Southbank Sinfonia Diaries: May/June 2021

Southbank Sinfonia Diaries: May/June 2021

Marcus Dawe


A week in the life...


I start my week with teaching on Mondays. It's all been online in my small bedroom since Covid hit and it creates many unique challenges. From internet connection issues to sound quality - learning to adapt and work around the difficulties of working from home has been the key to success at this time.

Getting the most out of your students can be tricky when encountering these barriers, so I have been trying to remind myself not to expect too much but to keep a sense of positivity in the students' practice so they can allow the flute to be a nice distraction from all the chaos. Once the teaching day is over, I typically do a little practice before cooking dinner and taking it easy in the evening.


This week, Southbank Sinfonia is playing an education concert catering to families with young children. As usual, the orchestra's playing week begins on a Tuesday, so I've arrived at St John's Smith Square ready to rehearse the chosen repertoire. This is a unique concert as we are jumping between multiple pieces of music - and in my case I am frequently jumping between flute and piccolo playing.

My favourite work in the programme, which features everything from Vivaldi's Four Seasons and Mozart's Overture from The Marriage of Figaro to Dani Howard's Dragonsnap! and Saint-Saens' Carnival of the Animals, is probably Bartok's Romanian Dances. It's quick, lively, and fun - three things I always enjoy in music, so it's been a rewarding miniature to work on. 

SbS players enjoying a well-earned break on the steps of St John's Smith Square

Today we delved deeper into the workshopping process. We focused on sound scaping, adding actions, dancing(!), and bringing out the inner child in each of us - all to really bring the story of the music to life. The theme of our concert is hibernation and the journey from the slumber of sleep to the waking joy of being together, paralleling all we've been through during the pandemic. We coupled this interactive element with some very detailed rehearsing to ensure our choreography was right on cue. The rehearsal process in classical music can be a challenging one - at times you are waiting and playing very little, but you have to be ready to jump in and play something very difficult at only a moment's notice - so the addition of movement made life a little more complicated, but also more fun!


Concert day! After so much time without playing to an audience it was really refreshing to have people in the venue with us, particularly at an education concert where we really engage with the children and families that come along. We get so much energy from this interaction, and it was a hugely heart-warming experience to come back to.

The day began with a detailed run-through of the concert programme, complete with our workshops and interactive storytelling. The concert went really well, and the audience was energetic and enthusiastic as we described the cycle of the seasons and waking up after a long hibernation.

Children had the chance to be maestros for the day , picking up the baton with a little help and encouragement from our guest animateur, Ruth Rosales, and guest conductor, Ben Palmer. However, it wasn't just the kids leaving the concert with a big smile on their faces!

Here we are throwing a little groove on the performance!

After the concert, I settled back into my routine outside of Southbank Sinfonia. It can be tricky to manage the balance of the week with my own work, practice, and admin, but the experience of orchestral life we get with SbS is so rewarding that it makes the hard work worth it.

Find out more about Marcus 

Lead image photo credit: Teralon