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Monday 26 November 2012

Interview: The Lost and Found Orchestra Speak Out Ahead Of Xmas Brighton Residency

Eschewing the traditional partridge in a pear tree in favour of pipers piping and drummers drumming, The Lost and Found Orchestra return to Brighton in December for a special run of Christmas shows at the Dome Concert Hall.


Born from the creative minds of Stomp, The Lost and Found Orchestra turn everyday objects turned into a plethora of invented instruments.

Across a six month period, instruments like Squonkaphones, Plumpets and Kitchen Tymps were invented from scratch and an entire score composed.

With the help of a crew of experienced Stomp personnel and classically-trained musicians who were prepared to abandon traditional instruments and learn how to play saws and hosepipes, the orchestra opened Brighton Festival six years ago to massive acclaim.

Since then, the show has broken box office records at Sydney Opera House and enjoyed extended runs at London's Royal Festival Hall and Amsterdam's Carre Theatre.

Elizabeth Hughes spoke to the award-winning creators; Luke Cresswell (composer / director / conductor) and Steve McNicholas (composer/co-director) to find out more about the exhilarating Lost and Found Orchestra.


Q. How would you describe The Lost and Found Orchestra?

Steve Mcnicholas: Lost and Found Orchestra takes the ideas we used to build Stomp and applies them to a symphonic orchestra.

So what we are trying to do is to replicate every aspect of a symphonic orchestra but with homemade instruments. They don’t necessarily look like traditional instruments either, they are made from traffic cones, saws… anything that makes a sound.

Luke Cresswell: It’s like a Dr. Seuss orchestra and it’s a big cast – we’ve got 22 people – so it’s a much, much bigger show than Stomp. It’s a big celebration really.



Q. How did the show come about? Where did you get the idea to turn cones into trumpets?

Luke: It came about during the Brighton Festival about six years ago, we were working on a film score and were using lots of found object sounds but through samples and we thought how great it would be to do this live, to get foghorns and traffic cones and all these different things and perform it as a live orchestra. We thought it would look fantastic. And it’s a moving orchestra too, they are not stuck in chairs so it is very much a piece of visual theatre.


Q. People are obviously familiar with Stomp, what’s the major difference with the Lost and Found Orchestra?

Luke: Melody. Stomp is purely rhythm, well rhythm and movement really. The movement comes about by drumming. The Lost and Found Orchestra is melodic and symphonic and it does sound like a symphony at times. When we get everything in tune, which is the hardest thing, then it sounds great!

Steve: Stomp is a very kinetic, visceral, exciting show and we wanted to have elements of that in the Lost and Found Orchestra but also we wanted to achieve something moving and emotional. The kind of things you cannot express purely through rhythm.

So one of the big things for us, with the Orchestra, is the fact that we have a choir. Wherever we go, we work with local singers and we put together a choir so the whole thing builds from something very small to a big rousing climax with a choir. It’s like our take on Last Night at The Proms. What we are aiming for is for audiences to say they were quite moved by those bits of metal and bits of plastic.


Q. How do you create an instrument from an everyday object? Does everything have the potential to become a musical instrument?

Luke: Yes, I think anything can, if you get the right pitch. We sent Tom, one of our performers who has perfect pitch, to the garden centre where he hit and sought out pots with the perfect ‘G’ or the perfect ‘C’ and then we hung them up.

We also have a selection of keys and each key makes a particular note so we literally went through thousands of keys until we got the right ones.

Once people get over the fact that we are using keys they start to listen to the melody and find that actually it sounds great and it sounds very beautiful.

So there is that double whammy effect that it looks really odd but if you shut your eyes or start to forget about what they are playing then it becomes very musical and obviously melody can be quite emotional.

Steve: There are certain things that people may have seen before. For instance our string section has been replaced by a saw section – people playing saws with bows. Now that has been done for hundreds of years and there are saw orchestras and saw quartets but to have a saw section within an orchestra, I’m not sure that’s been done before.

Luke: There are also different sounds, for instance we use kids’ whirly tubes that you wave around your head and they are like strings as well. But by cutting them you can change the pitch so if you have five different notes, all whirling, that sounds like high strings too, very ethereal.

Steve: They sound almost voice-like too, like a children’s choir. We have also recently discovered some plumbing equipment which does a similar thing so we are hoping to customise that and use it at the performances in Brighton in December.



Q. The show has been developing and certain elements re-worked since 2006, what’s new this time?

Luke: Lots of different stuff. There’s a piece which we first did in America called ‘Floating Marimbas’ which is literally the big keys of a Marimba and each person holds a big note. So rather than one person play up and down the scales it’s the people who move around, so again it’s very Dr Seuss feel to it. The melody dictates the choreography so it’s a very beautiful looking thing.

Steve: In Stomp we want you to see the rhythm and with The Lost and Found Orchestra we want you to see the melody so that’s a perfect example, you see the keys of a marimba floating around in three dimensional space.

So you are watching a melody floating around on stage and that’s the kind of thing we are trying to do with the Orchestra. We are always experimenting.


Q. The show broke box office records at Sydney Opera House and STOMP was phenomenally successful – what’s the secret?

Luke: I think with Lost and Found Orchestra it’s just an incredible amount of hard work to be honest. Rather than one person with one trumpet playing six different notes, you need six people playing a single note and performing a kind of campanology and that’s very hard to do. So when you get that right people appreciate the skill involved. It all welds together and brings the audience in.

Steve: I think it’s seeing a lot of people work together to make something that is essentially very simple. In Lost and Found Orchestra it can take 20 people to make one melody because you share the notes amongst people, like bell ringing. It requires enormous concentration and the audience feels that. Every performer gets just one hit and if they miss it everything collapses.


The Lost And Found Orchestra @ Brighton Dome Concert Hall on Thursday 20 – Saturday 29 December 2012 (excluding 24, 25 & 26 December) 7.30pm and 2.30pm (Saturdays and Sunday 23 December only). 

Tickets: £27.50, £22.50, £18.50, £15 (under 16s - half price) 
brightondome.org Tel: 01273 709709


by: Elizabeth Hughes


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