor)
  • A Commonwealth Music Relay – arranged by Cole Lam, Siri Hedge,
    Jahfari Hazelwood, James Brew, Jacob Abela, and Ajiri Ikede

Remembering Paul Strang (1933-2024)

Trinity Laban Honorary Companion and former chair Paul Strang has died, at age 91. Paul had been unwell for some time. Jeanne Strang, his wife, died in August of last year.

Paul was always interested in music and supporting young musicians to fulfil their potential. He joined the board of Governors at Trinity College of Music back in 1974, and became chair in 1992. He was instrumental in the creation of the Trinity College of Music Trust in 1984, and guided the establishment of Trinity College London in 1992. In 2001, he helped to develop the plans to move Trinity College of Music to Greenwich, and Paul’s support was crucial to the merger of Trinity College of Music and Laban Dance Centre to create Trinity Laban in 2005. During his time, Paul was instrumental in the appointment of three Principals: Meredith Davies in 1979; Philip Jones in 1988; and Gavin Henderson in 1994. In his role as trustee of the Helen Roll Charity and the Tillet Trust, Paul was also instrumental in providing vital financial support to dozens of our students over the years.

One former TCM staff member, Roger Pope, recalls an act of kindness from Paul and Jeanne. When TCM was at Mandeville Place, one day Roger was summoned to the front door to greet a Russian student who was joining for a year as a bassoonist. He was standing at the door with his bassoon case and a large suitcase, and his first question was “Where is my accommodation?”. It was about 4.30pm on the Friday afternoon before Enrolment Day. Having gleaned from this brief introduction that he had no idea of the British system – that accommodation was the student’s responsibility and should in any case be arranged in advance – Roger hurried to the Principal’s room with the vague idea of seeing if the College would foot the bill for a small hotel for the weekend while Roger endeavoured to sort out something permanent. Paul Strang was in with the Principal, simply lifted up the phone, rang Jeanne and asked if their basement flat could be made available to this student for the weekend. Roger took him up to the Strangs’ home in St. John’s Wood in a taxi, with his bassoon and suitcase, and they all had a very convivial half hour with a large glass of wine. Paul and Jeanne were very kind to the student over what turned out to be a rather extended weekend before he was settled.

Paul Strang was born in 1933 in Marlborough Hill, London. He attended the Montessori school, before his family moved to Hampstead Garden Suburb where his mother started doing air-raid precaution work. From 1940, his mother and adopted aunt ran a mobile canteen for the benefit of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. They toured the bomb-sites of London, ministering tea and refreshment to the firefighters – when not at school, Paul would join these expeditions. He attended a boarding school in Shropshire while being a day boy at Arnold House, and his family members soon evacuated into the country for many years.

Paul finished his schooling in 1951 and was articled to the solicitor Arthur Underwood. While his family lived on the south coast, he lodged in London during the week with his mother’s old fried, Emmie Tillett, a renowned concert agent. Paul spent the next six years here while finishing his articles. Emmie Tillett worked with many celebrated musicians, and Paul was able to connect with the likes of Kathleen Ferrier, Myra Hess, Clifford Curzon, Solomon, Janet Baker, Lotte Lehmann, Zoltán Kodály, Shura Cherkassy, and Benjamin Britten. His father, Sir Thomas Beecham, was also based in the area. Paul qualified and bought a flat in London in 1962. He married his wife Jeanne in 1965, and together they moved to a house in London that they lived in for the rest of their lives. They were neighbours to Maggie Teyte, Gerald Moore, Jessie Wood, Sir Charles and Lady Mackerras during the period in which Charles attained his pre-eminence as a conductor, and Philip and Ursula Jones.

Paul will be greatly missed by us. His extraordinary contribution to Trinity Laban and the future of music in the UK leave a magnificent legacy. We will always be incredibly grateful for his unwavering support for our music community and will be forever grateful to have been part of his life.