Quite a Summer: Tom Fetherstonhaugh and Fantasia Orchestra have three festival debuts including the BBC Proms

Jess Gillam, Tom Fetherstonhaugh & Fantasia Orchestra in rehearsal  (Photo: Fantasia Orchestra)
Jess Gillam, Tom Fetherstonhaugh & Fantasia Orchestra in rehearsal  (Photo: Fantasia Orchestra)

Tom Fetherstonhaugh and Fantasia Orchestra are having quite a Summer with debuts at the BBC Proms, Northern Aldborough Festival and Ryedale Festival, along with other appearances which will be keeping the orchestra busy. The orchestra describes itself as a community of friends and colleagues, many of whom trained together in their teens, who are now at the start of their professional careers. Tom founded the orchestra way back in 2016 when he was still at school and the first concert featured his friends from Junior Royal Academy of Music. Since then it has evolved into a professional ensemble yet still with the same core of players, people who have gone through school and university together and are now in the profession; friends and colleagues making the journey together.

In April, they performed at St Gabriel’s Church, Pimlico with saxophonist Jess Gillam in a programme that included James MacMillan‘s Saxophone Concerto, the first concert in what promises to be their busiest season so far, making festival debuts as well as returning to  Proms at St Jude’s and Guiting Music Festival. They hope to continue the momentum and will be launching their next season in the Summer.

Tom describes their repertoire, rather engagingly, as ‘a whole host of things’. At the BBC Proms (on 4 August) they are performing multi-genre gems, from Bartok to Bob Marley, Burt Bacharach and Laura Mvula. Their Prom is on Sunday morning; it is being filmed and will be broadcast on TV. Then the next day they repeat the programme for a relaxed Prom.

On 22 June they return to the Proms at St Jude’s with an all-American programme celebrating 100 years of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue along with Gershwin’s American in Paris, Bernstein’s overture to West Side Story, and music by Florence Price and Ruth Crawford Seeger. At the Northern Aldborough Festival on 13 June they are performing Chopin’s Piano Concerto No 1 and Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, both romantic pioneers. They have never been to the Northern Aldborough Festival before, and this year is the festival’s 30th birthday and Tom feels honoured that he and the orchestra will be opening the festival.

Fantasia Orchestra with Sheku and Braimah Kanneh-Mason and Plinio Fernandes (Photo: Kaupo Kikkas)
Fantasia Orchestra with Braimah Kanneh-Mason, Sheku Kanneh-Mason,  and Plinio Fernandes (Photo: Kaupo Kikkas)

Tom is the orchestra’s conductor and artistic director, and so responsible for programming, working regularly with collaborators who are often the starting point for programming. At the BBC Proms they are joined by Plínio Fernandes – guitar, Braimah Kanneh-Mason – violin, Sheku Kanneh-Mason – cello and have put together a programme with them. At Northern Aldborough they are performing with pianist Alim Beisembayev, not only has he performed with the orchestra before but he and Tom studied together at the Royal Academy of Music. He brought the Chopin concerto to the programme, and then they created the programme around the piece. Collaborators are at the heart of the repertoire, bringing repertoire that they might not normally perform, bringing a central focus to their programming.

Tom is currently assistant conductor at the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO), a two year position that finishes at the end of the 2023/24 season. Tom says he has had an amazing time, he has been assisting visiting conductors as well as taking his place on the podium for 39 concerts this year, making nearly 70 concerts over the two years. He has been incredibly busy with the BSO touring to the counties on the orchestra’s patch based at the Lighthouse in Poole, exploring lots of repertoire with the orchestra’s members becoming close and trusted colleagues.

Tom conducted for the first time when he was 13. He was a chorister at Westminster Abbey and the went on tour to Russia in 2011. Unfortunately the choir master’s visa was late arriving so, as senior chorister Tom was asked to take a day of rehearsals in Moscow in the choir master’s delayed absence. Afterwards, Tom thought that that was what he wanted to do.

