Meet the Sinfonia – Cor Anglais

The Royal Ballet Sinfonia is the orchestra of Birmingham Royal Ballet, and perform at all of our shows. Max Spiers plays the Cor Anglais, a member of the oboe family known to most from the iconic, sepia-tinged Hovis advert.

Max took time out from a busy Nutcracker season to answer a few questions about himself…


What did you want to be when you were a child, or did you always want to be a musician?
I always had to be a musician. I’m rubbish at every thing else!

How old were you when you first started playing?
5 years old on the piano, but 14 on the oboe

How long have you been in the Royal Ballet Sinfonia?
14 years.

What’s your favourite piece of ballet music?
The Three Cornered Hat by Manuel De Falla. I love it because it is so brilliantly orchestrated, with gorgeous orchestral colours, and has one of the most outrageous cor anglais solos in the repertoire. It’s VERY loud and satisfying to play.

What is your favourite pop song?
Together In Electric Dreams by Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder (I was a child of the eighties…)

What instrument would you choose other than your own?
The harp has always been my favourite orchestral instrument. As a child I was intrigued by the juxtaposition between the complexity of the mechanism and the simplicity and elegance of the sound that it produces. It’s the closest we get to heaven on earth.

What is your favourite pit, and favourite concert hall?
The Coliseum on St. Martin’s Lane in London & The Concertgebouw Amsterdam. The pit at the Coliseum is probably the best venue we visit acoustically. It’s resonant and reflects the sound back so that you can hear yourself and the rest of the orchestra clearly. It’s also very beautifully Victorian and a great central London location.

What’s your favourite touring meal?
Tapas is tasty AND social. Being part of a sharing team is as important in a restaurant as it is in the pit!

And finally, how do you relax away from music?
I’m never away from music!