Winter Festival Staff Pick: Open Ears

We asked members of the Spitalfields Music team to pick out a Winter Festival event that they are feeling particularly excited about. This week, Ellie Folkes, Programme Manager: Festivals , tells us all about Duncan Chapman’s laptop orchestra.

The other day I enjoyed a mid-afternoon escape from the office and popped into Canon Barnet primary school, which is tucked away just behind Toynbee Hall on Commercial Street. I found my way into Class 6 just in time to catch the last bit of a workshop session led by the wonderful electronic composer Duncan Chapman. The excitable 10 year olds were masterfully using laptops and special music software that transformed the regular keyboard keys into sounds ranging from whales to trombones. I watched as selected few took it in turns to ‘conduct’ the laptop orchestra by holding up different letters, as the rest of the class hit the relevant keys, followed the directions and a cacophony of polyphony ensued! This was indeed a true test of how successfully one can control a room of kids – and I must say I was massively impressed by the children’s level of attention and self restraint!

Class 6 will be having several more of these workshops over the coming weeks, in lead up to the laptop orchestra’s debut performance at Open Ears on Wednesday 14 December at Shoreditch Church. The concert is all about exploring and challenging notions of what it is to be a composer, and will include not only the laptop orchestra, but also performances on more traditional instruments such as piano, horn and (very excitingly) the shakuhachi – a 13th century Japanese bamboo flute traditionally used by Buddhist monks as a spiritual tool. Come along – it’s fun AND free! The intention is that the concert will not only encourage you to explore the church and its beautiful acoustics, but also to become inspired by the possibilities of composition and to open your ears to all the sounds that surround you.

Open Ears is free to attend, however booking is required – call our box office on 020 7377 1362 reserve your place for this exciting family event!


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