For the latest amateur classical music listings in and around Portsmouth, including Fareham, Petersfield, Chichester, Havant and Hayling Island

Profile: Susan Yarnall-Monks, soprano, lecturer and voice coach

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career?

My parents and various teachers were wonderfully supportive – they wouldn’t let me give up till I had got my grade 8 and by then of course I didn’t want to – but it was various performances that made me consider taking up music as a career. While at school I played the part of Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro, which was hugely challenging but which left me with a love of Mozart. My piano teacher got me into singing but my parents only found out that I had a talent for it when I surprised them by winning a local Eisteddfod!

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

For any woman who wants to combine a professional career with bringing up a family, there will always be sacrifices and compromises to make. I’m not complaining, as I have a wonderful family and have had a wonderful career.

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

One of the main challenges is trying to achieve a high quality of music-making in a concert if fellow musicians are stressed or nervous. Quite by contrast, rehearsals are a pleasure, where one can work on different interpretations of the work in a generally more relaxed atmosphere.

I teach on the BMus Vocal Performance degree at Chichester University. I like to give my students the challenge of singing in different languages, in particular French, German and Italian. Last year my students’ repertoire extended to works in Dutch, Finnish, Polish, Swedish and Welsh, which was a challenge for me and them at times!

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

I have an eclectic musical taste and refuse to be ‘put in a box!’ I love Mozart, Howells, French Romantic composers and Poulenc in particular, but also Scottish songs for Burns night and works by Gershwin.

Which works do you think you perform best?

Art songs, which are miniature narratives capable of picture painting. Oratorio, Opera and Renaissance music.

Which performances are you most proud of?

Singing Fauré’s Requiem, Brahms Requiem and Carmina Burana with the Southampton Choral Society, and Poulenc’s Gloria and Mozart’s Requiem with the Renaissance Choir, because I felt all the musicians were as one with the music.

What are your most memorable concert experiences?

When I visited Berlin last year, I was able to attend Daniel Barenboim’s final concert with the Berlin Phil, an incredibly moving performance from a man who has given so much to the musical life of the world. Richard Goode used to perform regularly at Bath Music Festival: he was able to extract so many colours from the piano, you could hardly believe that he was actually playing just one instrument! Also memorable was Eugene Onegin with Susan Chilcott and Thomas Hampson at the Bastille Opera in Paris because I was introduced to Tom afterwards when we were enjoying a post-performance supper and…because the singing was so electrifying.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Be flexible and adaptable, remain creative and willing to explore. It’s a tough world out there. Get to know (and perform) music that many people don’t know; there is a lot of good contemporary music around at the moment, and you will get noticed that way. One favourite of mine at the moment is Michael Nyman’s If, with words based on Anne Frank’s diary, because it so poignant and deceptively simple.

How would you define success as a musician?

In my opinion success can be defined by whether you’ve been able to communicate a shared moment. The pianist Malcolm Martineau once spoke about the magic triangle of singer, pianist and audience and the real connection that worked between all three at a masterclass many years ago, and last year heard I him accompanying the soprano Anne Schwanewilms at Wigmore Hall when this was very evident.

Come and hear some of my students sing!

On Tuesday 17 November there will be an English Song Concert given by the University’s B.Mus Vocal Performance degree singers at the University, which will be live-streamed.

Such students need all the help they can get. I am optimistic, though, as although the delivery of musical performance may alter, musicians have shown great adaptability in the current crisis.

Susan Yarnall-Monks is an Associate Lecturer and Vocal Tutor at the University of Chichester Conservatoire. She is a professional soprano and she also enjoys singing with the Renaissance Choir where she is a frequent soloist. She has sung at Carnegie Hall in Dunfermline and in New York as well as European tours of France, Poland, Spain and Italy. Her love of French and English song has led to many recitals and recordings.

She was awarded her PhD (2007) from Sheffield University for her research into the Perception of the Singing Voice. She taught Singing and Music at Kingswood School, Bath for many years and recently retired from teaching voice at St. Paul’s Girls School, London. Susan took part in the Master Teachers Week at Princeton University USA. She is currently President of the European Vocational Training Association (EVTA) which involves organising international conferences for singing teachers from around the world.

She continues to teach singers of all ages and abilities and enjoys the challenge of helping anyone find their voice. She is a Licensed Lay Reader and also runs the Birdham Village Choir, and enjoys sailing, gardening and embroidery.

For her musings, see her blog at https://singunique.com. To view her more than 100 daily video singing exercises, visit The Renaissance Choir’s YouTube channel.

 


Profile: Alex Poulton, singer, vocal practitioner and composer

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career or interest in music?

I started with dance and theatre rather than music, attending Horndean Ballet school, The Royal Ballet associates and then Elmhurst Ballet School from an early age. Watching The Boyfriend at the age of 10 at the Manor Pavilion Theatre in Sidmouth had quite an influence on me. I expanded my interests into music when I attended Southdowns College – Liz Lewis was a particular inspiration, introducing me to a wide range of composers and works, and I studied double music specialising in voice there.

After leaving school I went into the entertainment industry, enjoying a variety of roles as a dancer and singer in family entertainment style shows, such as Thorpe Park’s diving show.

Subsequently I studied for 6 years at the Birmingham Conservatoire. I went on many tours round the world during my breaks from college: I especially enjoyed spending time in sunny Dubai, before returning to my digs in grey Birmingham! The Conservatoire gave me so many opportunities to perform: I took major parts in productions such as The Marriage of Figaro, The Magic Flute and Guilio Cesare and performed song cycles such as Winterreise and Die Schöne Müllerin among other works. I benefited from input from some wonderful teachers, including Julian Pike, Julius Drake and Meriel Dickinson. I was also really fortunate to be awarded scholarships to study in Weimar and Budapest. There I had the opportunity of training with world-class singers such as Sándor Sólyom-Nagy and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.

I was given time off from the Conservatoire to go on tour with Colombia Artists to the USA for several months, performing The Merry Widow, Die Fledermaus and Madame Butterfly.

I now compose shows, perform in various productions and I am often invited to perform lieder and art song. I feel I am very lucky to have an interesting variety of work. Performing in a recital is particularly important to me. I like the intimate experience it presents. One can be director, m.d. and performer all at once. The music is truly wonderful and a real privilege to perform.

What have been the greatest challenges and pleasures of your musical career so far?

I put on my own Jazz musical called Freek Street on Hayling Island a couple of years ago. This piece was written in association with the mental health charity M.I.N.D. I worked on this with my Dad. It was a huge amount of work but a really rewarding experience.

I recently performed the Marquis in Poulenc’s The Carmelites with a 70-piece orchestra in London. It is an extraordinary and challenging piece of music/theatre.

I perform my dramatised version of Schubert’s Winterreise quite regularly. This is a monumental piece both mentally and physically. Unless you feel completely drained afterwards, somehow you haven’t done the work justice.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

Schubert, Menotti, Vaughan-Williams, Finzi, Mozart and Wagner all wrote works which best suit the baritone voice. They are all masters at setting words and creating a dramatic scene.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Create your own opportunities: do what you really want to do without distractions, though prepare yourself for the need to change!

What are you busy with at the moment?

I am preparing to perform a somewhat “reduced” Ring Cycle for a socially distanced tour of the South West and a recital of Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, a work that I have always been keen to sing. I recently recorded a new song with Valentina Seferinova by Rosalind Rogerson. I am currently writing a Bel Canto opera, and a stage production for baritone and mezzo-soprano.

Go to http://alexbaritone.co.uk to find out more about Alex.


Profile: Stewart Collins, producer and artistic director of the Petworth Festival

The Petworth Festival has announced its special autumn programme yesterday. 25 events will be filmed live from the festival’s ‘home’ venues St Mary’s Petworth and the Leconfield Hall and will be streamed via its website.

Simon O’Hea has been in conversation with its artistic director, Stewart Collins.

As an artistic director, what informs your musical preferences?

I am keen to get away from pigeonholing people into the various genres. I love musicians who are able to move between the various genres – Joanna MacGregor, Matthew Barley, André Previn and Leonard Bernstein come particularly to mind.

I am particularly fond of 19th-century Romantic and French impressionist music, but I also admire the great Jazz musicians. One of my favourite pieces is Oscar Peterson’s Hymn to Freedom, which I programmed as part of the festival’s 40th anniversary year to be played by four pianists from four different traditions, which was amazing.

I was brought up to believe that classical music was the one and only thing. But once I’d become a professional choral singer, I saw that genius has many different disguises, and that there is an incredible amount of talent everywhere you look. Having to make a living from music-making, I also recognised how hard you have to work whatever your calling if you are to make it in the harshly competitive world we live in. I think that it’s given me an empathy with up-and-coming musicians, and a good reading of talent.

Having been both a choral scholar as well as an active member of the Footlights whilst a history student at Cambridge, I co-founded the four-part group Cantabile which was set up in the mould of the King’s Singers. We did quirky numbers drawn from across the board – cabaret, madrigals, topical songs, Schubert lieder and a whole lot more, including a memorable 15 month run in the West End.

After 15 years of professional singing, family pressures eventually made for a change, and I was fortunate to be offered the position of artistic director of the Henley Festival. I’ve now been there for 30 of its 39 years. I’ve been artistic director of the Petworth Festival for 11 years and proud to have seen that reach its 40th year, not to mention having founded a now very well established literary week.

What makes for success in directing an arts festival such as Petworth?

It’s a bit like being a cook: you identify incredibly good ingredients, but until they are stirred into the mix and cooked up they won’t make a good dish. And, following the cooking analogy through, you need to be able to find a balance of flavours. A kaleidoscope is better than one theme. You will be looking to cater to a wide variety of tastes.

I’ve also very much supported identifying and bringing on new, young talent. Over the past five years I’ve fostered a most valuable relationship with the Royal Academy of Music, a relationship which has resulted in concert series at each of the last five festivals featuring soloists and performers selected and endorsed by senior staff at the conservatoire. Beyond that we’ve also made a point of working year-on-year with ensembles from West Sussex Music, and more recently both The Musicians’ Company and the Live Music Now charity. Gratifyingly the audiences for these events have really been building.

What about this autumn’s festival?

In July we ran a cut-down festival, online. And this autumn we are looking to distil the best of what we had in the summer into a 15-day programme featuring the highest-profile events that we ran in the summer. It’s wonderful that such talent is available to join us. Some of it will be drawn from the RAM. We’ll also be re-broadcasting Harry Rylance and the Voreios Trio, all of whom are young and extremely gifted musicians, while there will be a small live audience for the other events. Read more

We are extremely thankful to our sponsors: there are too many to mention individually, but you can read their names here.

We have already been overwhelmed by the support we have received from many of our Friends and Supporters, but the Festival will still need all the help it can get to enable us to overcome the many challenges the Covid-19 crisis has forced on us. As such we appeal to everyone who loves the Petworth Festival to help us survive into 2021 and beyond by making a donation, however small. Thank you.


Profile: Catherine Lawlor, violinist

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career?

I come from a musical family – my father Michael is quite well known in the area as a composer and performer on cornett, shawm, recorder, modern oboe) as well as a woodwind and brass music teacher. My mother Sandra is an amateur flautist and pianist – there was always music on in the house. Originally, I wanted a double bass but was persuaded to settle for a violin instead.

I was fortunate to benefit from the excellent teachers in the music department at Peter Symonds College. Before then, I owe a special debt to Janis Moore, who taught me from the age of 7, and Adrian Adlam. I still meet up with my teachers and sometimes have the pleasure of playing along with them.

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

What is positive about getting involved with music is that on one level it is always a challenge: there’s always something more to learn. Sometimes one’s opinions are challenged: prior to going to music college, I thought I understood technique, but soon realised that there is so much to learn and I am still learning. Pablo Casals was asked, at age 83, why he still practised. He responded: “Because I think I am making progress”.

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

I switch between performing chamber music, orchestral music, doing solos and recitals. It can be a challenge to find the right sound for all the various kinds of performances. With orchestral music, you need to blend, to contribute but not to dominate; with solos, you definitely need to project, but as a leader it’s a question of achieving something in between. With recitals, you have to match your timbre to that of the piano, and with chamber music you need to find the right timbre, to have your own voice whilst blending at the same time. I can always tell if a quartet has been used to playing together for some time by the extent to which they blend and interact.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

I have a special love for the French “impressionists” – Debussy, Ravel and Boulanger, and Franck too, and I feel I can perform their works better than those of other composers as a result. They create wonderful “sound worlds” – take the Debussy sonata for piano and violin, for example. Their works also allow for experimentation and innovation.

Other works that I have a particular affinity for include Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, orchestrated by Ravel, Ravel’s Mother Goose with its emotional journey, Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, Rachmaninov’s Isle of the Dead, the Brahms and Beethoven Violin Concertos and quite by contrast Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast (which I performed in my singing days).

I think the common feature they all share is their emotional journey and underlying narrative, and I think this is why I enjoy both playing and listening to these pieces so much.

Which works/performances are you most proud of?

As a student at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, I felt that I played Franck’s Violin Sonata really well in my final concert. It was a piece that I had revisited a number of times already and one that I always found challenging. It was a brilliant feeling to know that I had played it well and excellent timing that it was during my final recital for my degree!

I had to step in at the last moment to perform Vaughan-Williams’ The Lark Ascending having never learnt it before. I discovered some wonderful new things about it which weren’t obvious from listening to a recording of it. I find there are some pieces that are always so much better experienced live with their complex textures and I think this is one of them.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Not everyone will like how you play, so take criticism on the chin, if it is legitimate, use it to learn and improve. Remember that you always have fans, it’s just that if they like what you are doing they don’t always say so!

Don’t be afraid to put your mark on a piece, to seek a new interpretation.

Arthur Rubinstein’s dictum was to limit practice to 4 hours per day, and I think this works well for me. You need to take breaks and seek inspiration away from rehearsing.

Slowly the curriculum is coming to recognise the value in music in schools for general self-development as well as many other things, and the Hampshire Music Service is doing a fine job in the circumstances. I’m finding that if the head teacher is keen on music in a school, then it tends to flourish. I am always encouraging younger students to play and enjoy playing.

How have you been keeping busy during lockdown?

I’ve been busy working towards producing a CD entitled Myths and Legends along with the pianist Valentina Seferinova. It’s been fun exploring a theme through music. It will feature a wide selection of works such as Szymanowski’s Mythes, works by Delius, Korngold, Malling and Bridge. Valentina and I have tried to choose works that have a strong narrative and it has been really interesting to discover lots of works that have yet to be recorded and tell a story.

I hope that live performances will be possible again soon and that audiences will be happy to return: we need to demonstrate to the government that our profession is worth supporting.

My next concert will be on Saturday 24 October in Beaulieu Abbey Church where I will be playing as a member of the Nova Foresta Classical Players. It will be a nice varied programme.

About Catherine

Catherine Lawlor began studying the violin at the age of seven with Janis Moore and subsequently with Adrian Adlam. In 2009, she won a full scholarship to study with Marius Bedeschi at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and graduated with first-class honours in 2013. She continued her studies at the Aaron Copland School of Music, New York, under Daniel Phillips and completed her masters in 2015. During her undergraduate and master’s degrees she was awarded many prizes for both performance and academic achievement including the Balsam Scholarship for Chamber Music and the Graduating Masters Award.

Catherine is now a freelance musician who has performed as soloist, chamber musician and orchestral player in the UK, Europe, Asia and the USA. She has recorded for film, television and radio for Amazon Prime, the BBC and Avanti. In our area she is most closely associated with the Chichester Symphony Orchestra (she is its Leader) and the Solent Symphony Orchestra.


Profile: Crispin Ward, composer, conductor, university lecturer

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career?

I grew up in a musical family; my father, now retired, was an opera singer so I pretty much know most of the major opera repertoire. I remember that when I was young I used to sneak down after bedtime and sit at the bottom step and listen to music being played on my parent’s stereo, in particular I recall Mozart’s Magic Flute, Verdi’s Requiem and Beethoven’s Fidelio.

When I went to school there was government support for music education, something sadly lacking now. There were free instrumental lessons in school and I started on a tenor horn. My teacher Graham Johnson was inspirational and he encouraged me to join all the local county bands. This opportunity is being denied our children now with only the wealthy being supported in this way.

When I was a senior at the Royal College of Music I was encouraged to take up conducting and my teacher, Christopher Adey was an absolute inspiration. I copied his style so closely my friends used to call me Little Chris.

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

There seem to be three main challenges for me. One is to try to put self-doubt behind me and ignore the negative comments from others whilst still striving to constantly improve.

The second is a lack of a clear career path: it is sometimes a challenge to decide which way to go, which direction to take, when deciding what to do next. Each concert is often a self-contained entity and each might, or might not, lead to something else. It is always difficult to know which jobs to take and which to leave alone.

The third challenge is trying to persuade people that this is the way that I, and my colleagues, make our living. Although I love my job, it is not my hobby.

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

Music has taken me all over the world and introduced me to princes, presidents and celebrities. It has given me friendship and allowed me to contribute to the lives of others. One thing I have noticed about working in this field is that those musicians at the very top of the profession are almost all really very nice people.

How would you describe your musical language?

I am what some might describe as classically trained. This misnomer is a really loose term but I think it describes what I do. I am absolutely not a musical snob and I enjoy many forms of music but I am only really any good at one type. The composers with which I am most at home would be Mozart, Beethoven, Shostakovich and Weinberg. I wanted to be able to play the piano like Oscar Peterson but I really can’t, other priorities got in the way and I didn’t practice my jazz piano enough.

How do you work?

When I am composing I follow the brief. If it is a commission, what do they want? Who is the soloist and how do they play? If it is film music, then what does the director want an audience to feel at any given moment?

The actual composing is done in my head and I write the melodies and harmonies down on manuscript paper (the old fashioned way) with notes to myself as to structure, I then put it onto a computer program. I use Sibelius notation software. If the client needs to listen to it then I use a programme called Logic with a virtual orchestra from Spitfire Audio called BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Which works/performances are you most proud of?

I am proud of a very few things.
I am proud of my French Horn playing in Mozart’s Magic Flute with William Christie and Les Arts Florissants.
I am really proud of the education project I developed in Moldova which tripled the salaries of the musicians whilst reaching many thousands of school children in the poorest country in Europe.
I am really pleased with my new score to the black and white silent film Battleship Potemkin which I have just finished.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

Beethoven.

Which works do you think you perform best? Why?

Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony and Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony because I am sure I understand what they are feeling.

What are your most memorable concert experiences?

I took Messiah to Chisinau (Moldova) – neither the musicians nor the audience had ever heard it before. There used to be a tradition that the audience would stand during the Hallelujah Chorus (it was said that King George stood at the first performance, as he said that he felt the presence of God, so everyone stood from then on). This tradition died out in around the 1960s. The chorus is the end of the second part (of three) and the audience in Chisinau had a translation in their programmes, however when the Hallelujah was about halfway through people started to stand up. At the end they were completely out of control, clapping and screaming, and stormed the stage. It took us a while to calm them down but at the end of the Amen chorus they erupted once again.

Also playing the French horn in Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder in Berlin with Abbado, Norman, Sukova, Langridge et al when I was 23 was simply amazing. To this day I meet people who played this concert and we all still remember it with pleasure.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Only become a professional musician if it is the ONLY thing you could imagine yourself doing. It is full time!!!

How would you define success as a musician?

I will let you know, I have yet to meet anyone who really feels as if they have truly made it.

How are you keeping yourself usefully occupied and sane under lockdown?

I am writing my PhD and am trying to improve my Russian.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

In no particular order but combinations of…. family, beer, food, mates, the pub, walks, good music, cricket, rugby, London Irish winning/Harlequins losing (a very good day when both happen on the same day), the novels of Rex Stout.

Crispin Ward studied conducting for four years at the Royal College of Music. He has worked with many inspirational musicians such as Claudio Abbado, Zubin Meta, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Yehudi Menuhin, Mstislav Rostropovitch, Bill Christie, Leonard Bernstein, George Solti and Ravi Shankar.

For four years he gained British Foreign Office sponsorship that supported his efforts as the artistic director of the National Chamber Orchestra of Moldova. This involved conducting this, and other orchestras, in Moscow, Kiev, Odessa, Bucharest, Tver, and around the former Eastern Bloc.

Whilst working in Moldova, he instigated and sourced funding for a music education project with the orchestra. This involved over two hundred performances in schools to some 12,000 children, was backed up with considerable resources for teachers and tripled the salaries of the orchestral players. It has generated a huge interest from amongst the pupils and it receives many letters of thanks on a daily basis.

As a result of his extremely successful work in the whole sphere of Moldovan music, Crispin received the title of Om Emerit in Republica Moldova from President Vladimir Voronin. This is the highest award that a foreign national can receive and is the equivalent of a British Honorary Knighthood. Last year Mr Ward was given full Moldovan citizenship and a Moldovan passport in recognition of his continuing success in developing Moldovan musical excellence and East/West relations.

Crispin is Head of Orchestral Studies at the University of Chichester, which boasts the second-largest music department of any university in the UK.

Visit his website for further info.


Profile: Clive Osgood, organist, pianist, conductor and composer

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career?

I have had a number of great teachers (instrumental and at university) who have inspired my interest in music. I could not easily name them all!

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

I’ve always had an interest in 18th-century music, so much so that I did a Masters in Musicology specialising in that era. My favourite composer is Mozart, but as an organist Bach has to come a close second. Quite by contrast, I also admire a number of contemporary composers who have explored new ways of expressing tonal music (e.g. Pärt, Richter, Glass etc.). My music is in the classical tradition: it’s injected with elements of jazz harmony and the rhythmic vitality of Latin American music.

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

Covid-19 has been a huge challenge to achieving a good work/life balance, as I have had to step in to home-school my two children while my wife (a nurse) goes to a stressful job.

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

I very much enjoy playing chamber music and working with choirs. I am currently writing music based on Alice in Wonderland, in collaboration with the composer Hugh Benham. This is being recorded in September by Convivium Records and which will be released early in 2021.

How would you describe your musical language?

Tonal: I am interested in the fusion of 18th-century forms with 20th-century rhythms and harmony.

How do you work?

I often head off to my church (where I am the director of music) where I can compose without distractions. I use Sibelius and tend to work through many drafts.

Which works/performances are you most proud of?

I am particularly proud of my Sacred Choral Music album under Robert Lewis, Excelsis Choir and the London Mozart Players which was launched last year.

Which works do you think you perform best?

I am an organist, so possibly Bach.

What are your most memorable concert experiences?

I have had the opportunity of having compositions performed in a complete concert last year in the Grayshott Concerts, as well as a big performance of my music in St Paul’s and on another occasion in front of the Queen at Reed’s School, where I teach.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Be reliable and careful about treading the line between self-promotion and modesty. And only do it if you enjoy it – it’s not generally very rewarding financially.

How would you define success as a musician?

Putting the music first.

How are you keeping yourself usefully occupied and sane under lockdown?

With difficulty – I have been home-schooling!

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

In good health.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Achieving something, then sitting back to enjoy it – finishing a composition or watching the view from the top of a hill.

What is your most treasured possession?

My photo albums (I would also be inclined to rescue my Mozart CD box set from a burning building!).

What do you enjoy doing most?

Visiting new places.

What is your present state of mind?

Not too bad considering…

Clive Osgood is a composer, accompanist, organist and music teacher living near Haslemere. He is currently Director of Music and Organist at the Parish Church of St Bartholomew’s in Haslemere, Surrey and teaches ‘A’ Level Music at Reed’s School, Cobham. He is available for tuition in Piano, Jazz Piano, Organ and music theory. Visit https://www.cliveosgood.com to find out more about him and his compositions.


Profile: Jack Davies, pianist and teacher

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career or interest in music?

One of my earliest memories of falling in love with classical music was when I use to visit my grandparents’ house at the weekends. They had the film Fantasia and I use to sit there for hours transfixed by the music and the animations (I still find the Night on Bald Mountain video a bit terrifying to this day!). I use to also sit and play their piano from a very young age until my grandad organised for me to have lessons at the age of 5. I continued taking lessons through school, and it wasn’t until I met the fantastic Valentina Seferinova at A-level at South Downs College that I really ramped up my practising, putting in the hours so that I could be good enough to get into music college to study for a music degree.

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

When I started my degree at the RNCM it was a shock to go from being a big fish in a small pond, to a very small fish in an enormous ocean! I quickly realised the amount of work I needed to put in and it took me a good 2 years to get to a place where I began to felt comfortable with my own playing.

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

Playing the piano can be solitary so I’ve relished the opportunities I’ve had to make music with others. When I started secondary school I joined a steel band which opened up my eyes to a whole new world of music from the Caribbean. The social element of this band was fantastic and I have built strong friendships form that time with friends I still see today. During my time at the RNCM, my principal study tutor was also head of chamber music, and introduced me to some brilliant musicians at the college. I enjoyed collaborating with them in duo and trio settings and also had the honour of winning the Christopher Rowlands Chamber Music Prize in my final year. Organising rehearsals can be tricky, especially when musicians typically have many other jobs/commitments going on, but sites like doodle.com can help work out when everyone is free.

Which works/performances are you most proud of?

My final recital at the RNCM was worth 50% of my whole degree (due to doing an exchange year in Helsinki). This was a 1-hour public recital from memory including music by Bach-Busoni, Rachmaninoff and Bach. I was really nervous but luckily I managed to pull it off relatively unscathed!

Another musical achievement I am really proud of is organising a Eurovision themed singing competition for the primary school I am working in. Each class had to choose a song that had been performed at Eurovision and learn the words and dance moves for the competition. The children loved it and it was a great way to get the children singing and listening to music in a way which they hadn’t done before.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

Rachmaninoff saw me through my teen years and got me really hooked on classical music! I remember hearing his 3rd piano concerto for the first time and becoming immediately obsessed! I also really like Bach’s keyboard works, particularly his two books of preludes and fugues.

Which works do you think you perform best? 

I really like performing Bach. I love sitting down and experimenting with different ways to phrase and articulate his music.

What are your most memorable concert experiences?

When I was in a steel band, I loved performing at Notting Hill Carnival’s Panorama steel band competition. There were thousands of people in the audience and the atmosphere was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. My most memorable concert was watching Frankie Valli perform at the O2 a few years ago. The fact that he can still nail all of those high notes and perform with such energy to an enormous venue is incredible!

