Founded in 2015 as a successor to Durham University’s Musical Society, Music Durham describes itself as a ‘forum of musicians, ensuring unity among the many ensembles in Durham and coordinating and promoting music making around the city’.
As well as supporting the highest level of music-making around Durham and further afield, we have made outreach and collaboration two of our main priorities. Recently, student ensembles have been involved in outreach at local schools and hospitals, collaborating with local youth choirs, and hosting the Triuni brass concert alongside the Universities of Leeds and Warwick.
And our ensembles are making a huge impact. Following their very successful debut in the Gala Theatre as part of Durham’s Vocal Festival, Northern Lights – DU A Cappella are going from strength to strength. We spoke to the ensemble’s president, Charlotte Jones, to find out about her experience at the helm of a Music Durham ensemble:
“As a relatively new ensemble, how easy has it been to attract new student talent? Has the standard been good so far this year?”
“This is only our third year of existence, so we are constantly learning and improving. We had a record number of audition sign-ups this year – well over 100 – and were in awe of the standard displayed by everyone, making decisions about new members (was) particularly difficult! However, we are over the moon with our new recruits, who have all demonstrated fantastic commitment to the group. We are hoping to keep improving as a group, with an ever-improving standard of both performance and attitude.”
“Following the recording of your first music video last summer, are you working on any more exciting projects for 2017?”
“Riding on the back of the success of last year’s EP and music video, we’re aiming to potentially record a single later on in the year, and we’ve already been in contact with a number of production companies for that purpose. Also, we’ve once again made it through to the ICCA (International Competition of Collegiate A Cappella) quarter-finals, in which we’ll be competing in Edinburgh on February 19th. We’re also setting in motion plans for our very exciting 4th Edinburgh Fringe show, which will run from the 14th-20th August 2017!”
Another of Durham’s premiere ensembles is Durham University Orchestral Society (DUOS). Featuring some of the University’s most accomplished instrumentalists, the ensemble is split in to Chamber and Symphony orchestras, and perform across Durham several times a term, as well as touring to as far afield as Berlin, Prague, and Budapest in recent years. We spoke to the Orchestra’s leader, violinist Hayley Lam, to discover what playing in the ensemble is like and what their plans are for the near-future.
As Music Durham ensembles are encouraged to be outward-looking and a part of the community, we asked Hayley about what outreach and collaborative activities the ensemble had engaged in recently:
“It has been a super busy term-and-a-half for DUOS this year in terms of doing performances that are outside of our regular concert schedule. The biggest project was perhaps our collaboration with Somme100, in which we put up one of the 100 international screenings of the 1916 film, The Battle of the Somme, in the Gala Theatre, whilst playing Laura Rossi’s accompanying film score, to mark the 100th anniversary of the monumental battle.”
“A number of us also took part in the ‘Defiant Requiem’ project, in which we performed a tweaked version of Verdi’s Requiem in the Cathedral with a professional orchestra and conductor, accompanied by some film footage, to tell the little-known story of the Nazi concentration camp Terezín, where Jewish prisoners fought against boundless cruelty with the beauty of music. It was one of the most emotionally profound concerts I have ever done.”
Hayley also told us about the ensemble’s upcoming tour to the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana. This organisational feat will involve organising travel for 68 people – a number which she informs us is “…the largest number of tour members we have ever had’.
Music Durham has also welcomed new additions to its ranks this academic year, including the Flute Choir, and Voices – a non-auditioned choir open to all University members. We’ll be running a feature on these new additions soon.
For more information of Durham Festival of the Arts, just search @DurhamFoA on Facebook, or visit www.musicdurham.org.