I have just come back from De Doelen where a concert conducted by Hans Leenders has completed the Codarts autumn Project Week with aplomb. As posted last year on 3 November, Codarts project weeks happen twice a year and suspend the curriculum in order to allow students to do something entirely different.
This year we have been working with De Doelen (led by Gabriel Oostvogel and Neil Wallace) on a long term project under the title Vonk. The idea has been to explore ways in which we can contribute to a revival of the fortunes of classical music in the light of declining and aging audiences. Actually audiences have been beginning to grow again here in Rotterdam but still the underlying ‘problem’ remains – orchetsras worldwide are closing at an alarming rate and audience figures in generla are in decline. Rotterdam hosted the Classical Next conference in the summer to debate exactly this topic and this will return again in the summer of 2016.
Back to this week. Two panels under the initial guidance of Chanella Hodge, one made up of young professionals from the City of Rotterdam and one of Codarts students, have been meeting since last January to design a concert and preparatory project week that will attract new audiences and bring new ideas to programming. With many ups and downs the resulting concert took place today. The concert was opened by a single drum roll played by the conductor Hans Leenders on a bare stage. The echoing drum roll was further echoed by a spontaneous though encouraged lap-roll by the audience. Then the Overture La Gazza Ladra followed with all players walking on stage as they played. Two works by student composers Sam Wamper and Neus Kaori both made use of audience involvement (clicks, rustles, taps and hisses to capture the autumn theme of the evening) and these works were complemented by the storm from Beethoven 6, the Via Appia of Respighi and an outstanding performance of the second and third movements of the Sibelius Violin Concerto by 17-year-old Karen Su. The concert ended with music from ET and Armin van Buuren’s version of You’ll never walk alone.
But this was not all. During the week, our composers (under Peter Jan Wagemans, Paul van Brugge, René Uilenhuijt and Hans Koolmees) had been working on instant composition installations that were played on screens in the hall and works that were performed in secret locations within the labyrinth of De Doelen (under the title of ‘mining’!) , and our pianists performed Mendelssohn and Bach in a ‘chill room’ decked with Indian carpets, cushions, bubble chairs, nice lighting and other accoutrements including a pile of packing cases and the audience drank bockbier as part of the experience.
Still more: the Project Week also provided a celebration of the remarkable Dutch composer Arie J. Keijzer in a concert of his works with organ and the Piano Department welcomed Edwin Beunk and Riko Fukuda for a day of discovery of the Erard and other early pianos. Huib Ramaer also lectured on Mendelssohn and his times.
Finally the Project Week for the singing department comprised preparation and performance of Herbert Howells’ Hymnus Paradisi with our great choir director Wiecher Mandemaker’s Laurenskantorei and the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Martyn Brabbins. The final performance took place yesterday (7 November) to a packed Grote Zaal (2200) in De Doelen.
So it was a Project Week to remember! Thanks to all those who worked so hard – Myrte Hoes and Alysia van Dijk especially but also Okke Westdorp, Bart van de Roer, Erik Zwiep and all those already mentioned too.