Ray of Hope for University Music
29 June 2011
The Director of Music’s office at Strathclyde University, Glasgow, has won a partial reprieve following the publication of plans to disband the department. The reprieve for the music department comes in the context of wider-spread cuts in courses at the Universities of Strathclyde and Glasgow that gave rise to student protests at the beginning of June. The protests culminated in student’s occupying the Geography and Sociology Department on the eve of the court hearing to decide the future of the departments.
The proposals, which were part of a cost-cutting exercise by the university’s principal Prof. Jim McDonald, threatened the future of the University Music Society, which runs a 40-piece chamber choir, a symphony orchestra, a concert band, big band and Celtic ensemble. This is turn would leave students on the BA Applied Music course, who are required to participate in the groups, high and dry; the move also threatened to make a white elephant of the new Bach-style Kögler organ in the university’s Barony Hall.
Now a stay of execution has given the department three years to bring in additional income through donations, sponsorship and ticket sales. The cuts, set to save £244,000, have sparked condemnation from leading figures in arts and education:
- Composer James MacMillan said that cuts ‘amounted to vandalism’.
- Actor Peter Capaldi, who began his career in the Strathclyde Theatre Group which uses the Ramshorn, said he was ‘alarmed and upset’ by the proposals.
- A former vice-principal, Emeritus Professor Peter Reed, accused Strathclyde of having ‘tunnel vision’.
Defending the proposals, McDonald told journalists: ‘From 1 August we anticipate a funding cut of about £12 million, but we still want to invest in those areas that are critical in delivering our strategic objectives to develop Strathclyde as a leading international technological institution.’ He insisted culture and arts had not been singled out: ‘Strathclyde has been, and will continue to be, committed to culture and the arts because we genuinely believe it enhances our students’ experience, but we have to address how we sustain and maximise the potential for these activities as we are doing in all other areas.’
The renowned American philosopher Noam Chomsky, known as the ‘father of modern linguistics’, also entered the debate, describing McDonald’s vision of a ‘Massachusetts Institute of Technology of the Clyde’ as ‘very odd,’ telling journalists: ‘If the goal is to turn Strathclyde into the MIT of Scotland by curtailing programmes in the social sciences, it is the MIT of half-a-century ago that is envisioned, if even that.’
Nicholas Danby Scholarship goes to Richard Brasier
29 June 2011
The Nicholas Danby Trust has announced that the 2011 Scholarship has been awarded to Richard Brasier. The £6,000 per annum scholarship is awarded biennially to a postgraduate organ student of exceptional promise, enabling them to undertake conservatoire study outside his or her own country for up to two years.
The award was announced prior to Olivier Latry’s recital at Southwark Cathedral last Thursday (23 June), and Richard was introduced to people at a reception which followed the concert.
Richard will be using the scholarship to undertake a two-year course at the Cologne Musikhochschule, where he will study with Johannes Geffert. Richard, who began his musical training on the piano aged 10, gave his first recital aged 16, just one year after he took up the organ. Prior to taking up a place at the Royal Academy of Music to study with David Titterington and Nicolas Kynaston, Richard spent a year as organ scholar Chelmsford Cathedral and two years as assistant organist at St Alfege Parish Church, Greenwich. He is currently organ scholar at St Marylebone Parish Church in central London and organist of Marylebone School for Girls. His work includes teaching instrumental and theoretical music and accompanying. More recently, he has formed a partnership with fellow RAM student and trumpeter Nathan Richards, performing both original repertoire and arrangements of instrumental works.
Each Nicholas Danby organ scholar benefits from the advice and aid of the trustees. Current trustees are: Stephen Turvey, Margaret Danby, James O’Donnell, Patrick Russill, Catherine Ennis, Peter Wright, Barry Woodman and Mary Danby Calvert.
CHOIR & ORGAN DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTIONS NOW AVAILABLE
23 June 2011
Choir & Organ is now available as a digital subscription and as an app for the iPad and iPhone.
Digital subscriptions cost £20.99 for 6 issues and are available through distributor PocketMags here.
The Choir & Organ app for iPhone and iPad can be downloaded for £1.99 here, and comes with one free issue of the purchaser's choice: further single issues or subscriptions may be purchased within the app.
Digital back issues are also available for download at the PocketMags site, costing £3.99 each, £10.00 for three.
Registration now open for 2011 Isle of Man Festival of Choirs
27 May 2011
For the second year running, Isle of Man Tourism is hosting the Isle of Man Festival of Choirs. The competition is to be held in the Villa Marina on 24 and 25 September 2011.
The Festival is divided into separated into three categories: ladies’, male and mixed voice choirs, with the first two in each section receiving prizes of £500 and £200 respectively. Each choir must perform three contrasting pieces, on of which must be unaccompanied. The winners in each category will then be put through to a final with a possible winnings of £1,500.
There are plenty of other things to do in the Isle of Man while you’re there: local attractions and countryside a-plenty. Home to the Celts, Vikings and the oldest continuous parliament in the world, the Isle of Man is steeped in history, and choirs can enjoy visiting the many Manx National Heritage sites dotted around the Island.
Each choir must pay an entry fee of £25. Registration details can be found at visitisleofman.com.
For more information please contact Laura Quinn on 01624 644644 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Vehicles for prayer
26 May 2011
Zachary Wadsworth receives his prize© John Mitchell
The finals of the King James Bible Composition Awards were held in the Temple Church, London, on 17 May, compèred by British TV and radio presenter Katie Derham. The competition invited composers to write a setting of words from the King James Bible to celebrate its 400th anniversary this year. Category A was for less experienced choirs of up to 4 parts and keyboard; Category B, for experienced choirs of up to 8 parts with or without organ.
Principal adjudicator for Category A, Bob Chilcott, commented, ‘The general quality was very good. What I liked was that the composers chose rather unusual texts. We were looking for something that would have a precise shape – people need to understand it immediately. The compositional intent was very high.’ The category was won by Wiltshire schoolteacher Christopher Totney with The Mystery of Christ, setting texts from Isaiah, Revelation and Colossians; arpeggios in the piano part evoke the ‘water of life’, explained the composer. Chilcott described it as ‘having an attractive shape and sound; I could see it being sung by many different choirs.’
James MacMillan, principal adjudicator for Category B, said, ‘I was fascinated to see there was a concern by composers that they weren’t just writing concert music. When [the pieces] are done in liturgy, there has to be another kind of purpose – they are a vehicle for prayer.’ This was an important element in what the judges looked for: ‘a sense of time; first and foremost, these works are not for display’. Category B was won by Zachary Wadsworth’s Out of the South Cometh the Whirlwind, a work of almost epic proportions setting lines from the book of Job charting a trajectory from doubt toward belief. Wadsworth, a graduate of Eastman School of Music and Yale University, is pursuing a DMA in composition at Cornell University. He had flown over from Canada to hear the finals, completely unaware that his piece was to win the category. After the presentation of the awards, he described himself as ‘completely shocked! I'm deeply honoured to have been chosen as the winner, especially given the wonderful compositions of my peers. It was also quite amazing to meet so many people who have greatly contributed to the choral and vocal worlds! I was star-struck.’
The four shortlisted anthems in each of the two categories were performed by the Royal College of Music Junior Department Chamber Choir conducted by Joy Hill, with Daniel Moult at the organ and piano. Choir member Rosanna Cooper enthused, ‘I was brilliant to hear what composers of our own age did with the words and the music… the winning piece [of category B] had our vote from the beginning.’