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More Work for less Money

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Categories: contemporary classical music, live performance, music profession
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ABO report 2016More concerts, larger audiences, wider outreach and a 5% drop in income – sound familiar?!

This was in a report commissioned by the Association of British Orchestras showing that orchestras in 2016 “delivered more than 4,000 concerts and reached almost 5 million attendees and 900,000 children and young people amidst a 5% drop in total income”.

Orchestras are succeeding in achieving larger audiences and engaging with more young people but it all has a cost which has to be balanced with an 11% drop in funding from local authorities, discounted ticketing, free concerts and fixed fee performances.

Read the report: The State of Britain’s Orchestras in 2016.

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Music is the DIY profession

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diy-musicianOurs is a do it yourself profession.

Many professional musicians today try to be experts in everything. Not just their “art” whether that is composing or performing or a combination of both but also in marketing, promotion, website design, videos, photography, concert administration, accountancy.

Everywhere we look we are bombarded by “10 things you must do” which will ensure instant success, and it is always a quick fix. But is it?

We were visiting our local picture framer in Norfolk recently and really I do him a disservice to call him a picture framer. We first came across him when we bought a work by a wonderful artist, Rachel Lockwood, who lives on the Norfolk coast and has all her framing done by this particular framer.

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Autism and the power of music

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Categories: eclectic music, inspiring music
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Why am I blogging about autism?

I’m prompted by the manager of an artist who has recorded a song about his nephew who has Asberger’s Syndrome. The artist is Errol Sammut and the song, Burton’s Song is being used to raise awareness about autism via a number of charities and notably The Marigold Foundation.

You can listen to Burton’s Song here.

Go to The Marigold Foundation facebook page.

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Yellow Lounge Live

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Categories: british composers, british performers, contemporary classical music, eclectic music, live performance, Uncategorized
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Yellow Lounge hits high note for young audiences

I was reading an article in BBC Music Magazine about classical performers increasingly thinking beyond the traditional concert halls in order for classical music to be heard by new audiences.

This thinking is not particularly new of course as musicians have always had to be inventive about how they present and market their music to audiences and has certainly been the case for the 40 years of my professional career.

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Closed for music

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Visiting my local woodwind instrument repair shop I was saddened to hear that they will be closing in the summer. This I am told is caused by fewer children learning traditional instruments alongside the decline in instrument provision in schools.

Where instrument learning is provided by the school the parents are usually expected to foot the bill and for many this makes having lessons prohibitive. Government funding over the past three years has been declining and music is fast becoming the preserve of those people who can afford it.

This is combined with the problem that it is frequently no longer considered fashionable for children to learn instruments such as the french horn, bassoon and tuba.

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Female voices creating disharmony

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female voices creating disharmony
The decision by St Paul’s Cathedral to appoint its first fulltime female chorister, Carris Jones, has led a leading counter-tenor and conductor, Grayston Burgess, to comment, “This ‘politically correct’ decision appears to have been taken without a thought for the musical aspect or its consequence —the next logical step is to appoint another female alto to ‘balance’ the two sides of the choir”. (The Daily Telegraph).

The indignation in this I find hard to understand. As a clarinettist my expertise admittedly is in passing an airstream through a wooden tube rather than across vocal cords but the amount of energy that is extended to keep tradition for its own sake continues to confound me.

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Opinions divided on David Bowie Prom

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David Bowie

David Bowie

Ever since the oversight of Roger Wright, the Proms Festival has pushed its boundaries and widened its horizons.

David Pickard’s crossover programme taking Bowie’s repertoire and giving it new treatments by Anna Calvi, John Cale, Marc Almond, Laura Mvula and Elf Kid, sought to pay homage but has attracted widely and wildly diverse reactions and polarised opinion.

Here’s a sample, which just goes to show, you can’t please all of the people all of the time!