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Go for it, but remember that it’s highly competitive and you really need to put in the hours, dedication and focus to make a career out of it. Make sure you gain as many skills related to music as possible (sight-reading, jazz, improvisation, singing and teaching) so you can have a portfolio career. You’ll likely end up doing something in music that you didn’t intend on doing so don’t be ‘snobby’ about taking on work that you feel is below your level of training (especially when you’re starting out)!

A career in music takes a long time to build; 90% of the work I have been given (performing/teaching) has been through the relationships I have built within the industry over the years.

Finally, don’t neglect the business side of being a musician. You need to know how to market yourself, negotiate contracts, manage your own finances and be able to deal with a whole host of different people and their unique personalities in a professional and likeable manner.

How would you define success as a musician?

I would say that as long as you’re making music, and that makes you happy, then you’re successful. If you want to share that with other people then that’s also great, and if you can make money on top of that then even better! Personally, I have had great pleasure in bringing classical music to young people. I have recently introduced a music curriculum at my school based on the principles of Kodály, which is highly systematic, practical and engaging. Seeing the impact this approach has had on their level of engagement with music has been an absolute joy and something I am keen to expand on across the city of Portsmouth in the future.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Discovering new music! I love it when I’m listening through albums and artists and I come across a song/piece of music that really gets to me. Recent discoveries have been the artist ‘YEBBA’ and the music from the musical ‘Dear Evan Hansen’.

Here is a link to a recording of me trying to play some Liszt.

About Jack

Jack Davies is a primary school teacher and music leader at Berewood Primary School in Waterlooville, and has worked as a music specialist working for Portsmouth Music Service. He has a private teaching studio, the Solent Music School, in Portchester. He enjoys going to live concerts and musicals, running and attempting overly ambitious DIY projects.


Profile: Vincent Iyengar, conductor, viola player and pianist

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career or interest in music?

I certainly started early – I loved to sing as a baby, and used to tinker about on my grandmother’s piano, starting with lessons at the age of 5 on “the perfect instrument”.

I was told to take up the viola by my secondary school. Its unpredictable gut strings and the consequent difficulty of keeping it in tune, and the aches and pains that it induced made it hard work at the beginning. But playing it on a youth orchestra holiday course with Arthur Davison turned everything about it to a positive.

My father wanted me to be an engineer, but I studied music and maths at Royal Holloway, followed by a PGCE, with an additional Licentiate Diploma from Trinity College, London. There was a big demand for maths teachers at the time, but after 8 years of doing that I decided to throw myself into a musical career and became Director of Music at St Catherine’s (British Embassy) School in Athens. This gave me great scope to arrange ensembles and concerts.

Returning to England six years later, I went on to obtain a Masters’ degree with distinction from Southampton University in philosophy of mind. I subsequently furthered my interest in the Kodály and Dalcroze principles as effective approaches to musical understanding. Dalcroze is a holistic, kinaesthetic and multisensory method which emphasises feeling the music (rhythm, pitch, structure, phrasing, etc.) in both mind and body using movement as well as improvisation and solfege. I took a certificate level qualification, permitting me to teach it. Concurrent with this I deepened my understanding of the Kodály approach to music learning, obtaining Advanced Kodály Musicianship with distinction.

Both of these methods help with playing, performance, sight-singing, how to convey expression and so on. Read more about the principles of these philosophies.

I also improved my choral and orchestral conducting with the help of Sing for Pleasure, the Association of British Choral Directors and Peter Stark, Professor of Conducting at the Royal College of Music and later became music director of the Solent City Chorus from 2014-17.

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

Overcoming performance nerves.

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

Achieving an integrated sound, being part of a whole, not being in the spotlight, yet being essential to the overall output.

Which works or performances are you most proud of?

Building up the orchestras in Greece, enabling children of expatriates to play music to a high standard, giving public performances at the British Council and other cultural venues. Also conducting Solent City Chorus at the Gosport Festival and at the annual Barbershop conventions in Harrogate, Llandudno and Bournemouth. Directing various school musicals, such as an unabridged Oliver, which, though performed by 9-12 year-olds, was considered by audience members to be of a higher standard than the local operatic society.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

Brahms has both an intellectual and an emotional appeal. For the same reason I also love Bach. In addition I find Debussy’s music highly original. Rebecca Clarke stands out for me among women composers for her deep romanticism and being a viola player too and Chevalier de St Georges amongst black composers as rivalling Mozart.

Which works do you think you perform best?

I think I can put on a good performance of Brahms’ Intermezzo 118, no. 2 on the piano. On viola, I enjoy playing works by Vaughan-Williams. Like many people I tend to practise works I enjoy.

What are your most memorable concert experiences?

As a listener, I cannot forget attending the Banff Festival in Canada, where Mendelssohn’s Piano trio in D minor was being played by two well-known musicians, Menahem Pressler, Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi and a hitherto unheard of brilliant 20-year-old: every phrase was interesting and the whole audience rose to its feet and cheered for five minutes at its conclusion!

As a performer, one of my more memorable concert experience was being asked to lead the violas at the at the last minute at the Northcott theatre in Exeter in a concert in which John Lill played Rachmaninov’s 2nd piano concerto to a packed audience, followed by a performance of Vaughan Williams 5th Symphony with its lovely viola solo. Other performances that stick in my mind was playing the theme from Love Story on solo viola as part of the Asian Development Bank’s 40th anniversary celebrations in Manila and also conducting my own composition, The St Catherine’s Variations, with my orchestra in Greece.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Be eclectic in your tastes, don’t narrow down your interests or skills. And develop your business acumen: you’ll need to be able to make connections and market yourself. All that’s anyway going to be pretty useful if you find you need to alter your career away from music.

How are you keeping yourself usefully occupied and sane under lockdown?

I’ve been able to make use of lockdown to do some more practising, besides, I’ve been able to develop my online teaching offering. Away from music, I’ve done much more walking and reading than I would have done. So I have not been at all unhappy.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

I would like to have rolled out my classes to more lower-income families. I am becoming increasingly interested in effective altruism and am conscious that I am probably in the luckiest 1-2% of humanity. Almost all people can learn and progress musically, yet our musical culture and skills are often passed around between middle-class communities. It would be better to use whatever abilities I have to improve the outlook of those less fortunate than myself. I shall investigate the possibility of setting up a not-for-profit organisation, but I am open to other suggestions.

About Vincent

Vincent plays piano and viola and very much enjoys playing in orchestral gigs. He plays for the Solent Symphony Orchestra, the Havant Symphony Orchestra, the Charity Symphony Orchestra and for choral societies and other orchestras when needed.

He has 12 years’ experience as a general supply teacher in primary and secondary schools, and 17 years’ experience teaching class music in primary age range schools, including 12 years teaching Early Years Foundation Stage music within schools.

Vincent also teaches violin, viola and piano.

Vincent started the ‘Education through Music’ music school in 2016 at the request of a parent who had been searching on the internet for a Kodály trained teacher. He is enjoying working with families to introduce the Kodály and Dalcroze teaching principles to very young children, helping them to develop a lifelong appreciation of music, and supporting their overall development.

When not kept busy with his lifelong passion for music, Vincent enjoys mountain trekking, travel, and learning foreign languages.

To find out more about Vincent, see https://educationthroughmusic.net.

 


Profile: Jonathan Willcocks, composer and conductor

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career?

Music was in my family from the beginning and I used to watch my father, David, conducting rehearsals. At an early age I was fascinated as he used his baton to bring in various parts – I originally thought that this was entirely to show me which instruments or singers I should watch!

My early musical training as a chorister at King’s College, Cambridge from the age of 8 to 13 has been the most important influence on my musical life and career as a composer and conductor. Life as a chorister involves full immersion for at least 4 hours a day preparing for around 8 services a week. Quite apart from the obvious superb musical foundations, other spinoffs include self-discipline and the building of self-confidence.

I’ve had the fortune of conducting some wonderful choirs and ensembles over the years. I moved to the Portsmouth area in 1975 to take up the post of Director of Music at Portsmouth Grammar School. This led to my also being appointed as conductor of the Portsmouth Choral Union and then in 1979 the Chichester Singers, I agreed to stand in at short notice to conduct a concert when Anne Lawrence, its founder, had to retire suddenly as the result of illness. Over forty years later I am still enjoying making music with them!

Again, some fortune led me into composing: I started writing music not out of any burning urge to compose but because friends at school and university asked me to. One of my earliest large-scale works was “Voices of Time” commissioned by Portsmouth Choral Union in 1980 on the occasion of its centenary, and published by OUP. This led to further commissions. You can visit my website to see a list of all the works that I have composed.

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

Every rehearsal is a challenge! Concerts work well if rehearsals do. Rehearsals lay the foundations for excellent achievement but they can be hard work, and you have to be both organised but also imaginatively flexible.

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

A musical performance is very much a team effort – everyone has something potentially to offer. I get a lot of pleasure in enabling others to perform uplifting music, sometimes to a standard quite beyond what the individual may think they are capable of. That’s one reason why I particularly like working with amateur musicians.

How would you describe your musical language?

My background is in classical music written for an ecclesiastical setting. I try hard to make the piece technically match the ability of the ensemble that commissioned it and to make whatever I write challenging but accessible.

How do you work?

I sit at my desk with a pencil and manuscript, and work in shorthand. I can hear the music more clearly in my head if I don’t use the piano. I then transfer this initial draft to my computer using Sibelius software; this is very much part of the creative process, and it enables me to revisit and revise my work to develop it nearer to its completed form.

Time management skills are useful here, it has never worked for me to wait for inspiration to strike. When working on a composition I force myself to work in a disciplined way and I’ve never missed a commission deadline.

With choral compositions, I’ll start with the text. The mood and message of the words need to be mirrored in the music. With instrumental pieces there are different constraints but the music must still suit the occasion and ensemble for which it is being written.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

My interest in counterpoint means that I have a strong affinity with the music of J.S. Bach (for example his B Minor Mass), Mozart (for example his Requiem or the final movement of his Jupiter Symphony) and Elgar, who skilfully knits together various different voice parts using one rhythm. With composers like Wagner, for whom harmony is more dominant, I feel that the listener is missing a vital dimension of the subtle interrelation of voices and instruments.

Which works or performances are you most proud of?

Performing what in my opinion are the truly great masterpieces, for instance by Bach (as above), Brahms (for example his Requiem) and Britten (for example his War Requiem).

What are your most memorable concert experiences?

Conducting Dame Janet Baker in The Dream of Gerontius, and (on several occasions) Sir Willard White in Elijah and other works count among my most memorable concert experiences. Also there have been a number of instances where I have been asked to be guest conductor for what seemed like an unpromising group of players or singers, which brought unexpected joy and satisfaction in the end.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

As a former director of the Junior Academy, Royal Academy of Music in London I was always candid with students: while encouraging them to strive to fulfil their potential I would also counsel them to consider making a career out of doing something other than music, and keeping their exceptional abilities as players or singers as a lifelong amateur love, rather than trying to earn a living at it. Music is an extremely tough and competitive career, and you have to be exceptionally good at what you do but also have a lot of luck. You also need to have other attributes, you need to develop associated business skills, such as in how to market yourself effectively, and be entirely reliable. The music profession is very unforgiving of sloppy time-keeping or unreliability. For many, it may be a better idea to extract pleasure from music as a serious hobby rather than endure the uncertainty and stress of trying to earn a living from it.

How would you define success as a musician?

Feeling fulfilled and enabling others to feel fulfilled. Leading a rehearsal or a concert in which amateur musicians have achieved more than they thought that they possibly could continues to give me great satisfaction.

What are your observations about the current pandemic situation?

It’s pretty dire. There’s little or no work for professional singers and instrumentalists, many of whom are not eligible for Government support, yet they need to keep practising. Cathedral and church choirs are faced with a huge break in the continuity of choristership: they need day-in, day-out practice, and for skills to be passed on from older to younger singers. Some amateur choirs are faced with the danger of “evaporation” if they are unable to meet and rehearse in the near future. A Government may be able to stop and start the economy, but you can’t do this with music for which continuity is so vital.

About Jonathan

Jonathan Willcocks’ published music includes major choral works, music for children’s choir, many shorter pieces (including anthems and secular choral music), orchestral and instrumental works. Jonathan’s has many recordings, and his music is frequently performed and broadcast in many parts of the world.

Jonathan is currently Musical Director of the Guildford Choral Society, the Chichester Singers, the Leith Hill Musical Festival and the professional chamber orchestra Southern Pro Musica.

For a full biography of Jonathan, please visit http://www.jonathanwillcocks.com.


Susan Legg – mezzo soprano and pianist

Since winning the National Mozart Singing Competition, Susan’s flourishing career has taken her to major venues worldwide. Specialising in contemporary song, she has broadcast for BBC Radio 3 and Norwegian Radio. Legendary mezzo Christa Ludwig described Susan’s lyric mezzo as ‘a beautiful voice with a fine coloratura.’ Susan studied singing with Margaret Kingsley at the Royal College of Music and National Opera Studio and piano with Clifford Benson and Phyllis Sellick.

Susan has given vocal and piano recitals at the Wigmore Hall, Purcell Room and St. John, Smith’s Square with pianist Ann Martin-Davis and performed at Glyndebourne, Bayreuth, Wexford and Aldeburgh Festivals and the Walton Trust, Ischia. She has sung all Elgar’s choral works, Bach’s Passions, the Verdi and Mozart Requiems and toured Handel’s Messiah in Mexico.

For cinema and television, Susan recorded composer Stephen Baysted’s soundtracks for celebrated director Phil Grabsky’s feature films: The Impressionists and the man who made them; Renoir: Revered and Reviled; I, Claude Monet and The Young Picasso. For video games, Susan was solo vocalist and pianist on soundtracks for Project Cars and Project Cars 2. She was featured vocalist on Atari’s Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends and Need for Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed.

Recent engagements include a CD for Divine Art Label of Cilia Petridou’s new choral work Byzantine Doxology; world premiere of Nicholas Smith’s Chinese choral work Love, Friendship & Longing in Cadogan Hall; Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis in Queen Elizabeth Hall; Verdi’s Requiem in Eastbourne and Beethoven’s Mass in C in Arundel Cathedral. Susan is currently featuring on ITV’s Endeavour as the opera diva.

Who have been the main influencers on your decision to pursue a career in music?

I fell into music really! At Springfield Comprehensive School in Drayton I was taught by a wonderful violinist, Sam Coates, who was a musical guru and at that time I also started piano lessons with Barbara Sayer who brought my playing on really quickly. I then went to South Downs College for music A levels where I was a part of a small but really thriving musical community and most of the students in my year went on to the London Conservatoires.

Elizabeth Lewis taught me singing, having first spotted my voice in her sight-singing classes. I met the pianist Clifford Benson whilst still at South Downs College when he visited for a masterclass and he helped to prepare me for the audition process. At the time I was a first study pianist and second study violinist and singing was in the background. Clifford was an extraordinary musician and teacher and with his guidance I soon won places to the Royal College of Music, Royal Academy of Music and Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

The Royal College was my first choice, to study with the great pianist Phyllis Sellick and there I met Margaret Kingsley who trained my voice. I was extremely fortunate to have been musically shaped by such incredible musicians and also to have had encouragement and fantastic support from my parents.

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

Balancing everything! Performing and teaching is a constant juggling act.

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

Musical collaboration is always the ideal musical scenario for me. I have been lucky to work in many exciting collaborations. With my long-standing duo partner pianist Ann Martin-Davis, I have given some exciting vocal recitals, including a food programme inspired and based on Nigella Lawson’s recipes.

We have commissioned song-cycles by Gabriel Jackson, Graham Fitkin and Howard Skempton and have toured Mexico, literary festivals, performed at Henley and Petworth Festivals and on music cruises around the world, including three trips down the Amazon! We have also performed extensively for Lost Chord, giving concerts to people with dementia and in the early years I gave numerous concerts on Menuhin’s Live Music Now! Scheme in schools, hospitals and hospices.

I’ve been lucky to collaborate with my husband Stephen Baysted who is a composer for TV, games and film. I have performed on his scores for Project Cars 3 (2020); Project Cars (2015) and Project Cars 2 (2017). I was featured vocalist on Atari’s Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends (2012) and Electronic Arts Need for Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed (2011).

Our collaboration with Producer & Director Phil Grabsky Exhibition on Screen has been especially enjoyable and we worked together to create the music for Matisse, The Impressionists, Renoir: Revered and Reviled and I, Claude Monet. I also played and sang on his film Young Picasso and his latest film Leonardo: The Works.

Which works/performances are you most proud of?

As a student at Royal College of Music, I learned Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto with Phyllis Sellick and it was always extraordinary to me to think that she and her husband Cyril Smith knew the composer. It was a wonderful challenge for me and I have such vivid memories of performing it in Portsmouth Cathedral with the University Orchestra conducted by William McVicar. Phyllis travelled down for the concert and it was a really memorable occasion for me to be playing it on home turf.

More recently I sang the mezzo solo role in a world premiere of Nicholas Smith’s Chinese choral work Love, Friendship & Longing in Cadogan Hall (Autumn 2018) and was proud to pull off some apparently fairly passable Mandarin!

During Lockdown, with my composer’s hat, on I wrote a song – Hold on Tight – to raise money for the NHS and am proud to say that we are approaching £3000. You may donate here.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

I have always loved Mozart and perhaps since winning the National Mozart Singing Competition when I was at RCM my love of his music grew even stronger. I love his musical language – Mozart can be simple but profound at the same time. I also love the romantics – Rachmaninov and Brahms and I really love singing the French repertoire.

Which works do you think you perform best? Why?

The role of the Angel in Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius will always be special to me. It sits perfectly in my voice and it’s always a thrill to sing the final aria Softly and Gently.

What is your most memorable concert experience – either as a performer, composer or listener?

After leaving College I went on to sing in the Glyndebourne Chorus which was amazing! Learning stagecraft from Directors such as Trevor Nunn for Britten’s Peter Grimes was a real highlight. Whenever I hear the Four Sea Interludes I am transported back to that stage – we performed it in the last season of the old House -and this production will always be special to me for the wonderful onstage camaraderie in the cast and chorus and the electrifying music that was brought to life that Summer with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

It was a thrill to join the BBC Singers for the Last Night of the Proms in 2010. Nothing quite prepares you for that atmosphere in the Albert Hall!

Much more recently I had my first taste of performing opera on TV when I was chosen to sing the operatic heroine in ITV’s Endeavour for Series 7 in Summer 2019. It was a thrilling and extraordinary experience. I had to be on set early so was dressed in my Baroque costume, wig and makeup by 6am. Composer Matthew Slater wrote a superb short opera and the story shadowed the on-screen action throughout the series. It was such a buzz to sing that beautiful score on stage although we had to film my fainting scene so many times I thought my wig would fall off!

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

To be disciplined and practise. You really need strength of purpose and determination as well as talent to pursue a career in music.

How would you define success as a musician/composer?

To have the good fortune to be making music thirty years on and still enjoying it!

 


Profile: Lucy Humphris, trumpeter

Who have been the main influencers on your decision to pursue a career in music?

I never really felt like I made a decision about pursuing music as a career – it was just a given in my mind, from the moment I started playing.

However, I remember one of the moments which cemented the idea of “yes, I want to do this” was hearing Wynton Marsalis playing The Carnival of Venice, because I was blown away by the last variation, convinced one trumpet couldn’t play all those notes at once!

So, yes, definitely Wynton has been a major influence and I still regard him as one of my heroes. My teacher, Paul Mayes, was also incredibly important in seeing me through some tough times and I firmly believe I wouldn’t be the player I am today without him.

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

Definitely my time at the RAM – the first two years in particular. Also two projects I did at the Southbank Centre – one was a performance of Stockhausen’s Donnerstag aus Licht with RAM and the London Sinfonietta, the other was a one-woman show for the Imagine Festival. Also a recital I gave the day or day after a flight back from America – the jet lag was awful!

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

I love collaborating with other musicians, whether that be composers or performers – it’s such a rewarding experience, especially when all the other musicians are engaged and invested in the music/project – that’s when some brilliant discussions can be had and for me that can be fascinating.

Also, long-term collaborations are wonderful for cementing musical partnerships and understanding, as well as friendships. I suppose the challenges only come when there’s miscommunication or lack of direction within a collaboration.

Which works/performances are you most proud of?

I’d say my 2018 performance at the ITG (International Trumpet Guild) conference – that was a challenge in itself with the travelling beforehand, but I was very happy with that recital. Also, again, the Imagine Festival performances. There are probably others which I’m sure I’ll remember….

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

Yes, definitely – Sibelius, Prokoviev, Mozart, Janacek…. They each have their own unique voices and there’s a lightness and space to their music, as well as wit, which really resonates with me. Sibelius in particular.

Which works do you think you perform best?

I’m not sure – I obviously feel the works I perform best are the ones I enjoy the most. I love performing pieces which are slightly out of the normal repertoire, so I play a lot of contemporary music, which I like to bring into the spotlight.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

As a listener – performance of the entirety of Prokofiev’s Cinderella score at the Proms, with Gergiev and the LSO. Goosebumps. It’s such a wonderful experience to stand and play in the RAH at the Proms. And Cinderella is a lesser-known gem.

My most memorable concert experience as a performer…I don’t forget any of them, and they’re all special to me, so I don’t know really!

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Be true to yourself. Once you find your identity as a musician, and the aspects of music and musicianship which are important to you, stick to that – even if people say you’re wrong. It’s all too easy to try to fit in, but what makes musicians special is if they have something interesting to say that’s very much their voice.

How would you define success as a musician?

Being able to communicate with as many people as possible, and bring music to as many people as possible.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Aside from playing music – going for walks in the countryside, writing, reading…

What is your present state of mind?

I am concerned about the current state of the world, and worried about the future of the arts.

But I am also hopeful that this crisis has made us revisit what classical repertoire we put on and how we deliver it. We cannot expect to derive so much income from well-known works being played to packed houses. We may see an increase in contemporary works played by smaller groups in exciting and unusual venues, which will increase the appeal and accessibility of classical music.

Please consider a donation to either the Musicians Union or Help Musicians.

Lucy Humphris is one of the UK’s most innovative and versatile young performers. Her fresh and original approach seeks to widen the instrument’s repertoire and push beyond both musical and technical boundaries.

Watch Lucy performing on YouTube:

Ostria (2018) is an unaccompanied piece for trumpet, by Greek/Serbian composer Filippos Raskovic. 

Lucy’s transcription (for piccolo trumpet) of J.S Bach’s Flute Sonata in G minor, Movement 1.


Profile: Nik Knight, percussionist

Who or what have been the most important influences on your interest in music?

I don’t come from a musical family, but at the age of four I was discovered surrounded by tea trays and National Dried Milk tins, hitting them with spoons, and have not looked back since then. And with a father who was a vicar in Monmouth, it was not long before I got involved with singing in church.

I was much encouraged by my music teacher at Monmouth School, Michael Eveleigh. Michael brought top international artists to give recitals at Monmouth School in the 1960’s, and enabled and encouraged my singing and percussion playing in school and local community ensembles. This led on to a treble part in the Demon’s Chorus in The Dream of Gerontius at Rolls Hall in Monmouth at the age of 11, where I wondered at the power and impact of the percussion.

During my progress through Monmouth School and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, I became involved in performing an increasing range of music, appearing with soul groups, jazz bands and symphony orchestras. I toured with the Cambridge Footlights and recorded modern church music with “Reflection.”

Once I arrived in Portsmouth in 1968, I had several opportunities to experience the legendary percussion demonstrations by James “Jimmy” Blades, a long-time associate of Benjamin Britten, with whom he conceived many of the composer’s unusual percussion effects.

A major influence on me has been Jonathan Willcocks, an inspiring conductor and composer, who always shows a full understanding of the music and command of the musicians.

Another notable influencer has been “Animal”, the frenzied drummer from The Muppets, who encouraged me to indulge in rock drumming in the style of Ginger Baker, founder of the rock band Cream. And I’ve had quite a penchant for muppet shows for my children and grandchildren over the years.

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career?

I am very widely spread over many orchestras, mainly playing timpani. Over the past 50 years I have regularly played for the Southern Pro Musica, Havant Chamber Orchestra, Havant Symphony Orchestra, Solent Symphony Orchestra, Petersfield Orchestra, Southampton Concert Orchestra and Chichester Symphony Orchestra, plus other ensembles when time permits. My log book of concerts and works runs to 58 pages!

It’s a nice challenge to have to learn all the new works I am asked to play, and to refresh my memory of the ones I’ve already played.

I play a wide range of instruments, which include a washboard, coconuts, ratchets, maracas, claves, tam-tams, tom-toms, roto-toms, bongos, congas, cowbells, and temple blocks, besides the more familiar ones!

It sounds quite mundane, but storing my ever-increasing collection of instruments and lugging them around from one concert venue to the next can be a major challenge. I have to keep myself fit and take care not to put my back out.

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

Since I often play the role of a fixer of percussion sections, one major challenge is getting enough players and instruments together for large-scale concerts. I often have to assemble a team of players with the appropriate skills and instruments who will work well together.

Concert days begin with assembling and checking the instruments we will need and loading them into the van. Percussionists are usually among the first players to arrive at a venue and last to leave, with plenty of time being needed to set up. Usually all goes well, although there have been instances of instruments breaking and of turning up for Verdi’s Requiem without the bass drum!

What are your most memorable concert experiences?

It’s a long list, and I am going to revert to bullets, I am afraid!

Oliver in the Kings Theatre at Southsea with both my daughters playing percussion in the band with me.
• Performing at the premières of many of Jonathan Willcocks’ compositions, including A Great and Glorious Victory, a choral work about the Battle of Trafalgar and the little-known terrible storm that followed it.
• Performing oratorios with famous singers, including Mendelssohn’s Elijah with Willard White and Brahms’ Requiem with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.
• Playing The Messiah with some of the most renowned trumpeters, including John Brabraham, Crispian Steel-Perkins and John Wallace, and on another occasion in the Eastleigh Football stadium.
• Working in amazing buildings, including Chichester, Winchester, Guildford, Portsmouth, Worcester and St Paul’s Cathedrals.
• Doing an outside broadcast from Trafalgar Square.
• Performing The Armed Man at Kempton Park racecourse.
• Performing African Sanctus several times in the presence of the composer, David Fanshawe, especially memorable as he wanted to make modifications to the score.
Performing Strauss’ Alpine Symphony in Romsey Abbey.
• Performing Britten’s Noyes Fludde in Portsmouth Cathedral with Robert Hardy playing God in the Singing Gallery.
• Performing in the parks of Paris, including at Disneyland, with the Portsmouth Grammar School concert band.
• Playing with the Maritime Brass Ensemble for the Pied Piper of Hamelin re-enactment in Germany.
• Playing Berlioz’s Grande Messe des Morts with both my daughters on massed timpani in London in 1995 for the 60th-anniversary concert of the National Federation of Music Societies. Also, a performance in Guildford Cathedral with 13 timpani and 6 timpanists – even that is less than Berlioz specified! We didn’t manage to provide the 10 pairs of cymbals either!
• Playing for a performance of the opera Carmen with a firework display going off just outside the building.
• A BBC recording of Songs of Praise at Portsmouth Cathedral, when a moving camera hit a light fitting right over my head. Luckily it didn’t fall down.


