“Last Friday evening, 6 September, could prove to be a seminal moment in the journey of the Royal Porcelain Works towards becoming established as a new and vibrant cultural and performing arts centre for Worcester. A memorable performance of Beethoven’s iconic Fifth Symphony, conducted by the hugely talented Keith Slade, provided the material for the inaugural Friday Night Live concert in the Royal Porcelain Works beautifully restored and refurbished Henry Sandon Hall. However, this was a concert like no other”.

The Friday Night LIVE season opened with 'The Beethoven Experience', the first ever 'Immersive Orchestral Experience' delivered by Royal Porcelain Works' Musical Director, Keith Slade.

“Slade, a professional clarinetist who recently moved to Worcester to establish the city as his base, currently divides his working week between orchestral conducting and teaching woodwind in one of the top independent schools in the Midlands.  As musical director of the Worcestershire Symphony Orchestra, he is becoming increasingly well known for pushing the boundaries of tradition in order to provide unique up close and personal experiences for his audiences.  For Slade, listening to live classical music performances is only part of the story – to really experience the full power of music he believes that his audiences also have to feel it.  And, as the recently installed Musical Director at the Royal Porcelain Works, that is the guiding principle behind his Friday Night Live series of concerts.

“Over the next few months, the Hall at Royal Porcelain Works will welcome a succession of nationally and internationally renowned musicians as guest performers in the series, all of whom have a gift for connecting with their audiences in new and exciting ways.  And this was most certainly the case last Friday for The Beethoven Experience, the first ever ‘Immersive Orchestral Experiences’ to be seen – or heard.

“The evening started with an instantly engaging 15 minute masterclass from Slade, in which he described the feelings that Beethoven was seeking to evoke in his Fifth Symphony, illustrated by short excerpts of themes from each of the movements played by various sections of the orchestra.  The Royal Porcelain Sinfonia then went on to thrill the sell-out audience to a truly unique and intimate performance, in which the ticket holders were all seated within the orchestra, rather than in a conventional theatre-style layout.

“This revolutionary approach took the concept of theatre in the round to the ultimate level, completely eliminating any separation between performers and audience and enabling everyone present to experience how it sounds – and, more importantly, how it feels – to be part of an orchestra during a live concert performance.  And for Slade, it required a completely novel methodology in which he was positioned centrally within a combined ellipse of musicians and audience, requiring him to conduct without a score whilst employing a 360 degrees rotational style that was equally as captivating as it was impressive.

“As soon as the strings announced the famous four note ‘fate’ motif – which Slade described as arguably the most instantly recognisable start to a piece of music in the entire classical repertoire – the anticipation and excitement in the room was tangible.  The delightfully expressive second movement, performed with great sensitivity by the orchestra, provided a welcome break from the tenseness of Beethoven’s raw emotions caused by his increasing deafness. And finally, the build up to the transition from the third movement’s mysterious Scherzo to the brilliant brassy fanfare that marks the start of the fourth movement was nothing short of exhilarating.  At this point it also felt as if the members of the orchestra, who had played beautifully throughout, yet perhaps slightly tentatively and within themselves at times, were liberated by the sound of the triumphant and much-heralded entrance of the trombones and instantly raised their energy levels to new heights.

“In many ways, the spontaneous standing ovation at the end of the performance was the most surreal part of the evening.  By tradition, at the end of an orchestral concert, performers will stand to recognise the audience’s applause under the guidance of their conductor; on this occasion the audience rose to their feet in unison to applaud and cheer and the performers, remaining seated amongst them, looked elated – yet slightly bewildered – by what they had just achieved.

“As we filed out of the Hall, only one question could repeatedly be heard over the excited buzz of conversation: “Does anyone know when Keith’s next ‘Immersive Orchestral Experience’ concert is happening?”” Paul West – Attendee

“Welcome to the very first season of Friday Night Live at Royal Porcelain Works. We will introduce soloists and groups of local, national and international repute, with concerts available for all musical tastes. We welcome all ages to our concerts, particularly young people and those who haven’t come along to concerts before. We hope you will be rewarded by a musical experience that will stay with you forever.”

Keith Slade, Music Director for Royal Porcelain Works

The next installment in the Friday Night LIVE will feature international pianist Viv McLean at Royal Porcelain Works on Friday 4th October. For further details please visit https://www.royalporcelainworks.co.uk/friday-night-live/.

Sara Matthews, General Manager of the Royal Porcelain Works said: “What an incredible start to our live music season. The Beethoven Experience was the first of it’s kind, showcasing a brand new concept never before seen in a concert environment. ‘Immersive Orchestral Experiences’ are something completely unique that we hope to bring more of to Royal Porcelain Works”.

“Throughout the Friday Night LIVE season we have a host of extremely talented and renowned musicians and we look forward to bringing something new and exciting to the city of Worcester”.

For further information please contact the Royal Porcelain Works on 01905 677399 or email enquiries@royalporcelainworks.co.uk.