Britten’s Friday Afternoons reborn in Centenary celebrations
17 September 2012
A highlight of next year’s Britten Centenary celebrations will be an Aldeburgh Music-sponsored nationwide singing project which aims to get 75,000 children in the UK to sing Britten’s music on 22 November 2013 – the exact centenary of his birth.
Composed between 1933 and 1935, Britten’s Friday Afternoons is a cycle of 12 songs composed by Britten for the school in Prestatyn, Wales, where his brother was headmaster. The composer’s nephew, Alan Britten, remarked: ‘You have to remember that in those days, my uncle was not the world famous musician we all known his as now, he was just the headmaster’s brother who was visiting.’ Featured recently in Wes Anderson’s film, Moonrise Kingdom, the music is easy to sing and is accompanied by witty piano parts.
Aldeburgh Music conceived the project to highlight Britten’s legacy of work for young people and to encourage more singing in schools – by coordinating with a network of venues, festivals, regional and national opera companies, and providing online resources for teachers through a dedicated website, the aim is to rekindle the spark of singing in schools across the country.
CUTTING IT FINE
6 September 2012
Plans to slash £2.1 million from the budget for the BBC’s performing groups by 2016-17 seem likely to deprive the BBC Singers – the main supplier of live and specially recorded choral music to Radio 3 – of four of its members.
The cuts – equivalent to a 10 per cent reduction in total spending that will also affect the BBC’s five branded orchestras – have been announced by the corporation’s Head of Audio and Music Tim Davie following the publication of the Myerscough Report in June.
It is uncertain how much the BBC Singers can expect to lose from their existing annual budget of £1.8 million, but the threat of a further four redundancies following the recent loss of two members would see the critically acclaimed ensemble’s numbers reduced by a quarter over the past year to a cohort of just 18 singers.
Tim Davie described the planned reduction in spending as an opportunity to renew the ‘creative vision’ of the performing groups. Among the areas targeted for ‘savings and more efficient targeting and fine-tuning’ of resources by John Myerscough – a former parliamentary special advisor on the arts and author of the 1988 study ‘The Economic Importance of the Arts in Britain’ – are changes to the performing strengths of each organisation, changes to contractual arrangements, a pay freeze, and the sharing of administrative responsibilities.
The merger of the BBC Singers administration within the general management of the BBC Symphony Orchestra is ‘already under way’, added Davie.
As yet, there is no indication of how any reduction in monies made available to the BBC Singers would affect their performing commitments, repertoire choices, or their educational and outreach activities, which include working with young professional artists, composers and conductors.
The Report said the proposed level of cuts ‘should be achievable, but it will not be easy’.
New College scholar scoops major prize for young organists
5 September 2012
The award ceremony of this year’s Northern Ireland International Organ Competition (from left): winner Ben Bloor (20), Martyn Noble (21), Tom Etheridge (18) and Michael Papadopoulos (21). Behind, judges Mark Duley, David Hill and Kimberly MarshallLiam McArdle
Ben Bloor, 20, organ scholar of New College, Oxford, won the senior category of the second Northern Ireland International Organ Competition (NIIOC), held in Armagh on 20 – 22 August. Born in Derby, Bloor was a chorister at Derby Cathedral and organ scholar at St George’s Chapel, Windsor and is now in his second undergraduate year at New College, Oxford. In addition to the £1,000 NIIOC cash prize sponsored by Allen Organs he will receive a professionally recorded CD and online promotional package and will give hosted recitals in Westminster Abbey, Trinity College Cambridge, Christ Church Cathedral Dublin and St Anne’s Cathedral Belfast. A recital recorded in St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral, Armagh, was broadcast in September on BBC Radio Ulster and will be followed by other showcase opportunities under the auspices of the competition.
Runner-up and winner of the NIIOC Bach Prize of £200 awarded in memory of Northern Irish organist William McDonald was London-based Martyn Noble, 21, who has just taken up the post of organ scholar at Southwark Cathedral. Third prize went to Tom Etheridge, 18, of Eton College, organ scholar-elect of King’s College, Cambridge, and Michael Papadopoulos, 21, of Trinity College, Oxford, was highly commended by the judging panel, which was chaired by Professor Kimberly Marshall, professor of organ at Arizona State University, assisted by David Hill, chief conductor of the BBC Singers, and Mark Duley, organist of the Collegiate Church of St Nicholas, Galway.
