Samyo Backstage Pass

Samyo and Anil credit First Take

On Saturday 28th February, Samyo performs its next Annual Showcase at the Southbank Centre‘s Queen Elizabeth Hall. In a series of reports and interviews, Samyo’s Artistic Director, Alok Nayak, takes us behind the scenes to give us the inside scoop on how the orchestra comes together to create their music and prepare for a concert.

One of the joys of planning Samyo concerts is that there is no template or model, and each concert can be a fresh start. Sometimes, an anniversary, occasion or celebration helps to guide our choice of repertoire. In Samyo10 (the 10th Anniversary concert in 2013) for instance, the orchestra celebrated with a showcase of the evolution of our music. Last year, the 11th annual showcase told the story of the role music plays in our lives. In general, each showcase concert is an opportunity to share with our audience our latest adventures in Indian Orchestral Music.

Samyo is also all about journeys. The evolution of our concerts, from a blank page to the stage, the coming together of young musicians, conductors and composers, the 12 year journey of the development of Samyo’s repertoire and profile, and of course, most importantly, the career journey of our young musicians as they grow in talent and experience.

On Sunday 18th January we entered the final phase in our preparations for the concert, with the first in an intensive season of rehearsals and workshops. From Liverpool, the Midlands and all over Greater London and the South West, Samyo parents, members, tutors and staff, began their journeys in icy cold conditions to our rehearsal venue at The Jaspar Centre in Harrow. For many, a 6 hour rehearsal represents a full weekend commitment with 8 hours of travel and an overnight stay. As our Samyo family converged at Harrow on Sunday morning, there was a palpable sense of excitement and energy.

The day started with a meeting of Orchestra and Section Leaders, and we discussed selection of musicians and repertoire, promotion of the concert and fine tuning the stage plan for the concert. How would we fit in this brilliant composition, while leaving out that other one that we all love too? How is the new composition going to sound in 6 weeks? How many percussionists can we fit on stage? Have you all shared the Facebook invite?

As the orchestra members filtered in from across the country the centre was filled with drums, strings and the voices of post-holiday reunions which gave way to fine tuning and finally, silence! A final briefing outlined the challenges ahead and all of a sudden, we were under-way. During the day, Samyo rehearsed repertoire planned for the concert, guided by Kousic Sen (Percussion Conductor), including Ranajit Sengupta‘s Under the Stars and Saraswati Vandana, as well as Walking Together by Jayanthi Kumaresh and Gaurav Mazumdar. The Choir presented Charishnu, taught by Pt Madhup Mudgal, and percussionists prepared for their explosive piece Akshara. With meetings, discussions and a team building workshop too, this was an intense day of work for our musicians.

For some Samyo members, this will be a landmark concert, representing their last performance in many years of membership. Jessica Mistry for instance, joined Samyo 6 years ago, and now, as a young adult, has developed into a fine flautist. For Orchestra Leader Raam Jeganathan, this is a nostalgic concert too; appointed for a second year in succession, the passion he brings to the performance and leadership position have pulled the orchestra through many challenges in the last 2 years. Beyond the music, Samyo has helped to nurture friendships amongst members, tutors and the staff, and the lead up to the concert showcase is both a time for celebration and reflection, marking the end of a journey for some.

On the way back to Liverpool, Kousic Sen  and I reflected on the work ahead, and I later briefed our Principal Conductor Gaurav Mazumdar and our Guest Composer Dr Rajeeb Chakraborty, who will join the sessions from 1st February. Bringing together a team of world-class artists with highly talented musicians is a geographical, cultural and musical challenge, and one that we go through and relish each year.

Journeys of many kinds will all bring us together from all over the world on Saturday 28th February, and we look forward to sharing our work with you!

Alok Nayak is the Artistic Director of Samyo. Follow the blog for more updates and info from inside the orchestra, and follow Samyo on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

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