Monday, May 25, 2015

Nepal: Marriner to conduct for appeal

Past and present members of the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, and friends, are to give a fundraising concert for the people of earthquake-blighted Nepal on Wednesday evening, 28 May, under the baton of the ASMF's legendary conductor, Sir Neville Marriner - who is 91.

Soloists are Nicholas Daniel (oboe) and Kenneth Sillito (violin), and John Suchet will speak. Tickets are priced £9-£35. The performers and organisers are giving their services free and all proceeds go to the Disasters Emergency Committee Nepal Appeal.

Concert organiser and former ASMF violinist Enrico Alvares tells us that just a few tickets are now left now, so book soon!: "I may have organised this thing," he says, "but in truth it genuinely belongs to all those playing and listening on the night. It's our concert. Our effort to help thousands of people we don't know and will never meet. Join us."

Incidentally, for those of us who grew up listening to those irreplaceable recordings by the ASMF and Marriner this is a unique chance to go down memory lane.

Please note that the venue is St James Piccadilly, not St Martin-in-the-Fields!

Elgar – Introduction and Allegro, Op 47
Bach – Concerto for Oboe and Violin in D minor
Marcello – Oboe Concerto in D minor
Tchaikovsky – Serenade for Strings, Op 48
7:30pm, Thursday 28 May. St James's Church, Piccadilly, W1J 9LL.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Groundbreaking projects from UK and Switzerland win Classical:NEXT Innovation Award

Great, great news from Classical:NEXT! Southbank Centre's year-long festival of 20th-century music and culture, The Rest is Noise, has won the Innovation Award, together with the Lucerne Festival's Ark Nova, a mobile, inflatable concert hall that toured Japan's earthquake-blighted regions in 2013. More good news is that the first runner-up is the Morley College course for young women conductors. Cheers, all! Wish I was still there to help celebrate!

Around 2000 participants from the three previous Classical:NEXT trade fairs voted for two winners from a list of 21 projects all around the world. It's a list of remarkable scope and continual inspiration, from a street orchestra in Brazil to Alistair Campell - no, not that Alistair Campbell, but the co-director of the Tectonics Festival in Glasgow.

Classical:NEXT’s director Jennifer Dautermann says: “This award aims to give international recognition to the people who are doing the most to push things forward with daring yet intelligent, effective and successful ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking, planning and action.”

You can see a collection of video interviews by at Classical:NEXT here - including one with me, doing my bit for gender politics.

Chances are that if you're a regular here at JDCMB you already know all about The Rest is Noise festival, so here is a video introduction to Ark Nova.

A pianist's victory for the right to speak out

The pianist James Rhodes has won the right to publish his traumatic memoirs after a lengthy legal battle in which an injunction to prevent its release was raised by his ex-wife in the court of appeal. He was at Classical:NEXT in Rotterdam the other day and gave this interview to The Guardian while there.

There's another significance for this besides freedom of speech. In a music world that has been riven by revelations of historic sexual abuse of schoolchildren and college pupils, for which several people have gone to jail in recent years, this memoir has not come a moment too soon.

All too often victims of abuse in childhood are not believed when they speak up as adults, or are put through torments in court of the type that allegedly led to the death by overdose of the violinist Frances Andrade in 2013. Rhodes is a powerful communicator and eloquent with both words and music. He is the person who has now been brave enough to tell us all the truth, to show us what the realities of this living hell are - for nobody can imagine it for themselves if they have not experienced such a thing - and thus offers us a chance to understand what happens, what the long-term effects are and therefore why it is so important that we don't keep on turning a blind eye or blaming the victims for somehow, supposedly, bringing these horrors on themselves.

We owe it to him and to other people who have been through such experiences to treat them at the very least with compassion. The German word for compassion, 'Mitleid' (see Parsifal), explains this better than anything else: literally meaning "with sorrow" - i.e., sorrowing together. And as Parsifal shows us, the presence of this quality in other human beings is an essential ingredient in the start of a healing process of sorts that cannot take place without it.

