More than an orchestra…

Chris Holley shares with us the best things about his internship at City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, including the sheer variety of projects he gets to witness, learn about, and get involved with.


Alongside the full-time world class symphony orchestra, the CBSO run an internationally-touring full-size symphonic chorus, over six chamber ensembles, a children’s chorus, a youth chorus, three additional thriving community choirs, an enormous talented youth orchestra, and a learning and outreach programme that reaches tens of thousands of lives every year in nurseries, schools, universities, neighbourhoods, care homes, concert venues and public spaces around the city and beyond.

I couldn’t possibly explain in-depth all the wonderful ventures that this multi-faceted institution undertakes but one example of something extra-ordinary was last night’s spectacular “Notelets” concert for toddlers and families. A buzzing and packed audience of over two-thousand toddlers and parents were watching absolutely captivated as this huge local and world-class orchestra performed beautiful and inspiring music in the most engaging and accessible way, yet without compromising on quality in the slightest. The orchestra couldn’t seem to help themselves smiling and waving as they walked on stage in their new coloured t-shirts. The concert was presented by a member of the orchestra with jokes, stories, a big screen, mini-interviews with some of the players and lively audience participation. Before the main concert, small ensembles of percussion, brass, woodwind and strings performed around the foyer with huge crowds of children round their feet. Both then and after the concert the kids got to meet the musicians and see the instruments close up, which they absolutely loved! The main concert itself included a wonderful range of exciting bitesize pieces including Benjamin Britten’s ‘The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra’ through which each section of the orchestra is showcased and explored, leading up an enormous soaring finale. The audience went wild, social media exploded, and it’s amazing for us to hear of so many kids saying how much they loved it and how much they want to learn more. What a fine example of an orchestra being more than just an orchestra, and that’s just one example of one ensemble on just one day of the year! Every other day will be different and that’s what I love.


What I’ve Been Up To…

So, I’ve been here for 5 weeks now and t  me has flown by. My internship is primarily with the orchestral management department, working with the musicians and concerts, but I’ve been getting involved with several departments. Last week for example I was helping the Learning and Participation department prepare for the Youth Orchestra rehearsals and concert. I also observed some of the rehearsals and spoke to members of the team to learn more about the planning and execution of the courses, which was fascinating. I’ve found that lots of people find time for me to speak to them and ask them questions. Just a few days ago I even had meeting with the chief executive of the CBSO where we chatted about my internship so far, about the selection process of the CBSO’s new principal conductor (which I’m particularly interested in), and his role/roles on the large scale.

I still have countless names to learn but I’ve met lots of wonderful people and feel welcomed into a friendly family.

I’m having a lot of fun and learning so much so I look forward to the next few months!



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