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

Huw Thomas is new musical director of Havant-based Solent Male Voice Choir

Huw Thomas has been appointed as musical director of Havant-based Solent Male Voice Choir. He will take up the reins in September “assuming we can all go back then,” he says.

Huw will take over from Geoff Porter who is moving on, joining the Hampshire Police Male Voice Choir. Huw had been serving as his deputy at SMVC.

Read more at the link below.


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: 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!


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