REVIEWS

Insight Ensemble is delighted to welcome interested journalists and reviewers to its shows. Read more about their experiences with Insight below, and get a taste of what might be in store at a future performance… If you are a reviewer and would like to feature Insight Ensemble or cover one of its shows, please get in touch.

“Should you choose to join Insight Ensemble on their next underground musical odyssey, prepare to have your preconceived expectations of classical music shattered…” – Bristol Magazine

“Innovative, expressive and passionate, they create enchanting journeys…” – Bristol Post

“Insight Ensemble have created an exciting format that introduces classical music to a new generation…whilst reacquainting others with timeless music in a contemporary setting. Bravo!” – Bristol 365

“Bristol’s inspirational mashers-up of classical music and performance are back…” – B247

“…the element that stood out the most was the enthusiasm and passion that the musicians brought to the space. As I was watching this performance unfold I could see that this orchestral group were having the time of their lives.” – B24/7

“…something a bit special…” – Glastonbury Free Press

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B247
08/06/2018

SWAN LAKE FLASH MOB AT CRIBBS CAUSEWAY
By Steve Wright

This was the moment at 7.30pm on Thursday, June 7 when Bristol’s brilliant classical music and theatre collective Insight Ensemble treated cinemagoers at Vue Cinemas, Cribbs Causeway to the introduction to Tchaikovsky’s timelessly popular ballet Swan Lake.

Insight’s 30-piece orchestra was joined by professional ballet dancers to perform the famous theme from Swan Lake as a curtain-raiser for Vue’s country-wide live screening of the Royal Ballet’s new adaptation.

Anneka Sutcliffe, Insight Ensemble’s managing director, said: “It was an honour to be invited by Vue to celebrate the launch of these live screenings and we were blown away by the positive reactions from their customers and staff. What a great opportunity to share our passion for classical music and dance – we love performing to new audiences in unusual places!”

The Royal Ballet production will be screened live at Vue Bristol Cribbs Causeway on Tuesday, June 12, with the encore on Sunday, June 17.

For more details on the Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake screenings, visit www.myvue.com/event/the-royal-ballet-swan-lake

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B247
03/04/2018

INTERVIEW: INSIGHT ENSEMBLE 
By Steve Wright

Insight Ensemble, Bristol’s inspirational mashers-up of classical music and performance, are back – and this time, they’re taking us back to our planet’s very beginnings.

The Bristol-based orchestra and artistic collective returns to The Loco Klub beneath Temple Meads station in April for its first show of 2018.

Audiences will be immersed in a primal, primordial soundscape that draws them back to the dawn of time, with themes of creation, chaos and dinosaurs. Featuring a full symphony orchestra, dancers, pyrotechnics, spoken-word and visual performance, the show will feature a mix of staples from the classical repertoire, and brand new compositions.

Here’s performer Anneka Sutcliffe to tell us more.

Tell us about Insight Ensemble – who, what, why?
Insight was founded as a string orchestra in 2015 when we performed our first concert at Circomedia. We wanted to do the clichéd thing of making classical music more accessible, less formal, more fun – and, ultimately, share our passion for it with wider audiences. But how? We mused over that for a while after and happened to bond in the rain and the mud at Glasto 2016 with the Invisible Circus crew… 

That was that. In 2017 we bedded into The Loco Klub Tunnels, expanded to a full symphony orchestra and, collaborating with The Invisible Circus, performed eight sell-out shows throughout the year. They got bigger and better, peaking with a 65-piece orchestra plus 25 performers and crew, for our trip to Outer Space in September. It was described as “outer-space musical tapas.”

What have you set out to do with Insight Ensemble?
We’re breaking the stereotype of classical music being for the elite and sensibly-dressed, and the presumption that concerts are long and boring or ‘not your sort of thing.’ We realised if we got rid of the stage and seating and put the orchestra in the middle, then the audience could move freely around us and feel more relaxed and able to respond to the music.
By merging the scope of classical music with dance, circus and other visual arts we’ve opened up to a wide audience, while giving opportunities to performers of all kinds to come together and be part of something special.

