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

Lunchtime live recital by Karen Kingsley at St Thomas’ Cathedral

Watch Karen playing on St Thomas’ Cathedral’s Facebook page, see link below.

Karen’s programme consists of two piano sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven. Firstly, his Sonata in F minor, Op. 2 no. 1 (Allegro – Adagio – Menuetto and Trio – Prestissimo). Secondly, his Sonata in E, Op. 109 (Vivace ma non troppo – Adagio espressivo – Prestissimo – Andante Molto cantabile ed espressivo).


The Portsmouth Chamber Series is back!

I am finally able to confirm full programme and booking details for our delayed 2020-21 season – please see the listings in the link below.

The concerts won’t look the same because while the distancing requirements remain in place we have to seat you in the main auditorium. At the point of booking, seating will be unreserved as usual, to allow the flexibility to seat twos, threes, fours etc together, but prior to the concert seating will be allocated by Guildhall staff to ensure we keep to the rules. I have already been to an event at the Guildhall and was very impressed both with how careful they are being, and by how smoothly things went despite being different from usual. They have various procedures in place to help ensure everyone is safe – please see the details below.

The concerts won’t look the same, but they will sound every bit as good! We open with an exciting programme by our ‘resident’ Ensemble 360, containing some less familiar repertoire which I think you will really enjoy. Then we have the Doric Quartet who last played in 2015.

The Arcadia Quartet is new to Portsmouth, but they won the Wigmore competition back in 2012, and I was bowled over by their recent recording of the Bartok quartets. Martin Roscoe needs no introduction, but this is one of the concerts we had to cancel six months ago.

Ensemble Perpetuo is a collective based in London and as such is not a usual candidate for our series except that these particular musicians are of the very highest calibre, and have performed together many times under this umbrella name. I was really attracted by the programme, put together by Fenella Humphreys, who last played here in 2012, the first time we had the Lawson Trio.

We have decided not to do a brochure this year, so I hope you will help me to spread the word, and look forward to resuming ‘live’ music.

Here are the Guildhall procedures:

– Your temperature will be checked on arrival. Should this be 37.8 degrees or higher, you will not be permitted entry.
– Masks will be mandatory to be worn for the duration of the time in the venue.
– If you are showing any symptoms of Covid-19 (high temperature, loss of taste/smell or a new continuous cough), we ask that you refrain from attending.
– There is a maximum of 6 tickets per booking.
– Name and contact details will be collected for Track and Trace on arrival.
– To keep you safe in the venue, further information is available here: https://portsmouthguildhall.org.uk/your-visit/covid-safety/


Portsmouth Choral Union returns to ‘in person’ rehearsals

After more than six months, Portsmouth Choral Union held its first live rehearsal on Tuesday October 20th, at St. Mary’s Church Portsea.

The practice was ‘live-streamed’ for those members still unable to attend. During ‘lockdown’ the choir had been holding regular ‘online’ rehearsals, along with a number of social activities, including a quiz night and even an ‘online’ wine tasting event.

After last night’s practice, an enthusiastic David Gostick commented that it was excellent to at last see singers in the flesh, and hear that tone and musical quality had not diminished over the past months. The rehearsal was very much enjoyed by all who attended. The choir are particularly grateful to the Staff of St. Mary’s Church for their help and cooperation in making this possible.


Experience the J.W. Walker & Sons organ in St Mary’s Church, Portsea, for one last time before restoration commences

At 7pm on Tuesday October 13, we will introduce you to The Organ Project, take you on a live video tour of the inside of the organ, present our plans for restoration and demonstrate this unique, awe-inspiring instrument.

Hosted by expert consultant, Dr William McVicker, Andrew Caskie of Nicholsons & Co. Ltd, Vicar of St Mary’s Church, Bob White, and project manager, Matt Dixon, we will guide you through our final Restoration Policy and present the current condition of the instrument, via a 12ft screen, console cameras and projector.

Interspersed with performances by Andrew and William, this Open Evening will encourage discussion about the what, why and how of our approach to restoring this fine 1889 instrument.

To book your free ticket, please visit Eventbrite here: https://orgproj.co/Hy8V.

Also on Noticeboard here.


The Organ Project at St Mary’s Portsea: join us for the last opportunity to hear the organ in concert before late 2021!

Join us for the last opportunity to hear the organ in concert before late 2021!