Profile: Andrew Cleary, organist, pianist, teacher and conductor

Who and what have been the main influencers on your decision to pursue a career in music?

Singing was always important in my family – my grandmother was a life-long member of the Hull Choral Union, I attended their concerts regularly from a young age, and my father still sings with the York Music Society – so it was not unusual that I become a chorister at the age of 7 at York Minster. When my family moved to St Albans at the age of 11, I sang in the Abbey choir there, and it was there that I had organ lessons with Stephen Darlington.

I gained an early interest in musical theatre in the Sixth Form at school, working with the National Youth Music Theatre, and going to the Edinburgh Festival to perform in the Band for productions of “Oliver” and “Annie”.

I read music, specialising in performance and conducting, at the University of East Anglia, where I was also organ scholar at Norwich Cathedral. I developed a love of the Baroque repertoire under Robert Wooley, and worked with the Norwich Philharmonic Choir and the Aldeburgh Festival Chorus.

Later I moved to study as a postgrad at the Royal College of Music, specialising in early music and performance. Nick Danby challenged me to play the organ with a glass of beer on my wrist!

I became Assistant Organist at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, Trafalgar Square, making regular broadcasts for BBC Radio and television and directing the St Martin’s Scholars and the vocal Ensemble Le Nuove Musiche. One memorable experience was playing the organ in the memorial service for Frankie Howard, where Griff Rhys Jones and Rowan Atkinson gave some of the tributes.

After various posts teaching music at schools, I settled in Portsmouth as Director of Music at The Portsmouth Grammar School (PGS), where I worked closely with the Chamber Choir and the London Mozart Players, commissioning works from Sally Beamish, Cecilia MacDowell and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. I also set up and then directed the Portsmouth Cathedral Girls’ Choir, Cantate.

When working with PMD on a challenging Remembrance Day commission, The Five Acts of Harry Patch, I was struck by Maxwell Davies’ lack of condescension having provided us with quite a challenging work: “do not patronise young musicians, they can always do it, however challenging!”

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

The current lockdown has presented plenty of challenges for my musical groups, but we are starting rehearsals on Zoom shortly. We are keeping it simple, not doing whole performances but working on vocal technique, and enjoying the social side. It’s important to continue, to keep the flame alight amongst choral ensembles in preparation for times when it is safe to meet, rehearse and perform together.

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

Music-making is inherently sociable and creative, and it is great to work with such fantastic musicians, young and old, to achieve such rewarding and special opportunities together…

How would you describe your musical language?

It’s very varied! I enjoy most styles of music, from Renaissance choral works through to jazz and (some) pop! I have been lucky enough to have been exposed to the wonderful repertoire of the English cathedral tradition, but equally I am now involved with the teaching and production of music theatre and jazz.

Which works/performances are you most proud of?

I’ve already mentioned my association with the London Mozart Players. We did a St John Passion together which was highly memorable. Other memorable performances include Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, rehearsed over a weekend in the Royal Festival Hall; a production of Dido and Aeneas at the New Theatre Royal; a superb Christmas concert with the Milton Glee Choir and Royal Marines Association Band last year; and a recording of works for Remembrance with PGS, again with the London Mozart Players.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

I’ve got wide interests in keyboard and choral music, from Tallis to Gospel, from Bach and Mendelssohn through to Gershwin, Sondheim and Freddie Mercury. Church organists have to improvise during services and this approach appeals to me, leading me to find an interest in jazz piano. During lockdown I have recorded and broadcast a series of well-known jazz ‘muses’ on YouTube and Facebook.

Which works do you think you perform best?

I love performing choral works, such as those by Bach, Handel and Mozart, as well as the wide variety of the English cathedral repertoire, but equally I enjoy performing solo roles such as Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue!

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Conducting the PGS Chamber Choir at the Royal Albert Hall in the annual televised Festival of Remembrance on BBC television. I conducted the massed Bands and PGS Chamber Choir, in the work entitled They shall not grow old, with Bryn Terfel and Catherine Jenkins.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Keep an open mind on the kinds of music you will most like to perform, don’t put yourself in a box too early. Work and practice hard. Muck in, if only to gain credibility and experience. And listen to others’ advice!

How would you define success as a musician/composer?

Having an ability to inspire others, through listening and participation, to appreciate and experience the power and thrill of all kinds of music, and enabling inclusive music-making to all ages and abilities.

Andrew Cleary is a freelance teacher, accompanist, organist, choral director, conductor and examiner. He works at the University of Chichester as an Associate Lecturer, vocal coach and répétiteur, especially with students of musical theatre, and also at Portsmouth High School as a singing teacher. He conducts the Fareham Philharmonic Choir and the Milton Glee Choir, is the Assistant MD of the Lee Choral Society and is Music Director and Organist at St Peter’s Church, Bishop’s Waltham.

He always welcomes new members to join his choirs and even during his virtual rehearsals singers are encouraged to sign up and join.

The Fareham Philharmonic Choir has re-scheduled its performance of Bach’s St John Passion, postponed due to lockdown, to 6 March 2021 in Chichester Cathedral.

Andrew Cleary on MiP: https://musicinportsmouth.co.uk/?s=cleary


Profile: Steve Venn, piano tuner

Steve (or Stephen – he doesn’t mind which!) doesn’t come from a traditional music background. Quite by contrast, he went to art college where he specialised in pottery, and he subsequently ran a hand-made pottery business for over 15 years. But he has played the guitar from the age of ten, sometimes in folk bands, so has always been involved in some way with musical performance.

He loves making and mending things, including guitars, having taught himself how to work in wood. So it was opportune that once he closed his pottery business in the 1990s he obtained an apprenticeship to become a piano tuner with Marcus Roberts and Gerry Salway of Roberts Pianos fame. This involved spending as much time as possible at his shop in Southsea, tuning a wide variety of the pianos that passed through the business. After 3 years or so in addition to many domestic clients, he was tuning pianos on board the cross-channel ferries, and for some of the concerts at Portsmouth Guildhall.

A lot of reading also helped Steve gain an understanding of the theory of tuning and the techniques needed for repair and adjustment of pianos. Essentially, tuning is a matter of listening for the beats caused by the conflicting harmonics of different notes when played together, then making the necessary adjustments to the pitch.

There’s a skill in bringing out the best from each piano, taking into account its inherent limitations. Indeed, one of the great challenges is to be able to deal with each instrument’s idiosyncrasies and imperfections! And there’s the art of dealing with a concert piano, sometimes played very forcefully but which needs its tuning to be as stable as possible.

Piano tuners need to be craftspeople as well as have a musical bent. They need to be capable of repairing the instrument while away from the workshop. A whole range of specialist tools are needed, including the tuning lever, wedges/mutes to silence the strings you don’t want to hear, and a variety of adjustment and voicing tools.

These days a smartphone with an app like Verituner can also be very helpful to calculate the tuning to perfectly match each piano’s unique scaling. This sort of device, Steve believes, is not a replacement for traditional, aural tuning but can be a valuable extra tool for getting the best possible results.

He’s had the benefit of having joined the Pianoforte Tuners Association. He has sat its admission test, which is pretty exacting, and covers both tuning and repairs.

He has wide tastes in music, from folk through to Classical and Baroque (especially Bach) and a fair bit of jazz. He says that Bach is so inventive, and much of his music suits his preference for more intimate, smaller-scale performances.

There are some great college courses on offer for those who would like to come into this profession. There’s a three-year course at Lincoln College and a one-year course at Northampton.

He says that the industry is welcoming, and a good way in is to (as he himself did) obtain an apprenticeship to build up your knowledge. However with fewer piano shops and workshops around these days, this could be a little more difficult than it once was.

To check out Steve Venn’s piano tuning service, visit his website https://vennpianos.co.uk.

A full member of the Pianoforte Tuners Association, Stephen Venn is an experienced Concert Tuner/Technician. He has carried out the piano tuning and maintenance for the main concert venue in Portsmouth for over 26 years, as well as contract tunings for the major London piano companies when hiring pianos to this area. Other clients include Brittany Ferries, a number of schools and colleges, and The Royal Marines School of Music.


Profile: Cathy Mathews, violinist

Who have been the main influencers on your decision to pursue a career in music?

My parents were refugees from Hitler. My mother was Austrian and my father was German. My mother, a violinist, had played in a piano trio with her father and brother since early childhood. My father played the cello. They met in a string quartet which was arranged with the express purpose of matchmaking. It worked!

I wanted to play the violin as soon as I knew of its existence.

I was a member of the National Youth Orchestra which was great, except that there were very strict rules about socialising. If you went for a walk alone with a boy you were thrown out. Perhaps that has changed now!

My parents wanted me to try for Oxbridge but I rebelled, left school and got a place at the Royal Manchester College of Music. I studied with, among others, Yossi Zivoni.

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

I spent about thirty years playing full-time in various orchestras, including Bournemouth Sinfonietta, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Welsh National Opera, BBC Radio Orchestra and BBC Concert Orchestra. I loved every minute of it, but it was not an enormous challenge. As a string player you are simply part of a very slick team. In a good professional orchestra, on the whole everything just works. The biggest challenges were getting the positions in the first place! And you do have to become very good at sight reading. Also you can’t really have a normal home or social life because there is so much travel.

I will now drop a name! During the Bournemouth Sinfonietta years, I lived in the same road as Simon Rattle, who was nineteen years old and had just won the John Player Competition. We became friends and he would sometimes invite me to his flat and cook me Rattletouille!

In Liverpool I was a sub-principal 1st violin and sometimes co-led. That was something of a challenge.

In WNO I grew to love the excitement and drama of the combined forces of singers and players. You are a small cog in a massive and thrilling wheel.

In the BBC Radio Orchestra we accompanied the BBC Big Band at Maida Vale and I developed a love and some understanding of jazz.

In more recent years I went twice to Fiddle Frenzy on Shetland and enjoyed learning about folk fiddle.

I also love improvising and did a lot of this when I belonged to a free, evangelical church.

Both from a musical and technical perspective, my greatest challenge now is playing chamber music, including sonatas, piano trios and playing in my string quartet, Speranza.

And teaching, of course, is always a challenge!

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

Relationships can be an issue. You spend a lot of time playing with the same people. On the whole if you are being paid you put up with more! In an amateur setting, it is easier to feel irritated by each other’s quirks. Music is a language. It is a way to connect with others. We are doing it for the love of it. It is more fulfilling if we all get on. But in the end, the music brings us together.

I have played much chamber music with very good local musicians. It is a joy and a privilege.

My greatest pleasure at the moment is playing string quartets because I have found a group of people who appreciate each other, both musically and on a personal level. That is not so easy to find. It should not be taken for granted.

Which works/performances are you most proud of?

I am not proud, as such, of anything. It has been great to play so much symphonic and chamber music. I have appreciated the opportunity to play the solo violin parts in, for example, Scheherazade and Don Juan with Havant Symphony Orchestra. In recent years, one interesting group to which I belonged for a while was a mixed wind and string octet called Pieces of Eight. The Schubert Octet was a highlight. Also it was a privilege playing the Bach Double Violin Concerto with the Havant Chamber Orchestra and the late Brian Howells. Brian gave me my first job in the Bournemouth Sinfonietta.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

I enjoy playing music by most composers. I don’t always enjoy playing works by lesser-known ones just in order to give them a chance to be heard. Usually there is a reason they are not famous!

I feel a degree of affinity with Haydn, Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven.

Which works do you think you perform best? Why?

I am perhaps most comfortable with the Austro-German classical repertoire, as above, because of their structure, scale, humour, grace and poignancy. Also there is a link with my heritage. I used to listen to my grandfather playing a lot of this music on the piano, especially Schubert lieder.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

There are too many to pick one out, but if I had to, then playing the opera Pelleas and Melisande in Paris with Pierre Boulez conducting must be in the running. His beat was tiny, just caressing the air with his fingers, yet crystal clear and so expressive,

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Only do it if you can’t bear the thought of doing anything else.

How would you define success as a musician?

There are many ways success could be defined. In the end I came up with this. If a discerning audience appreciates your performance then you must be doing something right.

Keeping sane under lockdown

There is an assumption here that one was sane before lockdown. However, the antidote to over-exposure to teaching on Zoom and Facetime is teaching in the back garden. Unless the neighbours are mowing their lawn.


Profile: David Price, Organist and Master of the Choristers of Portsmouth Cathedral

I was a chorister at Bath Abbey and right from the start was enthralled by the noise from the organ. So, I started with piano at the age of nine. In those days one needed to be proficient at the piano before starting on the organ; these days, it’s easier: churches are welcoming to new organists, providing a performing space.

I recall the pain of finishing being a treble and having to leave the choir. I really sympathise with the plight of boy trebles whose voices are breaking during the current lockdown: they cannot complete their time as trebles.

But I carried on developing my skills as an organist, playing in a weekly service in the Georgian chapel of St John’s Hospice by the Roman baths. Once admonished by the vicar for starting a hymn too slowly, I now always ensure that hymns go at a good pace! I also played the organ in my village church.

My big break was when I attended the Royal School of Church Music 14-day course at Canterbury Cathedral, when I tried out being a chorister for 14 days, and loved it.

By the age of fifteen, I’d decided to be a church organist. This was met with some scepticism, though also support, by my parents.

Who have been the main influencers on your decision to pursue a career in music?

Marcus Sealy was assistant organist at Bath Abbey for 42 years, and a superb role model: he introduced interesting repertoire, and was a great accompanist.

I studied music at Trinity College, London. This was originally established as a training college for church musicians. It has some fabulous stained-glass windows with images of music in the context of worship.

I attended daily evensongs at Westminster Abbey. Its assistant organist Andrew Lumsden, now director of music at Winchester Cathedral, was also greatly influential, encouraging me to observe him playing its great instrument. Christopher Stokes (Organist of St Margaret’s, Westminster Abbey) showed me how to be a grounded church musician, leading choirs as well as playing the organ extremely well.

After in the course of my studies I did an apprenticeship for two years at Croydon Parish Church, where I assisted with the running of a boys’ and a girls’ choir, followed by a stint as Organ Scholar at Rochester Cathedral. Barry Ferguson and Roger Sayer (now organist at Temple Church in London) showed me how to efficiently manage the interactions with the chapter and congregation. This was my first experience of a boarding choir school, where youngsters rehearsed and performed an evensong every day.

While I was at Rochester, we did some great tours to France, Germany and Switzerland – these were early days for choirs going abroad – which included some recordings. For my sins as the organ scholar I was the tour librarian, with quite a challenge to ensure that all the music needed for two weeks away was available! This was before the days of bespoke booklets.

I can recall how I had to play at a service in Trier Cathedral at short notice. Roger Sayer is a brilliant organist but he does not have a good head for heights. Its glorious and vast cathedral is set against a high Roman wall with the console 120 ft up in the air. In order to access the organ, one had to go onto the roof of the north transept, then descend to the triforium gallery down a ladder to reach the “eagle’s nest”. This proved too much for Roger. I also recall how difficult it was to synchronise with the choir, as they were so far away.

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

After five years as Assistant Organist of Ely Cathedral, I became director of music at Portsmouth Cathedral, the youngest cathedral organist at that time. Young choristers need to learn the repertoire in time for the services, and there’s always a lot to do to arrange the experienced and less-experienced singers, as well as to manage the expectations of their parents.

Those early days were challenging, as I had to solve a lot of these challenges on my own, but we’ve developed strategies to improve things a great deal: there’s a whole supporting structure around the choristers, including three “choir matrons”, a librarian and gap year students besides the adult singers. The mixture of ages in the choirs gives them strength. The one remaining major challenge is around finance, especially because of Covid-19, where our income has been reduced by a third.

How would you describe your musical language?

I’ve a lot of interests in sounds, colour and textures, less on melody. I’m interested in the “stuff underneath” rather than a pretty tune, and how the voices interact with the texts.

How do you work?

Laboriously and slowly! I do envy people like David Briggs, who can Hear” music and transcribe a whole piece during one transatlantic plane journey! And cathedral musicians are still expected to write from time to time, for example if a new Bishop is being installed.

Which works/performances are you most proud of?

I am proud of my setting of the St John Passion we do most Good Fridays – much more of a prayer than a concert. Also we put on a Messiah every year, with the use of period instruments which always goes down well: it’s true to the original, with a neat ensemble of period instruments with voices from a wide range of ages.

There is a special relationship between the cathedral and the city of Portsmouth, with unique “threads”. I’ve been involved with many special events associated with the Royal Navy, including the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy in 2004.

On that occasion I led the voices singing a piece entitled D-Day 60: Valete in Pace by Harvey Brough in Caen Abbey, along with Fauré’s Requiem. The Brough piece was commissioned by Portsmouth City Council, and included a libretto by Lee Hall (he of Billy Elliot fame). It was most moving to hear French, German and British performers accompanied by the London Mozart Players. We also sang in the Bayeux Cemetery in the presence of HM The Queen, The Prime Minister and President of France.

Collaborating with Colin White from the Royal Maritime Museum, we recorded a CD with music to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Nelson’s funeral in 2006. We went on tour with it and also had it featured on an episode of BBC Radio 3’s In Tune.

This in turn led to repeat annual tours for the choir– I’ve actually completed 25 of these, culminating earlier this year with a visit to Finland.

The choir has been involved with various events on HMS Victory as well as the commissioning of HMS Queen Elizabeth, the aircraft carrier, in 2018 again in the presence of The Queen. It was a particular delight to sing Byrd’s miniature Tudor masterpiece O Lorde, save thy servant, Elizabeth our Queen on board a Queen Elizabeth The First Class warship and to Queen Elizabeth The Second.

Over the years I have recorded eighteen CDs. I’m most proud of a recording made at Ely in the medieval Lady Chapel of the music of Restoration composer, John Amner which was selected as Editor’s Choice.

In Portsmouth we’ve been able to collaborate with two excellent recording companies; HeraldAV who have a huge international portfolio, and also with Convivium Records, run by one of our Lay Clerks that has been steadily building a most impressive catalogue over the last ten years. From these two I would select a CD of Plainsong: The Echo of Angels from Convivium Records – a selection of Gregorian Chant – music that is at the foundation of all Western Classical music and sung in its original form and context. Hear Missa de Angelis: Kyrie on YouTube.

The second would be a release in 2019 from Herald Av of the music of Advent and Christmas Verbum caro factum est– and for two years how this has featured daily on Classic FM. I’m hugely proud of all the young people, aged from 7 upwards who have taken part in these recordings alongside our professional adults. Hear Gaudete (arr. Fitzgerald) performed in Ypres Cathedral as featured on our CD on YouTube. The CD is available to buy via this link.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

Given my comments about musical language above, you won’t be surprised that I love composers such as Jackson, Stopford, Gorecki, Pärt and Tavener.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Do it! Don’t be put off by relatively low salaries: it’s vital to find a job that makes you happy.

How would you define success as a musician/composer?

Feeling fulfilled and happy in a role.

There is something very special about being part of a community of musicians such as one finds here at Portsmouth Cathedral. Compared to jobbing musicians, for cathedral musicians here there’s continuity around the building and the rhythm of worship. And that is satisfying.

Continuing to work during lockdown

We are working hard to carry on with this tradition during lockdown via Zoom, which enables us to keep our skills sharp and to brush up on complex repertoire, although we need to get back together soon so as to craft the homogeneity of sounds. I’m part of a group of people working with the RSCM to advise church authorities on how to get music back in a safe manner. It’s hard work but we will get there. Here’s an article about my work with the Bishop of London’s Recovery Group.

If you want to know more about the music programme at Portsmouth Cathedral please take a look here. And if you want to support our work with youngsters whether through our choristerships, our gap year scheme or Cathedral Sing (our schools’ outreach project), take a look here.

David Price is Organist and Master of the Choristers at Portsmouth Cathedral. Before he came to Portsmouth he was Assistant Organist of Ely Cathedral having previously held Organ Scholarships at Rochester Cathedral and Croydon Parish Church.

During his time at Ely he toured Germany, Belgium, Holland, Poland and the Czech Republic with the Cathedral Choir. The choir’s John Amner recording for Hyperion was critically acclaimed and was the Editor’s Choice in ‘The Gramophone’ music magazine. His work with the choir also led to performances with John Rutter, The Britten Sinfonia, concerts at Snape Maltings, John Tavener, The Parley of Instruments and The Royal Academy of Music. Whilst at Ely he pioneered the use of the building for twilight tours using music, drama and poetry.

Since David has been at Portsmouth the profile of the Cathedral’s music has been raised to new heights through twenty international tours across Europe, numerous recordings, many flagship events with the Royal Navy and the City of Portsmouth as well as regular work for the BBC and ITV. The daily round of worship is now led by three cathedral choirs involving boy choristers, a dedicated team of Lay Clerks and Choral Scholars, girl choristers and a choir of mixed adults. The cathedral organ has been extensively refurbished and enhanced under his care culminating in the addition of a set West End en chamade Trumpets in 2017.

In addition to his duties at the Cathedral, David serves on the Council of the Royal School of Church Music. He served two terms on the Association of English Cathedral’s Music & Liturgy Committee and on term on the Church of England’s General Synod.

The University of Portsmouth conferred David Price with an Honorary Doctorate of Music in recognition of the significant contribution he has made to the development of music at the Cathedral and for his contribution to the cultural life of the city. In 2013 he was elected to an Honorary Fellowship of the Guild of Church Musicians and presented with this at a ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral.

Recent recital venues for David include Westminster Abbey, Wells Cathedral, Hereford Cathedral, Chambery Cathedral and Alpe d’Huez in the French Alps and Trinity Church, Copenhagen in Denmark. His St John Passion for Good Friday was published by Encore Publications in a series of the gospel passions alongside John Scott, Philip Moore and Richard Lloyd.

He is married to Kitty and they live in an historic house in Old Portsmouth, though they can often be found with their dog Minstrel, in their small retreat in The French Alps.


Profile: William Waine, conductor and singer

Who have been the main influencers on your decision to pursue a career in music?

I got myself into the choir at my father’s Parish Church in Romford, Essex, at the age of six – as soon as I was allowed! Jonathan Venner, the choirmaster, has inspired great music there for over 40 years. Jonathan’s son, Matthew, was my first singing teacher and really developed me and encouraged (dragged!) me through my academic and choral interviews at Oxford. I wouldn’t have gone on and done that, or any of this, without them.

Stephen Darlington, who was then Organist and Tutor in Music at Christ Church, showed me what professional singing could be like. If William Byrd was on the music list, you’d walk into the rehearsal knowing it was going to be electrifying, even from the first bar. But he balanced these high standards with care and support. We did some amazing things at Christ Church and I just couldn’t give it all up and use the law degree I was studying for as intended…

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

I think one of the hardest things for musicians is comparing yourself with what others are doing and seeing how you measure up, but I am quite lucky in that I can usually avoid the temptation. So much of what I do is a real privilege – singing great music in amazing buildings, to lovely congregations and audiences, conducting people and sharing my enjoyment of the things I love with them, or teaching young people to appreciate great music – and knowing how lucky I am really helps with any blues.

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

The choral world is sociable and engenders life-long friendships. One of the joys of “fixing” singers for NMH concerts is that I can put together teams of people I love to hang out with, let alone work with. It’s just as important to me that everyone gets on and is happy in each other’s company, as well as them being outstanding musicians. It means the singers respect and care for each other, revelling in each other’s talents and seeing the fun and joy in the whole enterprise.

Similarly, with my choral societies, I like the atmosphere to be relaxed. Having fun and loving being part of it with each other sets you well on the way to better music-making.

Which works or performances are you most proud of?

I am really proud of four performances I’ve put on recently in Chichester Cathedral – three Messiahs and one St John Passion. The first two were performed by the Cathedral’s small team of Lay Vicars, and the last two by NMH. We do them with only two or three singers and one instrumentalist on each part, with the choir stepping out to do the solos. This brings such intimacy and clarity to these works, and I think enhances its emotional impact.

In 2017 I took part in a staged production of Messiah put on by the Bristol Old Vic, directed by Tom Morris (who directed the National Theatre’s famous production of War Horse), and featuring a stellar cast of soloists and The English Concert, one of the country’s foremost baroque orchestras. I was lucky enough to be in the chorus and it is one of the most enjoyable, most fulfilling and most moving things I have been involved with. I couldn’t really believe how the concept germinated and developed from rehearsals to end product was also really enlightening.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

I adore Handel: he is so skilled at pulling at the heartstrings at the right moment, and knows exactly how to manipulate the emotions of a crowd. He delivers the exact dramatic mood at exactly the required moment – think Zadok the Priest at a coronation or O Lord whose mercies numberless in his oratorio Saul. I conducted some of the Music for the Royal Fireworks last year and found it absolutely thrilling. I think most baroque music is dance music, and you can find so much joy and excitement in that.

I find music emotive in its rightful context or for an occasion, so I love singing Palestrina, Victoria and Byrd, particularly at Westminster Cathedral, and works of Vaughan Williams (such as Valiant-for-Truth) and Walton (Coronation Te Deum) that are performed less often. A treble soloist of St Paul’s nearly left me in tears with his top B flat at the end of MacMillan’s Christus Vincit. I am also doing a lot of Alec Roth at the moment – his music is exuberant and playful, yet profound.

Which works do you think you perform best?

As a singer I think I am built for renaissance polyphony, particularly at lower pitches so I can sing all the high notes the sopranos usually get. The men’s voices CD we recorded in Chichester was such fun.

