Jonathan Harvey, composer, 3 May 1939 - 4 December 2012
5 December 2012
Jonathan Harvey, who has died aged 73© Maurice Foxall
Jonathan Harvey, one of the foremost British composers of his generation, has died aged 73.
He had been suffering from motor neurone disease.
His music was intertwined with his Buddhist religion, but spirituality of all kinds had a great influence on his work. He decided to become a composer at the age of 11, during an organ voluntary while he was a member of the choir at St Michael’s College, Tenbury.
Harvey studied music at St John’s College, Cambridge, obtaining his doctorate in 1972, and was a longstanding academic at the University of Sussex, where he held various posts from 1977 to 1993 and was an honorary professor. He taught at Stanford University from 1995 to 2000.
He was invited by Pierre Boulez to work at IRCAM (the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique) in the 1980s and he wrote several pieces while working under its auspices, including Wagner Dream, his third opera, which was premiered by Netherlands Opera in 2007 and given its UK premiere in a semi-staged performance in January 2012. It will be given its fully staged UK premiere by Welsh National Opera in June 2013.
In October 2012 he was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the Incorporated Society of Musicians and his Messages for choir and orchestra was awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society’s award for large-scale composition in May 2012.
A full obituary will follow in Classical Music's 15 December issue.
Jonathan Harvey 3 May 1939 - 4 December 2012
Sir Philip Ledger (1937-2012)
20 November 2012
Sir Philip Ledger (r) with Sir David Willcocks (c) and Stephen Cleobury (l)Maggie Heywood
Les Sirènes scoop UK’s choral crown
2 November 2012
Winning choir Les Sirenes on stageTas Kyprianou
The UK’s Choir of the Year 2012 is Les Sirènes, a group of 22 vocal and instrumental students and graduates from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Directed by 24-year-old Andrew Nunn, a graduate of the college himself and currently studying there for a masters in conducting, the ensemble got through on a wild card to the grand final of the competition, held in the Royal Festival Hall, London.
Choir of the Year is run by event management company Kallaway and is the UK’s biggest competition of its kind, open to amateur groups of between eight and 100 singers, representing all ages and musical styles. This year 138 choirs with a total membership of over 5,000 singers auditioned at regional events for the category finals held in Manchester in early October. The final was judged by vocal coach Mary King, choral conductor Greg Beardsell and West End singer Ruthie Henshall, and will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 11 November and on BBC Four television on 23 November.
Les Sirènes beat a Lindley Junior School choir from Yorkshire; Methodist College Senior Girls’ Choir from Northern Ireland; jazz a cappella group the Oxford Gargoyles; Surrey Hills adult chamber choir; and Ysgol Glanaethwy Senior Choir from a youth music centre in Wales to take the title. No distinctions were announced between the other competitors but the jury did reveal that the standard was so high that only five marks separated Les Sirènes from the choir in sixth place, with all the groups demonstrating to an extraprdinary degree the balance that they were looking for between vocal quality, musicianship and stage presence.
Andrew Nunn told C&O that it was his choir’s third attempt at the biennial competition, in which he and one of his singers had been finalists with Tees Valley Youth Choir. ‘When I formed Les Sirènes five years ago I thought it would be good to have something to aim for, but we didn’t even get into the first audition round. In 2010 we were a Choir of the Day in Edinburgh, but didn’t progress further. I can hardly believe that this year we have actually won!
‘This is a very difficult competition to do well in. A key factor is making sure you choose the right repertoire for each round but have something in reserve to make an impact if you do get through to the final.’ Les Sirènes sang Poulenc and Elgar in the adult category final but were in lighter mood for the grand final with arrangements of the folk song ‘Oh soldier, soldier’ and Billy Joel’s ‘And so it goes’.
Nunn was particularly pleased by Mary King’s comments in her adjudication about the increasing rarity of choral singing in conservatoires, where vocal students are often discouraged from joining choirs. She praised Les Sirènes for combining vocal skill with warmth and achieving a good blend and ‘the best controlled pianissimo legato I have ever heard’.
