Workshop tackles the mighty ‘Leningrad’ Symphony

Rehearsing at Townsend School
Rehearsing at Townsend School

St Albans Symphony Orchestra has successfully brought together more than 90 musicians to take part in an epic musical commemoration of the invasion of Russia by Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

The weekend workshop sessions at Townsend Church of England School in St Albans were used to tackle the ‘Leningrad’ Symphony by Dmitri Shostakovich, which was partly written in the blockaded city and then performed there in 1942 as the brutal siege continued for 872 days. The symphony is written on an expansive scale, lasts almost 80 minutes and requires a specially large orchestra.

SASO’s conductor Bjorn Bantock said: “This is a truly extraordinary work, full of emotion reflecting the destruction and carnage of war that the composer witnessed himself before his evacuation from the city. I’m so pleased that the two-day workshop provided the opportunity for our orchestra, reinforced by young musicians and players from neighbouring orchestras, to get to know it better and perform it. It was a great musical experience.”
The workshop is the second that the orchestra has organised with the support of a legacy from Babs Yule, a long-time friend of the orchestra, who died in 2010 at he age of 90. Bjorn said: “Babs was a remarkable woman who made a great contribution to the life of St Albans. We are very fortunate to have benefited from her generosity in his way.”
*The orchestra is now preparing for it’s new season, which starts in St Albans Abbey on Saturday  26th October with the biennial St Cecilia Festival Society Concert featuring three local choirs in the German Requiem by Brahms.  SASO’s popular Little Monsters children’s concerts take place on the afternoon of Sunday November 17th in St Saviour’s Church. These will be followed by the traditional New Year concert in the Abbey which will showcase Music from the Movies. 
Other concerts in 2014 include Mendelssohn’s popular Violin Concerto, played by Magnus Johnston (March 8th, Abbey), Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov (May 10th, St Saviour’s) and Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 3 with Alissa Firsova as soloist (June 28th, St Saviour’s).  In addition, the March concert includes the soaring Alpine Symphony by Richard Strauss which the orchestra studied for its first workshop a year ago.