London Philharmonic Orchestra

Posted: 20th October 2023

This week, Cobham Hall hosted the world-renowned London Philharmonic Orchestra as they filmed for an upcoming new project. Our Music Scholars and musicians were lucky enough to meet with some of the top artists from the orchestra, who kindly spent time answering their questions and giving advice.

Interestingly, Paul (Principal Trumpet) began by sharing fond memories of Cobham Hall, having lived close by and spent many a summer in our very own Gilt Hall playing with the Kent Youth Orchestra. He told us it was wonderful to be back in such a special place to play – though he had been surprised to find it smaller than the vast space of his childhood

‘Was there a moment when you knew that this was what you wanted to do?’ Jude (Year 12) asked the artists. Lyndon (Principal Bass Trombone) explained that it had been ‘more of a process”’ and that in fact it is common for an artist to study another subject at undergraduate level before proceeding to do a Postgraduate in music. ‘The key is to continue
your music; you will always have that option in future’. Graham (the orchestra’s Concerts and Recording Manager), agreed. He himself had studied Mathematics as an undergraduate before moving into music professionally: ‘You do what you love, and somehow the job finds you’, he said.

‘How much do you have to rehearse?’ Penny (Year 9) asked. Alice (Oboe) explained that for a new piece, the orchestra would usually rehearse all together around six hours one day and another three the next before the performance. The amount of practice an individual artist might also need often depended on the instrument. However, there are pieces in the orchestra’s repertoire which they play often, and which require less practice time. Alice added that she finds personal practice can be difficult to squeeze in because of her busy work schedule (resonating with our students who juggle so many activities and studies with their music).

‘What’s it like to play with one of the top orchestras in the world?’ Yannes (Year 12) asked. The artists all agreed that it was ‘not always glamorous’ – then quickly added ‘but it often is’. They play at Glyndebourne every year, which they described as very special. Many of the venues they play in are exceptionally fine, although they pointed out that backstage is never as glamorous as front of house. ‘It’s a fantastically sociable job, and very varied’ they said. ‘You can be playing in a field one day’ said one, pointing to Cobham’s grounds, ‘and filming the next; performing,
touring or travelling.’

The musicians had played with many famous people and at some incredible occasions, to our students’ fascination. Graham had worked on the Lord of the Rings movie and the first Hobbit film, while Alice had played with artists including Ariana Grande, Elton John and Paul Weller. Paul featured on popstar Robbie Williams’ renowned ‘Angels’ track, as well as
football’s Champions League anthem. The London Philharmonic Orchestra had also, he told us, recorded the anthems of each competing country at the 2012 Olympics, so every time a medal was won it was their performance that played. Paul’s favourite national anthem, he told us, had been that of the Cayman Islands, but they never won a medal so unfortunately it was never heard by the wider world.

Exyn (Year 11) wondered if at any point in their musical career ‘they had ever wanted to give up?’ All thought hard about her insightful question, before responding ‘no ‘– except Alice, who said ‘sometimes, in the early hours of the morning, when I am still making reeds for the next day, I do question why I am doing this’.

We are very grateful to the artists for taking the time to provide such insight to our students – Elena sums up their experience:

“Getting to speak with key experts in the music field allowed me to see how amazing this industry really is. I discussed how, even though my future degree is unrelated to music, I would still love to continue with opera as it is so very meaningful to me, especially as my grandmother was a Colombian opera singer. Music is a passion of mine and continues through my heritage, therefore speaking with the London Philharmonic Orchestra is something I can never forget.”
– Elena (Year 13, Music Scholar)