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

Chichester Music Society: David Owen Norris: ‘A path of his own discovery’: Beethoven at the piano

Wed 9 Dec 2020 7:30pm, Chapel of the Ascension, Bishop Otter Campus, University of Chichester. Links below.

David Owen Norris is a pianist, composer and broadcaster. He won the Prize of the City of Geneva in the Geneva Competition, and the Accompanist’s Prize at Leeds; and since his appointment to the prestigious Gilmore Artist Award, has performed all across the world, with four appearances in the BBC Proms, concert tours of Europe, Australia and North America, including performances at Sydney Opera House, the Kennedy Centre, Lincoln Centre, Ravinia Festival Chicago, the South Bank Centre etc. and a discography of 60 commercial CDs including his own Piano Concerto with the BBC Concert Orchestra, and his oratorio Prayerbook. His other compositions include a Symphony, a Piano Sonata, the oratorio Turning Points, and the multi-media tribute to the passing seasons, HengeMusic.

His Chord of the Week programmes on BBC2 television were a popular feature of the Proms for six years. His Perfect Pianists is often shown on BBC4. He has contributed to programmes on Parry, Vaughan Williams, Mendelssohn & Elgar, including ninety minutes on BBC2 dedicated to Elgar’s Piano Concerto, with a full, filmed performance with the BBCSO. His first TV presentation, The Real Thing? from 1990, was hailed by the Daily Telegraph as ‘the most literate and probing programme on music for many years’, and his most recent Chord of the Week was reviewed by the Observer as ‘the most consistently intelligent three minutes you’ll watch on this or any other television this year’. The Beethoven 9 app for which he wrote the book and the analyses won the Best Music App Award.

His many radio presentations have included the Playlist series on Radio 4, and In Tune and The Works on radio 3, where he made his 28th appearance on Building a Library last December. Recordings recently released include Mozart on fortepiano for Hyperion, featured in the New York Times, and the complete Chamber Music of Grace Williams, which was a Guardian CD of the Week. He will shortly conclude his complete survey of Sir Arthur Sullivan’s songs on Chandos.

In this evening’s lecture/recital David Owen Norris begins by tracing the development of Beethoven’s stylistic traits from the variations: triple-time Adagios, such a metrical minefield for performers throughout his work; the ridiculous jokes, the baffling dynamic shifts, the exploitation of each end of the keyboard, even the boldness of tonality – all is here in embryo.

He then turns his attention to Beethoven’s two most remarkable sonatas composed before deafness put an end to his performing career: the Sonate Pathétique, Op. 13 (1799) and the Fantasy-Sonata Op.27 No.2 (1802 – the Moonlight Sonata). Op.13 shows us how Beethoven’s pianism came out of his harpsichord playing – the first edition describes it as being ‘for harpsichord or pianoforte’, and Beethoven arranged many of its details with that in mind. The Moonlight, from the same year as the Heiligenstadt Testament, Beethoven’s open letter of despair to the world, can be read as a personal response to the onset of deafness – it is dedicated to the pupil he had hitherto hoped to marry.


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/


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which works do you think you perform best?

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

Which performances are you most proud of?

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

What are your most memorable concert experiences?

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

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

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

How would you define success as a musician?

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

Come and hear some of my students sing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


“Beethoven the Revolutionary” with Angela Zanders

This year we are celebrating the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth and I shall be giving a lecture-recital on ‘Beethoven the Revolutionary’ on 14th October at 7.30pm for the Chichester Music Society, held at the Chapel of the Ascension, Chichester University.

The event will be live-streamed so that you can watch it free of charge on your PC or another device. Read more on the concert page below.

If you wish to attend, tickets must be purchased in advance – details are available on the CMS website.

 


Erin on a High Note!

Chichester Music Group welcomed back Erin Alexander [soprano] and Nick Miller [piano] on 29 September to the Society’s first “socially distanced” concert at the University of Chichester, which was also live-streamed. This was a new experience for both the performers and the audience and, given these unusual circumstances, it was an enjoyable experience for all.

This concert was entitled “On a High Note”, which tells the story of soprano Graziella Scuitti, a contemporary of Maria Callas. Erin Alexander played the Italian singer, and she expertly maintained an effective Italian accent when in role. Nick Miller was an adept interviewer and they both created a believable platform, as they developed the life of Graziella Sciutti.

Graziella Scuitti’s stage career began in 1951 as she sang the role of Elisetta, the woman in The Telephone, which Erin performed with humour and skill, and then she sang songs from the characters that became Scuitti’s celebrated favourites, which during her career she performed over a hundred times each, Susanna, Despina, Rosina and Musetta.

The audience therefore enjoyed a wide selection of arias from Bach, Mozart, Verdi, Rossini, and Puccini. Erin Alexander’s performance was engagingly dramatic, and she sang with a very self-possessed vibrancy, particularly rising to the challenge of singing in the character of another opera singer. This was an extremely rewarding performance.

The accompaniment by Nick Miller was very supportive yet so buoyant that it led to a highly effective performance by both musicians. They are to be congratulated for producing a near to perfection performance both musically, as well as in the acting necessary to make the format of the evening believable. The small audience that was allowed were very appreciative.

At the short interval the Chairman of the Chichester Music Society, Chris Hough, explained that this concert was dedicated to Chris Coote, the Society’s Treasurer, who unfortunately had just tragically died after a short illness. He said, “This was a concert that Chris Coote would have loved. He was especially committed to the development of young, gifted artists and took a keen interest in our Charity and its work. Chris had many friends in the musical world, especially in the Chichester and Bognor Regis music scene. His financial skills as an actuary, and musical temperament gave CMS an excellent treasurer. He was a talented accompanist and a fine musician. We shall miss his wit, his friendship and expertise. Erin and Nick have produced a torrent of lovely music which we have all thoroughly enjoyed. They are to be congratulated.”

