Meet BSO Resound, the ensemble of disabled musicians changing the classical music world

26 March 2019, 11:18

By Elizabeth Davis

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s BSO Resound has spent a year challenging assumptions about what disabled musicians can do. And they’re just getting started. Classic FM went to Cornwall to meet them.

A year ago Classic FM’s Orchestra in the South of England announced the launch of a disabled-led ensemble that was set to work closely alongside their main orchestra.

BSO Resound would be made up of disabled musicians and would be conducted by James Rose, who lives with cerebral palsy.

A year later, the orchestra have been performing around the country – including in schools as part of the BSO’s outreach work – and have announced a partnership with Allianz Musical Insurance. We caught up with the orchestra on a day of rehearsals during their Cornwall Residency.

Conductor James Rose said: “For a while people thought I was a bit crazy and they would often raise their eyebrows when I told them I was a conductor, but slowly I managed to find people who were interested in supporting me.

“BSO Resound has literally started my conducting career, it has given me the exposure I need to show people what I can do.”

“It is a real honour being a part of a groundbreaking project which is inspiring young people who have disabilities to seriously consider a music career. I’m having so much fun doing it and I’m learning so many new skills, so yeah, it is amazing.”

James Rose conducts BSO Resound
James Rose conducts BSO Resound. Picture: Classic FM

The ensemble isn’t a traditional set of instruments – there’s a violinist, a cellist, a clarinettist, a flautist, a percussionist and a LinnStrument player. And James conducts using head movements and a baton attached to his glasses.

Cellist Roger Preston – who has also played with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra itself for 40 years – told Classic FM: “It’s been a huge voyage of discovery from the outset and we’ve all worked very hard on making it work, but there’s been a lot of experimentation, finding out what the sound would be – how do we add the LinnStrument. It’s been a fascinating process, I wouldn’t have predicted that we would end up in a year being where we are now.”

Roger playing in the cello section of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Roger playing in the cello section of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Picture: Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

One of the aims of the ensemble is to show young disabled people that they can pursue a career in music.

As percussion player Philip Howells said: “Don’t lost sight of who you want to be to begin with. When people say that you should be a butcher or a gymnast, just think to yourself ‘what do I want to be deep down?’, that’s my moral.”

Find out more about BSO Resound at the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra's website.