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

An obituary of Terry Barfoot

My friend, Terry Barfoot, a widely popular music educator, has died of cancer aged 70. The company he built, Arts in Residence, provided music appreciation courses, mostly three-day events in small country hotels in rural England. He would bring his own high-quality audio system to illustrate his talks and even approved the menus and wine. Civilised discourse would be continued over dinner. Introducing people to a wide range of the classical repertoire was his calling. His engaging manner and dry wit were prized as much as his deep knowledge and passion for the art.

Read more at the external site link below (The Guardian newspaper, 18 September 2020).

Read an interview with Terry on Music in Portsmouth from April 2020.


SouthDowns Camerata concert for Help Musicians UK

The Spirit of Music Festival is extremely pleased to put on a live concert for you this Saturday 17th October at 4pm in St Mary’s Liss. The SouthDowns Camerata will perform gems of the string orchestra repertoire, including Elgar’s String Serenade, Mozart Divertimento in F, and Bach’s glorious violin concerto in E major.

The concert will comply with all current Covid-safe regulations. The audience will be seated in a socially distanced way, in household groups up to 6 people, and guests over 11 years of age are expected to wear facemasks at all times when in the building. The seats will be sanitised and people will be advised to use the provided hand sanitiser at entry and exit from the building. The orchestra will perform in an equally socially distanced way, and are allowed to remove their facemasks when playing. They will keep distanced from the audience.

Anyone experiencing possibly COVID-related symptoms (i.e. temperature, new persistent cough or loss of taste+smell), and anyone tested recently positive or awaiting a test result must not attend this event.

Due to social distancing, there will be only about max. 60 spaces available, so you must book via the following booking system, indicating the number of places required:

Bookings can be made here.

You won’t need to pay for your ticket, instead we would like to ask you to make a donation to Help Musicians UK in aid of the many musicians in financial need during the Coronavirus crisis. We’d like to suggest a minimum of £5 per adult, but you can choose to give more. Thank you for your generosity. Your kindness will help getting musicians through this crisis so they can perform for you again.

You can donate to my JustGiving page by clicking here. Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to Help Musicians, so it’s the most efficient way to give.

We hope very much to see you at our concert. Should you have problems booking or if the concert is booked up, please email the Spirit of Music Festival’s address: info@spiritofmusicfestival.org.uk. If there is lots of interest we will consider repeating the concert. We also hope to live-stream it via our Facebook page (you don’t need to be a member of Facebook to be able to view it).

Thanks for supporting our cause in keeping music alive. It’s a huge privilege for the SouthDowns Camerata to return to a live audience, but we know many events and venues can not reopen to reduced audience numbers, meaning the majority of musicians in the UK is out of work or on very reduced working schedules – particularly freelancers who form the backbone of the industry. Making music is our life and our passion as well as our living, and it is a very viable professional sector attracting huge numbers of audiences and economic value in good times – that’s why we don’t want musicians to retrain and leave the profession but to be able to bridge these times in order to play to you again soon. Help Musicians UK works directly with musicians in financial, medical or mental need. In addition to giving please consider writing to your MP about the importance music has to you.

Update 15 October:

Following the overwhelming response and quick booking up of our 4pm concert we have decided to offer a repeat of the concert at 6pm on the same day (Saturday, 17th October) – provided that enough people (a minimum of 30) book.  It seems to be the way concerts are currently done the on the continent too. We just can’t stop playing! 🙂

To book a FREE place (essential) the link is as follows:

https://st-mary-s-church.reservio.com/events/4819fa9d-697b-43d7-83e4-7a5c3370b29f/

Again, there will be a maximum of 50 people admitted, so please book swiftly to avoid disappointment.


Petersfield Orchestra “stringing along”

Anyone passing Petersfield School in Cranford Road last Friday evening would not just have felt the first chill of autumn in the air, they would have heard it, too. For the sounds of Autumn, one of Vivaldi’s famous violin concertos called the Four Seasons, were ringing out loud and clear from the Assembly Hall. After an unprecedented six-month break caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Petersfield Orchestra is back in action: if not quite in full swing, then at least, and at last, allowed to rehearse.

