New connections between Porto and The Hague

11 October 2022

From time to time students from the Royal Conservatoire take part in an exchange with another conservatory somewhere in the world. It is very valuable for students to meet colleagues from another city. Last month students of the composition department took part in a very special exchange with Escola Superior de Música e Artes do Espectáculo (ESMAE) in Porto. What made it special was that the link between both conservatoires and the initiator of this project was an ensemble of alumni: SKETCH351

Sketch 351 is an ensemble composed of Dutch and Portuegese musicians all graduated from Royal Conservatoire of The Hague. One of the ensemble’s main goals is to work with the composers of our generation. Therefore, they approached the composition departments of the two conservatoire they were closely related to, to collaborate in a project.

So, three composers from Den Haag, together with the ensemble, took off to Porto, with sketches and finished compositions in their suitcases. In Porto they spent a week workshopping and rehearsing their pieces to conclude with a concert. Afterwards the royal conservatoire of The Hague welcomed 3 composers from Porto to finish the project with a concert in Amare.

Inês Lopes the pianist of the ensemble: ‘This was a very special project for the ensemble. It is undeniably enriching to be able to work directly with the composers on new pieces written specifically to us. And then we had the opportunity of playing two concerts, one in each country, and to record the pieces with two Art of Sound students. It was also really nice that we had space to bond with the composers outside the work environment and get to know their interests and influences and shared experiences.’

Katherine Teng is one of the composers from The Hague, she was very happy she got to work with the ensemble: ‘Sketch 351 ensemble is a cool ensemble to work with. While working with them you can feel the passion they have for music and performing. They gave me suggestions all the time and brought new ideas to try more possibilities.’ She was also impressed by her colleagues from Porto: ‘The scores the composers in Porto made, looked amazingly good and professional. The teachers are open-minded for music but also very practical to some technical details.’

Rúben Dias, a composer from Porto, agrees with Katherine about the ensemble: ‘For me, writing for such an unusual ensemble, with almost no repertoire, is always a challenge. Sketch351 actually made it easier since they were always available to answer questions and if the things we had in mind did not work on their instruments, they would suggest alternatives.
For me, the biggest difference between ESMAE and Koncon are the students themselves. In ESMAE, we have mostly Portuguese students. In Koncon, you have students from all over the world.The thing I liked the most about the city of Den Haag was the city center and its colors (when the sun was out) and how we could go biking everywhere, but that is a thing that is common to all Netherlands, I think.’

You can find more information about Sketch351 on their website.