Christmas is a time to bring people together. Whether it’s for a turkey feast, some winter drinks or, in the case of Shakespeare’s Globe; a collaborative festive performance! A Concert for Winter is a fantastic annual initiative which unites different groups of the Southwark community through performance. We couldn’t wait to catch up with Musical Director, Joseph Atkins, to find out more about this exciting (and free!) show.
To start us off, can you give us a bit of an introduction to A Concert for Winter?
A Concert for Winter has been running for 15 years, and is a community project that welcomes all groups from across Southwark to participate in a celebratory musical event at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
How do groups get the chance to be involved?
They can send in an application form which is available via the Globe’s website. Every year, it’s a real challenge for us to select participating groups, because the standard of submissions is always so high!
We understand that each year’s event has a theme – can you tell us about what we can expect from this year’s theme?
The title of this year’s concert is “Sweet Thames, Run Softly”, a line written by Elizabethan poet Edmund Spenser, with each participating group having the chance to perform their own musical tribute to London’s iconic river. Some groups are offering classic songs and others have written their own pieces. The whole event is an opportunity for the theatre to open its doors to the local community, and forge lasting relationships with people across the borough.
What exactly is involved in your role as Musical Director?
I’m really just a facilitator for the groups – a pair of external ears if you like, and am there to make suggestions and get them thinking about the challenges of performing in a large outdoor space such as the Globe. It’s important to me that each group has complete ownership of their work, and brings their own unique musicianship to the space. I’ve also had the privilege of composing a new choral piece for the concert, which I’ll be conducting on the day.
What process do you go through to ensure that each group is ready for the big performance?
The groups do the majority of their preparation at the venues where they usually rehearse. I pay them each three visits in the run up to the concert to see how they’re getting on, and help out with any musical struggles they may be having. They then get a chance to visit the theatre in the week of the performance to familiarise themselves with the space, meet the crew and revel in the wonderful atmosphere!
Can you reveal any highlights from this year’s programme or will we just need to wait and find out?
I think it’s impossible to pick out any highlights from this year’s programme – every group’s offering is so different and so personal to them!
Shakespeare’s Globe is such an iconic venue – how do those involved find performing on such a famous stage?
Nothing can really prepare you for the electric atmosphere when stepping out onto that famous stage, and to be met by a theatre filled to the rafters with jubilant spectators. I’ve been at the theatre since 2009 and haven’t lost any of that sense of wonder and exhilaration. There’s usually a bit of trepidation backstage but there’s something uniquely supportive about our audiences at the Globe. As soon the performers take to the stage, their nerves seem to vanish!
It sounds like A Concert for Winter is the perfect way to get into the festive spirit, but what else are you looking forward to in London during the lead up to Christmas?
In addition to the usual surfeit of mulled wine and mince pies, I’m very much looking forward to heading to Borough Market to do my Christmas shopping and taking in the new season of late Shakespeare plays currently opening at the Globe’s Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.
And finally, when can we catch A Concert for Winter and how can we get our hands on tickets?!
Tickets for A Concert for Winter are free and allocated on a first-come-first-served based. Currently we’re completely booked up, but people can either visit the Globe’s website, (http://www.shakespearesglobe.com/education/events/performances/concertforwinter) or call 02079021478 to bag a spot on the waiting list.