At last Ricki and Cosi decided to sit for their official portrait by Lord Thingy.
Cosi on the left, Ricki on the right. As you can imagine, it's not easy to get much work done with these little characters around. They're busy exploring...
Luckily it was last week, not this week, that I went off to Formigine in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy to visit the extraordinary chamber orchestra Spira Mirabilis on its home turf. I listened to them rehearsing for four hours (most UK orchestras wouldn't fancy one minute over three - and this was four hours in the afternoon, following a similar quantity that morning). With that span of intense hard work punctuated only by a brief break for Italian coffee, they covered all of about nine minutes - if that - of Colin Matthews.
Here's my piece about them from yesterday's Independent.
And here is a bonus bit. This is what Lorenza Borrani, leader of both Spira and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, said when I asked her if she'd ever thought about becoming a conductor - because I reckon she has the drive, the personality and the expertise to carry it off, should she so wish.
"It sounds a bit superficial, but the figure of a
woman conducting doesn’t drive me. Maybe because I haven’t been amazed by one: I have pictures of great conductors, men, I have never seen one
inspirational woman. I'm trying to speak very honestly: you have concerts by Claudio [Abbado], Harnoncourt...but nothing so strong happened to me in my life
to make me say 'wow, that’s really so'. When you are young you have
inspiration and you think 'Wow, I would like to be like that', and this it didn’t
happen. Not that you have to have examples from the same sex as you, but to
have the wish, if I want to have inspiration... I felt sometimes, since I direct
COE, that they need to know the job because it would make my life easier; I
wouldn’t like to stand in front of the orchestra, not being part of the group. And actually conducting studies in
school is something every musician should do, and I'm happy that here [at Spira] we do it."
So you see the importance of role models. This is why we need to encourage more women to become conductors, and give opportunities to the ones there are to shine, because otherwise the lack of role models becomes a self-perpetuating situation. As for dumping the maestro altogether, Spira can pull it off - but it takes a great deal of doing.
If you know a young conservatoire musician aged 16-19 who feels she would like the chance simply to give it a go, I can heartily recommend the course at Morley College started last year by Andrea Brown and Alice Farnham. More about it here.