As a conductor I actually get most of out my evensongs with the Chichester Cathedral Voluntary Choir. I love taking staples of the repertoire like Brewer in D and trying to draw out something fresh and emotionally interesting, even in more functional music.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

When I was a child my mother and I would go to St Paul’s Cathedral on Good Friday, sit under the dome and hear Allegri’s Miserere drifting down from the Whispering Gallery during Matins. For me to sing that piece in that building at that service last year was something I would never have imagined.

In 2019 I took part in a performance of Earthrise (more Alec Roth) in Salisbury Cathedral, part of the Salisbury International Arts Festival. Everyone started in the cloisters and were gathered together by the choir singing Te lucis ante terminum (“Before the ending of the day”) by Thomas Tallis. We moved into the Cathedral, where the light from Gaia, a vast, detailed illuminated sculpture of Earth by Luke Jerram, was reflected in the baptismal font, and sang Alec’s piece about the havoc humans are wreaking on the earth. It was all quite something. Here is a link to some images.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

No matter where you think you should be, or how well you think you should be doing; for all the auditions and pressures and anxieties; always remember that you do it because you love breathing life into the notes on the page, and sharing that love with the people who come to hear you.

How would you define success as a musician/composer?

If you are happy in the work that you are doing and it brings you joy, then you’re successful.

Support for the arts

Arts and choral music in Britain faces a really uncertain future at the moment. We were in a bit of a funding crisis even before coronavirus struck. Think about how important it is to you and do something to make sure it comes back stronger. It could be joining a choral society or choir, not getting a refund for cancelled concerts, or donating money to a venue, ensemble or charity. Just don’t take it for granted.

William Waine began singing at the age of six in the choir of his father’s Parish Church, before taking up a Choral Scholarship to Christ Church, Oxford. William sang with the world-famous Cathedral Choir on Gramophone Award-nominated recordings, and tours to the USA and China. Since 2017, after spells in the choirs of Gloucester and Chichester Cathedrals, he has been based in London, working with various ensembles including the choirs of Westminster and St Paul’s Cathedrals; The Erebus Ensemble; The Hanover Band; and The English Concert. As a soloist he has appeared across the UK; live on BBC Radio Three; and as far afield as Sydney, Australia and Christchurch, New Zealand.

He founded and manages NMH with whom he performs regularly in Chichester; is the founding Musical Director of the Chichester Cathedral Voluntary Choir; and the Musical Director of Cantemus based in Havant. He teaches singing at Ditcham Park School in Petersfield and Streatham & Clapham Prep School.


Profile: Stella Scott, cellist

Who have been the main influencers on your decision to spend plenty of time in musical activity?

I don’t have a career in music. I have on occasion been paid to play on a freelance basis and I did teach the cello for a while but I don’t have music college training so have always had other paid employment and done music as a sideline.

I began learning the cello at the age of 7 and have played in youth and amateur orchestras for getting on for 50 years. I don’t think there was ever a decision to spend a lot of time doing it – it simply never occurred to me not to!

I studied philosophy at university, but I have had good cello teachers and gained my LTCL in performance at the age of 39! The most inspirational teacher I had was Christopher Bunting and his influence still resonates. Because I didn’t go to music college so didn’t have teachers there, inspiration has often come from watching conductors and soloists. The effect George Hurst can have on a summer school orchestra, for example, is unforgettable.

I have also had transformative experiences just playing chamber music with exceptional players and this sort of learning continues throughout your life!

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

The greatest challenge I’ve had relating to music has not really been to do with playing. The last 7 years of being involved with running the Havant and District Orchestral Society (HADOS) as well as playing in both the Havant Symphony Orchestra and the Havant Chamber Orchestra have been very challenging. The amount of work that needs to be done to put on a series of 3 or 4 concerts per year for each of the two orchestras has been an eye-opener for me.

The need to be looking several months ahead all the time, whilst also keeping on top of the detail for something happening in the next week is hugely demanding. The committee and other helpers are fantastically hard-working and have done a superb job keeping the orchestras going since Peter and Sandra Craddock had to stop.

We have also been hugely supported by our season ticket holders. Their existence is testament to the amount of work put in over the first 50 years of the orchestras by Peter and Sandra, but they have very generously stood by us and continued to come to our concerts in the ‘new era’ which is wonderful.

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

I think the pleasure is that it’s just wonderful to be able to find a group of people, whether a quartet or a full symphony orchestra, who can basically sit down and play (at some level!) the writing of a great composer. To be able to actually play through a Beethoven Quartet or a Sibelius Symphony rather than just listening to other people playing it is the most amazing privilege. The challenge is that other musicians are people!

Which works or performances are you most proud of?

In years gone by I’ve done some good continuo in, for example, Vivaldi’s Gloria, and I was particularly pleased with my second opportunity to play the solo in the slow movement of the Brahms Piano Concerto no. 2 a few years back. Also I played Bruch’s Kol Nidrei at Hayling with HSO and people liked it.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

It varies, but the one I usually come back to is Brahms. If you listen to his Piano Intermezzo opus 118 no. 2 in A major, that feels quite close to something that’s a very central part of me. Maybe it just hits upon some sort of universal truth. Try listening to Murray Perahia’s performance here.

Which works do you think you perform best?

I think I perform best any piece that I feel I have a really good understanding of. Whatever piece I am going to perform I try to get inside and understand something about it. I guess as an amateur I do that more on an emotional level than a technical one.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

There are so many! In 2018 I went to Berlin to take part in an amateur orchestra of people from all over the world, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle – that was definitely memorable! But just as impressive in other ways were recent concerts such as our Peter Craddock celebration concert with Mark Wigglesworth, Stefano Boccacci, Richard Harwood and Duncan Riddell, our family concert earlier this year with Jonathan Butcher narrating and Avi Taler conducting Paddington Bear’s First Concert, and our most recent HCO concert with Robin Browning conducting and the amazing Mikhail Lezdkan playing Tchaikovsky.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

I think it’s worth bearing in mind that a career in music is not just about playing all the time: unless you are very lucky, you will be a freelancer, which requires a lot of additional skills and is a very precarious position to be in, as has been demonstrated recently. Having said that, if you have the opportunity to go to music college, go. Develop your talent as much as you can while you are young.

How would you define success as a musician?

I guess being able to earn a living being a musician, if that’s your choice. Otherwise, being able to give audiences an experience they value – that could be making them feel very happy, or provoking some other emotion, or sometimes impressing them with your technical skill. Whatever creates a feeling of satisfaction and a desire to come back for more.

How are you keeping yourself usefully occupied and sane under lockdown?

Luckily, I can do my part-time job from home (I work in NHS medical libraries), but on top of that I am growing vegetables, watching art programmes on TV and researching my family history. Plus all the domestic stuff, as we (my husband, Jonathan, and I) have both our grown-up children here with us at the moment. Oh, and playing the cello a bit!

Please support HADOS

HADOS have currently suspended planning concerts, but we will be back as soon as it is practical and safe! Keep an eye on our website.

Stella Scott grew up in Coventry, studied philosophy at the University of Kent and then went on to a postgraduate librarianship course in Birmingham. Having started learning the cello at the age of 7, playing in youth and amateur orchestras soon became an important part of her life. She took on the role of Administrator of the Havant and District Orchestral Society (HADOS) in 2013.

Stella lives in Chandlers Ford with her husband, Jonathan, whom she met at a music summer school in 1992. He has been Chairman of HADOS since 2013 and is an amateur pianist and violinist with a ‘day job’ at IBM. They both joined Havant Symphony Orchestra in 1994 and have been driving up and down the M27 on a regular basis ever since!


Profile: David Russell, composer, singer and pianist

Who have been the main influencers on your decision to spend so much time in musical activity?

I come from a musical family: both my parents played the piano (though my father learnt to play by ear in the “knees up Mother Brown” style!); I have a twin brother who played violin and a sister who played recorder and then clarinet – I chose the piano since it was in the one room which had heating. I was fortunate to be the only student studying music at A-level so obtained 1:1 tuition.

When I moved to Chichester, I quickly joined the Chichester Singers, where I met my wife Judith. We both are still proudly singing with the choir. She also persuaded me to join CAOS – the Chichester Amateur Operatic Society, where I enjoyed lead roles, initially in Gilbert & Sullivan operettas and then later in classic musicals, such as Oklahoma and Annie Get Your Gun.

I had started writing songs with my original landlord, Norman Barrett, who was a singer at the Selsey holiday camps in his spare time. We continued to spend many years composing songs, sometimes of a religious nature, sometimes pop ballads – and after he died, and I retired, I’ve concentrated on 4-part choral pieces, including entering Christmas Carols in the BBC Radio 3 annual competition.

About 14 years ago I was lucky enough to join Chichester Voices (CV), a 20 strong chamber choir. Their MD Andrew Naylor has been incredibly supportive in encouraging performances of my compositions, and I still sing bass with them. As my twin conducts a choir in Keyworth, Nottingham, I also have an outlet in the Midlands for my pieces!

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

My biggest musical challenge was probably as MD of CAOS in the 1980s directing The Mikado in the Minerva Theatre. It came as bit of a shock trying to conduct an orchestra when the performer on stage decides to sing at their own tempo, or pauses suddenly in the middle of a patter song!

Many years later the Corpus Christi Amateur Dramatic Society (CCADS) put on the first production of Aspects of Love outside London at the New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth, and I was MD. Although this was to great acclaim, it was jolly hard work to accommodate one of the quite edgy 7/4-time Lloyd Webber choruses, and then play one of the 2-piano parts for the week of the show.

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

Collaboration for me started at an early age, where I’d play piano and violin sonatas with my brother Colin. It gives great pleasure to appreciate the nuances of accompanying or playing a duet, and piano duets with friends remain a great delight. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate more and more the supporting role of the accompanist, whether for a singer or instrumentalist, and particularly treasure the time in rehearsal preparing for a recital. It’s great to share the innate musicality of performing with musicians of high calibre.

I’ve enjoyed singing with Cavatina, an a cappella 4-part group, based in Barnham. We singers are wonderfully exposed, but there’s a spine-tingling impact when it all comes together.

I’ve partnered up with David Bathurst to tell the story of Flanders and Swan, impersonating Donald Swann at the piano, which has engendered so many laughs, and some vivid memories for audience members who saw them live! At the other end of the spectrum, performing a piece like Verdi’s Requiem with a large choir and orchestra is all-encompassing and emotionally rewarding.

How would you describe your musical language?

I describe them as melody-driven ballads, many of which have had orchestral arrangements added by Tony Pegler, a close friend and superb musician. My religious music compositions are in a modern style, not too far removed from John Rutter.

How do you work?

I sit at the piano with a laptop nearby with composing software on it. I’ve just completed a setting of The Silver Swan (originally by Orlando Gibbons) and an Ubi Caritas in 4-part SATB for CV.

Which works/performances are you most proud of?

I wrote a 4-part anthem for my daughter Lizzie’s wedding entitled My True Love Hath my Heart which was a joy and privilege.

I’ve arranged songs such as Céline Dion’s All By Myself and Jerome Kern’s The Way You Look Tonight for my a cappella group.

With CAOS I’ve most enjoyed acting as Eisenstein, in Die Fledermaus, and as Jud Fry in Oklahoma, both in the Minerva Theatre.

I’ve been the bass soloist in Fauré’s Requiem with the Chichester Singers at a singing day, and performed the role of the Captain of the Pinafore in a staged concert of HMS Pinafore in Chichester Cathedral, under the legendary Kenneth Alwyn.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

I have a particular love for (late) Romantic composers such as Brahms, Mahler and Elgar (particularly his The Dream of Gerontius), but also love contemporary choral music by composers such as Whitacre and Lauridsen.

Which works do you think you perform best?

The comic songs with David Bathurst telling the story of Flanders and Swan: I seem to excel when good comic timing is needed, and I can just about manage the tongue-twisters of Tom Lehrer, such as Poisoning Pigeons in the Park.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Singing A Great and Glorious Victory by Jonathan Willcocks in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day concert with a selection of singers from the Chichester Singers and in Carnegie Hall, New York in 2013. It was amazing to stand on the same stage where the Beatles performed and where Tchaikovsky had conducted the inaugural concert.

Singing The Dream of Gerontius with the Chichester Singers and Dame Janet Baker in Chichester Cathedral.

Watching La Traviata in Sydney Opera House during a trip to New Zealand and Australia.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

It’s not a career that is well rewarded financially, unless you are extremely talented (or lucky), but it is one that’s well rewarded emotionally. And music engenders close friendships: you drop your guard, wear your heart on your sleeve, and openly acknowledge to the others in your group what the whole experience is doing to you. If you choose a separate, enjoyable career, then non-professional music-making can be nearly as fulfilling, in my experience, and probably less stressful!

How would you define success as a musician/composer?

It’s important for there to be mutual respect among peers. It’s also vital to be able to communicate with the audience – happiness is contagious. Finally, live events cannot be replicated by virtual performances, so do support the former when it becomes possible again.

How are you keeping yourself usefully occupied and sane during lockdown?

I’ve been busier than ever: I’ve written 4 pieces since the middle of March. But I am missing the special pleasure of group choral singing….

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

Still writing, playing and singing. In Chichester!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Sharing the music that I love, either as a performer or listener. It gives me great personal pleasure to know that, for example, my brother might be performing a Verdi Requiem in Nottingham on the same evening as my sister in York and myself in Chichester! Similarly, I have a happy memory of seeing my daughter and her husband performing Elijah in the Barbican – 30 years after my wife Judith and I performed it as a young married couple. Family music-making, as family itself, is so important to me.

What is your most treasured possession?

My refurbished Rogers upright piano from 1929 which was a wedding present to Judith and myself from Judith’s mother.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Composing and singing, playing golf and croquet, spending time with our grandchildren, and enjoying wine – including on monthly Monday afternoons with the U3A Wine Appreciation Group, now I’ve stepped into the unseen world of retirement!

What is your present state of mind?

Happy, and in a good position to remind myself how lucky I am. I feel that I’m still able to make the most of the opportunities I am presented with and I’m looking forward to again enjoying the camaraderie of choral singing – and hugging the grandchildren.

Things I would like to recommend

Concerts for the Singers and Voices are in abeyance at present but please check out recent lockdown performances on YouTube, such as by The Chichester Singers.

Theatre companies have been dreadfully affected by the current crisis, so I would urge you to help support local groups, if possible, again by checking websites of CCADS and the Chichester Festival Theatre, amongst others. These groups have released videos of popular productions for free to air viewing.

David Russell lives in Fishbourne and is a retired Chartered Surveyor who has spent as much of his spare time as possible in non-professional music-making. He is a composer and pianist and is a Life Member of CAOS Musical Productions; he has sung with Chichester Singers for over 40 years and with Chichester Voices for nearly 15; is a member of Cavatina, and is currently Musical Director of Just Us – a concert party performing treasured memories from shows and musical comedy for Care Homes and Charities.


Profile: Peter Gambie, conductor

Who have been the main influencers on your decision to pursue a career in music?

My father was an enthusiastic if flawed tenor and my mother was an accomplished pianist who won scholarships to the Royal Academy of Music and Royal School of Needlework. She chose the latter.

Mike English, my music and organ teacher and choirmaster, was my mentor. I recall him showing me the score of Spem in Alium at the age of nine. It was nearly as tall as me and immediately went on my bucket list. He introduced me to conducting Tudor church music from the age of fourteen. He gave me my first professional engagements as a countertenor, performing the standard repertoire of Purcell.

In more recent years, I’ve been delighted to come full circle by engaging Mike’s son Jon who is a very fine professional tenor.

With his encouragement I applied to and got a place at Dartington College of Arts. I studied composing under the dominating figure of Helen Glatz, who was a disciple of Gustav Holst. My principal studies were composing and choral conducting. My sitar tutor, Ustad Imrat Khan, had a profound influence on me, introducing me to the philosophy and poetry of Rabindranath Tagore, as well as the aural challenge of Indian music, which has 22 divisions in each octave.

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

I’d like to recount two completely different concert experiences as conductor.

The last time I conducted St Matthew Passion with the Southampton Choral Society (SCS) and players from the BSO and the Royal Phil, the Evangelist suddenly became unavailable one week before the concert. His deputy then pulled out just 18 hours before the concert, leaving me scrambling through the night for a replacement. I did find a substitute for him but I was exhausted by the time of the concert.

I have always been fascinated by JS Bach’s B Minor Mass. It’s a vast work which encompasses the human spirit, communicating hope and faith, and transcends all cultures. It may be something to do with maturity and understanding the human condition – but the last time I conducted it (in 2007) was perhaps the first time I fully understood it.

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

There’s often a titanic struggle between a conductor and soloists, which is not always completely resolved. Mood, style and ornamentation don’t appear to be problematic, but tempi are often an issue. It can be quite difficult to make the transition from the rehearsal, where the conductor calls the shots, to the performance, where the conductor has to follow the soloist.

I love working with the mezzo-soprano Diana Moore: she has the rare combination of a very pure voice with the ability to always wanting to listen and learn. We worked together on a Verdi Requiem where we were able to produce a quite different interpretation after I’d asked her to view it as an opera, rather than as a sacred piece.

And I love working with amateur groups such as the Renaissance Choir, which I’ve described as a “marriage made in heaven”. Our close relationship means that the choir responds willingly to me and we achieve an excellent output as a result. Empathy is key.

How would you describe your musical language?

I would describe it as “heartfelt”. I aim to communicate the composer’s original intent through extensive research. Knowing music “from the inside” means that you have to understand the composer as a person and then communicate that to your audience.

How do you work?

Industriously. I am busy around 3 hours a day, 365 days a year: I’ve already mentioned my interest in researching the repertoire. Besides that, I will be investigating new music, working out novel programming and so on.

Which performances are you most proud of?

During its week-long tour to Rome and the city of Palestrina in 2016, the Renaissance Choir both visited Palestrina’s house and sang in Palestrina Cathedral.

Going to Palestrina’s house was an enormous privilege – it felt a bit like a pilgrimage – and standing in his living room, singing his music, was a truly magical moment. The manager of the museum was clearly very moved.

I believe that the choir’s later performance in the exquisitely beautiful and acoustically perfect Palestrina cathedral was simply the best concert it has ever given. We received a standing ovation from the entire audience, which included members of the elite Palestrina Federation. It was wonderful to have visited the cathedral which the great man oversaw the design from an acoustic perspective.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

I have a love of many works by Victoria, Palestrina, Tallis, Byrd and Lassus, derived from my early days singing in my church choir, as well as Mozart, Poulenc and Stockhausen. The interest in Stockhausen derives from my studies at Dartington, which possessed a studio filled with superb synthesisers where I composed a lot of experimental music.

Which works do you think you perform best? Why?

Obviously, renaissance music.

But Poulenc’s eccentricity appeals to me. His appeal derives from the fact that he is emotionally contradictory with himself: his frequent bi-tonality (writing in two keys at the same time) might suggest that he is unsure of his religious faith. He is always a challenge and a joy to perform.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I can recall going to my first opera, The Marriage of Figaro, at the age of 12, with Tito Gobbi, Joan Carlyle and Geraint Evans. I recall the huge genius in Mstislav Rostropovich as he gave the world premiere of Lutoslawski’s cello concerto. Also while at Dartington I remember sitting at the feet of Ustad Imrat Khan, as he played sitar in the dark.

My worst concert experience was when I was performing Mozart’s Laudate Dominum with the SCS with Dame Emma Kirkby. In the first movement I realised I’d taken the wrong score with me to the podium. Instead of trying to conduct the work for another 40 minutes from memory, I stopped the orchestra, walked off and grabbed the score. It was highly embarrassing but Dame Emma was very gracious about it.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

I have taught hundreds of students, but to my knowledge only three of them have actually made it as professional musicians. Don’t embark on this career unless you are really sure!

How would you define success as a musician?

In my opinion, if a musician is happy, they are successful, and I have been blessed with a great deal of happiness. Unfortunately, this is not a given, as some musicians become unhappy and injured.

Susan Yarnall Monks’ daily singing videos

Do go and have a look at these short videos, which choir member and singing teacher Susan Yarnall Monks produces every day. She’s got a huge range of skills, and contributes greatly in rehearsals, yet she is very humble about herself.

 

Peter Gambie studied music at Dartington College and Reading University. In the 1970s, Dartington was a unique mixture of hippy culture and fans of Renaissance music, so Peter learnt to be a conductor as well as a sitar player. He also spent many hours in an electronic music studio, much to the despair of his singing and violin tutors.

His early career was a mix of teaching in schools in Hampshire and composing weird-sounding electronic music, some of which was performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (often to audiences of less than ten people). Radio 3 also broadcasted Peter’s compositions but it is not known whether anyone listened.

Realising that electronic music wasn’t catching on, Peter focussed on teaching, establishing a method of music education which became a model for secondary schools across the county and beyond (until successive governments decided that music in schools was a luxury). But he was still searching for something…. until he became The Renaissance Choir’s conductor in 1992, which has provided him with some of his richest musical experiences.

“A marriage made in heaven” is his summary, describing the many wonderful moments they share in their quest for musical perfection. The choir seeks professional standards and understanding, constantly challenging themselves with music of increasing complexity. Empathy between conductor and choir is central to high-quality performances: both parties are fortunate that this quality is developed to an advanced degree. Even a twitched eyebrow brings the appropriate response.

Peter is also proud of his long association with Southampton Choral Society. His nine years on the podium have included performing with Dame Emma Kirkby; scooping a £10,000 Community Arts Award from the BBC which resulted in the commission of a major work about slavery; and performances of the standard classical repertoire for orchestra and large chorus, including an original version of Orff’s Carmina Burana involving video images, Bach’s B minor mass and St Matthew Passion, Mozart’s Requiem and many more.

Peter and his wife, Mary, are the busy and proud grandparents of nine grandchildren.


Profile: Lynden Cranham, cellist

Who have been the main influencers on your decision to pursue a career in music?

There is a long tradition of music-making on both sides of my family (there have been numbers of organists, pianists and singers). Indeed, music was such an integral part of my home life that I seem to have inherited these influencers and their traditions: I can’t actually remember ever making a decision to become a musician.

Some of my earliest memories are of my grandmother and great aunt playing the piano or singing (they’d both studied at the Royal College of Music), and of my father playing the piano. He took me when I was very young to organ recitals at Westminster Cathedral (the sounds, seeming to come down from the darkened upper part of the building, were so atmospheric), and my great aunt and I went to Sir Malcolm Sargent’s Messiah performances at the Royal Albert Hall.

I sang a lot as a child and started piano lessons around the age of 5, so might well have followed in that family tradition; but on one of our daily family afternoons in Richmond Park we met, quite by chance, a lady called Julia Pringle. She offered to teach me the cello and I became her first pupil. I owe a great deal to this kind and nurturing musician. Had this meeting not occurred I doubt that I would have started to play the instrument that has defined my musical life; and then, sometime later, had I not played the cello, I would certainly not have met the musician friend who introduced me to my future husband; our children and grandchildren would not have existed!

Later on I was lucky to study with further inspirational teachers: Jennifer Ward Clarke at the Junior Royal College; Milly Stanfield at the International Cello Centre (established to propagate the teachings of Pablo Casals); Douglas Cameron at the Royal Academy of Music; and Maurice Eisenberg at the Cello Centre, in Portugal and in New York.

I’ve always loved playing chamber music, and after my studies at the Royal Academy was a member of the Burnell Piano Trio, which broadcast and gave a large number of concerts in Britain and Europe. During this time I also played in the London Mozart Players and made numbers of commercial recordings.

I increasingly became influenced by colleagues who were switching from “modern” to “historical” performance practice. I found that playing music of the eighteenth century and earlier in this fashion was musically and intellectually satisfying. Just after I made this switch I moved to the US with my husband and very young children, and we lived in Ithaca, New York. I taught at Cornell University and was a member of the Accordo Perfetto Piano Quartet, which toured the US and New Zealand. But I also continued to play baroque cello there, with colleagues such as Sonia Monosoff and Malcolm Bilson, and frequently came back to England to record and tour with Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music.

Chris Hogwood was one of the people who were influencing this whole revolution in music-making, and on my return to live in England I worked regularly with him and others, such as John Eliot Gardiner and his three ensembles, and Frans Brüggen, William Christie, Simon Rattle and many others with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. With these and other period instrument ensembles, I’ve made many recordings and toured many parts of the world.

What have been the greatest challenges on your musical career of far?

As a cellist I have found that rather than the greatest challenges being musical, some of the biggest issues have been practical ones – travelling around, basically carrying another person with you and often a suitcase as well.

Rush-hour trains speak for themselves (I’ve frequently had to stand from Waterloo to Petersfield, with a book balanced on top the cello case), but some of my worst experiences have involved aircraft. Different airlines have different rules for the accommodation of cellos. Even though a seat will have been bought for the instrument the people at the check-in desks often seem not to know their company’s rules.

On an Academy of Ancient Music tour of the US one of the other cellists and I were, literally, put off a flight with our instruments as the plane was about to start taxiing. Passengers had refused to move from what were considered “safe” seats for the cellos, and we were left in the airport in New York as the rest of the orchestra and our luggage flew off to Miami. On another US tour, with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the cellos were travelling in “laundry baskets” in the hold. As we waited at the airport in Chicago it became clear that the cellos had not been put onto the flight from New York with us. The baskets were eventually found and the cellos arrived in time for the next evening’s concert!

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

Playing in large international concert spaces is of course exciting; but such spaces can inevitably feel impersonal. As a baroque cellist I particularly enjoy music-making with small groups and in more intimate venues. Collaborating with other musicians can be such an intense experience. You rehearse and travel together, and trust is built up. The results will always have an element of risk, but it is especially rewarding when the group empathy is such that a player can do something unrehearsed, on the spur of the moment, and the whole ensemble and piece stay together!

Locally I’ve given numbers of recitals with keyboard player Richard Barnes; I also play with the Parnassian Ensemble (consisting of two recorders, baroque cello and harpsichord) and the Consort of Twelve (a period instrument orchestra). As well as being continuo cellist for the Consort, I’m an active member of the committee, the orchestral librarian, and also book the players who will direct each of the concerts.

It’s a particular pleasure for me to ask old friends/colleagues such as Kati Debretzeni, Cat Mackintosh, Elizabeth Wallfisch and Julia Bishop to come down and direct. It’s also hugely satisfying to help organise and put on a concert. When we get to the concert night all the hard work is forgotten, we look out at familiar faces in the audience and it becomes a hugely enjoyable experience.

