I enjoy reading Jessica Duchen's blog - here's an extract from her latest:
I remember my first orchestral concert, when I must have been about 8: the Royal Philharmonic conducted by Rudolf Kempe, with Miriam Fried the violin soloist. They played the Berlioz 'Roman Carnival' Overture, the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto (I think) and the Dvorák 'New World' Symphony and I spent a lot of time staring at the flautist (Susan Milan!) and wondering how she could stand the noise sitting in front of the brass like that. For a couple of weeks before the concert Dad taught me the music. We listened to it all on LPs and he showed me how to follow the scores. Myth-scotching moment: reading music is very easy to learn when you're a child. I learned when I started piano lessons, age 4. It is not elitist, it is not particularly complicated and all you need is someone to show you how it works when you're young enough not to have swallowed the rubbish other people spout about it.
Please note, it was a Sunday afternoon, so there was no school or work, and we could actually go to a proper concert like this. Not 'children's concerts' - the very small me would certainly have turned my nose up at any such notion ("Hello there, children! Are we all having lots of fun today?" ugh.)
This plan seems such a no-brainer to me when concert organisations wonder how to get in younger punters that I often wonder what planet they're on. You want your concerts attended by families, with working-age parents, children, even grandparents who mightn't like late evenings? Do concerts on Sunday afternoons! Simple.
Julian Bliss’s recording - with the Carducci Quartet - of Brahms’s Clarinet Quintet and David Bruce’s Gumboots was released by Signum Records on 15 April. Bliss gives the world premiere of Wayne Shorter’s Clarinet Concerto at the Royal Festival Hall on 30 November.
Julian Bliss's name pops up quite frequently in the concerts listed in Chamber Music Plus, and prior to a recent concert at St George's Bristol with the Carducci Quartet, The Guardian asked him a few questions...
What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
I listen to a wide range of music, everything from Mahler through to Taylor Swift. I don’t feel guilty about any of it!
Is applauding between movements acceptable?
This, and the bigger discussion of audience etiquette, is hotly debated. There are many things that have become rules when going to a classical concert and I think they can put people off. I personally don’t mind it if there’s applause between movements. The audience are only showing their appreciation!
What single thing would improve the format of the classical concert?
Something that is very simple but that makes a big difference is when the musician talks to the audience. The atmosphere immediately changes, and the audience feels more relaxed. I don’t plan what I’m going to say when I’m on stage, which I think means it comes across as being more natural.
Read more here
Simon Heffer's articles for the Review section of the Saturday Daily Telegraph are often interesting - and on 26 May he wrote about contemporary English composers, and Ian Venables (who lives in Worcestershire, in particular.
His words are worth quoting: "Venables, a miniaturist, writes exquisite chamber music in the English style of Howells or Ireland...His works, which have instant charm for intelligent listeners while being intensely musical, are performed rarely in the great temples of chamber music such as the Wigmore Hall or the Purcell Room. Nor are they broadcast frequently on the main classical music stations. He delights audiences in the provinces - while metropolitan taste is deemed different...and Venables is frozen out.
The two Venables CDs I have been listening to lately are immensely rewarding. The first, The Song of the Severn (Signum Classics with Roderick Williams) includes two song cycles and nine other songs....to hear them is to hear something reflective, brooding, melancholy and unmistakably English. The second CD (Somm) featuring Venables's Piano Quintet and other chamber works, is a revelation. The Quintet...is an exceptional work with many shifts of tone and varieties of expression, and if Venables's excellence could be symbolised by just one piece, it would be this. Again, it proves that composers can be original without being dissonant or unappealing.
Most recently, Venables has set the verse of five Great War poets in a new song cycle, Through These Pale Cold Days. (The premiere and recording) should be regarded as events of national importance in our musical culture."
A few months ago we were contacted by the Robin Milford Trust, which organised a festival of music by the composer (I remember playing his Sonatina for Treble Recorder). We've been asked to post the following on our website, which we are glad to do in support of British music generally:
The Robin Milford Trust and Victoria College of Music and Drama
The Milford Trust is proud to announce that, since January of this year, a strong bond and working relationship has developed between the Milford Trust and the Victoria College of Music and Drama (Dr Martin Ellerby, Director), all stemming from the determined promotion of Milford and, indeed, all areas of British Music.
So far, the VCM has arranged the following for the Trust:
To facilitate this work, and the promotion of other lesser-known composers, Stewart Thompson has created the J J Lewis British Composer Archive on the London Music Press Website (www.londonmusicpress.com). Stewart is an authority on Cecil Rootham and has worked extensively in this area.
Work on the J J Lewis British Composer Archive will be on-going and anyone interested in contributing to this fine work should contact Stewart at the Victoria College. Access to the Lewis Archive is through the London Music Press Website, clicking on ‘J H Lewis British Composer Archive’, then ‘Composers’, and scrolling down to the appropriate composer.
All queries regarding Robin Milford should still be addressed to Peter Hunter at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read about this lovely project, and watch a video, on Jessica Duchen's blogspot - The Nutcracker and I is a groundbreaking multimedia performance by pianist Alexandra Dariescu and ballerina Desiree Ballantyne, accompanied by digital animation.
