stunning portraits of the Brixton Chamber Orchestra taken around Brixton – Brixton Buzz
The Brixton Chamber Orchestra (BCO) is in and from Brixton, welcomed and enjoyed by the people who live in and around the area. Through their pop-up performances and Summer & Winter Estates tours, they bring classical music to non-traditional performance spaces and collaborate with local hip hop and grime artists to find new musical fusions in Brixton.
Photographer Michael Wharley captured portraits of the diverse and characterful group of young, classically trained BCO musicians – many of whom are local – playing everywhere from Electric Avenue, Windrush Square and Bowie Memorial, to Brockwell Park, Cressingham Gardens and Angell Town.
Working together, they captured richly detailed images showcasing a vibrant modern Brixton, sensitively tracing links to local history, while exploring the group’s place at the heart of contemporary changes in the area.
Mebrakh Houghton-Johnson – Clarinet / Oboe
Brixton Market, Electric Avenue.
Immortalized in Eddy Grant’s song about the 1981 riots, Electric Avenue was the first street in Britain to be lit by electricity.
Today it is the beating heart of Brixton, with a daily market offering all sorts of African, Caribbean, South American and Asian food and produce, and more characters than you can count. He is rarely calm and Mebrakh went (almost) entirely unnoticed while playing.
Misha Mullov-Abbado – Double bass
Atlantic Road/Coldharbour Lane, outside the Dogstar, opposite the village of Brixton.
Misha played just at the junction of Coldharbour Lane and Atlantic Road next to the iconic musical pub The Dogstar, a junction always bustling at 7pm. A little further up the street on Railton Road was a frontline in clashes between local black communities and Met Police during the 1981 riots.
Today, the partial gentrification of the village market (just over Misha’s shoulder, beyond the bridge) and the associated sharp rise in property prices in the surrounding area represent another form of frontline for the local population.
Natalia Senior-Brown – Viola
Windrush Square, opposite Lambeth Town Hall.
Originally part of Rush Common (and therefore protected from development), Windrush Square was named after the ship that brought the first large group of post-war West Indian migrants to the UK, many of whom were hosted near Coldharbour Lane.
Today it is a focal point for celebrating the local and national Black British experience, home to the Black Cultural Archive and the UK’s African and Caribbean War Memorial, opened in 2017.
Natalia – who is used to playing with artists like Jorja Smith, Bastille and Celeste – performed near sunset to the bewildered, so grateful crowd of locals and skateboarders who can still be found there.
Richard Line-Davies – Clarinet / Oboe
A rare quiet moment with Richard in a bustling 1930s arcade; with the arrival of the Windrush generation in the 1950s and subsequent waves of immigration, produce such as yams and plantains became the stock in trade of local grocers.
Despite the displacement of traditional businesses by restaurants and food outlets which pay higher rents, it is still one of the best places in London to buy food specialties like Alphonso mangoes or ackee.
Ana Vandepeer – Violin
Angell Town Estate, overlooking Brixton Road
Ana is the principal violinist of the Brixton Chamber Orchestra, pictured here at Leys Court, North Brixton, looking out over Brixton Road, before a Summer Estates performance.
The development was built in close consultation with residents, to replace Angell Town’s formidable concrete block estate of the 1970s, which taxi drivers often refused to enter.
Open, bright and close to the road while being centered around common spaces, Leys offers a very different living experience tailored by and for residents.
Deronne White – Flute
Brixton Station Road, outside the Rec Centre.
A founding member of BCO, Deronne joined while studying at the Royal Academy of Music and says Brixton “still feels like home”. We turned onto Station Road opposite the listed ‘Rec’ Leisure Centre, considered one of the last areas to have an authentic Brixton community feel.
Despite the recent revamping of the railway arches and the prospect of the redevelopment of the “Quartier Rec”, the collection of cafes and shops occupying the railway arches and the traders of the daily market, as well as the locals drawing the breeze, still combine for him. give a living identity.
Michael Ruddlesden – Sousaphone
Under the railway arch on Electric Lane
The sousaphone isn’t a traditional orchestral instrument, but Michael’s presence hints at the less classical side of BOC’s repertoire – he fronts the well-established “Grime Orchestrated” project which sees the band teaming up with Rap artists and Local and National Grime for live concerts. and freestyle events.
It is pictured here under an arch of one of the elevated railway lines that helped create the characteristic small business community of Brixton’s arcade.
Ruby Moore – Cello
Tunstall Square in front of the Bowie mural.
Painted in 2013 as a tribute to the Brixton-born singer, the Bowie Mural became an impromptu shrine and place of pilgrimage for fans following his death in 2016, and seemed a fitting place to photograph Ruby in performance, an approving Aladdin Sane looking…
Despite a position right on the main street, it can be a remarkably peaceful location.