It’s also a unique opportunity to get right up close to the orchestra. You can stand right in the middle and look over musicians’ shoulders as they play. We’ve found ourselves especially popular with children and love to inspire them.
It is pure joy to see such varied audiences at our shows from wide-eyed young children, festival types arriving in full costume and classical music veterans coming for the repertoire. Our shows are for everyone!

Tell us what to expect from The Dawn of Time.
You can expect a huge orchestra! Lots of loud rhythmic stuff; everything from the creation of the earth through some elemental storms and of course, the arrival of the dinosaurs and early tribal man. There might even be some ritual sacrifice. I can’t say too much, but we’ve got projections, creative dancers, fire and some rapping raptors!
Keep an eye out for some hints at the programme on our website: but we never fully let on what we’re going to play, you’ll have to come and see.

And what makes a show distinctively Insight?
Aside from putting such elements as a dry ice experiment by astronauts or a breakdancing dinosaur in the same show as Bach and Tchaikovsky, it has got to be the simple passion for the music that makes us who we are. We enjoy ourselves tremendously, and don’t take ourselves too seriously. A performance is an energy exchange.

Insight Ensemble perform The Dawn of Time at The Loco Klub, underneath Temple Meads station, on Sat 21 (8pm) and Sun 22 (2pm / 4pm / 7pm. For more info, visit www.insightensemble.co.uk

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GLASTONBURY FREE PRESS
25/06/2017

SIZE DOESN'T MATTER

ALEXIA LOUNDRAS returns to the tent where tonight's Pyramid headliner made his debut

"Oh, we all remember Ed!" says Sally Howell, area coordinator of the Green Fields' Croissant Neuf - and, as it happens, a sterling talent-spotter. The Ed in question is indeed unforgettable and tonight he'll serenade a sea of Festival-goers as he closes the Pyramid Stage. But back in 2011, before his three chart-topping albums, Ed Sheeran performed his Glastonbury debut in Sally's tent to a tiny crowd. "He was a quite shy and unassuming lad," says Sally, "but when he got on stage, he played with such passion. It was a special moment, like there was a mutual friendship between Ed and everyone there."

Nestled away in a quiet corner of the Green Fields, the relatively cosy Croissant Neuf stage lends itself well to such moments of hair-raising intimacy. "There's a warmth here, where you really feel a connection between artist and audience," says Howell. "You just can't get that on the larger stages."

But it's not just this seductive charm that woos even big acts like Travis, who filled the entire Croissant Neuf field when they opened the stage at last year's Festival. It's Croissant Neuf's ethos that also appeals. Their flag is firmly pinned to the environmental mast. Green messages permeate gently and the field is entirely powered by solar. Croissant Neuf rightly prides itself on its sustainability. And this is reflected in its eclectic line-up, too. 

"I really love giving new bands a chance to play at the Festival," says Sally. "I'm always on the lookout for that new sound, for the special something that stands out." So if you're roaming the Green Fields today, while a certain Croissant Neuf alumni is warming his vocal cords, check out Bristol's Insight Ensemble Orchestra (1pm) and Boston's ethereal progressive folk duo Tall Heights (4pm) for something a bit special.

Thirty-one years in and this Glastonbury mainstay continues to get it right. So wander on down to the little stage where big Festival moments happen. 

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B24/7
13/03/2017

REVIEW: INSIGHT ENSEMBLE, UNDERGROUND CLASSICAL 

By NGAIO ANYIA

First impressions mean a lot to me and on arrival, seeing the performance space I was instantly excited and intrigued to see what was to unfold.

Insight Ensemble founded in 2015 as a string Orchestra, brought their instruments and beautifully symphonic sounds to a dusty underground tunnel which was originally a part of Bristol Temple Meads, it was a performance space that smelt/felt/looked, forgotten and unwanted.

I liked the environment that was flying around the tunnel when I was waiting for the performance to start. Even though it was jam packed and smelt like old beer and dusty furniture, you really got a feeling that the audience were happy, anticipating what was so come. After a quick, witty (and obligatory) safety chat from one of the stage hands, we were away.

Now, this performance wasn’t about the usual sit down and listen. It had a new, fresh vibe which gave the audience a choice to roam, sit, stand in a corner and listen.

The dark tunnel had a very gloomy atmosphere about it but it all changed once the first soloist started playing on his French Horn. Dim lighting showed us a small stage where the musician stood and played confidently, starting the evening off with a slow, eerie melody that didn’t last long.