Which works/performances are you most proud of?

Like many professional musicians, although I can enjoy the act of performance and sometimes feel that it has gone well, I’m also intensely self-critical: so I tend to remember the things that I’d like to have gone better. Anyway, it’s always better to look forward.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

If I’m playing “modern” cello I really enjoy playing the romantic repertoire, perhaps in particular the Brahms and Rachmaninov sonatas. On period instruments it’s been amazing to play Mahler symphonies with Roger Norrington, and again on period instruments it was marvellous to do Verdi and Berlioz with John Eliot Gardiner. On baroque instruments I love the complexities and rhythmic drive of Bach, but I think that Handel’s bass lines are wonderful. They manage to give the harmonic structure but can also seem so melodious.

Which works do you think you perform best?

Perhaps you should ask other people’s opinion of that, but I really enjoy playing continuo, whether it’s accompanying a singer or other instrumentalists.

What is your most memorable concert experience as a performer?

Every concert is memorable for so many reasons, but two quite dramatic experiences immediately come to mind. My C string broke once during the first act of an opera at Glyndebourne. I had to keep playing (although I obviously couldn’t play on that string) and the unravelled pieces kept clattering and buzzing against the body of the cello through what remained of the act, also resonating with the strings of the other cellists. I got a round of applause and lots of fascinated questions from the front row of the audience as I stood up for the dinner interval.

Another incident has stayed in my mind, especially because of the repertoire that we were performing. I took part in a number of the concerts in John Eliot Gardiner’s Bach Cantata Pilgrimage. On one occasion we arrived in St George’s Church, Eisenach, and a large wooden platform had been constructed for us. I had to play with my feet against a large font. Afterwards I discovered that it was the font in which Bach had been baptised.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Try to find a teacher you have a rapport with and who will be really honest with you. Be prepared to spend lots of time on your own, practising – if you’re a bit of a perfectionist you won’t notice the time passing. You probably won’t earn much money, but if you really love music it is a wonderful career.

How would you define success as a musician?

Every time I was about to give a performance, my first cello teacher, Julia Pringle, would always say to me, “If you enjoy yourself the audience will enjoy themselves”. When I play I feel I’ve succeeded if I’ve put the music across as well as I can, if I’ve managed to create a sense of communication between myself and the audience, and if they’ve enjoyed themselves.

How are you keeping yourself usefully occupied and sane under lockdown?

a. Along with the other concerts that have had to be cancelled, I would have been giving a recital of Bach Cello Suites on the Isle of Wight in June. I’m practising the Suites anyway: they’re amazing music and endlessly challenging.

b. A few years ago I did a PhD at Birkbeck (about music in C19 London), and I joined a C19 literature book group made up of fellow students. I would have been presenting Anthony Trollope’s “Barchester Towers” in June, so I thought I’d read the whole cycle of six Barchester Chronicles.

c. I’m teaching our 4-year-old granddaughter to read via Zoom.

d. My husband and I have been repairing the ravaged garden left by a recent building project; I mostly try to stop him mowing/chopping everything else down!

Come to a concert

The three planned Consort of Twelve concerts for 2020 have, of course, had to be cancelled. Luckily we’ve managed to reschedule these for 2021 and we will also be doing a fourth concert, which will be during the Festival of Chichester. For those who’d like to get an idea of the work of the directors of the rescheduled orchestral concerts (Simon Standage and Julia Bishop) there are numerous online examples.

13 March 2021: St Matthew Passion with the Portsmouth Choral Union, conducted by David Gostick. At 6.30pm (to be confirmed), St Mary’s Church, Portsea, PO1 5PA.
23 May 2021: Concert directed by violinist Simon Standage, entitled Two Composer Priests – Vivaldi and Bonporti. At 6.00pm, Holy Trinity Church, Bosham, PO18 8HX.
11 July 2021: In the Festival of Chichester. Israel in Egypt with the Portsmouth Baroque Choir, conducted by Malcolm Keeler. At 6.00pm, St Paul’s Church, Churchside, Chichester, PO19 6FT.
19 September 2021: Concert directed by violinist Julia Bishop, entitled Beyond the Seasons. At 6.00pm, St John’s Chapel, St John’s Street, Chichester, PO19 1UR.


Profile – Ben Lathbury, choral conductor, concert pianist and lecturer

Who or what were the main influences on your decision to pursue a career in music?

Right from a young age I was good at the piano, though at one stage I did fancy becoming a paramedic or a doctor. My uncle Tony was (and still is) a paramedic and I think I wanted to be one ever since I could say it! I read for an Undergraduate and subsequently a Master’s degree in Music Performance at the University of Chichester, followed by a PGCE and four years teaching Performing Arts at the Chichester Free School.

Whilst I was studying at Chichester, I was most fortunate in having mentors for piano in Duncan Honeybourne and Jonathan Plowright. Why were they so good? Going to university, I think I’d suffered something of a setback after initially being rejected from Music College. Duncan did a tremendous job building my confidence back up, and then when I started with Jonathan in my 3rd year and Masters year, he balanced me back in the other direction, myself having possibly become a little too over-confident and cocky! They’re also both superb pianists who were very generous with their time. I’d also like to mention the excellent input from my academic advisor Arthur Robson who has helped me to make inspiring choices of repertoire and who has guided me on conducting skills.

So how did it all develop from here?

In 2015 I was appointed Director of Music at Holy Trinity Church, Bosham. One thing led to another, and I have steadily built up my portfolio of musical activities, as described in my bio below. It’s all very varied and enjoyable.

How would you describe your musical language?

Stephen Hough once said, “the notes are the language, but as a performer, you must speak your own words.” I am always looking to bring something new to the table, and to take risks, especially if the work is well-known.

I’ve adopted this approach recently when I conducted Messiah with Portsmouth Festival Choir in March. I listened to many recordings of it, which made me make innovative choices over things like grace notes, tempi, dynamics and general musical colourings.

And what about your latest repertoire?

I’ve enjoyed making my daily music videos, as described below. Listen to #31 Hello (The Book of Mormon) which bears out my love of musical theatre, all 10 voices! Or listen to #42 Kiss the Bairns, which I have been rehearsing with two of my choirs recently. I’m thrilled that Eric Whitacre loved my rendering of his piece This Marriage (#22).

Pulling this all together every day has been a challenge technically and vocally – there’s only so long one can sing falsetto! But on occasion I have enlisted the support from friends, such as music student Kiera in #29 and #45.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Rachmaninov has been a huge influence on me since the age of 15. I was thrilled to have performed his Piano Concerto No.2 in Bosham church to a packed audience last year.

I also regularly perform in the Chichester Chamber Ensemble with Natalia Corolscaia (violin) and Laura Ritchie (cello), which is a great pleasure. As a pianist, I didn’t have a huge amount of opportunities when I was growing up to play in an ensemble setting, so being able to work with other really high calibre musicians in my professional life is a real pleasure. One of our biggest challenges has probably been Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio, which we have performed three times together and is always a joy.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Don’t be afraid to take on other work to subsidise what you love to do, especially when you are starting out. You’ve got to try many different things and put yourself out there widely, so perseverance is a virtue. There are so many different things one can do as a musician, be it performing, teaching, conducting, composing; the list goes on. One of the things I love about my particular work pattern is that it’s very rare for two days to be the same in any given week. As somebody who occasionally has a short attention span, this works well for me!

I used to think that doing gigs for free was something that should never ever be done under any circumstances. The reality is it’s far more complicated than that. The key thing to keep in mind, though, is not to undersell yourself, and to value your time accordingly. I might agree to do a gig for free if it is going to be “professionally valuable” – an opportunity to play an exceptional piano, for example, or to ingratiate myself with a colleague or employer.

But I would warn people against falling into the trap of a generic “working for exposure”; I haven’t tried it myself, but I have it on good authority that exposure won’t pay your mortgage. Professional musicians should be paid, and regularly accepting work that doesn’t pay undermines our industry – one that is generally quite poorly paid anyway.

How would you define success as a musician?

I’m a strong advocate of the philosophy that success is categorically not defined by how much money one earns. If I did think that, I wouldn’t have become a musician. There’s an almost moronically simplistic notion that so much of our capitalist society seems to live by that is “whoever gets out with the most money at the end is the winner”.

For me, success is being able to pick and choose what one does and still be comfortable. I probably spend 20-30 hours a week (depending on the time of year) actively “working” as a musician in some capacity or other, and manage quite comfortably. This gives me time to pursue other interests I have, such as magic, computer programming and writing (some of which doubles up as work from time to time insofar as they generate income), as well as giving me the time to give clear focus and dedication to my personal relationships, especially with my wife and stepson.

Music for Lockdown

During the lockdown, I have pledged to produce one music video on YouTube each day.
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2H-nDfO9k4PoKNX6au4LGvVVLDUMOnck
Or see https://www.chichester-piano.co.uk/music-for-lockdown.

They comprise solo piano works, choral classics and even some musical theatre favourites.

These are mainly as a way of maintaining some semblance of normality and also to give me something to do. As the lockdown has gone on, the videos have gradually become more complex, starting out with solo piano pieces, moving onto solo singing pieces and now even 4-part choral harmony and one-man polyphony.

The choral videos, in particular, have proven to be very popular, and it’s really pleasing to see them bringing joy to so many people at this very challenging time, especially given that so many people are cut off from making music in whatever capacity they are used to.

Since my performing and conducting work has taken a substantial hit since the lockdown, I have set up a Patreon page in the hope that some people may be willing and able to help support me through this challenging time.

https://www.patreon.com/musicforlockdown

 

Ben Lathbury is an award-winning musician, originally from the Midlands. Following early success in numerous competitions, Ben moved to Sussex in 2006 to study at the University of Chichester, where he established himself as a pianist of considerable talent.

In 2009, Ben received a scholarship to fund his Master’s degree in Music Performance, studying with international pianist Jonathan Plowright. Since its completion, Ben has won a number of competitions, given dozens of solo recitals and has appeared as a special guest soloist with orchestras across the UK. He has been recognized as a champion of 20th century American repertoire; his interpretation of Leroy Anderson’s Concerto in C garnered critical acclaim and his performances of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue earned him a nomination for “Best Classical Act” in the 2017 Guide Awards and have been hailed as “magnificent”.

In addition to his talent as a pianist, Ben is widely respected as a choral conductor, organist, and singer. Recent engagements have included performances of Handel’s Messiah, Vierne’s Messe Solennelle, Fauré’s & Rutter’s Requiems, Stainer’s Crucifixion and Mendelssohn’s Hymn of Praise. He is Director of Music at Holy Trinity Church in Bosham and Musical Director for a number of local choral groups. In 2016, Ben founded the Music in Bosham recital series and in May 2018 he was appointed to the post of Musical Director for Portsmouth Festival Choir. In 2019 he became an Associate Lecturer in Piano at the University of Chichester.


Today, Ben lives in Rose Green with his wife Megan, stepson Dylan, their dog Hermione and their two cats, Persephone & Ozymandias. In his spare time, Ben enjoys theatre, chess, writing and computer programming. He has a particular passion for choral and piano music featured in video games and often incorporates such works into his programmes.


Profile: Valentina Seferinova, pianist

What have been the main influences on your decision to pursue a career in music?

I was born in Vidin, (a town situated in the NW of Bulgaria, on the banks of the River Danube, 200 km from the capital Sofia), where I spent the first 12 years of my life, before moving to a specialist music school some 400 km away from home. My parents loved music and we listened to music a lot. Although they both used to sing, no one in my family had any strong musical background. My sister played the cello and my parents bought a piano. From the moment I saw a black Riga piano at the age of 6, I knew I wanted to be a concert pianist.

Although my father urged me to have a conventional education, I wanted to push on and at the age of 9½ I won a national competition, after playing the piano only for 1½ years! I have been described as a child prodigy (though I strongly disagree this is the case with me – it was 1% talent, 99% hard work plus a sprinkle of luck!).

Around that time I was taken under the wing of Professor Dinolov, who as a pianist and musician was himself a product of different schools: the Russian Piano School under Yakov Zak; the French Pianistic school – he spent time in Paris Conservatoire studying with Yvonne Lefèbure; and at the same time, his own Professor (when he was a student at the National Academy in Sofia), Prof Andrey Stoyanov, went to Germany to study music. I was really lucky that he was the person to introduce me to different piano repertoire, composers and music, which included Debussy and impressionism. He took the time to explain (as I was only 10) and show me the art of the French impressionist painters, describing the influences and stylistics of impressionism in an approachable way.

I graduated from the National Music Academy in Sofia with a Master’s Degree in Music Theory (Music Analysis in particular); soon after, I became Assistant Professor of Piano Performance there. Alongside teaching I continued performing; many of these performances were recorded and transmitted on Bulgarian national radio and television.

I came to the UK in 1992 to a piano competition and met my British husband-to-be on the aeroplane (he was living and working in Saudi Arabia at the time). I am sure that most of my friends, colleagues and students know more about the story. We kept the relationship going and developing for 6 years, and in 1998 we got married in Sofia, then drove/moved to the UK, and we’ve lived here ever since…

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

For most professions there is a path to follow, a particular staircase to climb, even if there are challenges.

By contrast, a musician’s path is unique and individual, and that’s a challenge on its own! Right from the beginning a performer/musician’s life is full of hurdles and challenges, learning and mastering an instrument, having the right person to teach and guide them, and so on. Then the musician has to find the path in music that really inspires them and makes them happy.

To illustrate, I love performing, but I also enjoy my teaching work tremendously: it is challenging to find the right balance! But then all these challenges not only teach us life lessons, but make us stronger, and one comes out of it even more determined!

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

It can be lonely to play the piano: there are not so many opportunities for playing alongside others. These may include being part of or accompanying an orchestra or other group and playing some piano trios, quartets and so on. The piano is predominantly a solo instrument. That’s why ensemble playing, whether with another piano or an orchestra, gives me so much pleasure.

I was privileged in 1999 to be invited by the Trustees of the Claude Debussy House and Museum in St. Germain-en-Laye, Paris, to give a premiere performance of the composer’s complete Four Hands Works with my colleague, Prof. Emilia Mihaylova, on the composer’s birth date. Although this was such fun to do, there were plenty of challenges too – the complexity of the texture for each player and the limitation of space on one piano for two players requires very strict coordination, high professionalism and at the same time good friendship and understanding.

Debussy’s 4 Hand Integrale for Bulgarian TV: https://youtu.be/b3Z6DoWiQY0

When playing 2-piano ensembles with my piano duo partner, Venera Bojkova (with whom I’ve performed and recorded with numerous times), the challenges are completely different: one retains the ‘musical personality’ and ‘space’ of each instrument, but it’s a real challenge to make these two different instruments and two different people blend into one, at the same time. And somehow when I am performing with Venera, surprisingly we have always managed to achieve all this pretty much every time.

Talking of collaboration, here is an interesting story that might be of interest:

One of the first things I’ve heard about when I moved to this country and area (circa 1998) was the Portsmouth Music Festival. At the time it was held at the Menuhin Room on the top floor of the Portsmouth Library. And, of course, the main thing about it was the fabulous Steinway it used to have. Within months of moving to the UK, I got involved in the festival, firstly – accompanying, then entering some of my own students (many of them, I’m proud to say, winning prizes). Over the years the connection with the Portsmouth Festival grew and about 8 years ago I was invited to become one of their ‘official’ accompanists/pianists.

Very much connected with the Portsmouth Music Festival, almost in parallel, a special association with the Solent Symphony Orchestra developed. I’ve known many of the members of the orchestra from the numerous and various local performances I’ve done over the years, but the real collaboration started about 8 years ago when one of my very talented students, Monica Shi, won the ultimate Portsmouth Music Festival prize – the Concerto Prize (performing with the SSO).

Programmed along with Beethoven’s 3rd Piano Concerto that Monica played was Stravinsky’s famous Firebird Suite. There is a big piano part in the orchestra and when I was asked if I can ‘help’, I thought to myself – of course, it makes sense as I’ll be there anyway, for Monica. Well, the rest is now history – that particular concert was nominated as Classical Event of the Year by the News (our local newspaper in Portsmouth), and it won that category!

The relationship with the SSO grew stronger and stronger, and lots of friendships were established too. Whenever there was a piano part I either sent some of my advanced South Downs College (or more recently Churcher’s College) students or played it myself. Years have passed by, and last September I played Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G that was again nominated by the News as Classical Act of the Year 2019. Isn’t it wonderful how life and the music world works!

Here is a short video, a snippet from that performance, from my private video collection (unfortunately due to position of the camera and mainly acoustics, the quality wasn’t good enough to be published by my husband on my YouTube channel): https://youtu.be/jSmBGoTjKkU

Furthermore, you may have heard that the finalist of the keyboard section of Young Musician of the year 2020 is a local boy from the Isle of Wight, Thomas Luke. I’ve known him for the past 3 years from the Portsmouth Music Festival; he competed with some of my students and sometimes there were only a couple of points separating them. Thomas came to support my Ravel performance last September with the SSO, which was lovely.

As many of you know, Thomas won the concerto prize last year at the Portsmouth Music Festival. Sadly, his performance with SSO in March, was postponed but is rescheduled for the Autumn 2020.

To all of you, who are reading this, I would urge you (obviously, if lockdown is lifted): please do come and support Thomas as a soloist of the SSO – Thomas is a special boy that will be performing with a very special orchestra on 3 October. I very much hope to see many of you there!

Which works/performances are you most proud of?

Quite honestly, I am proud of most of my performances.

My Professor in Bulgaria encouraged me to perform many lesser-known pieces of music (sometimes written by famous composers). This love of re-discovering such kinds of music was taken to a completely different level when I came to this country.

One of the first venues I played locally was the New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth. At that time they used to hold Sunday afternoon concerts. After I think my 1st or 2nd concert the then manager of the New Theatre Royal, Mr Gareth Vaughan said: “I see you play some very unusual repertoire… Do you know any Raff?” To which I explained that I’ve learnt all about the composer but have hardly heard a single note of his works as there were no recordings available. To which Gareth said: “Here is some Raff, his piano sonatas… tell me what you think.”

Well, I can admit that when I got back home, I started playing through the scores and I didn’t stop till I got to the end (some 3+ hours later). I was completely ‘lost’ inside this beautiful music, fabulous melodies, fantastic harmonies, plenty of pianistic challenges – I loved it! I picked up the phone to share my thoughts with Gareth. The rest is history – this was my 1st recording of music by long-lost composers. Notably, this was not only the 1st ever Raff piano music CD recording, but it was the 1st I made here, in the UK. This led to many more rediscovered pieces and composers, including Jewish romantic composers, scores that were hidden from the Nazis by the Jewish community in libraries and private collections around the world (such as the 1st Piano Concerto by Salomon Jadassohn).

Over the last 20 years, I’ve recorded 14 CDs of different composers and in many different countries!

I always try to include at least one of these long-forgotten pieces in my concerts (not just recording them for future generations, but performing these pieces live, at concerts is equally important). And of course, it’s nice to introduce people to this ‘new’ music, so I always like to chat with the audience about the context.

It has always been extremely satisfying after a concert (almost without exception) to have members of the audience come to me to tell me that not only did they enjoy the performance, but also that they really loved hearing and learning about unfamiliar music, about the composer and my (the performer’s own) ‘encounter’ with the music. Such a wonderful feel that in a way I continue to educate people even when I am on the stage, as a performer.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

I identify strongly with Romantic composers, particularly from the second half of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century. But of course I very much enjoyed learning and recording the music of the young award-winning French composer, Corentin Boissier (only 25 years old), whose piano concertos I recorded last year in Lviv with The Ukrainian Festival Orchestra, conducted by Grammy-winning John McLaughlin Williams. Admittedly Corentin’s musical language is very much in a post-romantic or neo-romantic in style. This, when issued, will be my 15th CD.

Here is a short video 3 from Lviv, from my private video archives: https://youtu.be/3ujUooaLHa4

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I would say that all my concerts have been memorable in one way or other; whether I play for 2 or for 500 people, here in the UK, in Bulgaria or somewhere else in the world, the feeling is the same: I have the impression that all my concerts are memorable, at least for me (I hope for my audience too!).

Yes, of course there are the concerts that have been important milestones in my career, but there are also funny ones that I can tell anecdotes about!

On one occasion I was playing a Mendelssohn piece near Chichester when an alarm clock sounded from the organ loft. I presume that the organist had set it to remind himself to play at a certain time! On another occasion, a hammer broke (well, I discovered later on that the hammer was broken already and someone had simply glued it together!) during a concert performance and I had to quickly play this particular note (it just happened to be A above middle C) in another octave to make sure the melodic line stayed intact. And in another instance, there was a helicopter scheduled to land just outside the building I was playing a concert in, so I had to make sure I played the piece in exactly 4 minutes, finishing before the loud noise drowned out my playing!

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

As I mentioned above, for most professions there is a path to follow, a particular staircase to climb. By contrast, a musician’s path is unique and individual. The only common recipe to build a career as a musician is by applying 1% talent and 99% hard work, and with all of that sprinkled with luck (some get more sprinkle on top, some less, but one needs to be prepared to make the best of it!).

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

During this crisis, I am taking extra time to treasure my current moments with my husband and son: I feel lucky to have more time for them and feel lucky to be alive. If I had been asked this question earlier on, I would have described ambitions for new recordings and concerts. It’s strange how things have changed.

Valentina’s current positions include Lecturer/Tutor in Piano at Southampton University, Consultant for the Music Department of Havant & South Downs College, ‘Visiting Academic Staff’ for Churcher’s College, Petersfield.

For further info, please visit https://valentinaseferinova.com.

Or follow her on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Valentina.Seferinova.1/ Click ‘Like’ to follow her.

Or visit her YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/valentinaseferinova/ where some of her public performances over the last 20 or so years can be viewed. Click ‘Subscribe’ to be notified of any new videos.


Profile: Ann Pinhey, conductor

Who or what were the main influences on your decision to pursue a career in music?

I won a scholarship to Godolphin and Latymer School in Hammersmith, London, and was introduced to music by a very enthusiastic teacher, so I began piano lessons at 13. Whilst at school, I was introduced to the music of Benjamin Britten, as the English Opera Group used to come to the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith. I vividly remember hearing The Rape of Lucretia with Kathleen Ferrier. Let’s make an opera was also great fun. I can still remember some of the audience participation songs! I used to go to the Proms frequently and stand in the Arena for 2 shillings!

I studied piano and organ at the Guildhall School of Music for a year, before I abandoned the graduate course. While I was there, I was asked by a fellow student, Buxton Orr, if I would copy out a piece of music for his composition class the following day with Benjamin Frankel, who was a prolific film composer. The latter looked at the music and said,” Did you do this? It’s beautiful. Do you want a job?” Thus began my career as a professional music copyist when everything was done by hand. Computers did not exist in those days!

Most of my work was copying the orchestral parts for film scores such as The Bridge on the River Kwai and The Inn of the Sixth Happiness. It was all great fun. I remember being taken out to lunch by Malcolm Arnold. He was smoking a huge Churchillian cigar. I told him I loved the smell of cigars. He clicked his fingers at the waiter and said,” Get the young lady a cigar!” A huge one appeared. Two puffs and I was as green as grass, but I took the cigar home!

I also worked for Novello and Boosey and Hawkes. For the latter I worked on tracing paper with a special pen, as the work had to look exactly like printed music. I also worked for Donald Swann, Sir Charles Mackerras and Sir John Eliot Gardner. I sang under the latter when he was conductor of the Portsmouth Festival Choir in the 1970s, a memorable experience!

Later I became orchestral manager for the Leppard Ensemble. Raymond Leppard had just come down from Cambridge and formed his small chamber orchestra, which eventually merged with the Goldsburgh Orchestra to become the English Chamber Orchestra in 1960. I vividly remember a concert that Raymond gave at the Wigmore Hall where he was the pianist – and conductor – in a Mozart piano concerto. I turned the pages for him…nerve racking!

So how did it all develop from here?

After getting married, I moved to Compton, near Petersfield. I became a teacher at Lavant House, a girls’ independent school, where I remained for many years. I was head of the Junior Department and taught all subjects. Eventually I became Director of Music.

In the 1980s I became music critic of the Petersfield Herald and until quite recently, was the music critic of the Petersfield Post, a paper which no longer appears to print reviews of concerts! It is difficult being a music critic for a local paper, as you often have to review the performances of people you know. I do have high standards and people are at liberty to disagree with me!

What about your choral work?

Although I’ve never studied conducting, I was persuaded to take over the Harting Choral Society in the late 1970s. I went on to conduct the Meon Consort and the Thursday Singers. In 1984 I formed the small choral group, Musica Sacra. We performed within a 20-mile radius of Petersfield, giving free concerts for over 15 years and raising over £20,000 for charity. We performed more than 300 works by more than 100 composers, often singing the music of Charpentier, whose music I had transcribed from the composer’s original manuscripts.

After Musica Sacra was disbanded in 1999, I set up the Petersfield Chamber Choir in 2000, which ran for 13 years.

In 2014 I formed the Gemini Consort. It is a group of 12 experienced musicians, who all sing and some of whom play instruments. The aim is to use all their talents. The music performed ranges from the Baroque to the present day and includes music by Handel, Mozart, Poulenc and Britten. We love works written by Arvo Pärt, James MacMillan and Cecilia McDowall. The solo instruments are recorder, flute and trumpet.

Which works or performances are you most proud of?

The highlight for me was a performance of the Bach St Matthew Passion which I conducted in 2010 with the Petersfield Chamber Choir and Orchestra. It was a massive undertaking, but was a great success, so much so that I decided to do the St John Passion the following year! All soloists came from the choir and the orchestra was made up of local musicians.

Of the St Matthew Passion, Jonathan Willcocks wrote, “The line of music-lovers waiting on Saturday night outside St Peter’s Church in the hope that “return” tickets might become available suggested that something rather special was happening…the true laurel leaves must rest with Ann Pinhey, whose concept and planning in every detail this memorable evening was”.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

While at school I was introduced to the music of Benjamin Britten when my music teacher played his Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. I find his music deeply moving, exciting and gripping. I’ve performed all his choral works. While conducting with Musica Sacra, I developed a love of Charpentier, in particular. I love the operas of Janáček. Handel wrote some great music for voice, such as the duets in Julius Caesar.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

My most memorable performance was seeing Raymond Leppard conduct his realisation of Monteverdi’s Coronation of Poppea at Glyndebourne in the 1960s. It was the first time I had heard anything by the composer. I was transfixed! I love it and have performed a great deal of his music ever since!