Conductor Robin Browning praised his players for returning. “We know that the arts sector has been one of the hardest hit, in terms of morale as well as money. But we were all desperate to play the music we love. So it’s just great to be back!”

Socially distanced – no sharing of music stands – and taking every precaution – string players only, no-one blowing flutes, clarinets, oboes, bassoons or even their own trumpets – around 20 members duly assembled. Orchestra Chair Steve Bartholomew was pleased with the turnout and with the new venue. “I was not sure how many would be willing to come, especially as it is the start of a new season, with some people shielding, retired or having moved on. There is always room for new players – especially violas! And we were in a new hall: temporarily at least, as our usual home, The Avenue Pavilion which isn’t big enough to allow for distancing. I was thankful that Petersfield School could find room for us – a happy reminder that the Orchestra forms a real part of the local community.”

For the moment, no actual concerts can figure in the diary. But everyone hopes that performances as well as rehearsals will soon be possible, perhaps even before Christmas. With luck, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons along with much else will soon be entertaining Petersfield Orchestra’s loyal local following once again.

Any string players interested in joining should write to mail@petersfieldorchestra.org.uk.


The Orchestra Strikes Back!

Possibly the first local musical ensemble to begin playing despite the threat of Covid-19 is the Meon Valley Orchestra. This brave band of players got their instruments out and began rehearsing in mid-August in the Meon Hall in Pound Lane, Meonstoke.

Although many asserted that they had practised regularly at home other players shamefacedly confessed that the lockdown had eroded their enthusiasm somewhat. Even so, instruments were dusted off and all members said it was great to be playing again even under the strict regime of wearing face masks when socialising and sensible distancing in the hall.

The Meon Valley Orchestra began humbly over ten years ago when a handful of musicians began playing folk tunes in a house in Meonstoke. Although the original players were local, the group soon attracted musicians from further afield. Cathy Mathews, leader of the Havant Symphony Orchestra, conducted the group from the violin at first. But due to other commitments, she handed over the baton to another professional, Lorraine Masson from the Four Strings Quartet.

Within a year or so the group had formed themselves into the Meonstoke Village Band and began playing at summer fetes, flower shows, Christmas events and church services. As the numbers of instrumentalists increased, the band outgrew the original rehearsal venue and moved to the converted church stables at Bishop Waltham. That too became cramped so a move to Soberton Village Hall was called for. To acknowledge the increasing numbers of musicians coming from a wider area, the band was renamed the Meon Valley Orchestra.

In 2014 the MVO, together with the Portsmouth Philharmonia, performed its first charity concert, raising over £2,000 for the Ninewells Cancer Campaign.

Since then the MVO has raised over ten thousand pounds for research into pancreatic cancer, immunology and brain tumour. The UK Gout Society, Parkinson’s and the Solent Diabetes Association have also benefited from the MVO’s charity concerts. Over the last ten years the MVO has received letters of support and encouragement from the actor, the late John Hurt, all civic dignitaries from Fareham, Gosport and Portsmouth, the Attorney General Suella Braverman MP and Caroline Dinenage MP.

Few would deny that over the years the MVO has come of age musically. Instead of simple rustic tunes, it now plays much more advanced light classical music and challenging popular material. It is now a fifty-strong, full-sized rehearsal orchestra.

New players, of any ability, are always very welcome to join. Practice sessions are from 9.15 am till 12.00 noon on Thursdays at Meon Hall, Meonstoke. For more information and advice about joining please email stuartreed28@gmail.com or telephone 07760 176687.


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.


Tune in to BSO@Home

Join the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra from the comfort of your home for a weekly series of artist-led magazine programmes. These regular discussions feature some of the Orchestra’s favourite guest soloists and conductors in conversation as they chat about their musical highlights and appearances with the BSO.

Click the link at the bottom of this page for further info.

You can donate on this page also. We believe that music has the power to transform lives and should be accessible to everyone. Every donation helps to spread the gift of music. Thank you!

Next time: Wednesday 22 July, 7.30pm
2019/20 Artist-in-Residence Gabriela Montero talks to Dougie Scarfe this week: they discuss the communicative power of live performance, her incredible journey into music, and her work in providing a platform for her fellow Venezuelans. Music includes Rachmaninov, Mozart and improvisations by Montero.