The NIIOC is unique in offering an important performance platform and competition experience specifically to organists under the age of 21. Established last year, it has successfully attracted entries from a substantial number of cathedral and collegiate organ scholars and assistant organists from the UK and Ireland. ‘I don’t think there is anything like this anywhere else in the world,’ said Professor Marshall in her speech at the senior awards ceremony. ‘The standard of the organists in the senior class was very impressive. The jury voted unanimously for Ben Bloor as winner. He is an outstanding player and a versatile musician.’
Richard Yarr, chair of the competition, said that it fills a gap for young organists in the international music scene and that he is delighted that NIIOC is leading the way. ‘There are very few opportunities for young local organists, and further afield, to show what they can do, and NIIOC has successfully provided something unique and special.’
The competition also features two categories for young players. First prize of £300 in the intermediate category 2012 went to Martina Smyth, a student of the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Dublin, with Catherine Olver highly commended, and first prize of £200 in the junior category was jointly awarded to Ellen Mawhinney and Richard Carey, both from Belfast.
Music world mourns death of Carlo Curley, 59
15 August 2012
The organ world has joined with countless music lovers to express shock at the sudden death of American organist Carlo Curley.
Known as 'the Pavarotti of the organ', Curley had made his home in the UK, where he became widely known for his larger-than-life personality and outstanding gifts as a performer - these were expressed to the full for the thousands who came to hear him at his Alexandra Palace concerts in the 1970s, in which he and guest organists performed on a large Allen touring organ in the grand hall which once housed one of the most famous Willis organs ever built. For a televised event at 'Ally Pally', Curley - who always signed himself 'Carlissimo' in his emails and blog posts - made his stately progress to the stage atop a large Cadillac convertible.
Curley was born into a musical family in 1952 and attended the North Carolina School of the Arts; his mission to promote the organ and organ music to the masses made him the natural heir of Virgil Fox, with whom he studied. But the seriousness with which Curley approached his music-making was further encouraged by the friendship and mutual respect which flourished when he came to the UK and studied with Sir George Thalben-Ball.
Through sound recordings, TV, and personal appearances, Carlo Curley became a household name throughout the world - as well as the UK, he found strong friendships on the continent of Europe, particularly Denmark - his tireless advocacy of the digital organ in no way diminished the pleasure and satisfaction he derived from playing any organ , from small tracker instruments to large cathedral behemoths. Among many honours, he was the first classical organist to give a solo recital at the White House, invited by US President Jimmy Carter. His insightful and entertaining autobiography, In The Pipeline was published by HarperCollins in 1998.
Curley was a popular guest in broadcasting studios, prized for his forthright opinions expressed with gusto and ineffable Southern charm. A post on the Allen Organs UK site said simply, 'His inimitable style of presentation, consummate musicianship, warm wit and charismatic personality illuminated his concerts and endeared him to all he met. May he rest in peace.'
Northern Ireland International Organ Competition extends closing date
19 July 2012
Competition jury chair Kimberley Marshall
The 2012 Northern Ireland International Organ Competition has extended its closing date for entries to Friday 27 July at 2pm.
The competition – for organists aged 21 and under – takes place in Armagh on Monday 20th and Tuesday 21st August, alongside the prestigious Charles Wood Summer School. Organists perform on the Walker/Wells-Kennedy organ of Armagh Cathedral (CoI) and the 1986 II/10 Wells-Kennedy organ of St. Malachy's Church.
New performance prizes, totalling over £2000, have been introduced this year, as well as travel bursaries for competitors from outside the UK and Ireland. Candidates give a 20-minute recital – the top prize of £1000 in cash also includes a package of public recitals hosted by Westminster Abbey, Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin and St.Anne's Cathedral, Belfast; the winner is also offered a professional CD recording and promotional video.
Kimberly Marshall, professor of organ at Arizona State University will chair the jury, along with David Hill, chief conductor of the BBC Singers, and the New Zealand organist Mark Duley. In addition to chairing the jury, Kimberly Marshall also will lead a master class for organists and host a programming and presentation workshop.