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

PCU are singing!

During ‘lockdown’ Portsmouth Choral Union continued to rehearse and keep in touch with one another in a variety of different ways. Zoom rehearsals were enlivened by, amongst other events, quiz nights and online wine tasting. There was a brief return to near-normal rehearsals during lockdowns one and two, and latterly outdoor practices in an open-sided barn on Hayling Island.

Now, with enthusiasm undiminished, we are delighted to be returning to full practices. We have held three practices so far, with attendance increasing each time, and we have also been very pleased to welcome several new members. Our rehearsals are currently being held in St Mary’s Church, though we hope to return to our regular rehearsal venue of The Portsmouth Academy in the New Year.

Our programme for the remainder of 2021 will include a November concert featuring Faure’s Requiem alongside works for string orchestra and this will be followed by a performance of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio in December. Further details of both concerts, to be held in St Mary’s Church, will be available shortly on the Choir’s website, www.pcuchoir.org.


Mark Dancer takes up the directorship of the Portsmouth Festival Choir

Mark Dancer took up the Directorship of the Portsmouth Festival Choir in the spring of 2021 during the choral shutdown caused by Covid-19, having been for some years Assistant Director. He is also currently Director of Music and Organist of St Peter’s Church, Petersfield and Conductor of the Petersfield Choral Society, continuing his long career of choral conducting.

He read music at Durham University and was Organ Scholar of the College of St Hilda and St Bede, studying the organ with Alan Thurlow and David Hill. He holds the Fellowship of the Royal College of Organists (FRCO) and the Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music (LRAM) in organ performance.

An accomplished singer, Mark’s love of choral music stems from his time as a chorister at Ewell Parish Church (Surrey) and he studied singing with renowned operatic bass Hervey Alan. He joined his first choral society whilst in the sixth form and has been involved with at least one ever since.

As an organist, Mark has performed in St Paul’s Cathedral, Birmingham Cathedral and Town Hall, Portsmouth Cathedral, Guildford Cathedral, All Saints, Ryde, etc., as well as for the Petersfield Musical Festival and Portsmouth Festivities. In 2000 he inaugurated a Summer Organ Recital Series at Petersfield Parish Church. After the already-mentioned Covid interruption, he has started the new concert season at the church with a recital of popular classics.

Playing with “sparkle, imagination and a wide dynamic palette”, Mark Dancer is described as a “fine musician and sensitive accompanist” by Ann Pinhey in the Petersfield Post.

He is very much in demand as a choral accompanist and répétiteur by both instrumentalists and singers. Recent performances have included as organist with the Renaissance Choir for their performance of Mozart’s Vespers K339 and Michael Haydn’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah with The Portsmouth Festival Choir and a live-streamed organ recital from St Mary’s, Portsea in May.

2022 will see him perform with piano duet partner Emilie Capulet in the Petersfield Musical Festival, playing works by Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (arranged by Hugo Ulrich).

His YouTube channel, Mark Dancer – Anacrusis Music, set up in 2020, now contains nearly one hundred video recordings of organ works.


Profile: Adrian Green, singer, teacher, composer and producer

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

I’ve always wanted to sing and I was fortunate that the school I went to had a strong ethos when it came to music. Choral singing was part of day-to-day life and although the school wasn’t exclusively a Christian institution, assemblies throughout my education included hymn singing and whole school performances of major classical works, from Handel’s Messiah to Mozart’s Coronation Mass and Haydn’s Creation. The School choir also worked on annual opera productions, including Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. All in all, I couldn’t have asked for more opportunities to sing and perform, especially given that my school wasn’t a music specialist institution.

My music and singing teachers have all helped me to discover my voice over the years and, especially in the context of choral music, my time as a scholar at Royal Holloway College with Rupert Gough was critical in preparing me to take up a Lay Clerk position at Portsmouth Cathedral, which I’ve held since 2008.

In terms of music education, I spent a gap year working in Sydney at a primary school in 2004. Whilst I decided at the time not to go into full-time teaching, this role did inspire me to continue to work in music education, specifically through administrating and delivering Portsmouth Cathedral’s singing partnership programme (2008-), Cathedral Sing. This work involves inspiring primary children to sing in classrooms and choir stalls and it continues to flourish with the support of Portsmouth Cathedral and support from many other charities and trusts.

What are the greatest challenges to being a musician?

From a career perspective, you’ve got to be good at many different things. You cannot afford to always say “no” to new things or avoid things unnecessarily. Whether it’s solo performance work, composing, music or singing teaching, choir tour management, website design, accounting, or even tidying the office, all these things are part of a musical career. They can all be done musically.

From a performance perspective, I find one of the greatest challenges is to practise humility in making music. It’s easy when you’re singing to have opinions or ideas about what you’re singing or who you’re singing with etc…, and the ability to see these ideas and drop them when they are irrelevant (they usually are!) is really important. To quote Heraclitus, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” It’s the same with music and keeping this approach in mind helps me to be continually re-inspired by what I do (rather than expired!), whether it’s the first time I sing something or the thousandth time.

In summary, the challenges to being a musician are all about keeping an open mind and being present in what do you.

And what about Convivium Records?

Being a musician is about sharing music with others. When I first came to Portsmouth Cathedral in 2008, I was keenly aware of many of my friends and colleagues who were trying to establish careers in music. I’d developed an interest in recording at school and also at university where The Choir of Royal Holloway had worked with a number of top British Labels on commercial recording projects. With all of this in mind, I established Convivium Records in 2009. The aim was for this to be a self-publishing house for young artists and composers to be able to record and release music commercially. Over the past decade, Convivium Records has developed into a more traditional Label and works with both amateur and professional musicians and composers all over the world, whilst retaining a focus on the quality of production and a commitment to helping performers to share what inspires them.

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

As a singer, I especially like performing Baroque and 20th Century music. Vaughan Williams is a composer who I’ve found particularly inspirational and, of course, alongside his significant compositional output, he was one of the editors of (and contributed heavily towards) The English Hymnal, which was and is a significant publication in the history of Anglican Church Music. It was initially in learning to play hymns from this publication that I taught myself to play piano.

What are your most memorable experiences as a musician?

Not so long ago I performed the tenor solos from Handel’s Messiah in a performance at Portsmouth Cathedral, directed by David Price. I first came across the work at the age of 10, when I was asked to sing some recit passages as part of a whole school production and it was during that performance that I decided I was going to be a singer. Some 20 years later, performing Comfort Ye, and Every Valley with Portsmouth Cathedral Choir, I experienced a being completely myself for a few moments and it’s in moments like these that I’m reminded why I do what I do.

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

Be adaptable and willing to try out new things. Keep an open mind. Learn to play the piano.

How would you define success as a musician?

Contentment in your life. (Not necessarily all the time, but at least some of the time!).

What’s your next event?

During term time, my next event is likely to be singing evensong at Portsmouth Cathedral, as this happens up to five evenings every week! Of course, there are concerts and events and recordings and performances too, but if you want to discover something new and different, challenge yourself to turn up for a choral service in the building. They are free of charge and the music presented is wide-ranging and generally inspiring. (Most of the evening services start at 5.45pm, but you can always find out exactly what’s on and when through the Portsmouth Cathedral website!).

About Adrian

Adrian is a tenor Lay Clerk at Portsmouth Cathedral and also performs with Convivium Singers and the Charpentier Ensemble, as well as various other groups. As a soloist, Adrian sings with choirs across the UK and, occasionally, further afield. Adrian manages Portsmouth Cathedral’s “Cathedral Sing” music education programme across Hampshire and also teaches solo singing to people of all ages and abilities, both at Portsmouth Grammar School, and privately. As the managing director of Convivium Records, Adrian oversees the day to day running of the classical Label.

Visit: https://adrian-green.co.uk
https://conviviumrecords.co.uk
https://www.planethugill.com/2017/03/balancing-commercial-and-artistic.html


The Portsmouth Chamber Music Series is launched for the 2021-22 season

In 2021 the Portsmouth Chamber Music Series is in its eighteenth season, bringing world-class musicians to the city. In partnership with Music in the Round and the Guildhall Trust, we present the finest music in informal surroundings where you are never more than a few metres from the performers.

Our programme includes a wide variety of music by a wide variety of composers from the 18th century to the present day. A 20% discount is available to those who book the whole series.

Download: Portsmouth Chamber Music 21-22 (1 MB).

We feature six concerts which I hope you will enjoy. The dates are all on Mondays at 7.30 pm:
11 Oct, 1 Nov, 31 Jan, 21 Feb, 21 March, 9 May.

Tickets are now on sale. Ticketmaster is no longer operating a phone ‘service’, but you are encouraged to purchase tickets online where possible (see link below). It is a bit clunky and for example doesn’t allow you to purchase a season ticket together with single tickets in a single transaction. It also separates out the various fees, but if you add them up, the end result is as per our advertised prices which have remained the same for three years now (£18/£16 conc, with a 20% discount if you book a season ticket), with the addition of a £1.75 handling fee. Postage is only charged if you don’t want an e-ticket or to pick up from the box office on the night.

https://portsmouthguildhall.org.uk/2021/09/03/portsmouth-chamber-music-series-now-on-sale/

Those who still wish to book by phone can do so Mon-Thur 10am-3pm via the Guildhall Box Office on 023 9387 0200, and of course personal callers are also welcome.