And what about your love of painting?

In 1989 I took up a new hobby, painting. I am totally self-taught and began with watercolours. I moved on to collages and am now immersed in working with alcohol ink on plastic paper and acrylic pouring work.

Tell me about your fund-raising activities.

All my concerts have enjoyed free admission (apart from the 2 Passions, as I had to pay the orchestra and so charge a small amount for tickets, although £1,000 was still collected for The Rosemary Foundation as the audience left!). The retiring collection has always been given to local charities, for whom I have raised over £55,000. We now donate solely to The Rosemary Foundation. So far we have given it £20,000 – a most worthy cause.

Follow Ann on Instagram.


Profile: Geoff Porter, conductor, singer, pianist and organist

Who or what were the main influences on your decision to pursue a career in music?

I was fortunate to be at The Kings’ School, Ely, which was strong in music. I also attended The Mackenzie School of Music and Drama in Cambridge for singing lessons. Subsequently, I secured key roles as a tenor in The Magic Flute by the Ely Opera Group and in A Country Girl by the St. Ives Operatic Society.

Who have been the most important influences on your musical life?

Dr Arthur Wills, Organist of Ely Cathedral and Director of Music at The Kings’ School, taught me piano. At The Teacher Training College at Milton, Portsmouth, Margaret Jewell (Head of Music Department) persuaded me to switch from maths to music and Hugh Davis (Assistant Organist at Portsmouth Cathedral and conductor of the Portsmouth Choral Union), my tutor, arranged for me to have singing lessons in London, under the tutelage of the tenor, Gerald English.

Hugh also encouraged me to join The Cathedral Choir and I was appointed to Portsmouth Grammar School as Director of Music for The Lower School. Later, I became Director of Music at St Albans, Havant, where pupils – and I – became accustomed to brass band practice at 8 o’clock in the morning!

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

I have been engaged as a tenor soloist for many local choirs. This has led to several memorable and challenging performances, including The Messiah with the Drayton Choral Society (later the Portsmouth Baroque Choir) at Portsmouth Guildhall. Whilst Director of Music at St James’ Church, Emsworth, I arranged broadcasts for TV and radio, including Songs of Praise. On two occasions, I sang Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus with The South Downs Music Society at the King’s Theatre, Southsea.

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

Singing with others in a group or choir is always rewarding. As a director, it is so satisfying to see how far people can be encouraged to come on a journey of musical improvement.

How would you describe your musical language?

As a soloist, I liked to bring out the emotion and drama of a piece. As a conductor, I try to work on contrasts of dynamics, rhythm and melody.

How do you work?

I like to choose and conduct pieces that will demonstrate the performers’ strengths, with suitable, but challenging material, which I hope the audience will enjoy.

Which works/performances are you most proud of?

I’ve already mentioned Die Fledermaus. I deputised for Raymond Calcraft as director of music with the Highbury Singers which became the Renaissance Choir. In 1986, in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, I conducted the choir in the pre-performance rehearsal of hitherto unperformed works by Guerrero and Rodrigo, who himself was present.

To raise money for Stansted House, I have arranged forty Musical Evenings there in The Music Room. In 2013, I set up Los Ladrones, a vocal quintet. This group specializes in the revival of gems of Victorian and Edwardian British Musical Theatre and especially the lesser-known works of Arthur Sullivan.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

I enjoy the music of Handel and have performed as a soloist in The Messiah 13 times. I was a founder member of Havant Light Opera in 1978 with whom I have directed works by Arthur Sullivan, an under-rated composer who wrote many fine pieces, both with and without Gilbert. I have been MD for The Mikado with both Littlehampton and Chichester Operatic Societies.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

13 choirs (over 600 voices) were involved in The 2016 London Welsh Festival of Male Choirs at the Royal Albert Hall. In preparation for this, I navigated The Solent Male Voice Choir through rehearsals, when seven songs had to be sung in Welsh, by heart.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

As an amateur, try out lots of different sizes of groups and types of music-making, taking any opportunity to perform solos.

How would you define success as a musician/composer?

Simply seeing both performers and the audience enjoying a concert.

What are your immediate plans?

After several happy years with The Solent Male Voice Choir, I’m excited about the prospect of conducting The Hampshire Police Male Voice Choir and directing them in the Cornwall International Male Voice Choir Festival in 2021.


Profile: Tim Fisher, violinist

Tim is first violinist with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

Who or what were the main influences on your decision to pursue a career in music?

I was enthralled by the sound of a large orchestra right from when I was taken to a BSO concert in the Guildhall at the age of six. By the age of seven I had pestered my parents to give me a violin. I was lucky to have marvellous teachers in Benny Freeman and Sam Coats of Court Hill First School in Cosham. Many of their alumnae are still playing in great orchestras today. From the Hampshire Specialist Music School in Winchester (now Peter Symmonds College) I went to Trinity College (now Trinity Laban) in London, and then secured a permanent position with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) in 1986, where I’ve been ever since.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life?

The BSO itself! It’s a fantastic orchestra to play with: there’s a huge variety of music, from film nights, Viennese music, Christmas music through to opera. It very much benefits from having Kirill Karabits as its conductor: he’s so exciting and innovative to work with, and introduces the orchestra to so many new works. There’s a great feeling of teamwork within the orchestra.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

In Berlioz’s Harold in Italy, two violinists and a cellist walk off and then play a short snippet from the wings. I was one of the two violinists who had to do this a few years ago, which took some courage! I’ve also broken a few violin strings in my time – this causes quite a bang, and it’s quite a challenge to fit a new one with the minimum of commotion and then being able to find the right place in the music!

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Be prepared for an irregular lifestyle: such a career has plenty of travel and anti-social hours, but it is an extremely colourful one! And don’t think about embarking on it unless you think you will really enjoy it! Prepare for any audition with plenty of practice beforehand.

What is your most treasured possession?

A Benjamin Banks violin, made in 1774 in Salisbury. I know its history and the fact that it has not travelled very far, in fact it’s remained in Dorset most of its life! It has a wonderful mellow tone, comparable to a rustic English apple.

I also treasure my bicycle and motorcycle. In fact I often make my own way to concert venues with my violin on the back of the motorcycle. I am a volunteer motorcycle rider (a “blood biker”) for Serv Wessex, ferrying around equipment, supplies and samples for al the NHS Hospitals within Hampshire, South Wiltshire and Dorset.

As riders, we receive no money for riding, or petrol money for any rides, no matter how far the distance or the time it takes. We ride because it’s a great cause, close to all our hearts, and we all enjoy riding!

If you would like to donate, please go to
https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/finalCharityHomepage.action?charityId=1015630.


Profile: Terry Barfoot, lecturer and writer

We recently heard the very sad news that Terry Barfoot passed away from cancer on 12th August 2020. Read his obituary here.

Terry Barfoot was a well-known figure in the musical life of southern England, who wrote widely about music and opera, and was Publications Consultant to the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. He lectured, for example, at the British Library, the Austrian Cultural Forum, Opera Holland Park, the Royal Opera House, the Three Choirs Festival and at Oxford University, where in summer 2018 he gave a series of lectures on Beethoven. His latest book, A History of Music written for Omnibus Press, was published in October 2014.

Terry wrote for Classical Music, Opera Now, BBC Music Magazine and Musicweb International, and for seven years was editor of the Classical Music Repertoire Guide. His book Opera: A History was published by The Bodley Head, and he contributed to The International Dictionary of Opera and The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. With his own company, Arts in Residence, he promoted musical events at agreeable locations throughout Britain and in Europe, and recently led visits to Prague, Leipzig, Vienna, Amsterdam, Budapest and Berlin. In 2017 he presented a series of pre-concert talks at the Sibelius Festival in Lahti, Finland.

Simon O’Hea is in conversation with Terry.

Who or what were the main influences on your decision to pursue a career in music?

My grandfather was the earliest influence on me: I used to take him to concerts, as he was nearly blind, and he introduced me to the works of César Franck and Brahms, especially his 2nd symphony. I was also drawn to Tchaikovsky’s 5th. The latter was my ‘entry’ piece – I had played all LPs of the Beach Boys and the Byrds, and I found the Tchaikovsky among my parents’ records. I gave it a try and after a couple of hearings I was hooked.

I came to music through an unconventional route: I’d studied history at university, and did not take up an instrument. In fact I got into music through teaching: I worked in Portsmouth schools for a few years, and one of my colleagues ran an evening class which he asked me to cover for him. I enjoyed doing that and decided I’d like to keep it going. Then in due course I moved to South Downs College, but not initially to do Music. After I’d been there for a few months I found myself being asked to take over all the music-related A-levels. This was because Damien Cranmer, the Head of Music at the time, went off to work on the new edition of Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Not so long after that the Hampshire Specialist Music course was relocated to South Downs and I found myself at the heart of a thriving musical establishment, and I worked there for more than 25 years.

Who or what are the most important influences on your musical life?

Peter Craddock, who had founded the Havant Symphony Orchestra in 1962 and kept it running for fifty years, gave me my first opportunities as a writer on music and was a great encouragement and inspiration to me. I still write the orchestra’s programme notes to this day, and I remain grateful that Peter believed in me when I was so young and inexperienced. Many years later Peter also taught at South Downs College, was a great influence on me. Over the years South Downs was bursting with talent including the likes of Brian Eastop, Mrs Elizabeth Lewis, Peter Rhodes, Ian Schofield and Paula Barnes. An inspiring environment in which to work.

Christopher Headington, the composer, pianist and music writer, also inspired me to write about music. He was my teacher on a course I took at Oxford University, and he wrote one of the finest violin concertos of the postwar era, which has been recorded by Xei Wei with the London Philharmonic and Jane Glover. I wrote the insert notes, one of 70 or 80 that I have done over the years. Thanks to Christopher’s influence I started teaching at Oxford as a part-time tutor and I worked there for more than thirty years.

I have been the publications consultant and commissioning editor for the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for more than 20 years, which has brought me into contact with many brilliant people. In fact I would go so far as to say that working with the BSO has been the achievement of which I feel most proud, despite all my other writing including several books. They are a great international orchestra who by a quirk of history happen to be based in Bournemouth. There is no question that the BSO is the most important aspect of the musical life of our region. Which other musical organisation from the south and west can boast performances in Carnegie Hall New York, the Berlin Philharmonie, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and the Vienna Musikverein?

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

I love sharing my insights to music lovers. Sometimes the repertoire can be quite challenging, which is entirely the way it should be. And there’s a lot to learn about. It was Rachmaninov who said ‘Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music’. How true that is; there is always more to discover.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

My top three are Bach, Bruckner and Verdi (especially his later works such as Simon Boccanegra and Don Carlos) for sheer originality and the ability to take the listener to another place. I also like to introduce my favourite less-well-known composers to my students and friends, figures such as Arthur Honegger. For example, his Symphonie Liturgique (no. 3) is one of the great symphonies of the 20th century.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Two particularly memorable performances remain in my mind over the years, both by Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra at Portsmouth Guildhall. They are of Shostakovich’s Eleventh Symphony conducted by George Hurst, standing in for an indisposed Paavo Berglund, and Berlioz’s greatest work, the epic The Trojans, which was conducted by Roger Norrington. The latter was a real occasion, and the greatest day of my musical life. It was part of the Portsmouth Music Festival in 1986 and Brittany Ferries sponsored it, to celebrate their new ferry route to Portsmouth. As the chairman of the Music Panel of Southern Arts, with the music officer Graeme Kay I had conceived the idea and we actually managed to pull it off. Moreover we also succeeded in getting it broadcast live on Radio 3.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Music is thoroughly rewarding, though in the education sector the opportunities are more restricted than in other subjects like English and History, for example. However, if anyone is able to pursue a musical career the rewards can be enormous in terms of satisfaction, though not necessarily so in the financial sense. There is an element of risk too, since Music is not well valued in our society.

How would you define success as a musician?

I define success as being when people I’ve lectured to actually want to go out and hear a work that I’ve enthused about, and the same is true if people want to come back to my projects and courses because they found them stimulating enough to do so.

What is your most treasured possession?

My 4,000 CDs, which for example include as many as 35 recordings of Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony, which I think represents the record in terms of indulgence. For many years I have been a reviewer for BBC Music Magazine and more recently Musicweb International, so I haven’t necessarily had to pay for them all. I regret that I have never kept a note of each time I have played a particular disc – I am sure there are plenty I have yet to play for the first time, but there is always tomorrow.


Tips for practising in isolation

It’s an old joke with a ring of truth to it. A violinist visiting New York asks a passing hippy how to get to Carnegie Hall. The hippy replies “Practise, man, practise.”

Professionals and amateurs (gifted or otherwise), all must practise to raise their game. This period of lockdown with cancelled gigs across the board should be a chance to get some decent practice in. But repetitive exercises can be a hard slog. It’s not easy on your own. So, what’s the best advice around to banish boredom and make private practice beneficial and also a pleasure? Here’s what soloists, teachers and experienced players think.

That inspirational violinist, Nicola Benedetti, advises getting both body and mind prepared for a practice session. She starts by loosening up her wrists, shoulders and arms as this helps to focus the mind into a positive and calm state. She also believes that two shorter practice periods can often be better than a long arduous session. A mid-session break with a bit of a rest, maybe with a drink and a snack, could be just the thing to refresh the aspiring player.

Nicola stresses the importance of playing pieces very slowly but with unwavering attention to detail. In her opinion, even slow playing should never be a holiday for the mind.

Hollie Branson is an up-and-coming violinist in the Royal Marines Band Service. She’s working up to a recital in September which is part of her career’s advancement. She’s also working her way through Nicola Benedetti’s Learning with Nicky online tutorials.

Hollie’s currently concentrating on Elgar’s Salut d’Amour which she discovered through Nicola’s lessons. She’s also been preparing short pieces for the weekly Thursday evening applause for the heroes of the NHS. She regards this as useful sight-reading practice for herself.

Lorraine Masson, musical director of the Meon Valley Orchestra and ex-professional violin and viola player, believes that if a player is struggling with a particular piece then he or she should turn to a different composer of a similar genre, say, like going from Telemann to Bach. Alternatively, you could take a break and listen to a good rendition of it on YouTube, CD or cassette. After listening, you may want to have a go at playing along with the recording.

Nula Land is a highly experienced upper strings teacher who also plays in many orchestras locally. She has some valuable hints to impart. She says, don’t beat yourself up, struggling with challenging works and playing them slavishly from top to bottom over and over again. Concentrate on the difficult bars, the tricky corners, and carefully sort them out.

If a piece is giving you a problem, she advocates leaving it alone for a while so it matures in your mind. Once it’s settled in your brain you can return to it with renewed vigour. This advice is echoed by several top musicians.

Other local enthusiastic players have little tips to help the talented and not-so-talented alike. Some say you should set yourself manageable goals like mastering one new piece a week. You could even pretend that you have to perform it in the not too distant future. Nothing like a deadline to crank up the concentration.

Finally, in these strange, doldrum-like times it may be a good idea to give your instrument a careful clean, fit new strings or get your spare bow re-haired. One ‘cello player I know has taken his spare instrument to bits and rebuilt it. That’s a bit excessive, don’t you think?


Profile: Angela Zanders, pianist and lecturer

Angela Zanders was born in London and started piano lessons with her father, New Zealand pianist, Douglas Zanders. She went on to study at The Purcell School, Trinity College of Music and Goldsmiths’ College, University of London. She also won an Austrian Government Scholarship for study at the Hochschule für Musik, Vienna. At Trinity College, where she studied with Joseph Weingarten, Angela won many competitions and awards. She later studied chamber music with Murray Perahia, William Pleeth and Raphael Wallfisch.

Angela has performed all over the UK, including venues such as London’s Wigmore Hall, South Bank, St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields and at St. David’s Hall in Cardiff. She has broadcast for BBC Radio 3 and has given performances throughout Europe and in Australia and New Zealand, both as soloist and accompanist and as pianist in the Solarek Piano Trio, which she formed in 1992. For ten years Angela was accompanist at the Centre for Young Musicians in London. She does a great deal of freelance accompanying and has worked with many internationally acclaimed singers and instrumentalists.

Angela has a special interest in promoting the accessibility of classical music and has been giving lecture recitals for many years. She has lectured in Music Appreciation for Birkbeck College, University of London and for the WEA and U3A in Hampshire and currently runs her own classes in Music Appreciation in Hampshire and West Sussex.

Angela has been a lecturer at the University of Chichester since 2010 and is an adjudicator for The British and International Federation of Festivals.

www.angelazanders.com

Simon O’Hea is in conversation with Angela.

Who or what were the main influences on your decision to pursue a career in music?

I grew up in a house where my father taught up to 100 piano pupils each week. He was a wonderful musician and a great teacher and my mother, although an artist, was also very musical, so growing up with music happened naturally and there was never a point when I made the decision as such. A turning point was being sent to study piano with Vera Yelverton when I was 13 and two years later attending The Purcell School.

Who or what are the most important influences on your musical life?

Without doubt, my father, Douglas Zanders; my wonderful teacher, the Hungarian pianist Joseph Weingarten whom I studied with at Trinity College of Music, and the international concert pianist Murray Perahia. I was completely bowled over by his playing when he won first prize at the Leeds International Piano Competition – shortly afterwards I met him and was struck by his genuine humility, total lack of self-regard, kindness and willingness to offer help and support where needed. I was privileged to get to know him and to be given lessons and mentoring and it is true to say that the example of his playing and his approach to life and to music has been a major influence on my life.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Remembering to believe in myself is definitely one. The music profession is incredibly high-powered and competitive, and it is easy to feel that one is battling against the tide. But, over the years, I have learnt to cultivate my particular strengths based on what I am passionate about, which is studying and researching every aspect of a piece of music and sharing this with others through performing, lecturing and teaching. The pleasure and fulfilment I get from this is immeasurable, and if just one person enjoys listening to music more as a result, I know it has been worthwhile!

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

One of my great pleasures is in playing chamber music. Being a pianist means working largely on one’s own, but if I am rehearsing or performing a chamber work I love with others I have a personal and musical rapport with, I am in my element. Listening to and trying out other musicians’ ideas on interpretation helps broaden one’s thinking and gives insights one might not have otherwise discovered. One of the main challenges is finding rehearsal times to suit all!

How would you describe your musical language?

I would describe my musical language as always trying to tell a story with the music. I like to draw people into the music I perform and I am always eager to share some background to the music with my audiences.

How do you work? 

In studying a new work I want to find out everything I can about the music, the composer and when he or she composed it, the influences behind it and, as far as possible, to ‘get inside the composer’s head’. Every piece of music tells some sort of a story and I love the process of discovering what that story is about – through the composer’s directions, the harmonies, the tonality etc. and in trying to find out how and why the composer wrote the piece in the first place.

Which works/performances are you most proud of?

Ever since I was a child, I have adored Mozart’s final piano concerto in B flat major K595. I finally performed it a few years ago and it was a dream fulfilled. I was also proud to be able to give a lecture recital on Schubert’s Trout Quintet ending with a complete performance of the work with some wonderful musicians for the Petersfield Musical Festival a few years ago.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

I have always adored Beethoven. I studied music at the Hochschule für Musik in Vienna and living for a year in the city where Beethoven (and Haydn, Mozart and Schubert) lived and worked was overwhelming – an experience which has shaped my whole approach to their music.

Which works do you think you perform best?

This is difficult to judge but I would say probably Beethoven and Schubert.

What is your most memorable concert experience – either as a performer/composer or listener?

Hearing the Lindsay String Quartet perform all the Beethoven quartets at the Wigmore Hall was an unforgettable experience, as was hearing Murray Perahia play all Chopin’s Preludes many years ago. Everyone was electrified. I also heard Horowitz play live – the most astonishing moment was when he played the National Anthem. I have never heard anyone play like that before or since. Such extraordinary power and authority coming from such a slight figure.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Only take up music as a career if you can’t live without it. If you’ve got something to say in music, believe in this and never allow yourself to be put down by people who say you can’t do it or that you’re not as good as the next person.

How would you define success as a musician/composer?

Being true to yourself, working hard and communicating through music.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Being with my son, being with my friends and colleagues and the process of communicating my passion for music to others in my recitals, lectures and classes.

Angela is holding a series of three lecture recitals entitled “Beethoven Enlightened” to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, exploring the significance of Beethoven in Western music. With complete performances of some of Beethoven’s most significant piano and chamber music including ‘Moonlight’ Piano Sonata, ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata for violin and piano, Trio in B Flat Op. 11 for clarinet, piano and cello.

Angela Zanders (piano) with Rob Blanken (clarinet), Catherine Lett (violin) and Mikhail Lezdkan (cello).

12 September, 3 October and 7 November 2020 at 3pm. See Beethoven Enlightened.

Also see Music appreciation course with Angela Zanders: “Classical Masterpieces Composed in Troubled Times”.


Profile: Peter Best, violinist

Peter has been playing the violin since he was nine. He has an MA in Music Performance and is a Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music. Peter has travelled the world supporting the Royal Family as a violinist on board the Royal Yacht Britannia. He is now a regular player with Hampshire Orchestras and enjoys playing lead violin with the 4Strings Quartet.

The 4Strings Quartet is an experienced professional Hampshire wedding string quartet based in Portsmouth. It provides competitively priced quality live music for wedding ceremonies, wedding receptions, wedding breakfasts and for all types of corporate functions and private parties. It also offers a violin and cello string duo for the smaller wedding or function. The string quartet and string duo are available for bookings throughout Hampshire, Isle of Wight, West Sussex, Dorset and Surrey.

Who or what were the main influences on your decision to pursue a career in music?

My uncle, Roger Best, was a leading professional violist playing with the Northern Symphony Orchestra and later with the Alberni String Quartet. As a youngster I watched him perform the Richard Rodney Bennet viola concerto at the Royal Festival Hall and at that moment knew that I wanted to follow a career in music. When I was 15 a Royal Marines Band visited my school in Southport, and I was so taken with the sound and the promise of regular orchestral work that I signed up as soon as I reached 16.

Who or what are the most important influences on your musical life?

I had lessons with Felix Pouller, a violinist with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. He introduced me to the rigours of Ševčík Studies. I joined the Royal Marines in 1973. The training at the Royal Marines School of Music was superb and there I met my violin teacher Lou Becker. I will always be grateful for his guidance.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

During my career with the Royal Marines Band Service*, I gained promotions to Bandmaster and Director of Music. In these roles I was required to take on the position of conductor. Nothing can prepare you for the first time you put down your instrument and pick up the baton. A mix of exhilaration and terror.

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

As well as teaching and freelance work, I play regularly with the 4Strings Quartet. We play mainly at weddings and for receptions and corporate events. I have known the other players in the quartet for many years now, and always look forward to our regular rehearsals to try out new repertoire. I love ‘going on the road’ with Rod, Chris and Lorraine – we get on so well, and it is a real privilege to be able to contribute to making a wedding ceremony a success. I also teach violin; I always build in duets and encourage pupils to take part in ensemble playing, whatever their standard.

How would you describe your musical language?

You can’t have performed in concert bands, string quartets and orchestras without being multi-lingual.

Which works/performances are you most proud of?

As a violinist I was lucky enough to serve on the Royal Yacht Britannia between 1977 and 1982 performing with a small orchestra playing at Royal receptions. However my highlight was playing in a small ceilidh band exclusively for the Royal Family as they relaxed on their annual Western Isles trips. My time on board included trips to Australia, the Middle East, the Greek Islands and the honeymoon trip of the Prince and Princess of Wales.

It’s a cliché but true to point out that when one is playing in an ensemble such as the 4Strings Quartet, gratitude from a grateful client is always warmly received and makes the rehearsal and practice worthwhile.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I have had the privilege to conduct the massed Royal Marines Bands at the Royal Albert Hall on several occasions. Walking out onto that stage to a full house to conduct the best band in the world is an experience never to be forgotten.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Aim for the top but also be aware that there are many avenues to having a successful and rewarding career in music. My career as a military musician, freelance violin teacher and as a member of a wedding quartet has never been anything other than rewarding.

How would you define success as a musician?

Success in music can be measured in so many ways. For the young aspiring orchestral player it may be getting through their audition for college or being offered a seat in a professional orchestra. For the teacher it’s seeing a pupil go on to build their own career in music. For me in my 60’s, it’s more about longevity – I just want to keep making music with friends for as long as I can.

* The Royal Marines Band Service is the musical wing of the Royal Navy. It currently consists of five Bands plus a training wing the Royal Marines School of Music at HMS Nelson and its headquarters is at HMS Excellent, Whale Island, Portsmouth. 


Profile: Colin Jagger, Director of Music, University of Portsmouth

Colin did a music degree at Manchester University and then went to the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) in Cincinnati, USA, to study for a Masters Degree in Orchestral Conducting. He spent four years in Cincinnati in a variety of conducting posts, before moving to Michigan to take up the position of Director of Orchestral Activities at Albion College.

In May 2000, Colin was appointed Director of Music at the University of Portsmouth. In September 2001, he founded the University of Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra, and five years later the University of Portsmouth Wind Band. In 2004 he brought the international chamber music series ‘Music in the Round’ to Portsmouth, initially at Portsmouth Cathedral and now at the Portsmouth Guildhall.

In 2015, his production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Allegro brought the University of Portsmouth Dramatic & Musical Society (UPDMS) to international attention, with an interview broadcast on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme which was picked up by NPR in the USA. This production also won an ‘Accolade of Excellence’ at the National Operatic & Dramatic Association Southern Area Awards. After a six-year project working on Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Yeomen of the Guard, Oxford University Press published a critical edition in November 2016, and this stimulated enough interest for another Today Programme interview.

Most recently, he worked on a production of Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld, the first by UPDMS to use the original two-act version together with the original orchestration. The society is the oldest in the south of England, and Colin is now planning its 100th-anniversary celebrations, which will take place on 26 & 27 February 2021.

Simon O’Hea is in conversation with Colin.

Who or what were the main influences on your decision to pursue a career in music?