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T.S.Eliot at Kings Lynn Festival

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Guy Johnston

Guy Johnston

Niamh Cusack

Niamh Cusack

Rowan Williams

Rowan Williams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guy Johnston, Niamh Cusack and Rowan Williams illuminate T.S. Eliot

The Festival season is upon us! The summer months bring out the banners and bandstands, bowties and batons. Although, it is fair to say that the fervour for music within the British Isles usually means there is something going on somewhere the length and breadth of the year.

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Proms 2016 Panoply – where are the women composers this year?

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David Pickard - Proms Director

David Pickard

The announcement of the 2016 BBC Proms season brought forth a panoply of comment and observation. Here are a few choice entries, editorials and utterances to get your interest piqued.

David Pickard is the new Proms Director and as incoming incumbent he largely inherits what has already been prepared and put into place by outgoing Proms Director, Roger Wright, and perhaps more significantly Interim Proms Director, Edward Blakeman.

 

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Farewell to Max

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SirPeterMaxwellDavies

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies

I have known Max for years – well, about 35 years, and, albeit through intermittent contact, that is still time enough to absorb a sense of the man, the musician, the communicator.

Too often styled as an ‘enfant terrible’ of the contemporary classical music world, his compositions are, to a large extent, far from the ‘difficult’ that commentators loved carelessly and lazily to use in pejorative description or parlance of avoidance, when in truth it was rather too difficult for them to take the time and trouble of better acquaintance.

Max was ever his own person – outwardly mild and congenial, inwardly robust, opinionated, fearless and frank.

A recent interview about his 10th symphony (think how many composers never got past number 9!) had him putting his work as a composer in the ‘upper end of civilised society’. Who dares, these days, from the world of contemporary music, to make such a claim?! Good on you, Max.

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Living on Paper – a Question for Composers

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Categories: composing today, music profession
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This week I have heard a couple of excerpts from the BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week – “Living on paper”: Letters from Iris Murdoch 1934-1995.

It led me to think about the art of writing both words and music and how much technology has influenced the way that it is done today, quite possibly changing the resulting creative work.

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Silence Speaks

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Just a few seconds before 11am on Wednesday 11 November 2015, I was descending the steps into Kings Cross Underground Station in London when a voice came over the tannoy asking that we join with the staff of London Underground in 2 minutes silence to honour those people who had been killed in two world wars and more recent hostilities.

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Young Composer Voices in Cambridge

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10th November saw An Evening of New Music curated by young composers Jay Richardson and Alex Woolf, under the aegis of Young Composers’ Network*. Jay is reading Music at Pembroke College, Cambridge and Alex is in his final year at St John’s College, Cambridge. Both already have impressive CVs which include performances with national orchestras and broadcasts on national radio.

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Apple’s total immersion is good for classical music

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Announced this week is Apple’s music streaming service. Apple’s announcement was inevitable, and composers and songwriters have been predicting the dominance of streaming over downloads for years.

This could be very good for classical music. Not so much in the sense that classical music will be available in the same way as other genres, just as it is now on spotify, but looking rather more to the long term benefit, in the sense that classical music, with its distinctive characteristics, could become a stronger, legitimate and viable alternative music.

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Standing up for the BBC

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The Beeb, Aunty or just plain BBC has once more been at the heart of hot topics in press and other media.  In advance of charter renewal, due in 2016, Parliament has been conducting a review of how well the BBC is doing and has invited contributions from listeners, programme makers and competitors, alike.

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Remembering Benjamin Britten

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Although we are now firmly in 2014 and have left the Britten centennial year behind, I didn’t want to head in to the Richard Strauss 150 years, or indeed even the William Lloyd Webber 100 years celebrations without a final reflection on arguably the UK’s greatest and certainly the most influential 20th century composer.

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A giant among composers

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That’s an epithet that can apply in so many ways to Sir John Tavener – a giant of stature, a giant of thought, a giant of spirituality, a giant of musical concept and, apart from his own self-confrontation where he could be brutally judgmental, he was always a gentle giant.

I say was, of course, because he died only a few days ago on 12th November.  “Peacefully at home” is recorded in the public obituaries, but he was still writing with full force and I somehow think that he will not necessarily have gone gentle into that good night.

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