Clitheroe Concerts are presenting the show at The Grand, Clitheroe on Tuesday 17 July, 7.30pm
Jessica says "Alexandra Dariescu's virtual-reality piano recital ballet marvel The Nutcracker and I is off on a world tour soon, taking in China, Romania, Belgium, Germany, Austria (four performances in Vienna's Konzerthaus), Sweden, Australia and the UK (including, among others, the London Piano Festival and the Ryedale Festival). Above, the Trepak, with Alex at the piano and ballerina Amy Drew meeting some rather special friends. Full tour dates here.
Last year Alex decided to record a CD of the complete music - some of the arrangements have been specially commissioned for the project - with a souvenir booklet, targeted at the young audience she hopes will be attracted to experience a piano recital for the first time. But you can't put virtual reality into audio or print...so she needed a text version of the story. I was more than thrilled when she asked me to oblige. The script, recorded by Blue Peter presenter Lindsey Russell, has been very cleverly woven into the music (it works even better than I'd imagined) and the CD was released yesterday on the Signum label. You can get hold of it here."
‘Fower Sovereygnes Reygnes’ - The Music of Thomas Tallis
St Georges Church, Kendal.
Sat 10th March 2018
Levens Choir and Marian Consort
Director: Rory McCleery
I might have stayed at home in the company of Father Brown, had I not been lured out by the combined forces of Levens Choir and the Marian Consort singing the music of Thomas Tallis. And what a rewarding experience it was, complete with its own musicological detective story.
Tallis composed at a time of religious turmoil, during the reigns of Henry 8th, Edward 6th, Mary 1st and Elizabeth 1st. He rolled with the tide, writing music to suit the latest religious and political outlook: for Catholic worship; the new Protestant Church; the English Prayer Book; the Catholics again, and finally, new Anglicanism. So, we were taken on a sublime musical journey as we listened to compositions which reflected these changes in style. Throughout, we were grateful to the erudition of Director Rory McCleery. His brief introductions were delightfully apposite, his programme notes masterly in charting our tour.
This was a memorable evening, the singing lovely throughout the richly varied concert, larger choral items being interspersed with works for the Consort alone. Levens Choir, each section strengthened by the soloists of the Marian Consort, produced a glowing, seemingly effortless tone, throughout the vocal range. The blending and balancing of voices was excellent too, even in the works for more than four parts, as for example in the magnificently sung Gaude Gloriosa, the highlight of my evening. The full sections in this work allow little let-up for the singers, with rests few and far between, but energy levels never faltered. The solo sections shone. Indeed, the eight voices of the Consort shone all evening, whatever they sang.
I struggled to find shortcomings. I might have wished for greater dynamic range on occasion or clearer diction on another? Did I detect some uncertainty at the opening of Sacrum Convivium? Perhaps this was the reason that when the audience demanded an encore, we were treated to a beautiful repeat performance, one which summed up the whole evening. A sacred banquet indeed!
Last year we offered a pair of tickets to a Chamber Music Plus concert for new subscribers to our mailing list; for 2017/18 we are asking for reviews of any of the CMP concerts. There's still time to enter! Please send your entries to email@example.com
Christopher Morley, Chief Music Critic of the Birmingham Post, recently asked us a few questions about Chamber Music Plus and this article appeared in the Post in November 2017:
I went to a lunchtime guitar recital at the Barber Concert Hall, Birmingham University on Friday 24 November to hear a recital by Sean Shibe. The Concert Hall was full, including a class of school children but he silenced us all with the sound his guitar produced. He was outstanding, shaping each note. He was able to sustain a melody note while executing passing harmony elsewhere.
He played Lute Suite no 4 in E major by J S Bach, and several Etudes and Preludes by H Villa-Lobos. But for me the best was 4 little pieces which were extra to those printed on the programme. He said that they were from early Scottish manuscripts and they were lilting folk tunes with fantastic harmonics which filled the Concert Hall.
Sean Shibe is a classical guitarist from Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. He is of both Scottish and Japanese ancestry. He studied at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and with Italian guitarist Paolo Pegoraro.
Last week we sent out the 2017 Spring Newsletter to all our postal subscribers - together with a galaxy of information regarding forthcoming concerts. If you'd like to join this mailing list please contact us and we will add you and send you a copy.
The envelope included details of Leamington Music Festival Weekend, the Worcestershire Early Music Festival (and Pride & Prejudice Ball), the second season of Old Chapel Court Concerts in Tewkesbury, Tewkesbury Abbey's festival of music in the liturgy Musica Deo Sacra, and Longborough Opera's season (Tristan und Isolde, Fidelio, The Magic Flute, Orfeo ed Euridice)...
...plus a flyer for an additional concert presented this season by Malvern Concert Club on Friday 7 April at 2.30pm with pianist Clare Hammond.
Blog written by Jill Davies, who runs the Severn Muses project as well as Chamber Music Plus.
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