When I moved to Walthamstow five years ago I was pleasantly surprised to discover the wealth of cultural activity in the area, and it’s been great to see this go from strength to strength in the years since. I’m a classical music fan, and before I moved to ‘Awesomestow’ I would often attend concerts in the big central venues, so it was exciting to find out that Walthamstow was also home to one of the best community orchestras in the country.
The Forest Philharmonic has performed in Walthamstow Assembly Hall for over 40 years. A mixture of professionals, teachers, students and amateurs, the Forest Phil performs to a high standard under the expert artistic direction of Mark Shanahan, whose other conducting credits include the BBC, Netherlands Symphony, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and English National Opera among many others.
The Assembly Hall itself is also really interesting venue. It has an impressive Art Deco façade and a history of classical performances. The acoustic is so good that it has become one of the UK’s premiere classical music recording venues. Unfortunately many people in Walthamstow do not realise the pedigree of classical music venue in their midst.
The orchestra’s aim is to “help train the musicians of tomorrow while providing a forum for the leading amateurs of today”. What this means is amateurs (like me!) get a chance to learn and perform alongside both professionals and other highly skilled amateurs. It also means that the local community get a chance to hear very high quality standard performances of classical music, at a fraction of the usual price and on their doorstep.
The orchestra also regularly opens its doors to young musicians from the borough of Waltham Forest. Ranging in age from 8 to 18, they come and ‘sit-in’ the orchestra, next to and among us as we rehearse. This is so they can see our music and help us count our bars – really feeling what it is like to be part of a large symphony orchestra.
Our work with young musicians is expanding every year, and in June/July 2011 we led a project called ‘Mahler Alive!’ in Chapel End Primary School that introduced ninety 10-year-olds to Mahler’s Second Symphony, the Resurrection. Over three weeks, they listened to the music, came up with their own words and music on the theme of life, and then sang this to the rest of their school. Some of the children then came to Walthamstow Assembly Hall to sing it again before our performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, and then stayed to hear the concert.
This work is rewarding for our players as well as building contacts with the community and introducing children to music-making. We offer special discounts for families and schools, and as a result we get many more young people at our concerts who love the experience of hearing high-quality classical music right on their doorstep.
Emma Catty is part of the Forest Philharmonic Orchestra. For more information on the orchestra, performance and ticket details, visit their website.
The next performance of the Forest Philharmonic Orchestra is on Sunday 27 of November at the Assembly Hall, 6.30pm.
The orchestra is also opening up our final rehearsal (at a different venue) on Friday 25 of November (i.e. today!), please email us for more information.
Sunday 27th November, 6.30pm
Venue: Walthamstow Assembly Hall, Forest Road, E17. Tickets are between £8-£14.
TCHAIKOVSKY Sleeping Beauty Suite
ELGAR Nursery Suite
DVORAK Symphony No.7
Forest Philharmonic’s last concert of 2011 starts in romantic style with an orchestral suite from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty. Sleeping Beauty was the composer’s biggest success on the stage, the first ballet that impresario Sergei Diaghilev ever saw and the ballet that introduced Rudolph Nureyev to European audiences. The orchestral suite captures the drama and the magic in full orchestral Tchaikovsky glory.
Continuing our Best of British theme for the season, Elgar’s Nursery Suite evokes domestic scenes from Elgar’s own childhood memories with unmistakably English sounds.
Czech patriotism made for London – Dvorak’s seventh symphony was commissioned by the London Philharmonic Society and received its world premiere in the capital to acclaim, We hope that Walthamstow will be similarly moved on 27 November.
By Emma Catty