Imogen head shot

Imogen Whitehead (née Hancock) is a rising star on the British trumpet scene. Since graduating from the Royal Academy of Music with First Class Honours, she has been in demand as both a freelance orchestral musician and soloist.
Recent orchestral highlights for Imogen include performing as Guest Principal Trumpet with English National Opera, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Ulster Orchestra, Rambert and the City of London Sinfonia and as Guest Principal Cornet with English National Ballet. In September 2020 Imogen joined Aurora Orchestra for their BBC Proms memorised performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.

Update: A View from 2023

The world has now thankfully returned to normal and our performance work is back in full swing! But we’ve found that the concerts on our road during the pandemic have had a lasting, positive impact. A shared enjoyment of music has brought our street together for happy occasions ever since, as we’ve continued to perform our duets for neighbours’ 50th and 80th birthday parties, Christmas lights turning-on parties, and a street party celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. It’s brilliant to have all of our repertoire ready to go and, later this year, Rupert and I are hoping to work with the charity Lost Chord to bring our duets to care homes across the country. It really has been a silver lining from such a dark time.

When the Coronavirus pandemic hit the UK in March 2020, live music came to a standstill. Every performance engagement fell out of the diary, with no clue as to when work might start up again. My husband Rupert (a trombonist in the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra) and I (a freelance trumpet player) decided that we needed to create a project for ourselves that would give us focus for our practice and motivation to stay in shape over the months ahead.

We chose to write a letter to all of the neighbours on our street, introducing ourselves as professional musicians with some time on our hands..! We’d been living on our street for about 6 months and had already met a couple of neighbours, but we saw this as a great opportunity to get to know more people and to hopefully raise morale in our neighbourhood. We asked people to send us requests of their favourite songs or pieces of music, which we would then arrange and record a video for our newly-formed road WhatsApp group. Our neighbours quickly got on board with the idea and within a week we had received multiple requests and recorded ten videos. We soon realised that our street (a quiet cul-de-sac) would be the perfect setting for an outdoor performance, so the following weekend we gave a concert on the pavement outside our house, with neighbours coming out to listen from their front gardens.

we saw this as a great opportunity to get to know more people and to hopefully raise morale in our neighbourhood.

The concerts became a weekly event and, by mid-July, and we had performed 13 concerts and arranged over 130 pieces of music. These arrangements spanned a variety of genres, from classical to jazz, pop, swing, ballads, TV & film, musicals and world music – inspired by the various nationalities of our neighbours. After many weeks of performing, the government restrictions were starting to ease and the end of July seemed like the right time for the regular concerts to come to an end (for this lockdown, at least). We decided that our final concert would be a performance of our ‘Greatest Hits’ and we asked our neighbours to vote online for the songs that they’d enjoyed the most from the previous weeks. It was a wonderful and emotional concert, with word having spread around the neighbourhood and many people turning up to listen – socially-distanced, of course!

Imogen playing in the street

The highlight of that final concert for me was Rupert’s arrangement of a ‘Concerto for Car Horn’. This work consisted of three movements – ‘Pizzicati’ from the ballet ‘Sylvia’ by Delibes, ‘The Blue Danube’ and the ‘Sailor’s Hornpipe’ – arranged for trumpet, trombone and a well-timed car horn. A friend of ours would drive over to the concert every week with his family and they would listen from their car. He would often honk his horn during the applause at the end of a concert, and we came to realise that the horn of our friend’s car was pitched at B natural. Rupert decided to arrange ‘The Blue Danube’ so that the horn would sound in the right key when played... for its first two entries anyway! The other two movements were then arranged around it. The piece went down a storm in this concert and a video of the performance racked up thousands of views on social media. It was soon picked up by Classic FM who posted the video and wrote an article about it on their website:

It has been truly amazing to see how music has brought people together, many of whom had lived next door to one another yet had remained strangers for years.

Putting on these street concerts has improved our skills of arranging, programming and performing outdoors. We now have an extensive repertoire of duets for future performances and some bookings over Christmas to play in other local streets, care homes and shopping centres. It has been truly amazing to see how music has brought people together, many of whom had lived next door to one another yet had remained strangers for years. There is now a greater sense of community in our street and we feel lucky to be surrounded by good friends who also just happen to be our neighbours! Coming up with creative ways to bring live music to people feels more important than ever and we have witnessed first-hand the incredible power of music to spread joy and encourage unity in such difficult times. We are certainly glad that we sent that letter.

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