As a member of the Abbey choir, he attended the Abbey Choir School which looks after the Abbey’s choristers. Tom describes it as an extraordinary place that is geared towards music. It was incredibly unusual for him to be conducting, but they were supportive. Afterwards he went to Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School, a state school with a fine tradition of music. They were also incredibly supportive, both of his conducting ambitions and Fantasia’s early days. He then studied conducting with Sian Edwards at the Royal Academy of Music. 

Full details of Fantasia Orchestra’s Summer programme from their website.

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Exclusive :Top musicians urge Concertgebouw to readmit Israeli quartet

Almost a hundred musicians have rallied overnight to petition the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam to reverse its ban on two concerts this week by the Jerusalem Quartet. The concerts were called off  ‘to gurantee the safety of employees, visitors and musicians.’

Outraged musicians have acccused the Dutch administrators of capitulating to mob rule.

We present the petition below with the initial rush of signatories. They include some well-known artists. If you support their appeal, do share this post on social media and add your name in the comments slot.

Watch for updates during the course of today.


15 May 2024

We, the undersigned, as musicians and presenters who celebrate mutual respect across different disciplines and specialisations, who regularly collaborate and who draw inspiration from one another, are appalled at the recent announcement of the Concertgebouw to cancel the May 16th and 18th performances by the Jerusalem Quartet.

Threats to the safety of musicians, concert hall staff, and the general public, fly in the face of hard-won democratic values and freedom of expression, and should have no place in our society. The behaviour of our arts organisations should reflect this, and should stand up for these values.

By cancelling these concerts, the management of the Concertgebouw placates a vocal minority who advocate for their cause through intimidation and credible threats of disorder and violence. We need not look very far back into European history to see what happens when people acquiesce to the very behaviours that sow their own downfall.

Anything less than permitting the Jerusalem Quartet to continue with its planned performances — and to provide them and the audience of the Concertgebouw with protection and support — amounts to pure moral cowardice.

We call upon the management of the Concertgebouw to show strength of character in defending the concert platform as a realm for free expression of the sublime yearnings of the human spirit otherwise failed by words and actions that all too often lapse into meaningless, pseudo-moral binaries. The Concertgebouw’s behaviour succumbs to an “education at the college of fools” rather than continuing to affirm itself as a bastion of the ineffable.

We wholeheartedly protest this act and as musicians call for an immediate redress.