Musicians were dotted throughout the tunnel, which was broken into three areas all including small stages, the middle area was where the main Orchestra was situated. Having no help from any amplifiers or speakers, the tunnels acoustics carried the melodies beautifully from space to space.

Well known pieces were played from ‘Gustav Mahler – Symphony No. 5: Adagietto’ to ‘Charles Ives- The Unanswered Question’ and also included self-written Material from Liam Taylor West- Composer/Violinist within the group.

As I stood in the dark, listening to the call and response from one instrument to the other, the element that stood out the most was enthusiasm and passion that the musician brought to the space. As I was watching this performance unfold- I could see that this orchestral group performing were having the time of their lives.

The music throughout was played well and confidently. Nothing is perfect and there were some tuning problems here and there, but nothing major. Each musician had their place, there was a wide variety of instruments from the Harp to the Marimba that filled the space wonderfully. Knowing that I didn’t have to see the musicians play- I found my spot, stayed and listened with my eyes closed for a lot of the time.

Overall the performance lasted for around an hour- ending the evening on a high with a fantastic rendition of Edward Grieg’s ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’. Leaving the tunnel I was filled with joy and felt incredibly immersed within the performance. I’m looking forward to seeing more of what Insight Ensemble have hiding up their sleeves.

View original review

BRISTOL POST WEEKEND MAGAZINE
20/04/2018

MODERN CLASSICS: DAWN OF TIME TAKES CLASSICAL MUSIC TO NEW LEVEL IN THE TUNNELS BELOW TEMPLE MEADS.

DAWN CHORUS: Head to the tunnels under Temple Meads for an orchestral voyage back to the dawn of time.

PREPARE TO HAVE YOUR PRECONCEIVED EXPECTATIONS OF CLASSICAL MUSIC SHATTERED AS YOU VENTURE UNDERGROUND AND BACK TO THE DAWN OF TIME, writes NATALIE BANYARD

Set in the eerie vaulted tunnels beneath Temple Meads Station, Bristol's Insight Ensemble takes you on a mesmerising musical journey back to the Dawn of Time

Bristol's ground-breaking orchestra and artistic collective returns to the Loco Klub Tunnels for its first show of 2018, where audiences will be immersed in a primal, primordial soundscape that draws them back through the millennia.

From the grandeur of the earth's creation, through tectonic shifts and elemental storms, to the rule of the dinosaurs and first footsteps of primitive man, Dawn of Time will captivate audiences young and old. 

Symphony orchestra Insight Ensemble is breaking boundaries on Bristol's music scene, performing informal, atmospheric orchestral shows in unique settings. This much-anticipated show will be its biggest yet. 

As ever, the full symphony orchestra will be at the heart of stunning new production. This is a unique opportunity to get up close to the orchestra; you can stand in the middle and look over musicians' shoulders as they play. 

Everything you hear is the raw power of the instruments, with no amplification, showing just how powerful an orchestra is and the range of emotion it can convey. 

And there's so much more. Created in collaboration with Invisible Circus and many talented Bristol artists, Dawn of Time will also feature dance, pyrotechnics, newly created experimental instruments and the spoken word. 

"We wanted to return with a bank after our magical, twinkly Winter Dreams show in December," says musician and Insight Ensemble's managing director, Anneka Sutcliffe. "So on April 21 and 22, we will be journeying back to the Dawn of Time...

"You can expect a huge orchestra playing classical greats and brand new compositions, as well as lots of loud rhythmic stuff; everything from the creation of the earth through some elemental storms and of course, the arrival of the dinosaurs and early tribal man. There might even be some ritual sacrifice!

"I can't say too much, but we've got projections, creative dancers, fire and some rapping raptors. You'll have to come and see it to find out more."

Insight was founded as a string orchestra in 2015 when it performed its first concert at Circomedia. It has now grown to a collective of artists including a fully symphony orchestra, composers, soloists, dancers, circus performers, visual artists and technicians. 

Innovative, expressive and passionate, they create enchanting journeys through themed soundscapes, surrounding promenade audiences with an immersive musical and visual experience. Their repertoire spans from timeless classical greats to freshly commissioned works by living composers. 