My parents assumed that I would follow them into some kind of career in science: my mother was a maths teacher. But I’d found an old violin the loft, and started to play it, as well as the piano; and in my late teens I was much encouraged in composition and conducting by my music teacher. Whilst at school I joined the National Youth Orchestra and loved the social aspects of performing.

Who or what are the most important influences on your musical life?

Whilst reading music at Manchester University, I discovered the Lindsay String Quartet, the University’s Quartet in Residence, under the direction of its founder Peter Cropper. Peter not only taught me violin but also showed me how to make music come alive, to how to make it communicate a series of strong emotions. Playing in the University String Quartet was now exciting! Read an article about Peter.

I also developed my conducting skills at this time, conducting the University Chamber Orchestra, and after graduating I moved to the USA to study for a Masters Degree in Orchestral Conducting. I’d considered taking conducting up as a profession with professional orchestras but soon realised that I preferred conducting amateur orchestras.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Conducting operas, as I regularly do at Portsmouth University, is really hard: you have to keep an eye on both the orchestra and the stage, and deal with the egos of actors!

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

Only a collective effort results in good music, and that in itself gives me pleasure when it goes well!

Sport is often cited as being exemplary of teamwork, but music-making is the more so. Take a typical orchestra of 40-50 people. They all have to give and take, listen and then communicate all the time. Playing music well together is essentially something anti-competitive.

Sometimes the lead oboe takes a key role; the other instrumentalists have to listen. Then the leadership is passed to another section. The leader is never drowned.

The conductor has a particular part to play, which is to bring out the best in the musicians, but has to remember that they don’t actually produce the sound, the musicians do! By contrast, if you are a composer then you need a strong creative sense and the ability to communicate something unique and meaningful to the audience. By the way, few composers are good conductors!

How do you work?

One of my key roles as conductor is to help the orchestra to get inside the musical language. I’m also very keen to faithfully re-create the music’s original colour. Not everyone shares this view.

Which works/performances are you most proud of?

Each year I have the privilege of giving many students a new experience, of introducing them to music that they probably don’t know, and bringing on their skills. I feel proud of them each time I’ve been able to perform with them.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

Anything to do with Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6. Why Beethoven? He was hugely creative: he could make his music mirror life, in all its beauty and ugliness.

What have been your most memorable concert experiences?

When I was 10 years old, I was given the choice of going to a bonfire night or hearing the London Philharmonic playing Mahler’s Symphony No.1. I sat right behind the orchestra and could see everything. I’ve not forgotten the way that piece of music made me feel.

When I was at university, the Lindsay String Quartet used to play in a small converted cinema which had a glorious acoustic. I simply loved their cycle of Beethoven’s Quartets.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

You need to be determined and passionate about your adopted profession! It’s never been a way to earn a lot of money. In addition, these days it’s unfortunately more important to be well connected than to be talented. On the other hand, if you succeed, then you can combine a wonderful hobby with work!

What are your plans for the next twelve months?

2021 is the centenary of the University of Portsmouth Dramatic and Musical Society (UPDMS), which is the oldest amateur dramatic society in the south of England. We are looking to entice back alumni from over the ages for a show and gala concert in February 2021, so watch this space.

More immediately, I’m very concerned about the impact this current crisis is having on arts organisations and on the incomes of freelance musicians. Most venues run on very tight budgets, and if they have to cancel concerts they essentially have to close. That in turn means the non-payment of any fees due to performers, so those people have seen their incomes slashed to zero with immediate effect. If you wish to make a donation either to an arts organisation or to individual performers, please don’t hesitate to contact me at colin.jagger@port.ac.uk and I’ll be happy to advise.

 


Profile: Ian Schofield, composer and singer

Ian Schofield was born in the Lancashire town of Oswaldtwistle in 1949. He studied Composition at the University of Southampton under Dr. Eric Graebner and Prof. Peter Evans. He has lived and taught in Portsmouth since 1972 and was, until retirement, a lecturer on the specialist pre-professional music course at South Downs College.

His Te Deum, commissioned by Jonathan Willcocks and the Portsmouth Choral Union, has been performed widely in the UK. The Christmas sequence Illuminare Jerusalem has had numerous performances throughout Great Britain, including the Royal Albert Hall – as well as performances and a broadcast by choirs in the USA. Recent compositions include a Concerto for Violin and Viola that was premiered in London in November 2012. A setting of the Stabat Mater text received its first performance in 2015 by Guildford Choral Society. His Cantata Freedom, on the subject of slavery was commissioned by Southampton Choral Society – with funding from a BBC Arts in the Community Award. Other recent works include a Sinfonietta based upon the melody L’Homme Armé, a concerto for cello and string orchestra, and Stream of Life – a setting of five texts by Rabindranath Tagore, for Peter Gambie and The Renaissance Choir.

In addition to composition and lecturing, Ian also works as a freelance music editor, where he specialises in Renaissance and Baroque choral music, and 19th century Italian choral and operatic works. He has prepared performances of editions of works by Rossini and Donizetti, as well as lesser-known composers such as Mayr, Mercadante, Pacini and Lillo. His editions have been used in London concert halls, on BBC Radio 3 and, further afield, in Italy and Germany, as well as on Ireland’s National Radio, and notably on recordings by Opera Rara.

Simon O’Hea is in conversation with Ian.

Who or what inspired you to take up composing, and pursue a career in music?

There wasn’t an enormous amount of music at home in my very early years, though my father did have piano lessons and I remember him practising and I think I attended some of his lessons from time to time. I enjoyed listening to the popular classics that would be heard – usually at the end – of BBC Radio programmes such as Family Favourites and I always liked the more stirring hymns at school: I Vow to Thee, And Did Those Feet, and though more meditative Dear Lord and Father of Mankind. At junior school there was only singing in assembly and a Friday afternoon ‘all sing together’. However, senior school required me to learn the recorder and that, along with an electronic keyboard at home, introduced me to music notation. The enthusiastic music teacher organised evening trips to hear classical concerts and I want to most, if not all of them: Liverpool Philharmonic, The Halle Orchestra and various BBC Orchestras. I especially enjoyed those concerts with choirs: Verdi Requiem, Dream of Gerontius, a concert performance of Verdi’s Aida and Messiah and so on. My enthusiasm for music at school increased enormously when I discovered that anyone taking O level music would have to miss PE and Games.

Who or what were the most significant influences on your musical life and career as a composer?

Certainly the choral concerts that I heard whilst at school were the ones that made the greatest impression on me, and my first attempt at composition – after my earliest very basic harmony lessons – was a song for our school choir. It was called The Jovial Monk, I don’t remember anything else about it.

When I moved to Portsmouth to attend the Teacher Training College here, one of the lecturers was Hugh Davis who, at that time, was deputy organist at Portsmouth Cathedral and conductor of the Portsmouth Choral Union. He encouraged me to write several pieces for the College Choir and later, for the Choral Union. One of my first major choral works ‘Fire From Heaven’ was written for Portsmouth Baroque Choir at the request of their then conductor Christopher Burgess, for whom I subsequently wrote several other pieces. The first performance of Fire from Heaven led to a commission from Portsmouth Cathedral to write a work for their 800th anniversary celebrations, and also introduced me to the singer Ian Caddy who has been enormously supportive in promoting and publishing my music.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working on a commissioned piece?

It can be difficult to produce a work if you don’t like the combination of instruments you’re offered and/or if a text that you don’t like has been chosen for you. A good example of the latter would be the Renaissance Choir’s Stream of Life commission. At first I really didn’t care for the poems that had been selected. There seemed to be no regularity to them – no way that I could get any meaningful musical structure from them, and I did spend three or four months getting nowhere at all. However, once I devised a more ‘motivic’ approach to setting the texts, I began to appreciate them much more and found them very moving.

Which works are you most proud of?

I am especially proud of my setting of the Stabat Mater text for strings, soprano and chorus. It’s a text I’d wanted to set for a long while, in fact I think I’d had maybe three earlier attempts – all of which I gave up on. All the verses, of which there are many, have exactly the same poetic meter – so you could, if you wanted, use the same music for every verse. The challenge is to respond appropriately to the sentiments of each verse whilst ensuring there is sufficient musical contrast without destroying musical unity. The closing text Paradisi Gloria also seems to demand a quiet and tranquil ending – though many composers, Rossini and Dvorak for example, have tacked on an uplifting fugal Amen. I’m pleased with the way my setting fades almost into nothingness.

I am also pleased to see how often my Te Deum has been performed, and I have received good feedback for it. My most recent large-scale work is a setting of the Credo text for chorus and orchestra – interspersed into the Credo are settings of texts by Abbess Hildegard of Bingen, and these are sung by a soprano solo. I think I’ve merged the two texts successfully and it has a vigorous fugal ending in complete contrast to my Stabat Mater.

How would you characterise your musical language?

Tonal, melodic, rhythmic, with modal inflections. And accessible without being “sickly sweet”. I like to make discreet use of dissonance for dramatic purposes.

How do you work?

As most of my music is vocal, ideas are suggested by the chosen texts. Sometimes I begin work at a desk – with paper and pencil, other times at a piano, it just depends on what I’m working at and what stage of the process I’m at. In the case of Stream of Life, I used a lot of manuscript paper and did a lot of improvising at the piano.

I don’t like to compose on the computer, although it is useful to hear it played back, and listening in that way will frequently encourage me to make changes. Of course computers are now very useful for preparing finished copies of the music for printing.

Its always useful to have people listen to what you’re working on and I have three or four friends whose opinions I value: I always listen to what they say and I don’t mind harsh, but constructive criticism.

What are you working on now?

Aqua Luna, a short sextet for strings. I’m also editing some rare, virtually forgotten operas by Donizetti, part of Opera Rara. Donizetti’s manuscripts are incredibly untidy, and it’s fascinating deciphering them and seeing the music begin to emerge. He worked incredibly quickly – once describing Rossini, who wrote The Barber of Seville in three weeks – as lazy. I’m constantly amazed at the quality of the music that he produced with such speed.

How would you define success?

When writing to a commission I ask myself, “Do I like it?” Then, “Do I think the performers will like it” and “Will the audience like it?” Whether I like it is, to a certain extent dependant upon my answers to my second and third questions. If, after a performance, performers and audience members tell me they’ve enjoyed rehearsing, performing and listening to the work then I’m happy.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring composers?

Understand the client’s brief and the performer’s abilities; for instance, are you writing for professionals or amateurs? Be practical, don’t write for huge forces that no one is ever going to be able to afford – or for strange combinations of instruments: there’s a very limited market for bagpipe and cowbell duets with organ accompaniment! Write for the same instrumentation/voices as used by a well know composer – so that you know that there is something that can be performed alongside your work, without incurring extra costs. When I composed my Te Deum, part of the brief was to use the same instrumentation that Handel had used in his Coronation Anthems (I was allowed one additional percussionist). Also be prepared to be flexible; the Te Deum was once paired with Mozart’s Requiem which doesn’t use oboes, but does use clarinets – I was asked if I could provide my oboe parts transposed for clarinet. I had no issue with that, but I know several composers who would have created quite a fuss and who probably would have lost a performance.

Listen to “Stream of life” on Spotify.

Read about it on the Renaissance Choir website.


Support for musicians and the musical community

As the Coronavirus crisis deepens, I would like to offer what support I can via the Noticeboard to the local musical community, who are going to find the next few months very challenging indeed.

It’s not been possible to update each entry on the Music in Portsmouth website to show that it’s been cancelled. I’ve only updated those events where I’ve been able to find out that this is the case. It would be best to assume that all events are on hold until the Government alters its guidance.

I can only hope that the majority of listed concerts can be rescheduled at a later date.

In the meantime, I would like to:

• Write profiles of local musicians – whether they be composers, conductors or performers*
• Share videos and audio clips, including video-casts and live-streamed concerts – the concert venues are closed but the music goes on
• Share articles and other resources which may be of interest.

If you hear of anything you’d like me to share, or if you would like me to write a profile of you, please contact me or message me via Twitter to submit material for inclusion.

Meanwhile, stay well everyone and let’s keep in touch.

* Read about:
Susan Yarnall-Monks
Alex Poulton
Stewart Collins
Catherine Lawlor
Crispin Ward
Clive Osgood
Jack Davies
Vincent Iyengar
Jonathan Willcocks
Susan Legg
Lucy Humphris
Nik Knight
Andrew Cleary
Steve Venn
Cathy Mathews
David Price
William Waine
Stella Scott
David Russell
Peter Gambie
Lynden Cranham
Ben Lathbury
Valentina Seferinova
Ann Pinhey
Geoff Porter
Tim Fisher
Terry Barfoot
Angela Zanders
Peter Best
Colin Jagger
Ian Schofield
Matthew Coleridge
Nicola Benedetti
Beryl Francis
Alex Poulton
David Gostick
Stuart Reed
Lucy Armstrong
Roy Theaker
Julia Bishop
Anne White
Wayne Mayor
Stefano Boccacci
Ben Lathbury
Jake Barlow
Penny Gordon
Antonia Kent
John Elder
Simon Wilkins


Profile: Matthew Coleridge

These questions were originally devised by Frances Wilson, who blogs on classical music as The Cross-Eyed Pianist, and are taken, with her kind permission, from her Meet the Artist interview series. For more interviews with a diverse range of musicians and composers, please visit the Meet the Artist website https://meettheartist.online.

Matthew’s Requiem in a Day tour, which came to Portsmouth in February, continues throughout 2020 and 2021, giving singers an opportunity to perform this deeply moving and powerful music in some of the country’s most inspiring churches. See https://www.matthewcoleridge.com for further information.

 

Who or what inspired you to take up composing, and pursue a career in music?

I’d been very musical from a young age; when I was six or seven I was really into heavy rock music (I have two brothers who are 8 and 10 years older than me) so my first career choice was to be a rock drummer.

I sang in the church choir from the age of seven, so was exposed to a lot of really great music from that age – I remember particularly liking anthems by Byrd, Pitoni, William Crotch and Martin Shaw. I composed a Christmas carol when I was eight (I still have a copy; it’s awful, but the tune’s quite catchy).

But if you’d asked me when I was ten or twelve, I’d have said I wanted to be a naturalist, or perhaps a train driver.

By my mid-to-late teens I was heavily into Radiohead, Pink Floyd and Frank Zappa. I was fascinated not so much by the structure of the music itself, but the way in which the recordings were structured – the different textures and atmospheres. So by that point I wanted to be a record producer. I spent most of the next 10 years recording music in my bedroom and waiting to be discovered. (I wasn’t discovered).

It wasn’t until my late 20s that I took up choral singing again, which led to conducting and composing.

Without wishing to sound mundane, I opted for a career in music simply because I didn’t want to work in an office for the rest of my life, and didn’t know what else to do. I do sometimes wish I’d opted for marine biology, though!

Who or what were the most significant influences on your musical life and career as a composer?

My maternal grandfather, Eric Coleridge, had been a music teacher, organist, choirmaster, violinist and composer. His father was a professor of music. So a music career was a well-trodden path in my family. I didn’t know them, sadly; my grandfather died when I was two, but I’m proud to be able to continue using the family name in a musical context.

I was taught to play instruments, but I’m mostly self-taught as a composer and conductor. My composing ‘tuition’ has mostly been a case of listening to something and thinking ‘I wonder how that’s constructed’, then digging out a score and finding out.

What have been the greatest challenges/frustrations of your career so far?

Actually, the greatest challenge for me (and often the greatest frustration too) is the composing! I find it a massive struggle to get from a blank sheet of paper to something that I think is worth being thrust out into the world. Most of what I write ends up in the cupboard.

The most frustrating thing is trying to get my music more widely heard. Take my Requiem, for instance; often, when people hear it, or sing it, they tell me they were moved to tears by its beauty. But trying to engage with people who haven’t heard it is always an uphill struggle.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working on a commissioned piece?

I don’t often accept commissions. Those that I have taken on, I’ve been moderately pleased with the results (and they’ve gone down well with the choirs who commissioned them), but for me they were a case of ‘this is the best I can do in the time allowed’, rather than ‘this is the absolute best I can do, full stop’, so there’s always a worry that people won’t like the music. I tend to opt for the safe options when composing to order. I’m much more adventurous when I write music for no particular purpose, which leads to better music.

The best part is hearing the music performed, realising that what was in your head is now there in the real world, and that a group of musicians have taken on an ownership of that, that this is ‘their music’.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working with particular musicians, singers, ensembles and orchestras?

Generally speaking, it’s been an enormous privilege for me to work with most of the musicians I’ve crossed paths with!

One of the most interesting things in the last year or two has been hearing my Requiem performed by 5 or 6 different cello soloists. Many of them have asked me ‘am I doing this bit how you want it’ and I always reply that it doesn’t matter how I want it anymore: it’s theirs now to shape how they want! But hearing the different interpretations, and the beauty with which they’ve played the cello solos, had been a real honour for me.

I think when you perform music together, it can create some very special bonds – especially between a composer and a performer. They feed off each other: one wants notes to play, the other wants his or her notes to be played. So I’d say the greatest pleasure is the strong friendships I’ve formed through performances of my music.

As a conductor, the best moment is when you suddenly make a breakthrough with a group of singers – you’ll be rehearsing something and their faces and body language will change in an instant and you think ‘yes! they’ve got it now’.

Of which works are you most proud?

I think the Introit of my Requiem is perhaps my proudest moment, simply because it was such a struggle to piece it all together. I had an enormous case of writer’s block; at one point (before I’d written the beginning or the ending of the movement) I just had this short chunk of music that I knew was very good, but couldn’t for the life of me work out where to take it next. Then I wrote the beginning section, which flowed nicely into the ‘chunk’, but still couldn’t work out what came next. It took me about 18 months to ‘discover’ the next few steps, and when I did the whole thing came to life. And now when I hear it, it sounds like a seamless movement which was neatly planned and written in a couple of days.

How would you characterise your compositional language?

I try not to! My golden rule is to keep things as sparse and clear as I can. It’s nearly always better to take out a note rather than add one. And the vocal lines always need to flow naturally.

I use a lot of very bare intervals – fifths and fourths – and fluctuate between those and nice scrunchy chords with lots of added seconds and sixths. That approach lets my music sound modern, but with many echoes from early music.

How do you work?

It varies enormously. For me, composing is similar to planting a seed and waiting for a tree to grow. That seed can come from anywhere: sometimes a motif or melody just pops into my head, usually when I’m busy doing something else. Most often, I’ll sit at the piano and bash away – usually singing along in gibberish – scribbling anything half decent down in a note pad. Occasionally I’ll find a bit of footage and write some music inspired by it.

Once I have that seed, I usually leave it for a period of time – sometimes a few days, sometimes a few months – so I can approach it with a fresh perspective and see what it might become. I’m often stumbling across forgotten, barely legible scribbles from months or years ago which, with a fresh ear, suddenly set new ideas racing in my head.

Generally I’ll develop a framework for a piece either at the piano or in my head, before inputting a ‘skeleton’ into Sibelius (computer notation software). I’ll then flesh out the vocal parts, singing along and improvising whilst listening to the playback. That’s part of the reason my vocal parts are so singable!

Sometimes I’ll do everything at the piano with pencil and manuscript paper (for instance my Corpus Christi Carol, or the more recent Songs of Farewell).

Another interesting one is Rex Tremendae from Requiem. The melodic motif, which repeats throughout the whole movement, suggested itself as soon as I chose the text. I wrote that one bar of music into Sibelius, and built it up, layer by layer, part by part. I don’t think I ever sat down at the piano to write a note of that one, and certainly don’t have any drafts on manuscript paper.

What are you working on now?

I’m not exactly sure what it’s going to be yet, but I’ve started work on a large-scale choral piece. It’s a sort of semi-secular Hymn of Praise, celebrating life and creation, partly using Christian texts on the subject but also secular writing by philosophers, scientists and great thinkers: Darwin, Copernicus, Galileo, Einstein etc. It’ll be joyous and rhythmic and exuberant.

I’m hoping to get in finished by this time next year, then invite singers from around the country to come and perform it next Autumn.

Who are your favourite musicians/composers?

I adore Bach – I believe his music is head and shoulders above that of any other composer. His music is just so full of air and light and life. What a brain!

The Renaissance masters never fail to move me, and the fluidity of their music is something I always hope to emulate. I have a soft spot for Italian Baroque.

At the more modern end of things, Messiaen is a particular favourite. Britten delights and frustrates me in equal measure.

Miles Davis during his experimental period in the late 60s – early 70s: wow!

I grew up on a fairly heavy diet of Queen, who are still at the top of my popular music tree. Jeff Buckley was a genius.

I try to listen to music from every corner of the globe and absorb it all. There’s an album by The Musicians of the Nile, called Charcoal Gypsies, which I keep coming back to.

And I still like my heavy rock, particularly Van Halen and AC/DC.

If you forced me to choose one composer, one work, one performer, it would be Bach’s first cello suite played by Yo-Yo Ma.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

As a composer, I don’t think of success – just works that I’ve failed to compose.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Especially in this day and age when everyone is trying to be Ariana Grande or Jay-Z the best possible advice for any artist is BE YOURSELF.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

Where I am now. doing what I do now, but doing it much better!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A stroll around an island with my young kids, surrounded by nature. With a pub lunch in the sunshine.

What is your most treasured possession?

Memories

What do you enjoy doing most?

A stroll around an island with my young kids, surrounded by nature. With a pub lunch in the sunshine.


Profile: Nicola Benedetti

Nicola Benedetti is one of the most sought-after violinists of her generation. She is a vibrant young lady with an outstanding talent. Major orchestras and conductors all over the world are queuing up for her to play with them. She has an encouraging message for musicians and especially music teachers in the Music in Portsmouth catchment area.

“Launched at the beginning of this year, my Benedetti Foundation aims to work with young people on building discipline, concentration and perseverance through music making and collective activity,” says Nicola.

“Teaching music well is an enormous responsibility and hugely challenging. I am passionate about promoting music education practices which encourage both musical and civic betterment” she commented.

Nicola Benedetti’s brand-new online series of educational videos intends to provide information, guidance and support for young musicians throughout their musical and personal development. Without doubt, they are 2019’s “must have” for aspiring violinists.

Because her friends refer to her as Nicky, the initiative is called “With Nicky”. The videos mark the beginning of a long-term project which will undoubtedly be a useful resource and friendly support to amateur musicians both young and old.

They start with such vital basics such as how to stand relaxed and comfortable before you even pick up the violin. She explains how to hold the bow and, as the series goes on, she demonstrates more tricky stuff like developing a beautiful tone and using vibrato.

Nicky also stresses how important it is to use your ears as you play – it seems obvious but it is something that has to be cultivated.

Nicola Benedetti grew up in West Kilbride. She began learning the violin at the age of four. Realising she was gifted, her hard-working parents sent her to the independent Wellington School in Ayr. By the time she was nine she’d passed grade eight. At ten she was off to the Yehudi Menuhin School where she was taught by the maestro himself. Only aged eighteen she’d won the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition.

Since then Nicola has played at top venues at home and abroad either as a soloist with orchestras or in a trio with the German cellist Leonard Eischenbroich and the Russian pianist Alexei Grynyuk.

Nicola was awarded the Queen’s Medal for Music in 2017 and appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2019 in recognition of her services to music.

For more information please visit www.nicolabenedetti.co.uk or go the Nicola’s official YouTube page www.youtube.com/NicolaBenedettiOfficial. You won’t be disappointed.

Image credit (c) Andy Gotts, used with permission


Profile: Shoshanah Sievers

Parents, who have youngsters studying the violin, can do no better than take them along to hear Shoshanah Sievers play with the Charity Symphony Orchestra. The concert is at the Turner Sims Hall, University of Southampton, at 7.30 pm on Saturday 18 May. Read a review of it.

To see such a young and talented musician perform is sure to encourage and inspire any students of the instrument to practice like they’ve never done before. More mature, adult violinists may also marvel at this up-and-coming virtuoso.

Incredibly, Shoshanah began learning the violin just before she was three years old. Her grandfather composed and lectured in music, so maybe classical music is in her genes.

Shoshanah joined the Junior Department of the Royal College of Music in 2011 at the age of eleven. Off to a flying start, she made her concerto debut about the age of twelve playing Mozart’s Violin Concerto in A major with the London Mozart Players.

She became the youngest ever winner of the Joan Weller Composition Competition. In 2016 she performed “Le Nuances de la Lumiere” with the Aurora Orchestra at a BBC Proms Extra event at the Radio Theatre.

In the field of piano composition, Shoshanah has also excelled. She’s written a piece for eight hands and one of her piano trios has been twice performed and recorded at Farnham Maltings.

Shoshana has also played at top venues in Germany and the United Kingdom. She has played concertos by Dvořák with the Winchester Symphony Orchestra and by Bruch with the Petersfield Orchestra. She has played together with Tasmin Little and worked closely with Sir Karl Jenkins.

Shoshanah was brought up near Grayshott. Her grandmother was Polish which may explain why she chose to play Henryk Wieniawski’s Violin Concerto number 2. It’s a Romantic work with captivating, beautiful melodies. Shoshanah, who says she is excited to be playing with the CSO, will certainly make the most of its virtuosic brilliance.

Tickets for this unmissable concert can be obtained from the Turner Sims Box Office, University of Southampton, SO17 1BJ (tel. 02380 595151).


An interview with Beryl Francis

With a twinkle in her eye and beautiful music at her fingertips, Beryl Francis is no ordinary person. At eighty-five years old she wears her advancing years with pride. Still an outstanding pianist and superb musician, she’s no intention of closing the lid on her beloved upright Bechstein or switching off her electronic keyboard. In fact, she’s enjoying the Indian summer of her distinguished life.

It’s clear that Beryl really does love music. Sitting at her piano as she cheerily talks about her past, she casually knocks off a few, note-perfect, bars of Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata without any sheet music in front of her. Although theoretically, Beryl has been retired for twenty-five years, there are no signs of her slowing down.

“Accompanying singers and musicians, helping them make the most of their performances, has always been my forte and something which gives me pleasure. I’m planning to do more of that in the future” said Beryl.

As a youngster, when Portsmouth was being blitzed, Beryl was sent to live with someone whom she describes as a “wicked aunt” in Eton. “There was no piano for me to play so I had to make do with a tiny piano accordion” Beryl recalled. “When my father, who was a skilled cabinet maker, was moved from Portsmouth Dockyard to Worthing I was able to go home and to play the piano again.”