In Tune With Heaven: An Evening with Catherine Bott and David Price

Portsmouth Cathedral is delighted to present In Tune With Heaven: An Evening with Catherine Bott and David Price on Wednesday 29 September in Portsmouth Cathedral.

Join us in the beautiful and historic surroundings of Portsmouth Cathedral’s nave for this very special event with renowned soprano and broadcaster Catherine Bott as she interviews Portsmouth Cathedral’s Organist and Master of Choristers David Price about his passion for music and career as an organist and choral director.

The evening will mark David’s 25th anniversary at Portsmouth Cathedral and all proceeds will support the Cathedral’s new fundraising campaign – Sing Joyfully – which aims to raise the funds for our choirs to flourish over the next 25 years and beyond.

“Sing Joyfully” aims to highlight all the work the Cathedral does with children and adults to foster music-making in the community and the cathedral’s patronage of music and musicians.

Tickets are £15 (£10 for children) and include a glass of wine or soft drink. Doors open from 6:45 pm with the conversation beginning at 7.15:pm. The event will conclude by 8:45 pm. Booking link below.


PCU – “Farmyard Hullaballoo”

On the eve of their much anticipated first live practice for many months, Portsmouth Choral Union fell foul of the sudden change to government guidelines concerning choirs, singing and rehearsal numbers.

With enthusiasm undiminished, it was decided that the weekly ‘Zoom’ rehearsal schedule would continue, with singers being encouraged to get together in groups of six wherever possible. However, several members of the ever-resourceful PCU committee soon came up with an alternative solution to the live rehearsal issue, whilst still remaining within the Covid restrictions.

A large ‘open sided’ barn, that allowed an appropriately socially distanced live rehearsal, was made available for the choir’s use. And so for the final three practices of the summer, surrounded by bales of hay and a cornucopia of farmyard animals, conductor David Gostick shepherded his singers through choruses from Haydn’s Creation and a selection of familiar and unfamiliar anthems by, amongst others, Mozart, Bruckner, Rossini and Rachmaninoff – though with cattle ‘lowing’ in the distance, not performing ‘Away in a Manger’ was possibly a missed opportunity.

Members of the choir are now looking forward to being able to resume regular, full practices in September.


Rounding off Ports Fest 2021

The first weekend of July this year saw Ports Fest return to the city in the form of a three-day festival, comprising mainly of outdoor and free events to suit the current climate. Highlights included the face of the 2021 sea shanty revival, The Longest Johns, who headlined the opening concert on Friday night, and a splendidly engaging talk given specifically for Portsmouth schools by former children’s laureate Michael Rosen.

The long weekend also featured the work of many local artists, with several exhibitions and ‘open studio’ events taking place around the city, from Art Space Portsmouth, Aspex Portsmouth to Hotwalls Studios, Alice Hume’s Interactive Weaves and Portsmouth Cathedral being home to the Portsmouth Our Place exhibition. Saturday evenings show featured Duncan Sandilands who belted out the very best musical numbers alongside some of the best talent in Portsmouth.

Ports Fest hosted many workshops and performance opportunities for young people, perhaps most notably a collaboration between the London Mozart Players and various Portsmouth school choirs at the final sold-out concert on Sunday night.

The festival revolved around the theme ‘Remember, Reimagine, Reset’, and the events accordingly engaged with issues from protecting ocean wildlife with a performance by Circo Rum Ba Ba and their 50ft inflatable whale in the Guildhall Square, to remembering experiences of the pandemic through a multitude of art across the City.

Erica Smith the Festival Director “This year’s Ports Fest felt very different in lots of ways, but the vibe was incredibly powerful. We have had some amazing feedback about our events this year and so many people saying it is the first time they have been able to see live performance in so long. I am incredibly happy that we were able to go ahead and that’s with great thanks to our sponsors and partners who have supported us this year”.

Ports Fest 2022 will run between 30th June to 3rd July 2022.

Find out more about our ongoing vision at portsfest.co.uk.


The sun will be shining as Ports Fest 2021 gets going

Ports Fest starts today for three days of music, art, talks, and workshops, providing something for everyone.

This year, we are delighted to be able to offer you a reduced but varied programme to suit the current climate, featuring Covid safe outdoor, online, and free events. If you are hoping to seek out some artistic and cultural stimulation this summer, we hope that Ports Fest 2021 will be your starting point today!

The festival kicks off today with several events for Portsmouth schools, including an online live talk from former children’s laureate Michael Rosen, and an opportunity for pupils to grapple with our theme by debating whether we should reset to normality after COVID-19. In the evening, we will welcome Slapstick Picnic to the beautiful gardens of Portsmouth Museum for a reimagining of The Importance of Being Earnest, as well as host the face of the 2021 sea shanty revival, The Longest Johns, for the start of our outdoors concerts.

Saturday morning will see Art Space Portsmouth opening their 33 artists’ studios and renowned gallery, after which visitors might like to wander over to Portsmouth Cathedral for their annual ‘Seafood on the Green’ rustic picnic lunch and also pop inside to the exhibition by local school children, who have been creating giant 3D jigsaw pieces of their community for Portsmouth Our Place. Circo Rum Ba Ba will take over the Guildhall Square with an enormous inflatable sperm whale for their interactive theatre production about protecting the seas and resetting the planet.

Saturday evening will see a musical extravaganza, featuring Duncan Sandilands from vocal quartet G4 as both host and performer.

Ports Fest 2021 will go out with a bang on Sunday evening, with the London Mozart Players closing our concert series, and an open-air film screening of the documentary Drop City.

More details of all these, and many, many more events can be found on our website portsfest.co.uk. We cannot wait to see you there! Tickets are selling fast, and we can’t guarantee on the door ticket sales so to pre book www.portsfest.co.uk or call our box office on 0333 666 3366.

Ports Fest 2021 will run between Friday 2nd and Sunday 4th July.

Find out more about Ports Fest 2021 at portsfest.co.uk.

 


The Organ Project: Organ Recital Series – Anthony Froggatt

Our 2021 monthly Organ Recital series continues with a LIVE recital given by Anthony Froggatt on 1 July.

Anthony Froggatt is a former Organist and Master of the Choristers at Portsmouth Cathedral, having previously started his cathedral career as Sub-Organist at Guildford Cathedral. At Portsmouth, over a period of thirteen years, he made many television and radio broadcasts with the choir and several highly acclaimed recordings.

He has given recitals in many British cathedrals, including St. Paul’s, St. Alban’s, Southwark, Coventry and York Minster, and is a percussionist with Southern Pro Musica. He has examined in many countries worldwide for ABRSM, most recently to Singapore and the USA. In 2000 and 2007 he directed the choir at Magdalen College, Oxford, as Acting Organist.

He has recorded two popular albums of organ and violin music with the Japanese violinist, Fuminori Shinozaki, on the Akane label. The first, Resonate Eternally, in Chichester Cathedral, and the second, Flourish Eternally, in Magdalen College Chapel, Oxford.

Please do join us in-person at St Mary’s Church, Portsea, and enjoy the opportunity to hear Anthony perform on our temporary digital organ, installed to support worship and recitals during the historic restoration of our 1889 J.W. Walker & Sons pipe organ.

Book your FREE ticket online now: https://orgproj.co/KxMw.


Ports Fest 2021 Goes Live on 2-4 July – It’s Time to Remember, Reimagine, Reset

From 2– 4 July, Ports Fest will invite audiences to Remember, Reimagine, Reset with a festival of music, art, talks, and workshops, providing something for everyone.

Ports Fest is Portsmouth’s most established annual curated multi-arts festival. This year, we are delighted to be able to offer you a reduced but varied programme to suit the current climate, featuring outdoor, online, and free events. If you are hoping to seek out some artistic and cultural stimulation this summer, we hope that Ports Fest 2021 will be your starting point!

The festival kicks off on Friday 2nd July with several events for Portsmouth schools, including an online live talk from former children’s laureate Michael Rosen, and an opportunity for pupils to grapple with our theme of Remember, Reimagine, Reset by debating whether we should reset to normality after COVID-19. In the evening, we will welcome Slapstick Picnic to the beautiful gardens of Portsmouth Museum for a reimagining of The Importance of Being Earnest, as well as host the face of the 2021 sea shanty revival, The Longest Johns, for a concert in the PGS Quad.

Saturday morning will see Art Space Portsmouth opening their 33 artists’ studios and renowned gallery, after which visitors might like to wander over to Portsmouth Cathedral for their annual ‘Seafood on the Green’ rustic picnic lunch. In the afternoon, the author and journalist Will Self will be giving a live talk, whilst Circo Rum Ba Ba will take over the Guildhall Square with an enormous inflatable sperm whale for their interactive theatre production about protecting the seas and resetting the planet. Saturday evening will see a musical extravaganza, featuring Duncan Sandilands from vocal quartet G4 as both host and performer.

On Sunday, visitors might like to make the most of our many events running throughout the festival, such as the thought-provoking exhibition, In Search of Chemozoa at Aspex Gallery. Later, television presenter Michaela Strachan will join us live from South Africa to talk about her work spanning over three decades.

