On Sunday 26 June, students from the Guildhall School's Orchestral Artistry programme will join LSO players on stage with Sir Simon Rattle to perform Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique. In the run up to the concert, we talked to cellist Anaïs Laugénie to find out what made this programme so appealing, and what it's like to work with Sir Simon …
Coming to London
I was born in France where I studied the cello for four years at the Conservatoire Régional in Paris. Then I met this amazing teacher, Thomas Carroll, during a summer course and he said 'You know you can go to London to study... it's great!' So I did the audition and got into the undergraduate programme at the Royal College of Music and now I'm in my second year of post-graduate at the Guildhall School where I study with Ursula Smith. I chose the Guildhall because it’s a tiny bit smaller so it feels more like a family. Plus I only ever wanted to do orchestral music since the first time I touched a cello and the Guildhall are the only one that do a Masters programme in that area.
Life as an Orchestral Artistry Student
The Orchestral Artistry programme involves much more than a normal Masters. For example, we have excerpts class twice or three times a term. I'm lucky, I'm the only cellist on the course so every time I get to have a one-to-one lesson on excerpts and repertoire with one of the people from the LSO. We also have workshops where we sight-read a symphony – we read a lot of symphonies just to get familiar with the repertoire. We also sit-in on rehearsals with the LSO sometimes. We go to sit and listen, but sometime we play and that's just the best, it's huge.
Working with the LSO
Alongside LSO Principal Cello Rebecca Gilliver (Image © Alastair Muir)
We get so much experience to be next to them. I was next to Rebecca Gilliver, the LSO's Principal Cello, last year and there was no talking. There was no need to talk, you can feel how they're playing when you’re next to them. It was the way she moved to make us start all together. Playing with them I feel so little but I know that I have to use this experience to bring out the best in my playing. I'm glad we're doing the side-by-side concert again because I play better, I’m more focused, and when that happens you really enjoy the programme and you enjoy everything more. And with Sir Simon Rattle... I don't have any words!
Sir Simon Rattle
Before that first rehearsal with Simon for The Monster in the Maze last year, everybody was shaking! You're shaking like hell! You think 'Oh my god! Oh my God! It's him! It's so scary!' until you realize that he’s super nice. He acts the same as us and to him there's no difference between students and professionals – we all just worked together and it was really amazing. As a student, we always make such a huge deal of everything and the LSO always bring us back down to normal. You play music and that’s it, you know – it’s normal.
The Next Generation
This year I did quite a lot with the LSO Discovery programme. We played at Trafalgar Square with the LSO On Track kids and it was so much fun. The kids were really excited (and so were we!). During rehearsals, we were there with them to play, and supervise – more to supervise really. I just want to play really well so they can hear someone play well. Like the LSO does with us, I want to do the same with the kids. We did Swan Lake but an easier version than the usual score … but when you're in front of 10,000 people and they're looking at you and listening to you then it's not so easy! Doing Trafalgar Square I learned that there is no easy concert. The music is easier, but you have to concentrate as much as normal.
Life after Guildhall
I'll be applying for a year-long Guildhall fellowship because I want to stay around and not be too far from the Barbican. I'm also going to start teaching and doing auditions as well as playing freelance. The good thing about the Orchestral Artistry Programme is that even when I'm finished, I still have all these contacts in the LSO, so I can still have private lessons and get advice if I need it. It's not dead after the end!
On 26 June, students from the Guildhall School will perform side-by-side with the LSO in Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique under Sir Simon Rattle. In the first half, he conducts the world premiere of The Hogboon, a children's opera by the late Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. The concert is sold out, but you can join the returns queue at the Box Office on level -1 (stalls) on the night from 5.30pm.