Interview: Dhafer Youssef

We talk a little with spellbinding oud master and vocalist Dhafer Youssef, who tells us about his latest album Birds Requiem and what to expect from its UK orchestral premiere with Kristjan Järvi and the LSO on Thursday 24 April.

There’s an interesting quote about the Birds Requiem album on your website: ‘I am waiting impatiently for the live performances so I can share these emotions and see this album, like the ones to come, evolve and take shape with the audience.’ In what direction might this Barbican concert with the LSO evolve?

I firmly believe that music solicits the senses, one needs to listen to it and feel it. Live performances are the final steps in the life of an album; the audience responds directly giving shape to the album. Of course every venue has its particularities. At the Barbican, I will be playing with my quintet along with the London Symphony Orchestra, which will bring another dimension to my music. I am really enthusiastic about it.

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Discovering Early Years

Far away from the concert platform and involving our youngest participants, our early years work with children under 5 and their parents and carers is a side of the LSO’s work you don’t often get to see. Here’s a rare insight into the world of our mini music-makers…

By Natalie Chivers, Community Projects Manager; and Isabel Bedford, Community Projects Coordinator

LSO Discovery runs a series of early years workshops at our Music Education Centre, LSO St Luke’s, and at local children’s centres and nurseries. Led by our early years music specialist, Vanessa King, and supported by LSO players, the workshops are interactive, musically informative, and above all, a lot of fun.

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Barry Banks on Berlioz Requiem

Barry Banks reflects on the monumental recording of Berlioz: Grande Messe des morts in St Paul's Cathedral in June 2012, under the late Sir Colin Davis.

The first time that I encountered the Grande Messe des Morts was as a 21 year old student at the Royal Northern College of Music. Had I realised then, what I do now, I would have run far far away from it. However, the innocence and stupidity of youth led me to actually accept it! The stupidity part helped me to come out of it relatively unscathed, but vowing I wouldn't try it again for a while! I sang it again, some 14 years later. Even at the age of 35 I felt that I didn't have the ammunition to do justice.

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Interview: James Gaffigan

We catch up with James Gaffigan, the New Yorker currently serving as Chief Conductor of the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, after the first rehearsal ahead of his LSO debut on Thursday 13 February. He talks to us about the thrills and spills of being an international conductor, his first impressions of the LSO and electrifying star pianist Yuja Wang.

So James, tell us your story. How did you get in to conducting?

Well, I didn't come from musical family, but there was a piano in the house. I always gravitated towards the piano and tried writing tunes, and one day my parents thought to send me to music school, so of course learned how to read music and really started playing instruments, many instruments – clarinet, bassoon, and I was a guitarist also.

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