"We wanted to make classical music more accessible, less formal, more fun and ultimately share our passion for it with wider audiences," recalls Anneka. "We wanted to break the stereotype of classical music being for the elite and sensibly-dressed, and the presumption that concerts are long and boring or 'not your sort of thing'. We must over that for a while after, and happened to bond in the rain and the mud at Glastonbury 2016 with Bristol's Invisible Circus crew..."

From there, Insight Ensemble joined Invisible Circus at Bristol's The Loco Klub, a new and exciting underground performance space, becoming the venue's resident orchestra. 

The Loco Klub Tunnels is the perfect venue for this unique and innovative orchestra. A hidden treasure beneath the Passenger Shed in Temple Meads, The Loco Klub is a series of underground, Brunel-built railway arches tucked away  behind the flock wall paper and wooden panels of the derelict social club. These former ash pits of the original station are a unique and jaw dropping performance space unlike anything else in the city. 

"Once we were at The Loco Club, we expanded to a full symphony orchestra and, collaborating with The Invisible Circus, performed eight sell-out shows throughout the year," explains Anneka. 

"They got bigger and bigger, peaking at a 65-piece orchestra plus 25 performers and crew, for our trip to Outer Space in September.

"We're now looking forward to performing Dawn of Time, our largest production to date."

Insight Ensemble hopes to attract everyone from seasoned classical aficionados to complete newcomers, from more mature music lovers through to young inquisitive children and everyone in between. 

While the evening show of Dawn of Time are for adults, children are welcomed to the two earlier Sunday performances. Insight Ensemble provides a unique opportunity for audience members to get up close and in among the orchestra, and this has proven to be an absolute hit with young children. 

"It is pure joy to see such varied audiences at our shows," says Anneka, "from wide-eyed young children, festival-goer types arriving in full costume, and classical music veterans coming for the repertoire. Our shows are for everyone."

And everyone, it would appear, is snapping their tickets up. Insight Ensemble's, reputation for extraordinary, ground-breaking and distinctive shows is spreading fast. 

"What makes us distinctively us?" muses Anneka. "Aside from putting such elements as a dry ice experiment by astronauts or a breakdancing dinosaur in the same show as Bach and Tchaikovsky, it has got to be the simple but poignant passion for the music that makes us who we are as an ensemble. 

"And we enjoy ourselves tremendously, and don't take ourselves too seriously. A performance is an energy exchange. We totally love what we do and love music deeply, so if the audience is open to being affected by that, we're sure you'll enjoy it!"

VIEW ORIGINAL REVIEW

 

 

BRISTOL MAGAZINE
06/10/2017

UNDERGROUND MUSIC SCENE: INSIGHT ENSEMBLE 

Emma Payne goes subterranean with Insight Ensemble, and ends up on a mission to Mars.

“Wow, I’ve never seen a man do THAT before!” exclaimed an excitable, pint-sized audience member, as cyr-wheeling performer Pascal Haering defied gravity beneath the ghostly light of a (projected) full moon, to the sound of a solo marimba. Judging by the look of wonderment which spread across the audience’s faces, neither had the grown-ups – this was certainly a far cry from the stuffy formality so often found at an orchestral concert.

Set in the atmospheric, underground Loco Klub, Insight Ensemble’s Outer Space extravaganza certainly succeeded in its aim to bring classical music to a new audience – a goal regularly set out by professional ensembles, but rarely realised in as captivating, humorous and unpredictable fashion as this. The orchestral outfit, established by violinist Anneka Sutcliffe, combined music, dance, audio-visual effects and tricks from The Invisible Circus to breathe new life into a host of well-loved tunes, from Frank Sinatra’s ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ to Holst’s The Planets Suite.

From the outset it was clear that this show was going to be like no other, as our fabulous Jestons-meets-drag hostess encouraged us to ‘freely explore the spaceship’ during our intergalactic mission, before releasing us into the depths of the tunnels. As we advanced further, guided by androids, fairy lights and glittery gymnasts, the unmistakable rumbling strings and punchy brass of Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra (better known as the theme to 2001: A Space Odyssey) marked the beginning of our musical journey.

