Looking back: Southampton’s Musical Alphabet

The Musical Alphabet was Southampton’s contribution to the UK-wide Music Nation weekend, one of a select group of “countdown” events for the London 2012 Festival.

Devised and produced by Turner Sims (TS) SMA had one overriding aim: to celebrate through music the international dimension of the Games in a hugely diverse city. Some 70 languages are spoken in Southampton schools and through its maritime, cruise ship and other transport links the city has welcomed visitors to the UK for centuries but is also one of the country’s key gateways to the world. The 26-hour extravaganza ran from 10am-10pm on each day, launching a new letter of the alphabet in each hour (A for African drumming, B for bellringing etc) and featured concerts, workshops, drop-in sessions and participatory activity.

52 events took place over the weekend in 23 venues and unusual locations across the city. More than 500 performers were involved ranging from internationally renowned soloists (including violinist Chloë Hanslip, who performed with Southampton Youth Orchestra, pianist Julian Joseph, and the Brodsky Quartet) to semi-professionals, amateurs and local children.

The wide range of music, chamber to orchestral, jazz, world and folk, included three world premieres: a fanfare for marching band to open the weekend; a song for children’s choir composed by a student from Solent University in response to a specially devised competition; and a work for massed saxophones and percussion composed by saxophonist Rob Buckland from the Equivox Trio. In 2013 the project was shortlisted for a Royal Philharmonic Society Award in the Audiences and Engagement Category.