Ports Fest 2021 will go out with a bang on Sunday evening, with the London Mozart Players closing our concert series, and an open-air film screening of the documentary Drop City.

More details of all these, and many, many more events can be found on our website, portsfest.co.uk. We can’t wait to see you there!

Tickets go on sale Monday 24 May.

Read a review of Ports Fest.


Portsmouth Chamber Music Series: a virtual May festival

We end our rather sorry 2020-21 chamber music season on a slightly brighter note!

You may know that our concerts are made possible by Sheffield-based Music in the Round, which each year hosts a May Festival. This year, for the usual reason, it has to be a virtual one, but this has allowed us to team up with them and offer our Doric Quartet concert as part of it. It will be a different (shorter) programme, but will be ‘live’ from the Guildhall, at 7pm (note early starting time) on Wednesday 12th May. It will be free to watch, though donations are encouraged.
Those unable to watch it ‘live’ will be able to watch any time up until the end of May.

For more information, please see the link below, and for the whole festival programme, all of which you can watch, please open this document (0.2 MB PDF): 70 MitR May Festival

https://portsmouthguildhall.org.uk/whats-on/event/portsmouth-chamber-music-the-doric-string-quartet/

We are still hoping that our postponed Ensemble 360 concert scheduled for Monday 14th June, will be able to go ahead not just ‘live’, but with lots of you in attendance. We are fortunate that the very large size of the auditorium means that social distancing is easy to organise. Tickets will be unreserved at the point of booking, but I will subsequently allocate seating together with the box office staff.

For booking and programme details please see below. The box office is open for in-person bookings, or you can phone 023 9387 0200.

https://portsmouthguildhall.org.uk/whats-on/event/portsmouth-chamber-music-ensemble-360-2/


Jonathan Willcocks on the PCU’s “Covid Island Discs”

For much of the past year Portsmouth Choral Union has been holding weekly Zoom rehearsals, with a few live practices just before Christmas.

For their final session before the Easter Break, a lively and informative ‘Covid Island Discs’ interview was held with the choir’s former conductor Jonathan Willcocks as the castaway, and current conductor, David Gostick, as a remarkably convincing Roy Plomley.

This was both light-hearted and informative, and was much enjoyed by the many choir members, and guests, that tuned in to watch. We were treated to a number of photos of Jonathan in various guises, including ‘as a choir boy’ and ‘sporting a luxurious beard’ (though not in the same picture!).

I’m sure I wasn’t the only member of the choir to be amused by Jonathan recounting his experience of recording Allegri’s Miserere as a boy chorister at King’s College Cambridge – all the choir boys fresh from the sports field and dressed in football kit, complete with boots and dirty knees!

Jonathan’s eight discs were as follows:
1) Allegri: Miserere
2) Faure: Requiem – Agnus Dei
3) Bach: St. Matthew Passion – Alto Aria ‘Erbarme dich’
4) Trad: What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor – arr. Willcocks
5) Mozart: Exultate Jubilate – ‘Alleluia’
6) Elgar: Dream of Gerontius – Angel’s Farewell
7) Gershwin: Lady be Good (Stephan Grapelli / Django Reinhardt)
8) Willcocks: A Great and Glorious Victory

If there were only one recording to take to the desert island, it would be the Bach.
Chosen book(s): The complete works of Dickens.
Luxury item: A sand wedge and a large number of golf balls.

 


PCU presents Covid Island Discs

Read a review.

Join us on Zoom – Tuesday 30 March 2021, 7.30pm
Guest: Jonathan Wilcocks
Interviewed by: David Gostick

For Zoom details please email: PCURegistrar@gmail.com

In these troubled times, there is one place Covid-19 hasn’t reached – the island that’s the Island of Desert Island Discs. So, with no permission from the BBC, we’re going to send off our esteemed former conductor Jonathan Willcocks into even greater isolation, and see what discs he would take with him. Through the magic of Zoom he will talk with his successor, David Gostick, about his musical life, and share some treasured recordings. All are welcome.

If you are not a member and would like to make a donation (suggested amount £5) in support of this event and of the PCU, please use the bank details below
Sort 40-52-40
AC 00004433
With the reference “DesertIslandDiscs”

If you would like to join the PCU mailing list to hear about all our future musical events please e-mail PCUPublicity@gmail.com. Your information will be held securely and not shared with other organisations. You will receive the next annual concert brochure and invitations for any events organised by PCU.


The Organ Project: Organ Recital Series – Chris Milburn

Our 2021 monthly Organ Recital series continues with a LIVE virtual recital given by Chris Milburn on 15 April.

Chris Milburn first played an organ at the age of 8 and was hooked, first playing for a church service at 9. He was the full time church organist for St Bridget’s, Brean, by the age of 10. Chris continued in this role until going to university.

Chris was lucky enough to later learn on Wells Cathedral Organ, quickly finding that you could bribe vergers (with cake) to lock you in the cathedral for an hour or so in the evening. Chris continued to play whilst at university and found it was a great source of Sunday lunches with the church locals!

Chris spent his industrial year at ARE Portsdown and joined the choir of St Mary’s Church, Portsea. He also played for several services and most of the weddings during that year, and still gets invited to play for the odd service which is a great privilege. Chris is looking forward to entertaining a remote crowd with an unconventional repertoire at this organ recital!

Please do join us online LIVE and enjoy the opportunity to hear an alternative soundscape from our temporary digital organ, installed to support worship during the interregnum of our J.W. Walker & Sons pipe organ.

Watch the recital online at 7.30pm on 15 April.
——
Don’t forget to view our restoration photo gallery online here *updated weekly*: https://orgproj.co/AAGp.

 


Profile: Sachin Gunga, singer, choral director, organist, and teacher

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

My parents were not musicians but always had music in their lives, and ensured immersion for my siblings and myself.

Peter Gould, then the Master of the Choristers at Derby Cathedral (and now retired to our area near Portsmouth) went round the schools looking for singing talent and that is how I managed to become a chorister there. I’d previously learnt the piano and violin but it was Tom Corfield, the assistant organist, who got me really interested in the organ: along with Peter, he was hugely influential and encouraging. Tom used to say, “the organ is not really an instrument; it’s a machine”, and showed me how to modulate its output by altering phrasing, length of notes, emphasis, tempo and sound.

Though I’m primarily now an instrumentalist, I still have a strong attachment to singing. The voice is a very personal instrument, and I believe music is expressed more sincerely when it is sung; the singer puts a little bit of themselves into the performance.

I studied Classics at Cambridge: I started to appreciate the bridge between language and music. My real love at this time was singing in the college and university choirs and playing in the orchestra, and after graduation I was able to stay on as the acting chapel organist for a year.

I then did a post-grad Master’s degree in Music at the Birmingham Conservatoire, under Henry Fairs. He did make sure I played the right notes, but was gently encouraging about interpretation.

I subsequently held organ scholarships at Truro Cathedral (under Chris Gray) and Wells Cathedral (under Matthew Owens), completing my ARCO diploma in 2011.

My first Assistant Organist position was at Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff. Unfortunately I was made redundant after only a few months as it was suffering from financial issues, which made me question the stability of the job.

However I then spent ten months at Lincoln Cathedral as Acting Assistant Director of Music. This had a superb music department and a stunning organ. I much admired the improvising style of Colin Walsh, who used the harmonic influences of Langlais and Messiaen to great effect in the cathedral’s grand acoustic. Aric Prentice, Director of Music, was also a great inspiration.

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

It’s been sometimes challenging to follow a professional music career without a music degree, but I benefited from spending two years studying at Birmingham, allowing additional time to improve my technique.

I’ve often been the accompanist for choirs, which to be effective especially with accomplished choirs needs a lot of communication with the MD: you need to be able to anticipate, and this is further complicated if you are sat up in the organ loft relying on a screen!

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

The job relies on close collaboration, and is so varied. I have found myself arranging for close harmony (at Llandaff this was for the “Low Rangers” group), and at the other extreme arranging for choral scholars here at Portsmouth Cathedral.

As a teacher, it’s great to work with younger people, especially when there’s the rhythm of regular services. It’s satisfying to teach them something new, to get the notes and interpretation sorted.

The pandemic has made things difficult in this respect, but the Cathedral team has shown itself to be adaptable, using Zoom and recordings to enable me to hear the individual voices, and then pulling in the recordings together for use in services. I’ve also taken this approach with the St Richard Singers, and with my separate “Hoc Exsilium” project I’ve made 13 virtual recordings of choral pieces (and counting). Listen to the most recent Hoc Exsilium recording (Allegri’s Miserere).

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

As an organist, I love Baroque music, but also a lot of C20th English composers, such as Howells: his Requiem is a favourite, as it is unaccompanied and very moving, speaking about the loss of his son. It can be very effective in the right acoustic. I also admire Elgar and Vaughan-Williams, balanced by C20th French composers such as Langlais and Duruflé.

Which works do you think you perform best?

Those pieces which I can connect to most closely emotionally.

Which works or performances are you most proud of?

One example of a close emotional connection, while I was in Wakefield, was a Passiontide service in which I conducted movements from Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s St John Passion. I found this deeply moving, particularly the simple but heartfelt beauty of the Bach.

