Monthly Archives: June 2012

Fireworks with Gustavo and the Bolívars in Scotland

Last night Scottish Venezeuelan relations were on fire – in every sense of the word. A drab cold wet Stirling summer evening did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of thousands who turned out to see a historic first: the young musicians of Big Noise Sistema Scotland performing on the same stage as the famed Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela with their music director, Gustavo Dudamel. You can still catch it on the BBC iplayer although somehow I doubt it will really deliver the quality of event the live audience was treated to.

Earlier, at a pre concert reception, a smaller but equally stunned audience heard El Sistema’s Director Maestro José Antonio Abreu, in a classic Abreu fiery oration, anounce an invitation for Big Noise children to visit Venezuela in 2013. When he spoke you could have cut the air with needles. He was preceded by another great orator, Richard Holloway – Chair of Big Noise – who gave an equally impressive address, demonstrating yet again that with thought, intelligence, commitment and passion a speech can be an occasion for stimulation and inspiration rather than (as is so often the case with our anodyne would be leaders) the moment to consult your blackberry, nip to the loo or simply fall asleep. Several politicians – from north and south of the border – also took the occasion to speak. This morning they should all be back in public speaking training, having heard masters of the quality of Abreu and Holloway. Jeremy Hunt in particular looked for all the world like an incomer who, having just discarded their parachute in – not enemy but alien – territory, was left without much of a paddle for comfort. Words, but not much in the way of passion or belief.

Above all this was an evening of real generosity from the Venezuelans, and a great and unforgettable night for Big Noise, Stirling and Scotland. Big Noise CEO Nicola Killean and her doughty team will live off and develop from this event for years to come. And for the Venezuelans, next stop London and a week’s residency that will see the Royal Festival Hall turn into a pop up Nucleo. Catch the live webcast of the opening concert tomorrow night courtesy of the Guardian at

first three pictures: Gustavo Dudamel and the Venezuelans lighting up the Stirling night

Last two pictures: Stirling Castle as if on fire for the occasion.


Free Guardian live webcasts of Gustavo and SBSOV from London’s Royal Festival Hall … Webcasts de Gustavo y SBSOV en el Royal Festival Hall de Londres en vivo gratis


The UK Guardian newspaper and Videojuicer are offering free webcasts of 2 concerts by Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela live from the Royal Festival Hall in the heart of London as the closing concerts of Southbank Centre’s 2011-12 Shell Classic International season, at:

Programmes air from 7.15pm UK on the 23rd and 26th June: that’s 11.15 LA,13.45 Caracas, 14.15 New York,  15.15 Rio de Janeiro,  20.15 European Standard and Johannesburg SA, 21.15 Istanbul, 22.15 Moscow, 23.45 Delhi, and for Beijing and Hong Kong 02.15 on the 24th and 27th, and Sydney 04.15 on the 24th and 27th.

Background on Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra’s love affair with London at:


23 June
Ludwig Van Beethoven: Overture, Egmont
Benjamin Britten: The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra
Ludwig Van Beethoven: Symphony No.3 (Eroica)

26 June
Esteban Benzecry: Rituales Amerindios (Amerindian rituals) – pre-columbian tryptic for orchestra
Richard Strauss: An Alpine Symphony


Love Affair or Lover’s Tiff?

In the latest Guardian piece on The Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, and in advance of their upcoming London Residency I look at the special relationship between Gustavo Dudamel, The Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela and London …

Gustavo Dudamel conducting The Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela – with Ismel Campos, viola, on the left


Armenian Style to the fore …

The 8th International Aram Khachaturian International Competition just finished. A hall packed with many young people heard spellbinding playing from five finalists, accompanied by the Armenian State Youth Orchestra and rising conductor Sergey Smbatyan. A tense jury session that seemed to go on forever but eventually awarded the coveted Grand Prix to French Russian Fedor Roudine and joint first prize to impeccable Japanese Ayako Tanabe and (the real heavyweight for me), Russian Pavel Milyukov.  A recital a couple of days before by last violinist winner at the competition Jaroslaw Nadrzycki was jaw droppingly good. With the President’s wife Rita Sargysan, the Prime Minister’s wife, and the Minister of Culture, Hasmik Poghosyan, all in attendance and live satellite television to lots of places, it makes you think. Boy, they really do music seriously in Armenia …

The Jury over coffee before making any of the tough decisions

And the Youth Orchestra getting a deserved bow