Previous episodes

Wednesday 15 July
Pianist Benjamin Grosvenor shares his thoughts, discussing performing both with orchestras and smaller chamber groups as well as his passion for playing Mendelssohn, Chopin and Liszt.

Wednesday 8 July
Clarinettist Andreas Ottensamer catches up with Heather Duncan and chats about his desire to showcase music digitally and how the safe return of live music-making is so important.

Wednesday 1 July
Andrew Burn raids the BSO archive and shares his choices of footage from the past.

Wednesday 24 June
BSO Associate Guest Conductor David Hill talks about life in lockdown and the music that has taken him on a journey through it.

Wednesday 17 June
Kirill Karabits meets up with superstar violinist Nemanja Radulović for an entertaining catch-up chat about life, music and introduces us to an eclectic selection of musical choices.

Wednesday 10 June
Michael Chance talks about his role as Artistic Director of Grange Festival, and the digital projects online including the streaming of the BSO’s Grange concert performance of Bernstein’s sparkling and witty operetta Candide from 2018.

Wednesday 3 June
Marin Alsop talks leadership, how she hopes she can offer opportunties through her Taki Concordia Conducting Fellowship and how she took the BSO’s Rusty Musicians project to Baltimore.

Wednesday 27 May
Cellist Johannes Moser, talks about his memories of the great Mstislav Rostropovich, how he feels he is able to give back something to the community and his creative freedom under lockdown.

Wednesday 20 May
Dougie Scarfe gives an update on BSO plans and introduces some digital content from around the internet produced by some well-loved BSO visiting artists.

Wednesday 13 May
Prior to the broadcast of an archive concert from our 2017/18 season on BBC Radio 3 featuring Kirill and Simon Trpčeski performing Elgar, Tchaikovsky and Walton, Kirill reminisces on the occasion.

Wednesday 6 May
Kirill and Dougie discuss the series of recordings of former Soviet Union composers that the BSO is undertaking with Chandos called Voices from the East.

Wednesday 29 April
Kirill and Dougie are joined by pianist Sunwook Kim and talk about all things Beethoven and Sunwook’s help in choosing the BSO’s new Steinway piano.

Wednesday 22 April
Kirill Karabits talks with Dougie Scarfe about his BSO journey to date, from his first foray with British repertoire to releasing a critically acclaimed recording of Walton and finding musical joy.


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: 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.


Petersfield Orchestra: Inside the Band!

Find out how an orchestra works and plays together and even how it thinks! Is it a harmonious collective? How do the individual strands mesh? Join Piers, Robin & some special guests from inside Petersfield Orchestra.

Watch via the link below.


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!


Petersfield Orchestra: Robin Browning and Piers Burton-Page on Beethoven

Piers & Robin from Petersfield Orchestra delve into the life and works of one of the greatest composers in this, Beethoven’s birthday year.

Join the discussion All about Beethoven today (Friday 12 June) at 7.30pm by clicking the link below, where they’ll try to answer questions such as “Why do the even numbered symphonies get such a bad rap?” and “why are the violins where the cellos used to be?” Bring your sketchbooks, ear-trumpets and a large glass of wine – see you then!

You can join them either on the night or catch-up later (the video will remain on the website).

You don’t need to be a member of Facebook, just click on the link below and it will take you straight there. Towards the end of their discussion they will respond to some of the comments from you, the audience. Please, join them for a lively debate!

Click the link at the bottom of this notice at 7.30pm, or afterwards.

 


Petersfield Orchestra: Robin Browning and Piers Burton-Page on the Concerto

Robin and Piers will be holding the third in their series of weekly discussions this Friday evening (5 June) at 7.30pm. This week it’s all about one of the key components in any programme: the concerto. Joined by special guest – pianist Valentina Seferinova – they’ll explore the role of the conductor and orchestra, discuss some favourite pieces and top soloists, and investigate how soloist and orchestra navigate the subtle terrain of some of the most challenging works in the repertoire.

Last week’s event drew a number of interesting comments, which may be viewed here.

You are invited to join them – on the night or catch-up later (the video will remain on the website).

