ENO Evolve – an insight into the world of the ENO Orchestra

November 9, 2009

Ben Norris, student violinist at the Royal College of Music

When I received the news that I had been selected to take part in this year’s ENO Evolve scheme I was incredibly excited. The opportunity not just to observe but to actually take part in rehearsals with an orchestra of ENO’s caliber promised to be an experience I could take a lot from. I was not disappointed.

Before the first rehearsal, there was a meeting held at the RCM (Royal College of Music) with Jonathan Manners, ENO’s Orchestra Manager, and all of the students taking part in the scheme. At this point it became immediately apparent that a lot was expected of us in taking part in the scheme, both from the RCM and ENO. Upon getting the music, I made sure to prepare the parts, listened to recordings, and really made sure that the second I walked in to the first rehearsal venue I could be as professional as possible and act as a first-rate ambassador for the RCM.

The first rehearsal was an experience I shall never forget. Before a note had even been played, I could already feel the warmth and friendliness of the orchestra and I was made to feel very comfortable and welcome. My mentor, Hugh Davies, II Violin for ENO, was very accommodating and really made me feel at-ease, chatting to me and answering all of my questions.

Once we started playing, I was immediately overwhelmed by the sound. Having never played with an orchestra of ENO’s quality I found the most striking aspects to be the quality and contribution of individual players, the dynamic variation between the incredible pianissimo and huge fortissimo and the way in which the orchestra worked as a strong team. I also found that when surrounded by players who were fully contributing and playing well, I too played better. After the first rehearsal I simply could not wait to play with the orchestra again. It had been a thrilling experience.

In the later rehearsals, Hugh arranged for me to have the opportunity to sit on the front desk of the second violins for half of a rehearsal. Although initially slightly stunned that such an opportunity had been arranged for me, I found myself increasingly looking forward to it rather than being apprehensive. On the front desk, I really began to feel the intensity of the teamwork which goes into making this such a first-rate orchestra and I temporarily felt like a real part of that team.

Upon reflection, taking part in the Evolve scheme has proven to be one of the most invaluable experiences I have had whilst a student at the RCM. Just working with someone like Edward Gardner would have been a fantastic experience, however to feel like a part of the ENO Orchestra and experience first hand how he works with the orchestra and singers was a truly remarkable experience. I’m really looking forward to taking part in Tosca rehearsals in 2010.

denise ben (1)

Ben Norris, violinist at the Royal College of Music

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