Derryck Nasib – French horn
Brixton Road opposite Electric Avenue.
Derryck is pictured outside Morleys of Brixton department store, a local institution for 141 years, and opposite Electric Avenue, with its new neon sign.
Alongside fellow BCO members Deronne and Mebrakh, Derryck also plays in Chineke! Orchestra; the first predominantly black, Asian and ethnically diverse professional orchestra in Europe.
Rachel Gooding-Hurst – Bassoon
Cressingham Gardens Estate, entrance to Brockwell Park.
Rachel painted a portrait after a performance at Cressingham, one of BCO’s very first venues, in front of a huge crowd.
The grandparents of conductor Matthew O’Keeffe live in this uniquely designed 70s estate, where residents and heritage organizations are engaged in a series of legal actions against Lambeth Council to prevent redevelopment.
Matthew O’Keeffe – Conductor
Leys Court, Angell Town Estate.
Born and raised in Brixton, Matthew is the founder, director and conductor of the Brixton Chamber Orchestra. Present for the first concert in front of a crowd of 20 people in 2018, he led performances this summer in front of an audience of more than 800 people.
Previously a member of a vocal group signed to Mercury Records, he’s not a mean singer to boot, and on occasion will stand behind the mic for a Sinatra standard.
Teigan Hastings – Tuba
Cressingham Gardens Estate
A self-taught gamer and remarkably confident young man, Teigan joined BCO for the 2021 Summer Estates Tour, aged just 15, after seeing the traveling band perform on his street and asking to audition. He hopes to join the navy and become an engineer.
Cameron Johnson – Trumpet
Overton Road, Angell Town Estate opposite the 5-a-side football ground.
Cam has played with orchestras such as the London Philharmonic and the Southbank Sinfonia, but as the band’s principal trumpeter he takes just as much pleasure leading BCO’s traveling 6-piece band through the streets and markets of Brixton.
A trumpet, however, is a piercing instrument; A resident politely asked us to calm down shortly after this photo was taken…
Nathaniel Cross – Trombone
Cressingham Gardens Estate, underpass to Brockwell Park.
Nate Cross is a talented session musician, playing regularly with Kano and recording horns for South London artists Joy Crookes and Stormzy, as well as being an emerging artist in his own right.
He is pictured at Cressingham Gardens Estate on Tulse Hill, a unique 1970s development which replaced typical residential construction of the era with low-rise housing blocks arranged around a central ‘green village’, to create a open space.
Jaga Klimaszewska – Violin
Brockwell Park, Hurst Street Estate in the distance.
Originally from Gdansk, Poland, Jaga now performs around the world having studied at the Guildhall and the Royal College of Music, but her London home is with BCO in Brixton, where the Victorian-era Brockwell Park in which she has been photographed is now a cultural melting pot.
Stroll through the park on any summer Sunday and you’ll go from Caribbean-flavored barbecues to Central American cuisines to West African feasts in the span of a few hundred meters.
Jamie Tweed – Trombone
Market Row, outside Healthy Eaters, opposite Reliance Arcade.
Built in the 1920s and 1930s to accommodate traders displaced by the widening of the road, the covered markets are at the center of concerns over rising rents and gentrification forces displacing traditional businesses from the Caribbean and West Indies .
Today, Market Row is home to both the first Franco Manca — now a national pizza chain — and local Jamaican food institution Healthy Eaters, whose owner Stafford is a trustee of the Black Cultural Archives near Windrush Square. Jamie always heads to Caribbean-inspired vegan restaurant Eat of Eden.
Tristan Butler – Percussion
Angell Town Estate, celebrating Simon Bolivar Day
Celebrating the independence of Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Colombia from Spain, Simon Bolivar Day is celebrated in Lambeth by many of the 145,000 members of the Latin American community who live there.
Percussionist Tristan has a vast knowledge, experience and passion for sharing Latin American music, even when that means dragging his timpani to North Brixton.
About the photographer
Michael Wharley is a portrait and publicity photographer who lived near Brixton for 16 years, trained at Photofusion on Electric Lane and has a studio in Waterloo: about as Lambeth as a Yorkshire native could get.
He tours across the UK and beyond, with a particular focus on the entertainment industry, doing numerous film and theater advertising campaigns and portraits of faces, famous and not.
He has also toured a number of personal projects in and around the area, including Cold Water Swimmers at Brockwell Lido, St Matthew’s Project Football Coaches and Volunteer Gardeners at Brockwell Park Community Gardens.
You can see more of his work and projects at www.michaelwharleyphoto.com