I don’t have many heroes. The Dalai Lama perhaps. Yo-Yo Ma, he’s pretty amazing. Aung Sun Su Kyi. But Sir Simon Rattle is up there amongst the people I’d really like to know.
I’ve never met him. I saw him once in Edinburgh walking through the park during the Festival fireworks. And he walked past me again as I was queueing outside the Royal Albert Hall to get tickets for Prom he was doing. But he’s a legend. The hair, the voice, the amazing musicality.
And I guess, he’s probably the most famous and certainly most instantly recognisable conductor in the world these days. He’s handsome, has a stunning wife, is chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic. Ok. I’m going to have stop gushing because I’m meeting him tomorrow.
For the last five or so years I’ve been fortunate enough to host the Night Shift for the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. They’re a bunch of inspired musicians who play on period instrument (that is, appropriate in style and construction to the age when the piece was composed) and they are fiercely democratic. They don’t have a conductor but chose to work with a cadre of ‘Principlal Artists’, in whose number is Sir Simon Rattle.
He was just Simon when they first worked together – a young exciting conductor from Liverpool who was making a big noise in Birmingham. Now he still works with the OAE and later in June they’re performing an evening of French music. And most excitingly, he is doing a Night Shift.
We try and make classical music a bit more …. well, friendly. Less bow ties and zimmer frames, more beer and talk. The music is still flawless and the musicians fervent, but the atmosphere is so much more welcoming.
We started out with just a handful of audience but recently we’ve been filling the hall – and all that at 10pm on a weekday, with an audience mostly under 30 and mostly underawed by ‘big names’. They just enjoy quirky ‘different’ music. I try and put together a Spotify playlist for people to listen to. There’s a massive Twitter and Facebook presence. Free beer for students. Oystercard holders and fake tattoos. What more could we want?
Well, on Sunday 10th in London, at the Royal Festival Hall, we’re doing an hour-long Nightshift with Sir Simon showcasing that mild-mannered revolutionary Debussy. We’ve got the whole of La Mer and the horny faun Prélude. It will be – swoon – ravishing.
I must try and gush less.