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

While music is something certainly to be enjoyed, be prepared to put in the time and effort!

How are you keeping yourself usefully occupied and sane in the pandemic?

I am busy with a lot of different projects, including virtual choir practices, which have gone much better than I had expected. I am grateful that I am able to continue to play at the Cathedral. However I am also really looking forward to a return to normal music-making with full choirs and no need for social distancing.

When this happens, I hope that our audiences and congregations will give us their full support.

Please come and support St Richard Singers in its Come & Sing Stainer’s Crucifixion, either as a singer or viewer.

Born in Derby, Sachin trained as a chorister in Derby Cathedral Choir and studied organ under Dr Tom Corfield. He read Classics at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, before going on to study for a Master’s degree at the Birmingham Conservatoire. He subsequently held organ scholarships at Truro Cathedral and Wells Cathedral, and assistantships at Llandaff, Lincoln (acting) and Wakefield Cathedrals.

Sachin has been Sub-Organist of Portsmouth Cathedral since January 2018, as well as School Organist of The Portsmouth Grammar School. In September 2019 he became Music Director of St Richard Singers in Chichester. In April 2020, he set up the Hoc Exsilium virtual choir project, an online initiative to give choral singers the opportunity to sing sacred works during lockdown.

Sachin lives in Portsmouth with his wife Hannah. He still enjoys singing, and maintains an interest in languages.

Here’s one of his organ solos on the Cathedral Facebook page (Bach’s O Mensch bewein’).


Chichester Music Press: a new publication by Rosemary Field

Please see the linked page below for this new publication: Veni Creator Spiritus by Rosemary Field (formerly sub-organist at Portsmouth Cathedral). It’s a fusion of traditional plainsong and a George Herbert text from 1633. The piece was written for what was then the Parish Choir at Portsmouth Cathedral, about 20 years ago.

Rosemary Field is the outgoing Deputy Director for Education of the RSCM, having previously held appointments in the dioceses of Portsmouth and Lincoln. She is a very experienced organist and choir trainer. I have two newly-published pieces by her to tell you about.

Veni Creator Spiritus is a clever fusion of the plainsong hymn with a text by George Herbert (The Starre). The texts are complementary and contrasted. That contrast is mirrored in the music; there are moments of word-painting and a few harmonic surprises, mostly to colour particular syllables. There is one very short de-synchronised moment where recitative style in the tenor part is set between regular note-values. The overall effect is layered and rhapsodic.

Then O Emmanuel is based on the last Advent (Magnificat) Antiphon, O Emmanuel. It centres on an insistently-building chorus of “Veni” as fits the calendar moment, contrasted with solid chordal writing for the ‘King and lawgiver’ line, and framed by imitative reflections on the opening phrase of the plainsong. It would suit a late-Advent service, form a pivot-point between prophecies and a Gospel reading, or sit in the classic pre-Evensong slot, being a cappella.

Read about Neil Sands and Chichester Music Press.


Profile: Brian Moles, organist, teacher, singer and composer

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

My musical beginnings were seeded when I was at a prep school and ended up joining a Parish choir in Windsor. The organist, Rick Erickson, also happened to be my school piano and singing teacher. He introduced a love and respect for choral music, in particular the music of Stanford and Vaughan Williams. He played a pivotal role in inspiring me to pursue music, even when I was having doubts during my teenage years.

Another great influence was Ron Ferris, who had taken on the role of Musical Director of Surrey Heath Choral Society at the time I was leaving school, and I took up the position of accompanist. He encouraged me to pursue my music career and to apply to Royal Holloway as an Organ Scholar, where I met Doctor (now Professor) Lionel Pike.

Lionel was another key influence for me – working with him as both lecturer and Director of the Chapel choir, I gained valuable insight and experience and cemented a love of choral music. I owe all three of them a debt of gratitude for the position I am in today.

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

Finding the role that fits you as a musician, I would say, has been the challenge. After leaving University I was not entirely sure in which direction my career was going. My twenties saw me acting as a Cathedral assistant organist; teaching primary and secondary classroom music in schools; a peripatetic music teacher; a freelance conductor, and singing as a lay clerk in a cathedral.

It was only in 2009 that, when I moved to Portsmouth to take on the position of Organist and Director of Music at St Mary’s Church, that I found my feet, so to speak. Portsmouth has become my home and I am very happy living and working in the city, contributing to the musical life through teaching in schools, my work at the church, and helping support the outreach work at the Anglican Cathedral. It has also given me time to focus on composing and arranging too.

I’ve always sought those musical opportunities that present a challenge in various ways – be it collaborating to provide music for a new youth theatre production, working with a composer and fellow conductor to produce new music outside in the round in front of a fire for the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, or laying down jazz piano and backing vocals for a rock album – all these challenges present new and refreshing opportunities which I enjoy doing and, I suppose, allowing me to appreciate the many different facets of the musical world.

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

I’ve been fortunate to have worked with a variety of musicians – both professional, semi-professional and amateur. Singing with a cathedral choir (St Albans) as a tenor lay clerk was a joy and delight: particularly to perform top quality music week in, week out, with a team of top-rate musicians and singers, was a real privilege.

Music is though a universal thing, and it’s been equally rewarding to introduce works to various different choirs and groups and to see them as they journey through from learning to enjoying this music, particularly if they felt it was beyond them. The reward of seeing others develop their musical abilities and confidence is an amazing thing: I’m proud to think I play a part in helping others be enlightened by music.

How would you describe your musical language?

There are definite English influences in my works – probably inspired by twentieth-century composers like Gerald Finzi and Herbert Howells. The harmonic language speaks to me and has always touched me in a profound way. If I could write as half as well as them, I would be happy! I’d like to think I follow in that English tradition. Recently I’ve developed a love of jazz and that idiom, and I am sure as my works mature there is more of an influence of this coming in too.

How do you work?

Often my compositions start life at the piano, exploring phrases and ideas. The ideas then grow out of that – in the old-fashioned way of pencil on manuscript paper! I then refine and often rewrite ideas to improve on what I have scribbled down, and then slowly bring the work together. This is true for all genres that I compose in – not just choral works (although these are my main compositional focus). I’ve written for various different instruments and genres, arranging as well as composing.

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

I’ve alluded to Howells and Finzi already, but I enjoy much of the 20th-century English world – I would add Vaughan Williams and Holst to that list. I have an appreciation for contemporary composers, but also equally a deep respect and admiration for the language of the Tudor world too. Some of the writing of English composers of the time of Henry VIII through to Elizabeth I (and beyond) is sublime and cannot be equalled.

Which works do you think you are able to perform best, and why?

Strangely, I enjoy performing contemporary works, or ones that challenge me. I think it’s the challenge of the new that I like, and I think respond well to.

Which works or performances are you most proud of?

That’s a hard one to answer – mainly due to the variety of performances that I have done, from directing large scale choir and orchestras, down to solo performances, or even working in the pit for staged musical productions, often producing music from scratch.

It’s equally rewarding helping young people take their first steps in performing, and seeing youngsters realise their potential is equally one that I gain great pleasure in.

I’ve been fortunate to work with the Anglican Cathedral in Portsmouth, helping deliver its outreach project to schools across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, and it’s been wonderful to expose schoolchildren to a world of different musical styles they wouldn’t normally encounter – from great cathedral music to folk songs, even some Christmas carols! It’s amazing to be a part of that experience for them.

As a composer, recently I had a work premiered by the choir at St German’s Cathedral on the Isle of Man for their 40th anniversary of consecration – to see a work come to fruition and the response it had from both performers and those in attendance at its premiere has also been memorable.

What are your most memorable concert experiences?

I recall many choral evensongs sung and played whilst at university – singing the Great Service by William Byrd on a sultry June afternoon with the sounds of the choir echoing around the college chapel stick in my mind, or the performance of Walton’s Coronation Te Deum, at which I played the organ.

I was fortunate to be able to sing many concerts and services with the Cathedral choir in St Albans, and there are particular ones that stick in my mind, including a performance of the Messe Solennelle by Langlais in a three choirs’ concert, that was scintillating!

Being able to conduct a performance of Duruflé Requiem and Vivaldi’s Gloria with choir and orchestra in aid of the Music Foundation at St Mary’s was another moment that sticks in my mind, amongst many. There are many performances where the combination of the music, the performance and atmosphere have combined in such a way as to leave a mark on the memory.

Sometimes, however, the most memorable experiences don’t come from the singing – there have been moments in concert tours and the associated escapades related to them – quite often the music being enhanced by the musical escapades and anecdotes associated with them!

One such experience was helping page turn for an organ whilst holding up the front panel of the pedalboard which had come off mid concert! The organ was situated behind the audience, but the choir was able to see the whole thing and fought hard not to laugh at the sight of me comically holding the organ together. The organist was unfazed however, and finished playing to a resounding cheer. Moments like that sometimes make a concert.

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

Don’t give up! It’s a hard graft and it will take you on a path you sometimes don’t expect. Be prepared for challenges, opportunities and also things to go in strange directions at times – sometimes things don’t go the way you would like, but don’t despair and keep doing what you believe in and love, and you will persevere.