Erin Alexander then closed the concert with a poignant performance of the piece when she had first met Chris Coote at a Showcase Concert Competition. This was the competition which Erin had won. She said he was one of those rare individuals who always had time for her, was always ready to provide help and advice, and as she said “he was so generous, with his time, his love, his soul, particularly for all of us young musicians, and even offered accommodation at his home when she was performing.”


Soprano Erin Alexander to sing for Chichester Music Society

Chichester Music Society (formerly Funtington Music Group) welcome back Erin Alexander (soprano) with Nick Miller (piano) for a show which was to have been their first under their new name in June.

Erin and Nick will present On A High Note, the story of soprano Graziella Sciutti. The singer was a contemporary of Maria Callas and helped pioneer the movement of opera singers becoming actors. Erin will sing the arias by Mozart, Verdi, and Rossini which made Sciutti’s career.

The recital will be in Chichester University’s Chapel of the Ascension on Tuesday, September 29 at 7.30pm.

Read more at the link below.

If you click through to the concert page, you can read details about how to access the livestream of this concert.

Read a review.


Profile: Crispin Ward, composer, conductor, university lecturer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How would you describe your musical language?

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

How do you work?

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

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

Which works/performances are you most proud of?

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

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

Beethoven.

Which works do you think you perform best? Why?

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

What are your most memorable concert experiences?

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

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

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

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

How would you define success as a musician?

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

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

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

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit his website for further info.


Chichester Music Society: livestream of Pavlos Carvalho playing Bach Cello Suites on 9 September

Please see a previous news item about this concert.

Arrangements have been made to live stream our concert with Pavlos Carvalho on Wednesday 9th September at 7.30pm in the University Chapel.

On this occasion the live stream will be carried by the University’s in-house system, ‘Chiplayer’. Click on the link below and it will take you straight to the livestream. If you click into the link before the live stream starts you will be taken to the site and it will say “this page will refresh when the webcast starts”. The concert will begin at 7.30 pm and once you have linked onto the site, no further action is required.

https://chiplayer.cloud.panopto.eu/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=a336306d-d954-48a4-acc6-ac2f009b3f4d

I do hope that you will enjoy this live-streamed event. This will be the first time we have attempted to live stream our events so it will be a bit of a learning process all round, please bear with us!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Chichester Music Society Autumn Programme

I am delighted to announce that CMS is proposing to run our Autumn Season as planned, including an additional event on Tuesday 29th September. The University recently informed us that the Chapel, our usual performance space, would be available and that the University is intending to live-stream all events. The Chapel lends itself to social distancing so we are hoping that by the Autumn there will be an audience present. In any event, we intend to go ahead with or without an audience, depending on Government guidelines. Further details will be made available in due course.

This is an excellent outcome for CMS as it means that members and friends who felt anxious could watch from home, or everyone could if only small audiences were allowed in the performance space at first.

In my last CMS Update I announced that we had re-arrange the lecture/recital with Ashworth & Rattenbury Guitars to Tuesday 29th September. Unfortunately due to changes in their tour planning the duo are not able to come on that occasion and we will be seeing them next year. However, I am delighted to be able to confirm that Erin Alexander who was due to give our Summer Buffet Concert on 10th June will now be performing on that date. Further details of our first two Autumn events are shown below.

Finally, do take a look at our updated website! We are in the process of making the site consistent with our new CMS image and at the same time introducing new areas which we hope will be of interest to old and new members alike. Please let me have your views and suggestions.

Do look after yourselves over the coming months and try to avoid any unnecessary risks!


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

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

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

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

Tuesday 29th September, Erin Alexander: “On a High Note”

This concert, postponed from 10th June, will be a special event, with the return of Chichester University graduate and Award-winning soprano Erin Alexander, and pianist Nick Miller, presenting “On a High Note”, the story of soprano Graziella Sciutti. The singer was a contemporary of Maria Callas, and helped pioneer the movement of opera singers becoming actors. Erin will sing the arias by Mozart, Verdi, and Rossini which made Sciutti’s career.

Erin Alexander has recently finished studying on a full scholarship at the Conservatorio Luigi Cherubini. Whilst there she performed the roles of Despina (Cosi fan Tutte) and Rosina (Il Barbiere di Seviglia).


Help with research into safe choir return

Researchers need your input into a survey about safety and risk management for choirs

A team of academics and choir leaders at Brighton and Sussex Medical School is conducting research into helping choirs get back into their regular activities, following coronavirus lockdown.

As well as filling out the survey, the team is also inviting choir members to join them as researchers. If you’re interested, you can fill in your email address at the top of the survey and they will contact you. Or you can leave those fields blank if you’d prefer not to, and you can stay anonymous.

You can also keep up with the research by joining the team’s Facebook group which is automatically open to anyone who has been on Facebook for more than three months.

Click on the link below to complete the survey.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How would you describe your musical language?

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

Which works/performances are you most proud of?

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

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

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

Which works do you think you perform best?

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

What is your most memorable concert experience?

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

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

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

How would you define success as a musician/composer?

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

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

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

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

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


Profile: Angela Zanders, pianist and lecturer

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

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

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

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

www.angelazanders.com

Simon O’Hea is in conversation with Angela.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How would you describe your musical language?

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

How do you work? 

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

Which works/performances are you most proud of?

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

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

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

Which works do you think you perform best?

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

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

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

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

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

How would you define success as a musician/composer?

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

What do you enjoy doing most?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Simon O’Hea is in conversation with Colin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you work?

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

Which works/performances are you most proud of?

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

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

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

What have been your most memorable concert experiences?

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

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

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

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

What are your plans for the next twelve months?

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

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

 


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.


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