Classical music – orchestrating creativity at the annual ABO conference

The classical music industry’s recent gathering offers a reminder that the arts is a crucial social fabric. Speaking of reminders: some Romantic Valentines gift tips...

The great and the good from the classical music industry recently gathered at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff for the annual Association of British Orchestras (ABO) conference. This year’s event (January 24-26) was hosted by BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Sinfonia Cymru and Welsh National Opera. The ABO conference provides an important forum for musicians, ensembles, artist managers, venues, specialist media and suppliers to discuss the thorny issues du jour. The theme for the 2018 instalment was ‘collaboration’, a particularly challenging subject in Brexitland. (Previous topics have included ‘identity’ and ‘diversity’– the ABO is not shy of difficult conversations).

BBC Director General Tony Hall was a guest speaker at the ABO conference

Sessions covered collaboration in recording and audience development, with specific examples from the host ensembles. Keynote speakers included Tony Hall, BBC director general, Kevin Brennan MP, shadow culture minister and Rebecca Allen, president of Decca Records Group UK, plus a clutch of interesting movers and shakers within the sector.

In the music world, like many workplaces, it’s easy to forget the people behind the scenes. When we listen to a wonderful recording or attend a mesmerising stage production, our focus is on the performer(s). However, artists rely on the expertise of colleagues working in a variety of disciplines. And, in these turbulent times, when the arts are often treated as a ‘nice to have’ rather than an essential part of our social fabric, it’s crucial to remember how diverse the creative industries are, and how many people are employed in the music sector – it’s not just musicians.

In these turbulent times, when the arts are often treated as a ‘nice to have’ rather than an essential part of our social fabric, it’s crucial to remember how diverse the creative industries are

A notable date is coming over the hill. For some, the day provides a chance to indulge in some rare romance. For others, it is a steaming pile of commercial crap to be ignored at all costs. Whatever you think of Valentine’s Day, make sure your interpretation is carefully aligned with any significant other. (One year, my partner ended a very nice Valentine’s Day toast with “Happy Anniversary!” As I raised my glass, I pointed out that our anniversary was in May, not February. He looked confused, and admitted “Oh. I didn’t really know what today was, I just knew that I had to do something.” Less #couplegoals, more #owngoals.) And rather than chocolates (boring) or flowers (predictable), why not try concert tickets? It means you can avoid the over-priced meals or soppy rom-com in favour of a Romantic (with a capital ‘R’, to signify the era) evening.

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra is offering a night of smouldering passion on February 14, courtesy of some romantic greats: Ravel’s climactic Bolero, Rachmaninov’s second Piano Concerto (performed by Zhang Zuo) and retellings of Romeo and Juliet by Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev. In Manchester opera fans should look no further than The Hallé’s Opera Lovers’ Night (with Hallé’s associate conductor Stephen Bell pictured, top), which features works from Verdi’s Aida, Rossini’s Barber of Seville and Bernstein’s West Side Story (Bridgewater Hall). Elsewhere, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra will perform romantic (lower case ‘r’) Hollywood classics, in a special London concert compered by Radio 3 broadcaster Petroc Trelawny (Cadogan Hall).