How would you define success as a musician?

The legacy we leave as performers, composers, and teachers – helping inspire others through our contribution to life and society through our musical endeavours. Whether big or small, the impact can make a difference to people, and to be able to do that, in whatever means, I think is a measure of success and is something I strive through, by directing, teaching, performing, and composing.

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

Teaching on-line, recording, and through rehearsals over Zoom. It’s great to be able to see people in choirs on the screen and have that sense of connectivity. To help them with some kind of musical element to their lives is important, and whilst it can be strangely eerie playing through a piece and then the silence that follows, it’s reassuring to turn back and see faces smiling back and appreciating the music. It is the thought that there IS an end where we can get back together to make music that acts as a beacon of hope – music is a unifying force and it’s vital to keep people engaged with it, even from afar.

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

I honestly don’t know, but I hope I am still able to educate, inspire and encourage people through music, wherever I am!

What is your present state of mind?

Probably similar to many others! Frustrated, but hopefully we’ll weather this and looking forward to the future with hope.

 

Brian Moles is an organist, teacher, singer and composer, based in Portsmouth. A Masters in Music Graduate from Royal Holloway, University of London, he was both an Organ and Choral Scholar and, for a time, acting Director of Music of the Chapel Choir. For many years he had a diverse career, including the posts of Assistant Organist at St David’s Cathedral in Cardiff, Tenor Lay Clerk at St Albans Cathedral, whilst maintaining a busy career as a teacher: teaching both in the classroom and as a peripatetic, and as a freelance musician directing, performing, composing and singing with various choirs and musical groups.

He is currently Director of Music at St Mary’s Church in Portsmouth, where he leads the mixed voice choir, alongside a career teaching across the city, as well as helping deliver a successful musical outreach programme at Portsmouth Cathedral.

His work as an accompanist has seen him play with a variety of different choirs and group and in various genres, from working with small chamber choirs to Choral Societies, across all ages and abilities. He has made several performances on both Radio and TV, most notably as accompanist on BBC Songs of Praise, recorded at St. Mary’s. He is currently the accompanist for Fareham Philharmonic Choir.

As a musical director, he has also worked with a diverse variety of different choirs and musical groups – from acting as MD for shows presented by young people in theatres in Portsmouth and Winchester, to helping direct the shows for the National Youth Music Camps, based in Milton Keynes. He helped conduct a performance of Fire by David Bruce, as part of the cultural Olympiad in 2012, with Jeremy Backhouse and the Salisbury Community Choir – which was broadcast on Radio 4 that same year.

His work as a composer is widespread, with a variety of different works for various different genres, and performed across the UK and abroad, with many pieces commissioned, composed and performed by cathedral choirs, choral societies, and mixed ability school choirs. His music and style have been described as “sympathetic and approachable, and yet musically interesting and often with a complexity that encourages and enthuses performers of all abilities, often allowing them to realise their potential.” Works extend from simple choral motets, to a full-scale symphonic Requiem. Recent works have included a mass setting written for Portsmouth Cathedral choir, and a setting of the Te Deum Laudamus commissioned by Peel Cathedral on the Isle of Man, for the 40th Anniversary of their consecration.

Brian will be giving a recital of organ music from St Mary’s Church, streamed on the Organ Project’s page, on Thursday March 4th at 7:30pm. Please do visit www.theorganproject.org for more information.


Profile: George Burrows, Reader in Performing Arts, University of Portsmouth

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

I’ve been lucky to come from a musical family and to have had excellent musical schooling, thanks to Bedfordshire’s peripatetic music services. I sang in choirs from a young age and learned piano, violin and trombone.

I wasn’t particularly dedicated to personal practice but very much enjoyed ensemble music-making. The brilliant thing about learning the trombone was that I discovered it is an instrument that crosses most musical style and genres and that has always been important to me.

I read music at the University of Birmingham, where we were encouraged to connect music-making with scholarship. I’ve done that ever since. I went to work for the Royal Opera House and to study conducting with Michael Rose and others before I moved to Newcastle to take a job at the university there, organising concert series and conducting their orchestra. It was a brilliant apprenticeship to work on scores by Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Gershwin etc. and I was encouraged to pursue postgraduate studies that linked research and practice in exploring the functions and meanings of music that defy genre boundaries.

As a trombonist, I’d always dabbled in jazz but my study of Gershwin led me to Duke Ellington and other composer bandleaders, who formed the subject of my PhD. I’ve always been interested in what music means for people and how it functions as a vital tool for expression – its power is often underestimated – and I became especially interested in how musical styles relate to understandings of race and resistance to racism. I have my PhD supervisor, Richard Middleton, to thank for that.

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

There have been so many because I am inclined to take on fairly difficult projects for amateur musicians to pull off but, when they do come off, that’s part of the reward for everyone involved.

Sometimes it’s a question of scale – I’m not scared of BIG projects that are a challenge to organise, like Carmina Burana with film projection in Portsmouth’s King’s Theatre or the Pompey Messiah with the Solent Orchestra, the choirs of the University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth Cathedral and St Mary’s Church, Portsea (see note 1 below).

I think most people would rather commit to a project that involves a challenge – it’s motivating. Sometimes the challenge is materials (e.g. the first performance of Handel’s Italian funeral anthem) or the sheer difficulty of the music for the ensemble to realise. The latter tends to play out more in the rehearsal room than in the concert (thank goodness) but sometimes it makes for hard work for everyone involved and that can be demoralising.

One of the biggest challenges I’ve addressed emerged from a choral programme I devised called Songs of Pride, Freedom and Resistance because it raised some uncomfortable but urgent discussions about racism and colonialism within choral culture (see note 2 below). The challenge to address diversity and accessibility is ongoing and perhaps one of the greatest any of us face in music.

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

Working with other musicians is what music is all about for me – when we work together well we are somehow stronger than the sum of the parts and achieve results we never thought possible.

The key challenge is getting everyone to pull together towards a clear goal and I think that involves not just great communication skills but also an ability to sense what the music might mean for us and to get others to share in that defining of meaning though rehearsal and performance.

The rehearsal part is perhaps more important and the challenges of collaboration usually come from a lack of understanding of that coupled with a lack of trust or shared understanding of the enterprise – a good rehearsal process really helps that but there are some musicians that would rather not rehearse and even more that would not care to listen to someone else’s performance for its meaning.

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

Charles Villiers Stanford – I’m not Irish but I edited the first publication of his Cello Concerto in 2012 and I really felt a connection with his situation as someone working in a university setting but striving to practice as a musician.

Which works do you think you are able to perform best, and why?

Handel, probably, due to my upbringing and Haydn because the expression in his music really suits my style as a choral director and the energy of the students and staff that I direct.

Which works or performances are you most proud of?

I think the Pompey Messiah project of March 2017 (see note 1 below) stands out for me, not just because it was a great occasion (200 performers and 550 audience) but because revisiting Messiah in a version close to that performed in Portsmouth in 1812 was really meaningful to local people, raised money for two local charities, and connected research with practice in a really meaningful way. It addressed issues bound up with the insertion of arias by the great diva Angelica Catalani and other 1800s performance conventions to get the audience to reflect on underlying and highly gendered values and structures. This sort of work is transformative, not least for me – I’ve tried to work in that way ever since.

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

Don’t rule out working within academia – it’s a great way to keep practical music going at a high level within a structure that is not as vulnerable as the freelance lifestyle. I know, because I used to be a freelancer.

How would you define success as a musician?

Finding great pleasure and meaning in making music as a vehicle for ongoing self-expression and discovery.


Further recent articles of interest

Note 1. Messiah and Portsmouth: Then and Now Exhibition at St Mary’s Church, Portsea – framing the impact of the performance of Messiah (in the version given in Portsmouth in 1812) on March 18 2017. Concert page on MiP.

Note 2. Choral ballads and difficult discussions: Approaching anti-racism in choral culture, July 2020. Concert page on MiP.

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

He is co-editor of the international journal, Studies in Musical Theatre, since he founded the publication with Intellect in 2007. He founded the Song, Stage and Screen international series of conferences and sits on its advisory board.

He completed his PhD in music at the University of Newcastle in 2010, and also holds a Master of Letters (MLitt) in music from that institution. Both his PhD and MLitt theses looked at jazz for the way such music represented discourses of race, gender and sexuality.

He is a fellow of the Higher Education Academy and holds a Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education from the University of Portsmouth.

His undergraduate studies were at the University of Birmingham where he read for their BMus (Hons) degree and took instrumental and vocal lessons at the Birmingham Conservatoire (now a part of Birmingham City University).

He worked at the Royal Opera House on leaving Birmingham and then at the University of Newcastle where he organised the Kings Hall Concerts, conducted the university’s orchestras and lectured undergraduates on the Popular Music and Folk and Traditional Music programmes.


The Organ Project: Organ Recital Series – Brian Moles

Our 2021 monthly Organ Recital series continues with a recital given by Brian Moles on March 4th, which will premiere on our YouTube channel at 19.30.