We will be closing our 2020 FREE monthly Organ Recital series with the fantastic John Sharples, ARCO, on the 1st October at 7.30pm, at St Mary’s Church, Portsea. Later in October, the organ will be removed for complete restoration – don’t miss the last chance to hear it before late 2021!

Previously an organist at Lambeth Palace, John Sharples is currently an Assistant Organist at Arundel Cathedral and has prepared a really exciting programme, including Elgar, Fasch and The Cat Suite (Prelude, Cats at play, Catnap and Toc-cat-a) by Denis Bedard.

Please do join us for a safe, socially distanced concert and enjoy the last opportunity to listen to our fantastic J.W. Walker & Sons pipe organ before historic restoration. Our console cameras and large screen will be installed for a close up of the performance.

View the full recital programme and book your free tickets online here: https://orgproj.co/UH44, or call the Project Manager, Matt Dixon on 02393 190998.

Concert page here.

 


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.

 


Choral ballads and difficult discussions: Approaching anti-racism in choral culture

In January 2020, I started preparing the University of Portsmouth’s choirs for a concert called Songs of Pride, Freedom and Resistance: Decolonising Choral Culture but I was not at all prepared for the protracted and important debate about racism and white privilege that it would ignite amongst our choir.

Coronavirus and the lockdown of the university put paid to the concert but, to my mind, the discussion provoked by the programming is one that everyone involved in choral music should be having and one that has become all the more urgent with the death of George Floyd and the emergence of antiracist campaigns like Black Lives Matter. I want to share some of that debate with you in the spirit of encouraging an anti-racist choral culture in Portsmouth and beyond. First, I should set the scene.

I am a 44-year-old white-European male conductor and academic who became interested in connections between music and concepts of race during my postgraduate studies at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in the early 2000s. My PhD (2010) was about figures in jazz culture, like Duke Ellington, who led famous bands and wrote music for those ensembles that represented black history and experience as an act of race pride.

I went on to write a book, The Recordings of Andy Kirk and His Clouds of Joy (2019), which aimed to show how Kirk’s band defied expectations of what an all-black ensemble should sound like and thereby challenged the racism that prevailed in recording and dance-hall cultures of the interwar period. So, it was perhaps inevitable that I would bring such academic interests into my choral direction work but, as we will see, my own identity makes such an enterprise problematic in itself.

The programme I devised for the aborted concert was founded on the Choral Ballads by the black-British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912), who is best known in choral circles for his trilogy of works that includes Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast (1898). Coleridge-Taylor composed a set of three Choral Ballads for his 1904 trip to the US to conduct the Coleridge-Taylor Choral Society of Washington DC. Later, he expanded that set to five for the 1905 Norwich Festival and also reworked one of the original movements for female voices and baritone soloist.

All of this music is very well written for choir, with orchestra and soloist. Unlike much of Coleridge Taylor’s other choral writing, which tends to be mostly homophonic, it makes really good use of counterpoint but is nonetheless tuneful and accessible. In many ways, it is a fantastic choice for any mixed-ability choir like ours and a great opportunity to introduce them and an audience to a great black-British composer.

The Choral Ballads are all settings of anti-slavery poetry written 1842 by the white-American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882). Despite their noble intentions, however, the ballads are not without their problems: the lyrics include words used to describe black figures that are now considered highly problematic, albeit archaic, and the exoticism in the musical language is as much rooted in the colonial past. However, it was the words of the Choral Ballads that sparked the debate about whether and how we should perform these works and others in the programme. Here, for reasons of clarity, is a quotation of Longfellow’s text from the opening bars of the third ballad:

Loud he sang the Psalm of David!
He, a Negro, and enslavèd,
Sang of Israel’s victory,
Sang of Zion, bright and free.

To some extent, I had anticipated the debate about the text as I had prepared a presentation about the Choral Ballads which put the language issues in the context of their time and I offered a number of options for the choir to consider. These included, not performing the work at all, acknowledging the historical context and keeping the language as it is, or changing the language as a political act of decolonisation. What I hadn’t anticipated was the way that these options split the choir into factions that each felt very strongly that we should or should not change the language or else not perform the pieces at all.

I tried, as best I could, to please everyone by suggesting in a follow-up presentation that we could overlay words in a glorious and performative cacophony so that singers could make their own decisions but, in retrospect, I can see why that proved unacceptable for some, especially coming from me. On hearing my suggestion, one of our black students stated that if we used the problematic words at all she would leave the rehearsal in offense.