You don’t need to be a member of Facebook, just click on the link below and it will take you straight there. Towards the end of their discussion they will respond to some of the comments from you, the audience. Please, join them for a lively debate!

Click the link at the bottom of this notice at 7.30pm, or afterwards.

 

 


Chichester Music Society’s June newsletter

This month’s edition discusses:

• Our excellent start to the year with the Navarra Quartet opening the special season celebrating the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. Their concert was too early to appear in our new Newsletter and the press review of their outstanding performance.
• The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on our programme. The CMS Committee held a virtual meeting on 4th May & discussed this and the effect on members subscriptions.
• This year’s Summer Buffet Concert which was to mark the launch of CMS will be postponed until June 2021.
• How we are helping to develop the musicians of the future through our bursary scheme, prizes and instrument library.

Intense Navarra!

The Navarra String Quartet opened the Funtington Music Group’s 2020 Programme with a concert at the University of Chichester on 15 January.

The concert opened with a performance of Andreas Romberg’s String Quartet Opus 59 No 2. Romberg was a contemporary of Beethoven, but his music is far from well-known, and is still based in the pre-Beethoven era. However, the piece was more than a suitable introduction to the programme which was commemorating the 250th Anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, and the audience certainly enjoyed the performance.

The Navarra, with Magnus Johnston [violin], Marije Johnston [violin], Sasha Botha [viola], and Brian O’Kane [cello], gave a highly polished interpretation, as the music rotated from the joyous introduction in the first two movements to a melancholic start of the third movement, before it moved into a more romantic phase, and concluded with the capricious finale of the fourth.

The second piece was Three Idylls by Frank Bridge. This English composer wrote the piece in 1906, as a gift to his future wife. Perhaps he was in a melancholy mood as the first two Idylls are rather dark, whereas the last is animated and lifts the entire work out of its moody introspection. The Navarra caught the spirit of the music absolutely and were particularly adept at portraying the transforming emotions from frost and winter in the first two movements, to the sun and summer of the third.

The climax of the evening was a stunning performance of Beethoven’s String Quartet in F, Opus 59, No 1 “Razumovsky”. This was a revolutionary work when first played. Passages of sublime beauty are often offset by rough hews, spectacular fiddling, tension-filled sections, and striking changes in colour and mood. The Navarra were excellent, playing with an energy and intensity where it was particularly noticeable how they listened to each other and responded effectively to the challenging development of the music.

The audience were extremely appreciative, particularly enjoying the final movement, which probably rates as one of Beethoven’s most celebrated. Chris Hough, Chairman of Funtington Music Group, said, “This was an outstanding concert and we are so grateful to the Navarra for their intense and committed playing, and particularly for commemorating Beethoven in such style and in such a memorable manner.”

Chris Linford, 16th January 2020

Chairman’s Blog

The Coronavirus continues to have a major impact on all social activities, especially the performing arts. We unfortunately had to cancel the Student Showcase Competition on 15th April and have made an award to all finalists due to appear. The recital by Ashworth & Rattenbury Guitars has been postponed until 29th September. We are postponing our special CMS launch event due to take place on 10th June until 9th June 2021.

We are hopeful that our programme will resume after the summer break. If this is not possible we will try wherever we can to postpone and re-arrange events to the 2021season. Members will be offered full credit for any events not taking place to be used against next year’s subscription. Further details will be announced in due course.

These are very upsetting times for all of us. We are fortunate that CMS has a strong financial position and an excellent relationship with the University of Chichester which should help us to weather this unprecedented storm and continue our contribution to the musical life of the City.

Do take care and look after yourselves. I look forward to seeing you all again soon!

Charity and Bursary News

Last year seven students received bursary awards to help them pursue post-graduate musical studies and we are currently in the process of purchasing two natural trumpets for the University Chamber Orchestra.

Rachael Ford is a recent recipient of a CMS bursary. She thanks all Society members who contribute to the bursary scheme explaining that: “I am currently halfway through a two-year Masters in Instrumental Performance at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire specialising on cornet. I am being taught under two of the finest cornet players, Richard Marshall, who is currently principal cornet of the world-famous Black Dyke Band, and Ian Porthouse, who is an award-winning cornet player and also professional conductor conducting one of the most successful bands, Tredegar Band.