Yours Sincerely,

1 Mahan Esfahani, harpsichordist
2 Danny Driver, pianist
3 Joshua Weilerstein, conductor
4 Nicholas Daniel, oboist
5 Anna-Liisa Bezrodny, violinist
6 Craig Rutenberg, voice coach and accompanist
7 Hana Arie-Gaifman, Director Emerita Taschner Center 92nd St Y
8 Philip Clark, musician, writer, journalist
9 Michael Fine, Grammy Award-winning producer
10 Alisa Weilerstein, cellist
11 Jan David Schmitz, Head of Programme at the Brucknerhaus Linz
12 Andrew Litton, conductor
13 Ben Goldscheider, horn player
14 Anahita Abbasi, composer
15 Katya Apekisheva, pianist
16 Gemma Rosefield, cellist
17 Amy Dickson saxophonist
18 Lucy Parham, pianist
19 Itzhak Rashkovsky, violinist
20 Shiry Rashkovsky, violist
21 Walter Reiter, violinist
22 Roman Mints, violinist
23 Lars Anders Tomter, violist
24 Ulrich Gerhartz, Director of Concerts & Artist Services Steinway UK
25 Taras Voloschuk, double bass player
26 Diana Ketler, pianist, director Sonoro Festival
27 Boris Brovtsyn, violinist
28 Stephen Waarts, violinist
29 Tom Hancox, flautist
30 Andrew Zolinsky, pianist
31 Benjamin Navarro, violinist
32 Alexander Sitkovetsky, violinist
33 Shlomy Dobrinsky, violinist
34 Edna Landau, arts consultant
35 Jack Liebeck, violinist
36 Maria Schellenberg, mezzo-soprano
37 David Benedict, critic
38 Krzysztof Chorzelski, violist
39 Anahit Kurtikyan, violinist
40 Yuri Zhislin, violinist
41 Alexandra Raikhlina, violinist
42 Natalie Clein, cellist
43 David Cohen, cellist
44 Charles Owen, pianist
45 Kathryn Stott, pianist
46 Guy Ben-Ziony, violist
47 Patrick Savage, violinist and composer
48 Simon Blendis, violinist
49 Martin Owen, horn player
50 Margaret Fingerhut, pianist
51 Oleg Kogan, cellist
52 Arcadia Quartet
53 Rasvan Dumitru, violinist
54 Timothy Ridout, violist
55 Charlotte Scott, cellist
56 Claude Frochaux, cellist
57 Robert Rinder, barrister
58 Louisa Clein, actor
59 Thomas Carroll, cellist
60 Kristina Blaumane, cellist
61 Sacha Rattle, clarinettist
62 Julius Drake, pianist
63 Charlotte Saluste-Bridoux, violinist
64 Elizabeth Burley, pianist
65 Simone van der Giessen, violist
66 Polina Kogan, pianist
67 James Francis Brown, composer
68 Fiona Sinclair, CEO, Leeds Piano Competition
69 Philip Dukes, violist
70 Guy Johnson, cellist
71 Piers Lane, pianist
72 Marianna Shirinyan, pianist
73 Anthony Hewitt, pianist
74 Robert Max, cellist
75 David Aspin, violist
76 Dene Olding AM, violinist
77 Ryan Bancroft, conductor
78 Gavin Bryars, composer
79 Paul McCreesh, conductor
80 Arianna Zukermann, soprano
81 Rebecca Miller, conductor
82 Bartholomew LaFollette, cellist
83 Yuri Torchinsky, violinist
84 Alexander Kobrin, pianist
85 Tim Posner, cellist
86 Priya Mitchell, violinist
87 Dirk Mommertz, pianist
88 Reinis Zarins, pianist
89 Brian O’Kane, cellist
90 Boris Adrianov, cellist
91 Norman Lebrecht, writer
92 Boris Petrushansky, pianist
93 Cedric Pescia, pianist
94 Gaby Lester, violinist

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CBSO boss: I won’t change phone policy. I’ll megaphone it

Letter from the orchestra’s CEO Emma Stenning to a customer disturbed by use of phones in symphony concerts.

Dear [name redacted]

Thank you so much for your continued support of the CBSO. You are, and always will remain, our loyal, supportive friends and audiences.

Ahead of your priority booking for the 24/25 season we are writing to you directly about our policy for the use of mobile phones.

Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a lot of discussion in the media about our policy around the use of phones, and this has understandably caused concerns for some of you. Whilst much of our position has either been misrepresented or misreported, we are of course listening to, and reflecting on, the feedback, which we take very seriously.

To put your mind at ease, we are not encouraging filming at our concerts.

In fact, our policy simply states that audience members are welcome to capture something to remember their experience by at the appropriate moments – namely during applause breaks.

In addition to this, we plan to make the policy clear at the start of each concert, through a recorded message played before the orchestra goes on stage. This will set out when audience members will be able to take photos or video clips, and we hope that we will have this in place by Wednesday’s concert.

As a reminder, here is our phone policy, which is also printed in our programmes:

We are very happy for you to take photographs and short video clips at our concerts. We ask that you are mindful of disturbing artists and other audience members and suggest that you take pictures and videos during applause breaks. Please dim the brightness on your phone, and do not use your flash.

We also provide all programme notes and some song texts digitally, as both a cost-effective offer for audiences, and as a way of furthering our environmental commitments. Our Digital Programmes can be downloaded to phones and viewed during the performance. We are currently developing a ‘Concert Mode’ that will reduce the light emitted from the screen so that audience members can discretely look at their programme without disturbing those around them. Furthermore, we will be providing more surtitles for our forthcoming season, minimising the need for audiences to use their phone to read along.

Finally, I wanted to clarify our policy on drinks. Drinks that are purchased at Symphony Hall can be taken into the Hall in a plastic cup. This policy has been in place since the Hall re-opened post-covid and enables our audience, if they wish, to enjoy a drink whilst listening to the concert.