Another was clearly tearful as she explained that she felt she was being told what to do by yet another white figure of power, when her life was full of that sort of experience. That depth of feeling shocked me and I suddenly became aware of my own white privilege and the impossibility of me, in my situation of power, leading us to an agreeable solution on my own. I needed help to get a decision and that lay in much better dialogue both with and between our singers about these issues.

As I realised that I could and should not just impose my will over the choir, we had several meetings in which we discussed the programme and the issues of racial representation that were bound up with its performance. Several of our white singers were of the view that we, as a majority white choir, had no business in performing this repertoire but our black students spoke very passionately about the importance of engaging with such music and pointed to the prevailing problem of white fragility (DiAngelo, 2018) when it comes to addressing such issues.

I also felt that not to perform the work would make us complicit in a long history of effectively, if unconsciously, whitewashing the choral repertoire. There were those that argued that history, however distasteful, cannot be changed and thus the original words of the Choral Ballads should remain but, in the end, we agreed that changing the text marked an important act of de-colonialism and anti-racism. Thus, the passage above became:

Loud he sang the Psalm of David!
He, a brother but enslavèd,
Sang of Israel’s victory,
Sang of Zion, bright and free.

It was an often-difficult and time-consuming discussion but it was one of paramount importance because it caused us all to reflect on how choral-society culture is essentially racist in the way it tends to avoid such matters by effectively excluding black repertoire (apart from the odd token such as Hiawatha) and those who would identify with it. There were some within our choir who despaired that we ‘wasted’ time on this discussion, when there was music to learn, and they urged me to use my power put a stop to it.

That conception of white privilege is, however, a part of the problem and if we are to embrace the challenges set by the Black Lives Matter campaign and dismantle racist structures in choirs as much as in every other part of society, then we need to be brave and have these difficult conversations around such problematic repertoire as a matter of course.

Embracing works like the Choral Ballads and the sorts of discussions about racism that they motivate is but the beginning of a much longer and more difficult journey that will surely challenge many of the established basic principles of ‘good’ choral practice. Such principles include treating the conductor (as much as the composer) as some sort of power-wielding white male god, considering musical rehearsal as more valuable than the discussion of deep ethical issues, and valuing history and traditions of practice and rigour as more important than the rights and feelings of those who are negatively affected by the exercising of white privilege and power. If choirs everywhere took time to reflect on such things and took steps to address them, we would quickly establish a much more inclusive and anti-racist culture.

Dr George Burrows is Reader in Performing Arts and Faculty Research Degrees Coordinator at the University of Portsmouth.


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: 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: 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.


Preview: “Songs of Pride, Freedom and Resistance” with the University of Portsmouth Choirs

CONCERT UNFORTUNATELY CANCELLED

The University of Portsmouth’s choirs bring together students, staff and townsfolk to sing under the direction of Dr George Burrows on Saturday 21 Mar at 7:30pm at St Mary’s Church, Portsea. In keeping with university culture, the choir perform mixed programmes that most often explore a topic or theme that is linked to staff research interests.

This programme brings together a mixed programme of choral music by a whole raft of composers from the past and present that represents the experiences of the racialized ‘other’ in different parts of the modern world. It also connects Dr Burrows’ research into racial discourse in jazz in featuring Mary Lou Williams’ choral music.

Williams’ was a brilliant jazz pianist and composer, who converted to Roman Catholicism in the 1950s and began writing choral music. Her choral masterpiece is St. Martin de Porres, a work about the first black saint. In 2019, Dr Burrows received a Berger-Carter-Berger fellowship from the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University to research Williams’ choral works for this concert.

Those works will be performed alongside Choral Ballads by the black-British composer, Samuel Coleridge Taylor, which are choral settings of Songs of Slavery by the American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that deal with the injustices of African-American slavery.

A new commission by the female Sri Lankan composer, Gayathri Khemadasa, turns the programme towards another part of the world where racial tensions have long prevailed.

On a lighter note, songs from hit musicals like Hamilton reflect Britain’s part in colonialism that led to much enslavement and racial tension.

Read Choral ballads and difficult discussions: Approaching anti-racism in choral culture by George Burrows on the Noticeboard.


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.


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