“This postgraduate course has enabled me to receive specialist tuition from leading UK and internationally-renowned performers, including cornet soloist and principal trumpet of the London Symphonic Orchestra, Philip Cobb. Not only do I have frequent opportunities to perform, including performance classes and Brass Band concerts, but I also have chances to take modules which allow me to concentrate on aspects of becoming a professional musician. These include the ‘Career Development’ module, which allowed me to reflect ambitiously yet realistically on my professional aspirations, and, additional ‘Professional Development’ Options, including the ‘Self-promotion project’ and ‘Professional Music Criticism’.

“I am grateful for these generous bursary awards from the Chichester Music Society which have helped significantly to assist me through my Masters course. These bursary awards will significantly assist me to enrich my musical career aspirations of being a professional musician. It has given me the opportunity to work with top-level musicians, with the exposure to professional views through individual tuition and masterclasses with distinguished visiting guest musicians.”

The newsletter’s must-reads, recommended listens, local musical events

Local events continue to be severely disrupted by Covid19. This year’s Summer Buffet Concert on 10th June marking the launch of CMS has had to be cancelled. Next year’s Summer Buffet Concert on 9th June will be a special event providing an opportunity to celebrate the launch of CMS, so put it in your diary! We hope to present Erin Alexander and Nick Miller in their special show during the year.

Autumn Season

We are hoping to run our Autumn season as planned. Our first event on 9th September features Pavlos Carvalho discussing and playing Bach’s Cello suites (details below).

As previously announced, the programme by Ashworth & Rattenbury Guitars, due to take place on 13th May, has been postponed until Tuesday 29th September 2020. This concert will feature duets performed on three types of instrument: the Baroque guitar, the Early Romantic guitar, and the modern classical guitar.

In October, Angela Zanders will be continuing our Beethoven theme with an examination of his life and place in the history of Western music. This year’s Christmas Special on 9th December with David Owen Norris discussing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata should also be firmly in everyone’s diary!

As noted above, if we are not able to present our events as planned, wherever possible they will be postponed until next year.

Next event: 9th September – Pavlos Carvalho, Bach Cello Suites

Pavlos Carvalho is probably best known to CMS members as the cellist with Ensemble Reza. However, he is a distinguished soloist and his recitals of the Bach Cello Suites have become something of a special feature of the Festival of Chichester. Anyone fortunate enough to attend the concerts at St John’s Chapel will need no encouragement to come and hear him at the University.

In addition to fine musicianship, when talking about these wonderful pieces he is able to add many insights which bring them to life. In an interview with Phil Hewitt which appeared in the Mid Sussex Times a few years ago, he noted that “You get into the mind frame if you play Bach. There is perhaps a difficulty particularly with the awareness of period performance, but for me, whether consciously or unconsciously, it is all about the clarity of the voicing. Even when he is writing for the cello, he is writing for different voices, and the challenge is to make the voicing clear. If you look at the score, you are faced with a barrage of notes. You have to find out which ones are of primary importance, which ones of secondary importance. The idea is to put in that hard work so the end result appears simple. But you will always see new things. You can spend your entire life trying to find out the definitive version, but you won’t. That’s both the joy and the frustration!”

This is a great opportunity to hear him in this remarkable music.

To subscribe for updates, click the link below.


Havant Symphony Orchestra: Paddington Winners!

Back in March, just before lockdown, Havant Symphony Orchestra had a wonderful afternoon performing to a sell-out crowd of youngsters and accompanying adults from Havant and surrounding areas for their first ‘Family Concert’.

The orchestra, conducted by their Music Director, Jonathan Butcher, and student conductor, Avi Taler, performed a wide range of music from Grieg’s ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’ to John Williams’ music for ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘The Empire Strikes Back’.

The focus of the concert was a performance of a piece by Herbert Chappell and Michael Bond called ‘Paddington Bear’s First Concert’ and this theme was evident throughout with ‘Paddington’ handing out marmalade sandwiches in the foyer and the orchestra bringing their own bears (and other animals!) to sit with them on stage!

Read more at the link below.


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.


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