The ensemble’s use of the venue was innovative and engaging, using clever sonic and visual devices to lure the roaming audience from one space to another. One moment you were amongst a full symphony orchestra, the next you were trying to locate what sounded like a toy slide whistle (thanks to Liam Taylor-West’s humorous original composition Clangers in Orbit), before hurrying to follow a group of singers carrying glowing orbs. Thorough exploration of each interactive performance was essential ­­­­– during Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata I almost failed to spot a pair of gymnastic, extra-terrestrial urchins rolling around the stage behind me, concocting mystical potions with dry ice.

Exciting visuals and unpredictable staging did not detract from the music at the heart of the show, performed with gusto under the conductorship of Johnathan James. Contrasting with the power of the orchestra were Laura Curry’s charming performances of Mozart’s infamously virtuosic ‘Queen of the Night’ aria from The Magic Flute, and the lesser known ‘Song to the Moon’ from Dvorak’s opera Rusalka. Russian opera may not be the first choice for children’s entertainment, but even the very youngest members of the audience were mesmerised by Curry’s engaging manner and Julia Hammersley’s magical harp performance.

If a truly immersive experience is what you’re after, Insight Ensemble is definitely the one to watch. From the interplanetary projections and lyrical dancers to the rousing orchestral performances and fabulous costumes, there’s something for avid music lovers and novices alike. Should you choose to join Insight Ensemble on their next underground musical odyssey, prepare to have your preconceived expectations of classical music shattered…

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365 BRISTOL
25/05/2017

SUBTERRANEAN HIGH DRAMA AT ICONIC BRISTOL LOCATION

Our rating: *****

With the significant upturn in the weather over the last week, it was with a slight tinge of regret that we made our way to The Loco Klub on Sunday evening knowing that we were leaving behind fabulous weather to enter one of Bristol’s dark and cryptic venues.

Once my eyes adjusted, the setting immediately transported us back to Victorian England and the height of the industrial revolution. With beautifully vaulted ceilings and cavernous dimensions, the buzz in the air and drama of the occasion was palpable.

Guided by our aural instincts, we navigated our way through a series of moodily lit tunnels to encounter the expressive and Shakespearean-esque Voice for Flute by Tianyi Lu. The fluidity of the event quickly became apparent as this performance ended, the audience's collective attention was instantly drawn to the String Orchestra in a neighbouring tunnel. Moments later after scurrying across to claim a favourable vantage point, we were treated at close quarters to a lively and theatrical recital of Karl Jenkins’ Palladio. As the musicians stood in a huddle to play the piece, a gifted Hat Juggler in Paddy McRea, provided another layer of theatre and took full advantage of the vast space to visually complement the music.

With an unerring cross-fading like precision, the spectators spun 180 degrees in unison to be met by the Wind Quintet at the opposite end of the tunnel, as they began playing Debussy’s Opening of Petite Suite. After yet another excellent rendition, the sell-out crowd now eagerly anticipating the next mass shift, quickly moved through to an adjacent tunnel to view the Brass Ensemble’s Fanfare from ‘La Peri’ on a raised platform occupying the centre of the space. This once again enhanced the overall experience as it created an ‘in-the-round’ production whilst freestyle dancer, Daniel Hay-Gordon, formed a dramatic visual accompaniment in the next tunnel.

The clever lighting then switched our attention to Solo Percussionist, Harriet Riley and her highly energetic enactment of Iannis Xenakis’ complex piece, Rebonds B. The Acrobatic Duo, Jamie Double and Bethany Button, matched the intense arrangement with their daring yet elegant and controlled routine.

To say that we were already hugely impressed with the collaborative and modern presentation of a broad selection of classical music is an understatement so when the finale began; we sensed we were in for a real treat. Conducting the full symphony orchestra for last three great compositions of the evening was the charismatic Jonathan James. Clearly very knowledgeable about each of the chosen three pieces, he proceeded to tell us the narrative behind each masterpiece before commanding the orchestra under his spell. From Beethoven to Dvorak and onto Mussorgsky’s Night on a Bare Mountain, it was a rousing end to a superb evenings entertainment. Insight Ensemble have created an exciting format that introduces Classical musical to a new generation in a family-friendly, fun and mischievous environment, whilst reacquainting others with timeless music in a contemporary setting. Bravo!

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