Here at Encore, we love to hear about exciting ventures to bring music to new audiences. Today, we catch up with Philharmonia and Ruysdael Quartet violist Gijs Kramers, co-founder of the Street Orchestra of London (SOL), a pop-up orchestra founded in 2016.
SOL is based on your experience with Ricciotti, the Dutch street orchestra. Can you talk about Ricciotti?
Ricciotti was founded in 1970 with the aim of bringing symphonic music to those who for whatever reason are deprived from it. During my seven years as Ricciotti's conductor, we gave more than 1000 performances all over the world. Right from the beginning I realised this orchestra's philosophy of making music in every possible location is really what music making is about. It was a privilege to work with them and create new audiences for orchestral music.
Why did you want to set up SOL?
The Ricciotti Ensemble has always been a unique orchestra, but having lived in London for 14 years, I realised that there is fantastic potential for a similar project here. London has a very strong community spirit and an unbelievable variety of musicians. The philosophy of the street orchestra is a strong and noble one: that there is a place for orchestras everywhere. My ambition is to take the knowledge of the successful formula from the Netherlands to the UK and, with the help of a great team, make a British version of this amazing concept.
Why is SOL important for London/UK?
SOL is important for the UK for exactly the same reasons Ricciotti is important for the Netherlands: every human has the right to enjoy live symphonic music. If there are people who don't experience it, we should find them and play to them. In the UK there are many outreach projects but none has the diversity of audience and style that SOL has.
How does SOL work?
SOL is a 40 piece orchestra that plays music of all times and styles: from early Baroque to contemporary classical, from Dixieland to metal. All pieces are short and presented in an approachable manner, introduced by the musicians themselves. SOL is able to set up in just three minutes and can therefore perform up to six times a day.
What do you want SOL to achieve?
SOL is an orchestra of incredible versatility. The musicians can switch style in a split second and play any kind of music in a convincing manner. The level of playing is extremely important as it's easy to just play a bunch of different pieces in unusual locations. To do it really well is difficult, as conditions may not help: there will be no time to warm up, acoustics are always changing andrarely ideal and a participating audience is fantastic but can also be distracting!
SOL wants to play in areas in the UK and around the world where music is not as common as we want it to be, where we can surprise people with beautiful and moving pieces, played at a very high level.
Why is SOL important for the musicians in the orchestra?
SOL is for musicians of 18-30 years of age. In SOL, they will have the opportunity to perform in a wide variety of styles; to perform solos on their instruments; compose or arrange pieces; create a storyline for a school concert; and introduce the orchestra and the pieces to the audience.
They'll also be exposed to many other layers of society - refugee camps, mentally disabled homes and prisons. They will learn about versatile careers - not just heading for a standard orchestral or teaching career. Ricciotti's alumni learned to think differently, with many players involved in extraordinary initiatives like children's music theatre, music therapy, creative musical industries and many crossover projects. SOL offers its players just that: an extremely wide but unconventional infrastructure of creative musical possibilities.
SOL's debut tour will be 13 - 19 June 2016. Find out more info on their website.
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