Archbishop honours senior cathedral figures
1 November 2012
The Archbishop with Dr Jackson
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has awarded Lambeth degrees to Dr Martin Neary, former director of music at Winchester Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, and Dr Francis Jackson, organist emeritus of York Minster. Dr Neary's award was 'in recognition of his outstanding contribution at national and international level as an organist and conductor, and of his sensitive and dynamic interpretation of sacred and secular music in the choral tradition.' Dr Jackson's citation recognised 'at national and international level his work as an organist and composer, and his contribution to the development and appreciation of sacred and secular music.'
The Lambeth honorary degree is a full academic degree awarded entirely at the discretion of the Archbishop. The degrees are also given as a thanksgiving from the Church for distinguished service; they can be awarded in Divinity, Law, Arts, Medicine or Music.
The degrees have an interesting history. The Peter's Pence Act of 1533 gave the Archbishop of Canterbury the power to grant degrees (previously carried out by the Pope). It allowed the Archbishop to override the requirements of the only two universities at the time, Oxford and Cambridge, and dispense candidates from residency and, in some cases, examination, at a time when it was difficult to travel to the universities, often because of outbreaks of the plague. This power did, and still does, require confirmation by the Crown and so the degrees are known as 'degrees of the realm'. All recipients have to be able to swear an oath to the monarch since the act of 1533 speaks of the monarch conferring degrees to his subjects. The Archbishop's power to continue to grant these degrees is expressly set out in the Education Reform Act 1988.
At the recent degree ceremony, music was provided by the choir of All Saints, Fulham (pictured with the Archbishop and Martin Neary); Dr Neary is organist emeritus at the church.
Choir of King’s College launches own record label
1 November 2012
Changing landscape: King's College Choir launches own record labelBenjamin Ealovega
In a further sign of the changing landscape of classical music recording, the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge has joined the swelling ranks of orchestras, chamber groups and individual artists in launching its own record label. ‘This is absolutely the right moment for the choir to take control of their recording programme,’ said the Choir’s agent, Stephen Lumsden. ‘Choosing the repertoire that is important to both their heritage as well as the here and now, will bring both artistic freedom and control over all aspects of their extensive media life.’
Over several decades under successive directors Boris Ord, David Willcocks, Philip Ledger and (since 1982) Stephen Cleobury, the Choir has amassed a catalogue of over 100 recordings, mainly with Decca and EMI, selling millions of copies worldwide; its albums of the Psalms of David – initially recorded only as a stop-gap due to a scheduling error – have never been out of the catalogue since the 1960s. In view of the Choir’s continuing popularity, it’s not clear why EMI in particular would want to see King’s fly the nest, and official statements gloss over the choir’s future with the troubled major label. A spokeswoman for the Choir told C&O, ‘The Choir may record with EMI again in future, but for now this is the way they expect to make the majority of their recordings.’ Stephen Cleobury added, ‘This development will allow the Choir to spread its wings. We will be able to record more adventurous repertoire as well as bringing a fresh look at some of the most important pieces from the choral literature.’
The Choir’s international standing has been fostered by the annual Service of Nine Lessons and Carols, which every year but one since 1928 has been broadcast by the BBC. And the new label’s first release, Nine Lessons & Carols [KGS0001], capitalises on this; based on the Services of 2010 and 2011, the 2-CD recording replicates the familiar format of scripture readings and carols; the running order is supplemented by tracks featuring commissioned carols from the last few years, by an impressive roster of contemporary composers including Mark-Anthony Turnage, Tansy Davies, Dominic Muldowney, Judith Weir, Gabriel Jackson, Brett Dean and Einojuhani Rautavaara. In a shrewd marketing coup, the CD unveils the 2012 commission – a new carol by John Rutter. Overall the package is a clear winner, but the real test for the fledgling label will be the next release, an ‘in-depth exploration’ of Mozart’s Requiem, due out next Spring.