Standing very proudly here with the Master, Benjamin Zander, Chief Conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra after I’d conducted the 3rd Movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony in the Art of possibility Masterclass.
I’ve always wanted to be a conductor. However I always knew I would have to go one of two routes and instead of taking the Opera route, I went down the harder and longer journey of the orchestral musician.
I studied violin, viola, piano and composition at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, UK (RNCM) and graduated in 1992 with the Hiles Gold Medal. I studied violin at the RNCM with Igor Oistrach’s protegé, Lydia Mordkovitch.
After four years in the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, I completed my Postgraduate studies at the Vienna Conservetoire in Austria with Prof. Florian Zwiauer and worked in the Radio Symphony Orchestra of Vienna and the Beethoven Ensemble between 1996 and 2000.
Returning to the UK, I was on trial with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hallé Orchestra, but eventually became a member of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and was Principal 2nd Violin, No.2, No.3 and No.4 between 2002 and 2016. I also had my debut recital with the pianist Paul Janes at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester in 2005.
PICKING UP THE BATON
Knowing that I had enough orchestral experience behind me, I began conducting the Lancashire Chamber Orchestra in 2003 and conducted the Northern Baroque Orchestra in Rochdale for 9 years.
I was able to bring in soloists from the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra to participate in the NBO’s public concerts and spanned the repertoire from C.P.E. Bach to Glazunov.
My first outing as a Symphonic Conductor was with the Blackburn Symphony Orchestra in November 2015 at Accrington Town hall with a programme of Hindemith Metamorphosen, Schumann 1 and Peter and the Wolf. The recording of the concert can be found on my Soundcloud site on this website.
Having participated in an International Masterclass at the RNCM with the acclaimed Dutch conductor Jac Van Steen in March 2015, I decided it was time to embark on my conducting career, but realised that I would have to go back to fully study conducting.
Starting in January 2016, I began my formal conducting studies at the RNCM on a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) course with Clark Rundell and Mark Heron.
Conducting classes from external conductors at the RNCM while I was there were intense, and I was lucky enough to have conducted for Matt Wood, Mark Shanahan, Garry Walker, Phillipe Bach, Anthony Hermus and Jac Van Steen.
I then left the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra in October 2016 and sold my violin because I wanted to focus primarily on conducting.
THE SKAPARIS ORCHESTRA
While at the RNCM I formed the Skaparis Orchestra (From Skapa – meaning ‘to create’, ‘creator’ or ‘to make’ in Old Norse) in September 2016.
The Skaparis Orchestra’s debut concert was in December 2016 when I conducted Schoenberg’s Verklärte nacht and Ibert’s Divertissement – both films of the concert can be found in my Vimeo on the main page of this website.
The Skaparis is very flexible, in that it can perform works from 6 players and morph in to a large orchestra.
The first professional concert I gave with them was at the Manchester (Gorton) Monastery on August 25th ’17 where I collaborated with the Dance Producer, Suddi Raval (who had a big hit in the 80’s called ‘Northern Uproar’ in the Hacienda era) and Simon Withenshaw, Film Score composer for TT Games (Warner Bros.)
The project was called ‘Classical Uproar’ and the concert in August was covered on BBC News.
There are further performances of the reduced version of Classical Uproar planned for 2018/19, and we had a very successful show at Leeds International Festival (UK) on 28th April ’18. Photos of the show can be found in my Blog and in the Media section.
Opera started to play a large part in my musical life – I conducted two Opera excerpts at the RNCM Opera Theatre in June ’17, La Cenerentola by Rossini and L’amico Fritz by Mascagni.
It’s fascinating working with singers. I was determined to go through the same processes as them by attending language coaching (especially Italian) and being present at all of the pre production meetings with the Opera Director Garth Bardsley. The performances were such a joy to conduct and the singers were remarkable.
THE ART OF POSSIBILITY
I was accepted on to the London conducting Masterclasses with the Boston Philharmonic chief, Benjamin Zander in July ’17 (it was a busy summer!) and this became a life changing event for me. Benjamin teaches ‘the Art of possibility’ which is a philosophy, a way of life and a construct for the foundation of his conducting teaching.
While there I conducted Beethoven 9, Coriolan overture, Mahler 5, Tchaikovsky 4, Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet and Mozart Susannah’s aria. I met some incredible people and brilliant artists and I was extremely lucky to have been there to participate in these very intensive Masterclasses with this great Master.
My Opera debut was on August 12th ’17 at RADA studios in London performing the Chamber Opera ‘Citizens of Nowhere’ by the composer Anna Appleby, and collaborating with the famous South African dance choreographer, Dane Hurst. It was an incredible experience to be working with such a dance legend and we all received great reviews for our performances.
I was appointed MD of the Stretford Brass Band between January 2017 and October 2017, an appointment that I’m extremely proud of as the band has a great history, having been around over 150 years! It also helped develop my skills conducting brass, and I can now stand in front of any brass section with a great deal more confidence. I left the band in October as the Skaparis Orchestra was requiring more of my time.
STARTING MY CONDUCTING CAREER
I signed a contract in March 2018 with Warner Brothers to conduct their new LEGO computer game, ‘The Incredibles’ with a Big Band that I hand picked on April 12th/13th at 80hz Studios in Manchester.
Simon Withenshaw of TT Games, a subsidiary of Warner Brothers wrote the amazing music, and I worked solidly with Simon for months before the recordings on anomalies in the scores before a note was played.
Hopefully we will be working on the next game!
HARRY POTTER CONCERTS
I was invited by my friend Carl Whitely (Film Producer) to conduct the Skaparis Orchestra for the Harry Potter Convention in Manchester (UK) on 21st/22nd July. The Convention Concerts were performed 6 times each day at the newly built Stoller Hall in Chethams School of Music and we had over 4000+ audience members over the two days! The performances were a massive success and we can’t wait for a repeat (with additional surprises) at Victoria Warehouse (near the Manchester United ground) on October 27th and 28th.
The next major project after that is my collaboration with Gary Numan, with a UK Tour in November ’18 including The Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, Birmingham Symphony Hall and the Royal Albert Hall in London to name a few!
I’m currently working very hard on the arrangements for the tour along with my co-writer, and I signed contracts with Gary in Holmfirth where he was performing on the 18th of July of this year.
Tickets can be bought on the Skaparis Orchestra’s website; www.skaparis.uk
Plans are coming together for the Skaparis to perform in St. James’s Church and Emmanuel Church in Didsbury, Manchester for the Easter weekend on the 19th and 21st of April 2019. The programme will include Rebel ‘Les Elemens’ and Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, and will be to make up for postponing last years tour in Europe. I have two absolutely amazing singers for the Soprano and Mezzo parts, so I’m getting excited already for the concerts.
More collaborations are currently being forged behind the scenes at SR Music – I’ll keep you all updated!