Brian Moles is Director of Music at St Mary’s Church, Portsea. His work as an accompanist covers a variety of fields, from classical to popular; accompanying solo recitals through to forming and leading bands in shows for theatre in all different genres. As an organist and recitalist, he is often in demand, most recently playing at Durham Cathedral. His work as a composer and arranger is widespread, with a variety of works for sacred and non-sacred genres, performing across the UK and abroad.

Our J.W. Walker & Sons pipe organ is currently being restored by Nicholson & Co. Ltd, and we hope to celebrate its re-dedication in late 2021. We still have some way to go on our fundraising; please consider sponsoring a pipe: https://orgproj.co/MxTC.

Programme

This recital will use the New English Hymnal as a starting point. Churches like St Mary’s, Portsea, would normally resound to the strains of great and glorious hymnody during the church year, with congregations and choir in chorus with the organ, singing the great songs of old throughout the seasons. Unfortunately that isn’t possible at present, so Brian Moles presents a different way of approaching these familiar tunes and melodies.

As with the New English Hymnal, this recital takes us on a journey from Advent, through Christmas and Epiphany, into Lent, Passiontide and Easter.


Portsmouth Chamber Music Series new dates

I confirm that our February and March concerts also will not go ahead as planned.

However the Guildhall is now hoping to reopen in April. On that basis I have two new dates for you. The Doric Quartet (originally on 22 Feb.) will now come on Wednesday 12 May, and Ensemble 360 (originally on 25 Jan.) will come on Monday 14 June. The Arcadia Quartet is more difficult because they are from Romania and March was going to be part of a UK tour, but I am in discussions with them as to whether we can find a summer date or have to postpone until next year.

Any tickets for the Jan. and Feb. concerts will automatically be valid on the new dates. I would be very grateful if those who have purchased tickets for the March concert or season tickets could hold on for now until the situation is more certain. If this is a problem, however, please let me know and I will sort out.


Profile: Philip Drew, singer, choral trainer, organist, recorder and crumhorn player, composer and teacher

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

I was born and bred in Portsmouth and sang in the choir of St Mark’s church where I also had my first organ lessons under Russell Shepherd.  I first studied singing with Freda Foster while in the 6th form, and took an Honours Music degree and Post Graduate Certificate in Education at Durham University.

Both my parents were from musical families and my maternal grandfather played in the Royal Marines Artillery Band before joining what is now the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra as principal trombonist. My mother had 14 cousins in military bands!

My mother developed in me a love of musical theatre but since the countertenor voice is not used in this genre, my own involvement has been mainly back stage, particularly in lighting.  Indeed I am the only person to have made the transition from lighting designer to musical director in the history of Durham University Light Opera Group!

My choral experience has included a choral scholarship at Durham Cathedral and a lay-clerk’s post at Llandaff Cathedral (where I taught in the Cathedral school). While in Cardiff I continued my singing studies with the redoubtable Mme Hilger at the Welsh College of Music and Drama and subsequently with Andrew Phillips who trained me for my singing teaching diploma. Subsequently I have been a deputy singer at Guildford and Chichester Cathedrals for several years.

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

“Dep-ing” can be exciting and challenging, as it often consists of one short rehearsal before a service. You have to think on your feet. I can recall significant challenges when singing Tippett’s Canticles in Guildford with its modern idiom and Grayston Ives’ Edington Service in St Paul’s, with its enormous echo.

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

I have so much enjoyed the wonderful collaborative effort of singing the daily service in a Cathedral choir. I also enjoy the challenges of accompanying singers or instrumentalists on piano or organ.

I am currently playing organ duets with David Hansell. If we’re both at the keyboard, one can imagine the potential for the clashes of four hands and four feet! It’s hard to play the pedals because this is usually done by feel and in this instance we’re not sitting in our normal positions. If we are playing on two separate organs, these may be positioned up to 40’ apart, which means that you have to rely on visual rather than audible clues, especially in echoey churches such as the Church of the Holy Spirit in Southsea (where I am director of music).

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

I admire two English composers in particular: William Byrd and Ralph Vaughan-Williams. Both were by all accounts extremely likeable and gifted. Byrd was uncompromising about his Catholic faith, and wrote a huge number of pieces, most of which are a joy to perform. Vaughan-Williams especially considered the needs and abilities of amateur groups, encouraging them to have a go: “It’s better to do something badly than not at all”.

Which works do you think you perform best, and enjoy?

I love some of the organ music written in the late 18th and early 19th century, such as by John Stanley, Charles Burney, Samuel Wesley and his son Samuel Sebastian Wesley. They are elegant in style, melodic and very useful for voluntaries! It may be of interest that their works were not written for organs with pedals. Such an innovation only appeared from after the time when Mendelssohn visited Britain in 1829. Instead, the manuals were larger, with the keyboards sometimes extending down to the F below bottom C.

What have been your most memorable performing experiences?

In 1988 I was asked to set some Edward Thomas WW1 poems to music for a performance in Steep Church. Thomas composed many of his poems in the village.  I set A Collection of Birds for countertenor, piano, cello and flute and sang in the performance. Michael Hordern (of Paddington Bear voice-over fame) was also at the event reading some of the poems which had not been set to music. The influence of both Vaughan-Williams and Messiaen can be heard in the piece.

At the funeral service for Bishop Ian Ramsey at Durham Cathedral, Conrad Eden deafened the choir for the Alleluia in For all the Saints by using the big tuba stop. There wasn’t a dry eye in the building.

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

If you are looking at a professional career, go for it, but expect to have to practise hard and keep on top of things. Don’t give up if you are rejected. It’s not in itself a means of making much money, but you can earn money by teaching. And since they have experience of managing people, musicians are also often well-suited to working in HR!

How are you keeping yourself busy?

My music-making at the Church of the Holy Spirit and teaching voice at Chichester University is keeping going. The current hiatus has also allowed me to research aspects of musical theatre, which has helped with my teaching. I regularly record myself playing the organ for the church’s Facebook page.

I would like to encourage singers to keep singing, to practise daily and prepare for when they will be able to sing together again.

Philip Drew was born in Portsmouth in 1951. He started taking piano lessons at the age of 8 and his first involvement with church music was in the choir of St Mark’s Church, Portsea. He went on to learn the organ with the Organist and Choirmaster, Russell Shepherd. He read for an Honours degree in Music at the University of Durham where he was also a choral scholar in the Cathedral Choir. He continued his organ studies first with Conrad Eden and later with Alan Thurlow.

He took up a post as Alto Lay Clerk in Llandaff Cathedral Choir in 1975 and taught in the Cathedral School. In 1979 he became organist and choirmaster at Christchurch, Llanishen in Cardiff. 1981 saw a move to Derbyshire to be Director of Music in a boarding preparatory school. Then in December 1982, Philip moved back to Portsmouth as organist and choirmaster at the Church of the Holy Spirit, Southsea.

As well as his work at Holy Spirit Church, Philip is a visiting teacher of Singing at the University of Chichester. He has given organ recitals and accompanied choirs and choral societies in many venues in South Wales, Derbyshire and Southern England including playing regularly in the Tuesday lunchtime recital series at Marlborough Rd Methodist Church in St Albans. He also conducts the choirs Wyndcliffe Voices and Cantores Vagantes.

Philip is widowed with two grown-up, married children and four grandchildren. Interests outside of music include Trains, Buses, Architecture and brewing and drinking real ale.


Welcome to Ports Fest

After 20 years of being Portsmouth Festivities, we are rebranding the cultural festival to Ports Fest. With the festival’s ever-evolving reputation in the city, we want to refresh our look and name to be on-trend and expand on our offering to the public. Ports Fest has been a well-known abbreviation for the festival for many years as our hashtag.

In the past we have been grateful to host hundreds of well-known artists, speakers, and authors, as well as involving thousands of local community residents, groups and school pupils. As well we have created fun thematic programmes to get the public involved with, such as Play Code City, The World’s Smallest Escape Room and 20 Love.

Although we had to cancel our festival in 2020 this has given us the chance to reflect on our work and think about ways to deliver an outdoor weekend festival in 2021 that will involve as many young people and as much of the Portsmouth community as possible.

The dates for this year’s festival will be July 2nd-4th and the theme for this year “Remember, Reimagine, Reset”.

We will be launching the programme for this year’s festival in May. Please be assured that the festival remains aware of the current restrictions and will always adhere to these forms of guidance locally and nationally, keeping everyone’s health and safety at the main core of this festival going ahead. “Our priority is to work around the stipulations in order to keep absolutely everyone safe. In light of this we are keeping positive that we will be able to deliver Ports Fest this summer. By then we will all need some live arts and cultural sustenance” Erica Smith, Festival Director.

In these unprecedented times, we want to bring to the community this Summer some fun-filled events for all to enjoy. Despite this, we are future planning and hopeful that our fuller programme will be back for 2022.

Head to our new website www.portsfest.co.uk to find out more on what we do and will continue to provide to the community of Portsmouth and the surrounding areas.


The Renaissance Choir is set to perform more lesser-known music from the Renaissance

The Flemish Phillipe de Monte (1521 – 1603) was one of the late-Renaissance period’s most prolific composers. The Renaissance Choir is set to mark the quincentenary of his birth by rehearsing three of his motets and recording at least one of them at home for public consumption.