When Beryl was fourteen she won a scholarship to the London College of Music. She took this up and by the time she was sixteen she’d won the coveted Silver Medal for Pianoforte. After she left college, she worked in various Portsmouth schools as Director of Music. This included the Priory Comprehensive and the newly formed Sixth Form College. She was conductor and director of the Portsmouth Schools’ Orchestras and conducted performances of oratorios by massed school choirs.

Beryl Francis was also the first woman from Portsmouth to become a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists. She gave recitals regularly and was a church organist for some years. A woman of wide interests, she was active in the University of the Third Age. Some time ago Beryl ran and hosted the Structure in Music course for the U3A.

Beryl has always been interested in politics too. She reminisces about Socialist figures of yesteryear like Attlee and Gaitskell. Beryl’s a Labour Councillor in Havant and Warren Park is her ward. She’s also a school governor there.

At 3.00 pm on Sunday 31 March at St Faith’s Hall in The Pallant, Beryl Francis will direct from the piano the Townswomen’s Guild Choir as part of the Havant Music Festival. This is Beryl’s farewell and it promises to be a great concert.

Beryl is giving a lunchtime recital in St Faith’s Church on Friday 5 April, also as part of the Havant Music Festival. Her half-hour performance is expected to be packed with musical gems like the slow movement from Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata, a Polonaise and a Waltz by Chopin, a bit of Haydn and Bach plus works by modern composers. It begins at 12.30pm and admission is free.

Stuart Reed


Profile: Alex Poulton – singer, vocal practitioner and composer

Even a casual glance at Alex Poulton’s website (alexbaritone.co.uk) tells you that he’s a highly qualified and experienced singer, vocal practitioner and composer. He’s a Batchelor of Music with honours with an Advanced Postgraduate Diploma to his name. He’s also studied at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, the Franz Liszt Academy, Budapest and the Hochschule fur Musik Franz Liszt in Weimar.

Alex is an award-winning, critically acclaimed English baritone who has performed at renowned venues like the Wigmore Hall and the De Doelen, Rotterdam as well as highly regarded local venues such as Stansted House, the Station Theatre, Hayling Island, and South Downs College. His diary is full of engagements. He organises concerts. He teaches singing and plays the piano. But what of the man himself?

Alex privately confides that originally he wanted to be a ballet dancer. When he was a teenager he was in the Sound of Music. He could easily have become a song and dance man. Even today he enjoys musicals. But a love of Schubert’s Lieder and more formal, classical singing took him on a different career path, a path that took him to the Aldeburgh area, near the Maltings at Snape and the home of Holst’s daughter who was Benjamin Brittan’s assistant.

For ten years Alex lived around Aldeburgh in that lovely part of Suffolk bordering on the North Sea coast. Here he taught and trained choral societies. He loved the flat landscape, open sky and quietness of the area. This does not come as a surprise. It was the same rural solitude that provided the right ambience for other legendary figures like Benjamin Brittan and Gustav Holst’s daughter Imogen to develop some of their finest achievements.

Last September Alex had the good fortune to actually live in Imogen Holst’s house. Built to resemble an air raid centre, it is still quite basic. There is furniture, artefacts, books and scores belonging to the composer of the Planets Suite. Nothing has been altered. Being surrounded by the great man’s and his daughter’s effects has inspired Alex in his own composing.

But Alex has other pursuits as well. He is proud of his allotment; another place conducive to creative thinking. He grows his own vegetables, which he enjoys cooking. He likes fine food too and is a regular singing attraction at Piccolo Roma, the popular Italian restaurant at Bishops Waltham.

Stuart Reed


Profile: David Gostick

David Gostick’s life is overflowing with music. His days are spent selecting, editing, preparing and tailoring music to get the best out of those who perform it. He’s also working on studies for his doctorate in music.

David’s a distinguished conductor and has been the Musical Director of the Portsmouth Choral Union (PCU) since 2012. Arguably, the PCU is the leading amateur chorus in the South East of England.

Currently, David is working flat out for the PCU’s next big concert at St Mary’s, Fratton, Portsmouth at 7.30pm on Saturday 6 April 2019. Entitled “Dramatic Classics”, the concert is sure to live up to its billing.

David loves any music which tells a story, so has included the oratorio “Crossing of the Red Sea” by the brilliant Austrian pianist and composer Johann Nepomuk Hummel in the evening’s performance. This masterpiece tells the tale of Moses crossing the Red Sea with Pharaoh in hot pursuit.

David says it is engaging music involving some fantastic chorus work and remarkable, wild solos for soprano voice. The highly adaptable soprano Claire Seaton will be sure to delight the audience during the concert. It has a wonderful showpiece aria which also featured on the Wesley “Confitebor” recording made by the PCU in 2017.

There’s a story behind the story too. Hummel’s manuscript was thought to have been lost. Infact it was hiding in the British Library for over a hundred years. Herman Max dug it out and brought it back to life in a recording.

The PCU is presenting this work for the first time in the UK. (No need to brush up your German, Latin or ancient Hebrew, David’s translated it to be sung in English.)

Hummel is often mistakenly thought of as a one-hit wonder. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although his renowned trumpet concerto is universally well known and liked, he also wrote wonderful concerti for bassoon, mandolin and piano as well as operas and choral works. He studied under Mozart, Haydn and Salieri and was a big mate of Beethoven. All of this comes out in his music.

Also in the programme is Mozart’s Mass in C minor (K427 unfinished). The Mass was premiered in Salzburg in 1783. The solo “Et incarnatus est” was sung by Mozart’s fiancée Constanze whom he had brought to meet his family for the first time.

David began learning the ‘cello and piano when he was eight. He sang in the church choir in Kenley, South London. He also read music at Oxford.

Like Hummel and Mozart, David is married to a professional singer who performs under the name of Faye Eldret. They live down in Dorset, with their children George and Harriet. George, who’s eight, is joining Salisbury Cathedral Choir. When David actually does have time to spare, he walks the family dog and looks after two hives of bees. His honey is much sought after to soothe the throats of his enthusiastic choir members.

Author: Stuart Reed

Visit the concert page.


Profile: Stuart Reed

Violinist Stuart Reed has an unconventional history. After learning to play from music, Stuart spent many years playing by ear. He’d be the first to confide that even though he plays in four amateur orchestras at the age of 78 his sight reading is still less than perfect. He envies the ability of his fellow musicians who’ve played from notation all their lives and can play note-perfect at a glance. However, some of them say they wish they could extemporise like him.

Like many of his fellow musicians, Stuart began learning the violin young. He began at eleven. After three years he was leading his grammar school orchestra and also playing in Sunderland Youth Orchestra in his native County Durham.

In his early twenties Stuart met a guitarist in a music shop in Newcastle who asked him to join a Country and Western band called the Nebraskans. The Nebraskans all had day jobs but played most weekends in working men’s clubs throughout the North East. They also played every week in the legendary Balmbra’s Music Hall in the centre of the city. None of the members could read music. They played by ear, learning their repertoire from listening to vinyl records.

Stuart moved to London to develop his Civil Service career in the early 70’s. He played briefly with Wimbledon Symphony Orchestra but was soon drawn into playing fiddle with hillbilly Bluegrass bands on the metropolis’ barn dance circuit. Bands with rustic American names like Barnstorm, Betsey Jefferson and the Ridge Runners, Hoedown and Orange Blossom Sound had full diaries of lucrative engagements. Saturday night dances were their bread and butter activity but Jewish synagogues gave them work on Sunday nights too.

Stuart appeared on Hughie Green’s Opportunity Knocks in 1963 after composing a song for Plant a Tree Year. He played in European folk festivals and did week-long tours of Belgium and Switzerland performing with the bands and selling their albums.

Stuart worked in Whitehall throughout the 70’s and 80’s as a Government Information Officer with the Ministry of Defence. His work also took him overseas so he took his violin with him. He’s played in Bush dances in Australia, a floating hotel on the Mekong River, the Arctic Hotel in Murmansk, dockside bars in downtown Belfast, army camps in Bosnia, in warships at sea and with the Army in the Arabian Desert during the Gulf War.

For ten years Stuart led Squinty McGinty, a highly successful band specialising in Irish music. The band still plays at Goodwood Races every year and has two popular CD’s to its credit. Squinty McGinty was going from strength to strength but Stuart wanted to return to formal, classical playing.

In his late fifties, to make up for neglecting sight reading for so many years, Stuart took up formal violin lessons with professional teacher Lorraine Masson. He threw himself into playing with the Havant Symphony Orchestra, the Portsmouth Light Orchestra, the Meon Valley Orchestra and the Charity Symphony Orchestra. Stuart is a regular player at the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s Rusty Musicians days and string tuition weekends at Hawkwood College in the Cotswolds as well as Winchester Summer Music Courses and Julia Bishop’s Baroque tuition days in Lewes.

Stuart privately admits that he feels a bit like the grasshopper in Aesop’s ant and grasshopper fable with the added twist that after a lifetime of musical fun and frolics he hopes it’s never too late to knuckle down to some hard work.

Stuart writes many of the pieces on The Noticeboard.


Profile: Lucy Armstrong – Composer

Take a bow, Lucy Armstrong. Lucy cheerfully stepped in to conduct the Meon Valley Orchestra for its appearance at the Meonstoke Christmas Fair. With hardly any notice and without prior rehearsal, Lucy deputised for the MVO’s conductor Lorrain Masson who was committed to a gig elsewhere.

Admittedly, the repertoire was only made up of standard Christmas carols. These were pretty straightforward, Yuletide numbers designed to create the right ambience for adults and children wandering round the stalls loaded with cakes, toys, books, bottles of Christmas cheer and so forth. After the more challenging music which the Orchestra has been rehearsing this year the ensemble was having a great time playing this simple stuff.

Wearing Santa hats and with music stands festooned with tinsel, the MVO were in fine fettle. Lucy’s infectious jollity got the band playing with festive bounce from the very start. Her clear conducting style left nothing to chance. She brought every section in right on cue getting the most out of the entire ensemble.

No wonder the carols were a piece of cake for Lucy. Although only in her mid-twenties, she is already an accomplished musician, conductor and busy composer.

Flute was her first instrument but she plays piano and violin. She previously studied at the Royal Northern School of Music and is currently at the Guildhall School of Music studying under Adam Gorb and Gary Carpenter.

Lucy was recently commissioned by the Bergen National Opera to write the chamber opera, Nadja’s Song. It was premiered in Bergen but was subsequently performed at the Tête à Tête Opera Festival in London and later in Bogota in Colombia. Other recent commissions include the Size Zero Opera, the Piccadilly Symphony Orchestra, the Borealis Saxophone Quartet and A4 Brass.

Lucy Armstrong is the daughter of saxophonist and fiddle player Annabel Armstrong, one of the founders of the Meon Valley Orchestra. It began as a handful of folk musicians who called themselves the Meonstoke Village Band. As musicians continued to come and join from further afield this expanded into a full-blown orchestra. At the Meonstoke Christmas Fair on the eighth of December the MVO had come back to its roots.


From Busker to Maestro – Roy Theaker and Peter Craddock

Stuart Reed writes:

A young busker from Chichester who became a violin maestro has paid tribute to the man who put him on the road to a distinguished musical career.

“In the 1990’s Peter Craddock heard me busking in the streets of Chichester and kindly gave me his phone number. I invited him to hear me play at the Chichester Festival. The following year he offered me a concerto opportunity with the Havant Symphony Orchestra,” said Roy Theaker who is now the Artistic Director of Stonnington Symphony Orchestra – Melbourne’s foremost community orchestra.

“It was exactly the kind of outreach, support and encouragement from which countless musicians have benefitted from over the years,” he added. “Following Peter’s example, I’m now in a position to do the same for up and coming players.”

Roy left the UK to front a Chamber Orchestra in the Algarve, Portugal. Subsequently, he was the Concertmaster of the prestigious Melbourne Symphony Orchestra for five years. Now based in Australia with his family, he also tours worldwide as a guest leader and orchestral conductor.

Peter Craddock BEM, who died in 2017, founded the Havant Orchestras in Hampshire and ran them successfully for fifty years. The Havant Symphony Orchestra and Havant Chamber Orchestras are joining forces to perform a concert to celebrate the life and work of Peter Craddock at 2.30 pm on Sunday 3rd March 2019. The venue is Oaklands School, Stakes Hill Road, Waterlooville, PO7 7BW.

The combined orchestras will perform some of Peter Craddock’s favourite works including the Merry Wives of Windsor by Nicolai, Brahms’ Double Concerto for violin and ‘cello, The Walk in the Paradise Garden by Delius, Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture and the finale from Maurice Blower’s Symphony in C.

Two internationally renowned conductors, Mark Wigglesworth and Toby Purser, who were also encouraged by Peter Craddock, will perform at the concert. Stefano Boccacci from Bogota, Colombia, who is currently developing his skills with the Havant Symphony Orchestra, will also take to the rostrum. Past and present musicians who gained orchestral experience from the Bob Harding Bursary Scheme, which Peter Craddock co-founded, will swell the ranks of the combined ensembles.

Peter Craddock’s widow, Sandra, said, “I’m delighted by this salute to Peter and his work. It will be a joyous occasion. When he started the Havant Symphony Orchestra some doubted it would last. Fifty years later it was still going and continues to this day.”


Profile: Julia Bishop, expert in Baroque music

It’s about fifty-six miles from Portsmouth to Lewes so some people would think twice before making the trip. However, for string players in our area, there’s no better reason to go there other than to meet Julia Bishop.

Blonde, statuesque and stylish, Julia is a violinist who specialises in Baroque music, which flourished in Europe from the early seventeenth century until the mid-eighteenth century.

Julia played in the English Concert for six years. She co-founded a group called Red Priest named after the prolific Venetian composer Vivaldi. She’s also been with the Hanover Band, taught Baroque violin techniques at the Royal Academy of Music in London and led the Gabrieli Consort and Players. Currently, she’s a tutor at Chichester University.

Without a doubt, Julia is a brilliant teacher. Extremely knowledgeable and sympathetically patient, she demonstrates this ornate and sometimes extravagant style of music by telling it like it is or by playing on her violin.

Owners of modern violins and bows need not go to the expense of buying valuable period instruments to appreciate the benefits of studying Baroque playing. There’s a lot to learn for all string players.

At first glance, some of the music looks pretty simple. Unlike today’s players, Baroque violinists rarely have to leave the first and third positions. But there are subtleties in rhythm, tricky counting, strange manuscript markings and unfamiliar harmonies to get to grips with.

Above all, the use of the bow is where students can find techniques which are nothing less than gold nuggets for string musicians. As everyone knows the bow is the business end of the instrument. The left hand finds the note while the right hand brings it to life. Full bows, half bows, playing at the nut, tip or middle, coming off the string, using the wrist or elbow: there’s no end to the useful stuff which can be learnt.

Julia organises Baroque monthly workshops on Wednesdays and Saturdays at St Thomas à Becket Church in Cliffe, Lewes. There are three-hour morning sessions on Saturdays and longer morning and afternoon sessions on Wednesdays. The modest fees are great value for money. Julia also coaches individuals and small groups. Email her at Julia@redpriest.com for more information.

Portsmouth to Lewes by road is a fair old trip but it really is well worth the journey to meet this first-class teacher.

Vivaldi Seminar – September 2020


Profile: Wayne Mayor

Stuart Reed writes:

If you want to know anything about restoring violin, viola, ‘cello or any other sort of bows, speak to Wayne Mayor.

After a lifetime of working in wood as a craftsman carpenter, joiner and cabinet maker, now at the age of sixty, Wayne has moved into in the field of bow and instrument restoring.

When you speak to him, make sure you’ve got time to spare. He’s the relatively new boy on the block and his enthusiasm knows no bounds. No detail is too small to escape his attention.

Stemming from a suggestion by Malcolm Porter, conductor of Northwood Strings and professional viola player, Wayne was encouraged to study at Merton College in South East London. This led on to work experience at an established musical instrument dealers and repairers in Lisson Grove, North West London. The firm was impressed and Wayne emerged with flying colours. They regularly commission him to restore and re-hair bows.

Now, a year on, Wayne has a workshop at his home in Shirley, Southampton. It’s a woodworker’s Aladdin’s Cave, packed with materials of all description. There is Mongolian and Siberian horse hair. Some of it is black and some is white. There are bits of precious wood, silver solder, fine wire, plastic and bone, French polish, oils and varnishes.

Wayne also has stocks of mammoth ivory, which unlike elephant ivory, is perfectly legal. The bone and plastic are for the tips of bows or for adorning the heel. There is mother-of-pearl for Parisian Eye decorations. There are tools of all description too: razor-sharp chisels, drills, specialist planes, vices and cramps. The rest of the workshop is filled with instruments like double basses, ukuleles, violins, ‘cellos or violas in various stages of repair.

Wayne Mayor is building up a reputation for careful, exacting work at prices which are par for the course. To check out Wayne Mayor’s bow restoration service, phone him on 07733 328933. Alternatively, email waynemayor@btinternet.com to schedule a visit to his fascinating workshop.


Portsmouth Philharmonic Chair steps down after nine years’ service

Flautist Anne White (pictured), the driving force behind the creation of the Portsmouth Philharmonic, has stepped down as Chair of the orchestra after nine years in the role.

Her replacement as Chair is Di Lloyd, a ‘cellist, who joined the orchestra in 2014.

Since 2009 the orchestra has gone from strength to strength, raising more than £15,000 for local charities and providing musicians in Portsmouth with the chance to perform orchestral pieces in venues across the city and beyond.

Read more: https://portsmouthphilharmonic.org/home/blog/chair-steps-down-after-nine-years-service


Stefano Boccacci wins the latest Bob Harding Bursary for Young Conductors

Ay caramba! If any of the players of the Havant Symphony Orchestra possess sombreros they’d better hang on them when the latest Bob Harding Bursary holder arrives from South America.

He is Stefano Boccacci, a young man from Colombia, who already holds a bachelor’s degree in conducting, gained at the Pontifical Xavierian University in Bogota.

Stefano won the most prestigious young performers’ prize in Colombia conducting the Orquesta de Cámara Tutta Forza. Stefano also went to the Colegio Italiano Leonardo Da Vinci. He’s studied at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and also plays piano and guitar. Somewhat surprisingly, Stefano is the proud owner of a Les Paul electric guitar and likes to play jazz with the Nashville Big Band in Bogota. He’s conducted it too. The Band can be found on YouTube.

On the night of the Bursary audition Stefano showed real passion for classical music. He used the time allotted wisely, interacting with the players in a jovial yet business-like way. It’s fair to say the orchestra really warmed to him.

The Bob Harding Bursary scheme gives up-and-coming conductors the chance to stand in front of the orchestra, take charge and arrange a concert.

Each year the candidates have come from far and wide. There have been successful candidates from Singapore, Japan, Germany, Portugal and, of course, the UK. The Havant Symphony Orchestra has helped many an aspiring conductor develop his or her skills and, in several cases, put them on the road to international fame.

It looks like Stefano Boccacci will be good for the Havant Symphony Orchestra and the HSO will be good for him.

Read more about Stefano on the Havant Orchestras website: http://www.havantorchestras.org.uk/bursary1819.php

Read more about the Bursary here: http://www.havantorchestras.org.uk/bursary.php


Portsmouth Festival Choir appoints a new conductor

Portsmouth Festival Choir is looking forward to their new season with a new conductor. They are fortunate to have acquired the services of dynamic young musician, Ben Lathbury, as their Musical Director.

Not only is Ben the conductor of several local musical groups and founder of the Music in Bosham recital series, but is also a considerable pianist. He gives recitals all over the UK, specialising in 20th century American music. Last year he was nominated as for the Portsmouth News’ Best Classical Music Act award for his performance of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

Ben will be preparing the choir for a performance on November 17th of Haydn’s stirring “Nelson” Mass and several Coronation anthems by Handel including the popular Zadok the Priest.

The Choir will begin their rehearsals for this concert on Monday 3rd September. They meet at Portsmouth Academy (next to St Mary’s Church in Fratton) at 7 p.m. New members are always welcome to join the choir. Interested singers should contact Hilary Munro on 02392 470532 or just come along on the night for a trial session.


Profile: Jake Barlow

Jake Barlow is someone with a song in his heart. He’s a man of many parts and he’s extremely busy. He’s a singer, conductor and teacher based in Chichester. He’s also a Lay Vicar at Chichester Cathedral, a member of the cathedral choir and he sings eight choral services a week, goes on tour conducting and singing, takes part in festivals in the UK and abroad, broadcasts and makes recordings. Jake’s also a member of the Festival of Chichester Committee. He conducts the St Richard Singers too. It is a highly reputable chamber choir in Chichester.

Jake sang with the National Northern Youth Boys Choir when he was a lad and has a string of academic qualifications to his name. He studied Greek and Latin at Oxford and has appeared as a soloist with the BBC Philharmonic and several top-notch ensembles.

Jake Barlow is not just an average, run-of-the-mill singer. He’s that rare breed of vocalist, a countertenor.

Countertenors date back to the days of the Renaissance when the Catholic Church banned women from singing in church. So, men were needed to sing the highest parts in liturgical music. Some sang falsetto while others were doctored to become castrati. Joseph Haydn narrowly missed that fate. Thankfully, that barbaric custom has long-since died out.

Jake’s a professional singer and teacher of music theory but he has lots of amateur interests and hobbies. With his customary hands-on approach, he started the Noviomagus Ensemble which he conducts. This enterprise involves a seventeen-piece orchestra and forty singers in the guise of the St Richard Singers.

They are working up to a grand concert entitled “A Royal Summer” at 7.30pm on 2nd July at St George’s Whyke Church, Cleveland Rd, Chichester, PO19 7AD. They will perform Henry Purcell’s Come Ye Sons of Art. This was an ode written in 1694 for Queen Mary the Second’s birthday.

Although Jake is an academic, he and his girlfriend are lovers of Barbershop, that close-harmony singing which is really big in the USA. Surprisingly, it also has a big following in the Northwest of England. Jake’s originally from Stockport which is a hub of this popular vocal entertainment, so naturally he’s a big fan of the multi award-winning Cottontown Chorus from Bolton.


Profile: Antonia Kent

Antonia Kent is graceful, tall, and talented. Known as Toni to her friends, her life is awash with musical activity. For a start, she is a very accomplished saxophonist and a first-class double bass player.

Educated at Gravesend Grammar School, Toni began learning the piano aged eight but was soon drawn towards the saxophone as her favourite instrument. She gained a master’s degree in music at Chichester University where her tutor, ace clarinettist Spencer Bundy, still regards her as one of his star pupils.

Toni plays the double bass in the Havant Symphony Orchestra, Worthing Philharmonic Orchestra and the Chichester Symphony Orchestra. She also plays tenor saxophone in the Changing Winds Quartet and the Auster Quartet. The Auster Quartet also has the option of combining the clarinet, flute and bassoon within the ensemble making it highly popular as a weddings and functions band.

A Performance Administrator at Chichester University in her professional life, Toni organises students’ instrumental/vocal lessons and exams. She also deals with general queries from students and staff. As if that were not enough, she is heavily into orchestral management. Currently, she is involved with the Hanover Band, one of Britain’s finest period instrument orchestras. It’s named after the Hanoverian period of British history (1714 to 1830) and has toured all over the Northern Hemisphere from China to Canada and from Mexico to Manchester. The Band and its Schubert Octet have concerts in East and West Sussex this year.

Toni is also a dab hand at baking. Her fancy cupcakes and imaginatively decorated, mouth-watering gateaux are to die for.  Cakes and classical music; what a treat for the senses!


Profile: Penny Gordon, baritone saxophonist

For the last three years, Penny Gordon has played the baritone saxophone in the Meon Valley Orchestra. Her husband Lionel, a Royal Navy Surgeon Rear Admiral, bought the instrument for her. When she was younger she played the clarinet in the Teesside County Orchestra. She’s played smaller saxophones but she’s thrilled with this impressive, larger member of the woodwind family.

A vivacious blonde with a ready sense of humour, Penny often gets the tuba parts to play in arrangements of classical works with the MVO. She takes these challenges all in her stride and the baritone makes a significant contribution to the full sound of the orchestra.

Penny Gordon is also a medical professional – a highly qualified doctor. She was headhunted from her consultant radiologist post at Haslar Hospital to head up medical leadership and education in a state-of-the-art set of hospitals in the Middle Eastern state of Qatar. Based in Doha, the capital, she spent two and a half years as the Chief Medical Officer for the whole country.

Like several Arabic Gulf states, Qatar has a vastly different culture from the UK. There are diverse customs, different traditions and rules of behaviour. Some are baffling to Europeans who must tread warily in their professional and social lives. Penny’s book “800 Days in Doha” (ISBN 978-1-911105-32-9) is an amusing, exciting and captivating account of days spent in Qatar.  It is published by Chaplin Books and all royalties are going towards that most worthy of charities, the Order of St John.


Profile: John Elder – a bass clarinettist

For the last two and a half years, John Elder has played an E flat contrabass clarinet. He’s a highly valued member of the Meon Valley Orchestra and the Alton Concert Band and lives in Selbourne.

A retired geophysicist, John worked most of his life in the oil and gas industry. He spent ten years in the Middle East and eleven years in Borneo, a country he loves. He says he spent years and years extracting oil and gas from the earth, and years and years putting it back to store it for future use.

As a youngster John played the clarinet but like many amateur musicians he had a gap of not playing while work, family life and other interests took priority. In John’s case it was an interval of thirty-five years.

As retirement loomed, his wife suggested that he either start playing again or sell his collection of clarinets. He decided to return to the clarinet as a hobby. On a visit to a music shop he was advised that bass clarinettists were much sought after. So he sold his clutch of shorter instruments and took up the bass versions. This opened up new playing opportunities. However, he privately admits that his collection of newly-found instruments has started to grow again.


Simon Wilkins appointed the new conductor of the Chichester Symphony Orchestra

Simon Wilkins MMus DipABRSM is enjoying his first term at the Chichester Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and preparing the orchestra for his first concert on 17 March 2018.

The CSO is focused around repertoire from the classical period, expanding to perform Romantic era music in some concerts.

Simon currently works as an instrumental teacher of both cello and piano, teaching music technology and other keyboard accompanying work, conducting, composing and arranging. Besides conducting the CSO, Simon also conducts the Marchwood Orchestra in Southampton.

Read more at the link below.

Also read: New directions and new challenges for Chichester Symphony Orchestra


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