CBSO to celebrate 100th birthday with free online concert at industrial warehouse

The largest orchestra assembled in the UK since the COVID-19 lockdown will perform a free online concert from a warehouse in Birmingham this Saturday to mark its centenary.

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s first-ever concert was at 7pm on Sunday 5 September 1920, at the Theatre Royal in New Street, conducted by Appleby Matthews.

Exactly 100 years later, the CBSO 100th Birthday Celebration will be streamed online to audiences across the world via YouTube, Facebook and on Classic FM.

The orchestra usually performs at Symphony Hall on Westside, but the special event will be performed at a warehouse in Longbridge because it is large enough to house all musicians while adhering to social distancing measures.

Birmingham-born actor Adrian Lester will present the event, and special guests will include Sir Simon Rattle, the CBSO’s former principal conductor, along with Nottingham-born cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason and Leicester-born sitar player Roopa Panesar.

The free concert will feature music by Elgar that was played in that very first concert in 1920 as well as two pieces by living composers. The musical treats include:

  • Robert Schumann Genoveva Overture
  • Edward Elgar Serenade for Strings
  • Camille Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto No.1 in A minor
  • Hannah Kendall The Spark Catchers
  • A. R. Rahman Slumdog Millionaire (Suite)
  • Igor Stravinsky The Firebird (1919 Suite)

Between each piece, online audiences will be able to watch interviews with all parts of the CBSO family – from players to donors, and from backroom staff to the youth orchestra – with an enormous video wall helping to tell the story of the last 100 years.

Stephen Maddock, chief executive of the CBSO, said: “For 100 years the CBSO has been a source of joy, education and entertainment to audiences across the West Midlands, the UK and internationally.

“We are hugely excited and proud to be presenting this ground-breaking performance to mark our centenary and showcase our vision for the future.

“We hope our audiences enjoy this much-needed dose of music, joined by our close friends and special guests, as a reminder of why the CBSO is such a remarkable and special orchestra.”

Mr Maddock asked for everyone interested to spread news of the concert “far and wide” so that as many people as possible could watch.

He added: “If you felt able to tell others in your own musical networks and share news of the concert on social media, I would be enormously grateful.”

Mike Olley, general manager of Westside BID, said: “What great way for the CBSO to mark its 100th birthday by bringing the eyes of the world to Birmingham.

“We are looking forward to watching this treat, and also to welcoming the CBSO back to it’s rightful home at Symphony Hall as soon as possible.”

The concert can be watched live from 7pm on Saturday 5 September on the CBSO’s Facebook and YouTube channels, and a recording will remain free to stream on YouTube until the end of September. For more details, visit https://cbso.co.uk/event/cbso100 or watch this video https://youtu.be/xGS5zVx-r5c

By Steve Dyson

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