He was a fine craftsman as well as being (by all accounts) a lovely man. Some scholars consider him to be as great a composer as Lassus and Palestrina, but he is relatively unknown, despite the fact that he wrote about 40 masses and 1,100 secular madrigals.

He grew up in Mechelen and was a member of the Franco-Flemish School. In his later life he worked in the Habsburg courts both in Vienna and Prague. Lassus says he brought the best-available musicians to the Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian’s court.

He visited England briefly, where he complained that Philip II’s Chapel Royal choir was filled with Spaniards. He met William Byrd and they exchanged pieces based on their shared views on the subjugation of one faith by another. Super flumina Babylonis (double SATB choir) – one of the pieces that the choir is currently learning – is a companion work to Ne Irascaris (a favourite of the choir), with its gentle impassioned crying about the subjugation of the Catholic faith.

The choir will show off De Monte’s versatility of genre in the other pieces it will sing: La Grand’ Amour, a love song, and Miserere mei Deus, a lament.

Peter Gambie, MD, says, “Our main aim is to keep Renaissance music alive for both current and future generations. The Renaissance Choir, known for its innovation and quality, is leading the way in celebrating de Monte’s 500th birthday.”


The Portsmouth Choral Union is recruiting!

Are you looking for a friendly group to share your love of singing? Ever thought about joining PCU?
If the answer is yes, then read on!

If you have some experience of singing in a group and reading music, then you are welcome – even during lockdown.

At the moment we meet each Tuesday evening via ‘Zoom’ video link at 7.30 p.m. for about 1 hour or so. No need to worry about other people hearing you, as singers are muted during the sessions!

The evening includes a fun vocal warm-up; a chance to enjoy singing well known classical music repertoire works e.g., Verdi Requiem, and even some time to work on identifying and pitching musical intervals, finding notes in chords and other elements of music to help with sight-reading.

Feeling daunted? Relax, the PCU registrar is here to help. She is happy to answer all your questions and ensure you feel very welcome.

Email: PCURegistrar@gmail.com


Support for musicians and the musical community during the pandemic

Established in early 2017, Music in Portsmouth offers classical musicians a voice in the local community. It enjoys around 1,000 unique visits and 3,000 page views per month.

During the current crisis I am:

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

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

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

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


Profile: Stefanie Kemball-Read, soprano

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

I’ve always sung – right from My old man said follow the van on television at the age of seven, through being a ‘chorister’ in my local church (in a non official capacity as there weren’t girl choristers in those days!). Completing my chorister medals gave me a sense of pride and focus in my singing and it slowly became a driving passion. There was a very active music department at my secondary school and it was here, where Andrew Fardell, the choirmaster there, encouraged and inspired me greatly to develop my voice and sing solos. I started taking singing lessons and went on to perform as one of the choir’s lead soloists.  This culminated in a choir tour to Belgium where I sang a number of solos in various sacred works at the tender age of 17.

That feeling of performance was to stay with me and inspire me over the coming years.  It is wonderful to have gone full circle and now also be coaching and hopefully inspiring a new generation of choristers and singers in my work as a teacher of singing and as a vocal coach.

But I was late to professional singing; I did a business degree at Royal Holloway, University of London (although I was busy on the extra curricular music scene both in the ‘serious’ choir there and also on stage finding my Gilbert & Sullivan feet!) and went on to become a City banker initially working all hours and so music had to take a back seat for a while.

Once I’d married and moved to Devon, I joined the South West Chamber Choir and the Plymouth Gilbert & Sullivan Fellowship (I was bitten by the bug!) and once again my passion for music ignited.  I did a number of lead roles in many shows at Plymouth’s Theatre Royal and met some wonderful people along the way.

It was my new singing teacher Ian Comboy who started to further develop my voice and who persuaded me there was really something there to take forward. He encouraged me to apply to Conservatoire and so it was that after auditioning, I obtained a place to study as a postgraduate at Trinity College of Music and found myself back as a student in my late twenties. It was a truly magical experience.  The entire place, the staff and my many wonderful talented friends and colleagues inspired me daily to express myself and to learn more and be better. The course was totally immersive and I was able to further my learning and knowledge performing in many different styles, from cabaret to grand opera and everything in between. I have to thank Eugene Asti and Mary Hill, in particular, for encouraging my belief in my ability to succeed and for all they did to enhance my technique and performance. Also a special word here for my wonderful baroque coach Robert Aldwinckle, who died recently and taught me an immeasurable amount about ornamentation and baroque expression with such acerbic wit and fun! I was honoured to sing the solo in the Brahms Requiem at his memorial service and could just imagine him saying ‘where’s the Handel?!’

I also must thank my hugely supportive and patient husband John, for supporting me through this enormous career change and for his unwavering belief in my talent and tenacity. In such a competitive world where resilience is a minimum standard, he helped me to believe in myself.

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

There are too many good singers out there! 50 years ago, one went to Conservatoire, graduated and went into a musical career where there were opportunities for performance and more regular work. Nowadays there are many, many singers and musicians out there, which can make it difficult to carve out a niche.

One of the greatest challenges for me, without doubt, must be combining a family with a professional music career. It is very hard to maintain your contacts and position through maternity leave and particularly when the children are young. There is also often a perception that because you have had a child you would not want to travel or be away from home, or you might have issues with childcare, and so the phone call goes to someone else on the list often without you having the opportunity to say that you have a plan in place! I feel so fortunate to have managed to do a bit of both. My children remind me daily of the beauty and innocent joy in the world and they appreciate music in many different ways. Children are grounding and family life a special gift.  It is lovely seeing one’s children enjoying music in their own ways.

Then there’s the issue of feast or famine: you have to be flexible, and keep yourself in shape physically and mentally – you never quite know what’s round the corner. You always seem to be offered more work when you’re at your busiest and then suddenly everything goes quiet and you wonder if you will ever work again… until the feast rolls back around and so it continues!

No matter how resilient you are, your self-belief can take a knock; auditions can go the wrong way and frequently do! But you have to pick up the pieces and carry on. Keep doing the work, maintain your self-belief and then just occasionally the most wonderful offer can roll in and make all the interim heartache worthwhile.

I couldn’t end by not talking about… Lockdown – in one day, everything in the diary was cancelled. Some companies and arts organisations won’t survive this. Theatres are struggling beyond belief and so many people who work in The Arts are now out of work with no end in sight. But you need to set yourself goals that work for the current environment. I found that during this period or in any lean work period actually, breaking up vocal conditioning done at home into small chunks works well for me. I also try to identify the mood I am in to suit the style of singing and if necessary let rip appropriately!

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

It is so rewarding to collaborate with others to create an event or a show. The bond and spirit of camaraderie and connection this brings is difficult to quantify. It’s as if you create your own family for the duration of the event. Post-show blues is a recognised phenomenon! There’s the wonderful potential for new interpretation and for learning from others. You are an absolute team in the truest sense and the passion that you all have is palpable and electrifying. It is the ultimate collective achievement to be able to bring pleasure to your audience.

As making music is such a collaborative effort, it could be challenging if one of the team isn’t properly prepared – is perhaps unwell, though this is something I’ve come across rarely. But that is when we are there for each other to support, to encourage and to lift them up. The show, after all, must go on.

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

I’ve got very eclectic tastes, enjoying oratorio and opera through to music theatre. But specifically I discovered Mozart in my teens and his music remains important to me. I’ve performed many of his operas, oratorios, concert arias and songs and despite his inimitable style there is always something new to discover. Some say that Verdi is like Mozart for bigger voices! Certainly for me as my voice has grown and developed I do see how this simplistic statement can ring true. My love for Verdi began when I first saw La traviata many years ago.  I found the character of ‘Violetta’ mesmerising and it was in that instant that I knew I simply had to sing this role and that opera was my natural ‘singing home,’ where I could use my whole physicality to convey a character’s journey and emotions. It was this which spearheaded my foray into opera. Performing this role for the first time with Kentish Opera was a culminating moment for me that will always have a large place in the memory bank.

Set against these iconic composers, I also have a love of more modern iconic composers – Britten, Bernstein, Schumann, (R.) Strauss and Poulenc, of course, whom I return to regularly in my performance life.

Which performances are you most proud of?

To be honest, I’m proud of most things I do. I think it is fundamental as a musician to foster pride in all you do; to prepare completely and be able to inhabit the glory of the music to express it to others. I guess I am at my most expressive with opera, art song or musical theatre. As a coloratura soprano, I have always been renowned for my vocal acrobatics and extremely high, powerful notes and as time has gone by I continue to sing the vocal acrobatics but with a richer and more dramatic sound which has broadened my repertoire. The role I am asked to perform most often is ‘Queen of the Night’ from Mozart’s The magic flute. I have also been particularly proud of my role as ‘Violetta’ in Verdi’s La traviata and my recent Poulenc performances…

 What are your most memorable concert experiences?

Whilst at Trinity College of Music I had a lead role in Poulenc’s Dialogue of the Carmelites. An opera depicting the true, albeit fictionalised story of the brutal act of slaughtering the Carmelite nuns by guillotine, as they would not renounce their vocation.  It has such visceral textures and stunningly intricate harmonies. The opera finale has to be one of the most moving experiences I have ever seen, let alone been part of on stage, as each nun is guillotined until they all lie dead.

