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Blog Category: british performers

Female voices creating disharmony

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Categories: british performers, contemporary classical music, live performance, music profession, women in music
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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.

I can understand from certain points of view that in order to be faithful to the sound of the forces for which the music was originally written, in this case, an all-male choir may be needed but surely that is unnecessarily restricting and shouldn’t be imposed unilaterally. Are all cathedrals across the country to be exclusive clubs?

Why should generations of excellent female singers be prevented from contributing to a musical choral tradition and denied the benefit of the excellent musical education which often comes as part of the package?

There is much discussion about whether boys voices do really sound different, given the distortions of many acoustics but does it actually matter so very much, whatever your point of view? What is needed is strong and growing choirs able to tackle contemporary works by living composers as well as sustaining the traditional repertoire.

There is nothing new in the classical tradition of women singing men’s songs and it is even questionable whether some of the staples of cathedral music such as Tallis and Byrd were sung by all male choirs at all.

From a personal point of view, I believe that there is a purity of sound from the all-male choir that can be used effectively for performances of relevant music just as early instruments are also used to good effect for certain music. However, with a vibrant contemporary 21st century music scene I firmly believe we should be able to take advantage of using the combined voices of male and female as well. (I don’t think the BBC Singers or Harry Christopher’s 16 would be quite the same without the ladies!)

The church is having to look at all aspects of its traditions in the context of modern life, particularly as the 21st century progresses. Music is an area where the church is always exploring and trying to move forward, so it would seem to make complete sense to avail itself of the strength and vitality that the quality of voice of both male and female provides.

Geraldine Allen

Opinions divided on David Bowie Prom

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Categories: british performers, eclectic music, live performance, tributes
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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!

David Bowie – BBC Proms 2016………..totally amazing, emotionally and a worthy tribute to the greatest “STAR” Thank you to the BBC

Caught up with proms tribute to David Bowie. Wished I had not bothered. The great man must be turning in his grave.

BBC Proms completely destroyed David Bowie’s Space Oddity. Controversial but true. Just sing the song.BBC Proms completely destroyed David Bowie’s Space Oddity. Controversial but true. Just sing the song.

BBC proms David Bowie @MarcAlmond excellent job with Life on Mars. Pathos and beauty.

Watched majority of David Bowie celebration at the BBC Proms. I saw ‘majority’ because I couldn’t watch Marc Almond murder ‘Life on Mars’.

The David Bowie Proms were great but the bloke who sang Life on Mars butchered it and infuriated me.

Thought it’d be better than this, then again you can’t replicate a genius like Bowie!

Watching the proms tribute to David Bowie. Great arrangements for classic songs.

The Bowie Prom was superb, radical and moving at the same time. And I think I’ve fallen in love with the flautist!

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.

Back to the summer scene, and I have just had my first taste of the season with a performance at the Kings Lynn Festival. A programme built round T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets consisted of readings given by Niamh Cusack, commentaries by Rowan Williams and interpolated music from the Bach unaccompanied cello suites by Guy Johnston.

A full house of 800 gave pin-drop attention to the performances. From the aesthetic viewpoint, It was as near perfect an evening as you will find – sensitive, probing, alert, even profound – full of music not just in the notes but in the words and thoughts; an occasion that uplifts and continues to resonate.

There is so much going on from Aldeburgh to Edinburgh, from Proms to Parks. Try this link ARTS FESTIVALS in the UK as a good collecting point for all that’s in the melting pot – find something near you and support the summer festival scene!

A spark has been lost from the world of opera

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I was very sorry to hear today that Marie Hayward Segal has passed away. Whenever I think of Marie I think of her laughter. She was on several musical committees with me and we would meet at various events and I would always be glad to see her as she would brighten up every occasion that she attended. Marie was a dramatic soprano and distinguished opera singer performing at the Royal Opera House, Glyndebourne and in Europe. She has died at the age of 72 and the music profession will greatly miss her. She is survived by her son Benjamin and her grandson George who was born just after her death.

Geraldine Allen

Remembering a great clarinet player

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Categories: british performers, clarinets, women in music
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It seems like ages ago now that I was asked to write a biography on my fellow clarinettist and friend Georgina Dobree for the online edition of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. It has been published this month at www.oxforddnb.com. The stuff of biography is by its nature the achievements of a lifetime but somehow you cannot convey the friendship and the laughter and the kindness of a person in such a formal setting. As well as being a terrific clarinettist, editor and publisher, Georgina was known by people in the clarinet world for her parties. Whenever there was a visiting clarinettist or bassett horn player in London there would inevitably be a party in her home to which all the clarinet fraternity would be invited too. Georgina in the 50’s and 60’s at the Darmstadt Festival intriduced more ground breaking contemporary music with composers such as Peter Maxwell Davies, Oliver Messiaen, Luciano Berio, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Pierre Boulez than most players will do in a lifetime. She was meticulous in researching editing and performing early music as well as commissioning new works. She died in 1998 having greatly enriched the clarinet repertoire and having been a wonderful supporter of music and players alike.

Geraldine Allen

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