In 2015 we worked with the London Symphony Orchestra to produce an event for secondary school children.

The event was called 'Dangerous Times' and featured the entire fifth symphony by Shostakovich. 

The full London Symphony Orchestra played the entire symphony whilst an actor, playing the part of Shostakovich, led the audience through the writing of the work and the dangerous political times in which it was written, a time in which the composer Shostakovich feared for his life. 

During the third movement of the symphony we screened this film to highlight the vast numbers of people who perished under Stalin's reign of terror. 

At the schools' concert the audience were spell-bound and, at the end, rose to their feet to give the orchestra and the actor, and standing ovation which lasted for several minutes. It's was a wonderfully moving event. 

Conductor Alex Briger

Shostakovich Justin Butcher

Concept and script Roland Taylor

Resources and multimedia Roland Taylor

Community Projects Manager LSO Natalie Chivers

The concert took place on Monday 9th March 2015 at the Barbican Hall, London. The online course below is directly related to the curriculum at KS3 and explores the elements of music. The course explores each of the central music elements and illustrates them with examples from Shostakovich's 5th symphony. 


Graeme Kay Producer, from BBC Radio 3 said of this ground-breaking project: 

Shostakovich's 5th Symphony represents a pivotal moment in the composer's life and in the history of music in Russia: as a response to the idea of state control of art, and the persecution of free thinking, its themes continue to resonate.  The LSO's 'Dangerous Times' project fully engaged its young audience in the subject; they sat enthralled as the projected text and images formed a backdrop to the acting of Justin Butcher as Shostakovich: the ebb and flow of Shostakovich's visceral music allowed natural moments of relative quiet when Justin could introduce and propel the story of the composer's potentially lethal relationship with the authorities, without in any way sacrificing the music which was performed with the commitment to be expected of the London Symphony Orchestra. Roland Taylor's editorial approach could easily lend itself to other carefully-chosen works - it's a formula which clearly works.


We also produced a learning pack for the event: 

Why not try the course we made for the London Symphony Orchestra?