By contrast was a performance of Britten’s War Requiem with the 110 piece Trinity Orchestra under the baton of Jan Latham König at Southwark Cathedral – the atmosphere was electrifying and the enormity of the sound and textures produced is again something difficult to quantify and firmly in the memory bank.  A truly collaborative piece.

Other memorable experiences:

  • Performing La Bohème in a horse stud in northern France whilst staying nearby at a convent!
  • Poulenc’s Stabat Mater and Gloria in Chelmsford Cathedral. Poulenc creates an atmosphere unlike any other, I have discovered over my many years performing.
  • Recording the single as Musical Director for the Portsmouth Military Wives Choir number one album with Decca Records.
  • My recent Lockdown performance of Poulenc’s La voix humaine at the Reform Club – a fascinating, nuanced psychological story which examines many themes of mid life, love, loss, acceptance, death; performing it in a 21st Century context using the medium of Zoom to tell the story rather than the telephone brought a fresh perspective to the piece. This enabled me to perform it to camera for online delivery to the audience, which was a whole new experience. I look forward to bringing it to the Portsmouth area soon. Watch this space!
  • Producing, directing and performing a series of both Opera and Musical Theatre Galas in Spain. The latter production involved flying the entire orchestra as well as us singers and a choreographer over from the West End to Southern Spain. A connection and collaboration forged between the client and myself when we met at the hairdresser during my Spanish holiday two years previously!

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

Do it but only if you can’t not do it! It is not enough to want to do it. You have to have the talent and inner drive and passion to make it happen. It is always possible to come later on into a professional career, as I did, so long as you have tenacity, resilience and support, though your expectations may need to be slightly different.

Practise, practise, practise – and perform often!  Join local groups in the first instance. Examine national schemes such as the National Youth Choir or National Youth Orchestra. If you live near enough, the Saturday music schools at the London Conservatoires offer a very high level of musicianship and training from a young age.

Find yourself a good teacher who can inspire you and help you develop your technique and artistry. Can they offer opportunities for shadowing of their professional productions perhaps? I offered some of my singing students the opportunity to attend one of my orchestra/singer rehearsals in London prior to a show, to see what being a professional musician looked like in reality. A mentor can also be a great help.

If you can, consider another string to your bow, such as teaching, Arts administration, accountancy, a provider of complementary therapies, to even out the peaks and troughs and further your own life experience, which you can then bring to your performances.

Do your continuing professional development, so that you keep on learning and improving. There are always new developments and new techniques to be explored.  We never stop learning.

Be flexible and maintain your level of proficiency and practice: you may be asked to stand in for someone at the last minute.

Be on time and be well prepared – this really gets noticed. And courtesy goes a VERY long way.

It’s helpful to find your own preferred angle, niche, genre or production style. I’ve done this in a number of ways over the years, as you can see from my bio. I enjoyed a foray into Spanish song at one point, and was honoured to perform the premiere of a number of Venezuelan songs at the Venezuelan embassy Bolívar Hall.

It’s useful to be able to effectively market yourself and the production you are in. The ever-expanding world of social media is a huge asset to the new musician.

Ultimately, it is the most rewarding and fulfilling career if you can make it work.

How would you define success as a musician?

Reaching a level of technique and performance that you feel can express the beauty of the music and communicate the text or story, which ideally moves your audience. There is something truly humbling about someone who listened to your performance and was moved in some way by it enough to seek you out and tell you.

Making it all work and earning something at the same time.

Feeling fulfilled: giving happiness to yourself and others.

So, what about the current situation?

The Mozart Requiem that was cancelled three times in 2020 (!) is due to be performed in Portsmouth Cathedral on Wednesday 24th March 2021, though it might have to be livestreamed. Again watch this space for more information on a date. This performance is led by Portsmouth Grammar School with the professional musicians who teach at the school making up the orchestra together with some senior school players, the Portsmouth Grammar School choirs, the ‘gapper’ choral scholars performing the male solos and yours truly as the soprano soloist.

It is still too soon for many other places to be opening up with any certainty given the fact that the virus is still rampaging, but in the coming months with the vaccine roll-out we hope that diaries will slowly start to open and live performances will return. I think both performers and spectators have all missed them immensely! More details on my personal performances will be posted on my website once confirmed.

I hope that people will continue to support The Arts: they have kept most of us going in some shape or form through Lockdown! And there’s little Government help available regardless of what you hear in the media. Musicians and all those involved in the delivery of shows, performances, running theatres, backstage crews, orchestra players are falling by the wayside in droves. The training we all go through is long and costly and the preparation behind every performance is far greater than what is seen as the finished article. Music is as professional an occupation as all paid-for services and what’s more one can guarantee that it is always performed with love, passion and integrity.

You can see and hear me perform Rejoice Greatly recorded in my kitchen during Lockdown, in the Musical Advent Calendar on Christmas Eve.

I have a selection of audio clips on my website or you can go on YouTube and watch/listen to some of my past live performances.

For any queries in relation to private singing tuition, you can contact me through my website or via my email: stefanie.read@sky.com.

Links

Stefanie Kemball Read website: www.stefanieread.com

Portsmouth Music Festival: www.portsmouthmusicfestival.co.uk

National Youth Choir www.nycgb.org.uk

National Youth Orchestra www.nyo.org.uk

Trinity Laban www.trinitylaban.ac.uk

Royal College of Music www.rcm.ac.uk

Royal Academy of Music www.ram.ac.uk

Guildhall School of Speech and Drama www.gsmd.ac.uk

Guildford School of Acting www.gsauk.org

Association of Teachers of Singing (AOTOS) www.aotos.org.uk

For details of choirs / choral groups in the Portsmouth area: www.gerontius.net and Music in Portsmouth, of course!

For information on becoming a chorister at Portsmouth Cathedral: www.portsmouthcathedral.org.uk

Dramatic coloratura soprano Stefanie trained at Trinity College of Music, London graduating with distinction from their postgraduate diploma programme.  During her time there, she performed lead roles in every college production, her portrayal of nun Constance in Poulenc’s Les Dialogues des Carmélites earning her the Paul Simm opera prize. She was also selected to perform the Britten Song cycle ‘On this Island’ at the W.H. Auden centenary concert at the Greenwich Old Royal Naval College Chapel and gained accolades for her performance in both Lieder and French song.  Her vocal dexterity and magnetic stage presence have enabled her to perform across a number of genres from cabaret to coloratura: musical theatre to opera. She excels in exciting and diverse repertoire, ranging from the vocally virtuosic to the delicately expressive – and a bit of comedy added in here and there!

Stefanie has performed extensively throughout Europe and the UK with a variety of opera companies and has appeared in more than 20 leading operatic soprano roles, most recently Violetta in La traviata, Königin der Nacht, Die Zauberflöte, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, Adina, L’elisir d’amore and as Nedda in I Pagliacci. She is a regular soloist on the oratorio platform having recently performed as the soloist in Haydn’s Creation, Handel’s Messiah, Orff’s Carmina Burana and Brahms’ Requiem. She has also given many solo recitals at London’s most celebrated performance venues including St Martin-in-the-Fields, St John’s Smith Square and St James’ Piccadilly. In musical theatre, Stefanie has previously played the roles of Eliza in My Fair Lady and Maria in West Side Story, reprising her role as Maria most recently in November 2018. She has performed much of the leading musical theatre repertoire in concerts across the United Kingdom. She has also performed most of the Gilbert and Sullivan leading lady roles in the repertoire.  Most recently, she has just completed a Lockdown performance of Poulenc’s one woman opera La voix humaine; an intense, introspective exploration of the mid-life psyche, which usually takes place entirely on the telephone.  In this unique online live-streamed performance to the audience, it utilised the modern setting of zoom thus creating a new immersive approach mirroring current society.

Stefanie was the inaugural Musical Director for the Portsmouth Military Wives Choir and conducted them to chart topping success after recording a track for their number one album ‘In my Dreams’ from Decca Records.  Stefanie is currently the Artistic Director for the Asociación Arturo Darch, directing, producing and performing in a series of productions in Spain.  Her recent full production for them in July 2018 ‘From Broadway to Hollywood’ with an all star international cast of singers and full orchestra from London’s West End for Patricia Darch in Sotogrande was a highly successful and award winning event.  Like most of the Performing Arts industry, Stefanie has been very hard-hit by the Coronavirus pandemic, however she also has a busy teaching portfolio as a private singing teacher, a coach to the Junior Choristers at Portsmouth Cathedral and teacher of singing at Portsmouth Grammar School and Barton Peveril Sixth Form College, teaching singing to the next generation of performers. All her recent students have gained places at leading Conservatoires and drama schools.  She plans to return to Spain to produce the next Spanish Gala, which will be a unique production of Carmen, when the world is a safer place.  She is also hoping to perform as soloist in Mozart’s Requiem at Portsmouth Cathedral in March 2021 and to bring her Poulenc one-woman opera to the Portsmouth area.

Stefanie continues her vocal training and development with renowned soprano Cathy Pope in the Swedish / Italian school of singing technique.


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.

Read about George Burrows, 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, and 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.

Read about George Burrows.


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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