Our existing audiences are cherished and valued and are very much part of the Orchestra’s extended family. We recognise this and thank you for your involvement, engagement and support – whether that be through attending concerts, your financial gifts or indeed both. We hope that this update helps to clarify any concerns that you may have, and we can’t wait to share our Season of Joy with you.

Kindest regards,

Emma Stenning
Chief Executive

Mark Phillips
Player Chair

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Netrebko plans a Berlin comeback

Next season at Unter den Linden, the first with Christian Thielemann as Daniel Barenboim’s successor, opens with Verdi’s Nabucco.

It’s a new production by Emma Dante, opening on October 2.

The cast is headed by Anna Netrebko who is making considerable efforts to recover her pre-Ukraine paramountcy in German houses. Berlin is seen as the gateway to her second chance. Nabucco is a role she has sung many times. Thielemann has long been her supporter.

The Staatsoper are not making a great fuss about her presence. Expect ructions closer to the time.

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Just in: Dutch run scared of Jerusalem Quartet

The Concertgebouw in Amsterdam has called off two concerts this week by the Israeli string quartet ‘due to announced demonstrations, and recent developments surrounding protests in Amsterdam.’

The hall said it has ‘a duty guarantee the safety of our employees, visitors and musicians.’

The concerts were due to take place on Thursday and Saturday.

There has been an instant response from the Dutch Jewish community: ‘It is with total disbelief that the Central Jewish Consultation has learned that the Concertgebouw has decided to cancel the concert from the Jerusalem Quartet that was planned in the Concertgebouw for May 16 and 18. Your actions have given new meaning to the word ‘cancel culture.’

The quartet’s cellist Kyril Zlotnikov calls the Concertgebouw’s decision ‘Capitulation to bullying and terrorism.’

Last Thursday, the Jerusalem Quartet gave a sold-out concert without incident at London’s Wigmore Hall.

Why are the Dutch so timid?

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Two women replace sick Christian Thielemann

The Staatskapelle Dresden has lost its former maestro to illness for a European tour, starting next Sunday.

Jumping in at Dresden, Vienna and Hamburg is Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla (pictured.

Taking over in Paris, Essen, Cologne and Vienna (again) is Marie Jacquot.

Lucky they were free at short notice.

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Bristol names exLSO boss

The Bristol Beacon, the city’s music edication hub, has appointed Simon Wales as CEO.

He’s the former head of LSO St Lukes and Birmingham’s B:Music.

The Bristol Beacon was formerly Colston Hall.


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Holy smoke: Oxford grabs Westminster Abbey organist

Even with royal highlights, nobody wants to remain on the subs bench.

press release:
Peter Holder, Sub-Organist at Westminster Abbey, has been appointed Organist and Official Student (Tutorial Fellow) at Christ Church, Oxford.

In his current role, Peter has been the chief musical assistant to the Organist and Master of the Choristers at Westminster Abbey, playing the organ for the Abbey’s daily services and accompanying the Abbey Choir in recordings and concerts. He also serves as deputy director of the Choir and assists in training the choristers.

Peter served as principal organist at the State Funeral of HM Queen Elizabeth II and last year’s Coronation of Their Majesties The King and Queen, for which he was recently made a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music.

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Biz news: Alison Balsom quits HP for boutique

The trumpeter Alison Balsom has left HarrisonParrott to join its former executive Tugce Tez in her boutique agency.

Balsom has previously been with AskonasHolt and Imogen Lewis Holland

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Conductor to flit between Rossini’s Otello and Verdi’s

Oper Frankfurt has asked Sesto Quatrini to take charge of both Otellos in the coming weeks – Rossini’s on May 17, 19, 26, 31 and June 8, 15 ; and Verdi’s on June 22, 30 and July 4, 7, 10, 12.

Quatrini says: ‘It will be enthralling to take on the challenge of two such disparate scores, with such diverse musical languages and approaches to vocality, and two very different librettos, partly because they originated from different literary sources (Othello, ou le More de Venise by Jean-François Ducis for Rossini, and Shakespeare’s tragedy of the same name for Verdi). Basically, two operas which recount the same immortal, tragic events, but do so with different tempos, words, music, styles, theatrical and musical devices, methods, perspectives, even characters.’

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