As for freedom of speech, this is a major victory - and hopefully will set a precedent for other situations in which people speak up, tell the truth yet are silenced by a society that just doesn't want to know and tries to find official ways to make sure it needn't. As the court ruled: "The right to report the truth is justification in itself."

English PEN, Index on Censorship and Article 19 all intervened at the Supreme Court, pointing out that the implications were the book to be suppressed would have "a chilling effect on the production and publication of serious works of public interest and concern".

English PEN reports:

In a robust defence of freedom of expression, the court ruled: ‘The only proper conclusion is that there is every justification for the publication. A person who has suffered in the way that the appellant has suffered, and has struggled to cope with the consequences of his suffering in the way that he has struggled, has the right to tell the world about it.’
The Supreme Court criticised the Court of Appeal’s ruling in its judgment, stating that the terms of the injunction were flawed and voicing its concern about the curtailment of freedom of speech:
‘Freedom to report the truth is a basic right to which the law gives a very high level of protection. It is difficult to envisage any circumstances in which speech which is not deceptive, threatening or possibly abusive, could give rise to liability in tort for wilful infringement of another’s right to personal safety. The right to report the truth is justification in itself. That is not to say that the right of disclosure is absolute, for a person may owe a duty to treat information as private or confidential. But there is no general law prohibiting the publication of facts which will cause distress to another, even if that is the person’s intention.’

Friday, May 22, 2015

Just in: Chetham's pupil wins in Cleveland

Chetham's upper sixth-form pianist Yuanfan Yang yesterday won first prize in the senior division at the Cleveland International Piano Competition for young performers (12-18). Yuanfan is a former winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year piano section and is a fine composer as well as a brilliant performer. Congratulations!

As part of his prize, Yuanfan wins a debut recital at the Frick Collection in New York. The concert will take place on 13 August.

Greetings meanwhile from the seriously buzzy trade fair Classical:NEXT in Rotterdam. I'm here for a few days and presented a session on gender equality in the music world, with a fine panel of speakers including Gillian Moore of the Southbank Centre, Susanna Eastburn of Sound and Music and James Hannam of the PRS for Music Foundation. Lively discussion with valuable contributions from the floor. Blogging on iPhone is not ideal, so more when I'm home...

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

'Politics and art are never as far apart as they seem'

In today's Guardian, Polly Toynbee - who is chair of the Brighton Festival - has strong words for those in politics who would like to slash back the arts and the nation's children's education in them to starvation levels. You can't be good at anything, she suggests - including politics - if you have a one-dimensional brain. Please read.

Yesterday along popped a press release from Sistema Scotland, with lots of facts and figures and quotes about Big Noise in  Raploch. You can read the Glasgow Centre for Population Health's findings here.

I was going to add some commentary, but I think these quotes speak for themselves.

I have never seen a piece of work come into an area, target so many people and have such an impact in such a short period of time.”
NHS Manager, Glasgow

“The music, how we hear music, how we get involved, build up your communication, build up your confidence.  Coming to Big Noise, you’ve got people you know and people you don’t know.  You’ve got music behind your back, pushing you.  So it’s like somebody pushing you to do something but its music and it’s pushing you to make good things like building your confidence.  When I started Big Noise I was shy, look at me now.  Anyone can achieve any goals they want”
Participant, Big Noise Raploch

“[Child’s Name} can be hard to manage when he’s in my class.  But the difference when [a Big Noise musician] came in!  Because it was something he could do, you could just see in his eyes.  …Being taught on the violin, he was just so proud of what he could do.  That’s a child that stands out in my head for the impact there can be, on a child who’s very hard to reach, in many ways.”
Primary school teacher, Govanhill

I’ve certainly seen concerts down here, where all the communities are mixing together.  The Arab community, the Eastern Europe community, the indigenous Asian community, the indigenous White community, they’re all mixing together.  The attendance at the concerts is phenomenal.  They’re packed, absolutely packed.  It’s great.  Sometimes the families, when the children are not directly in front, you see them creeping up closer and closer to the stage and just being totally mesmerised.  I think it’s a great unifier.”
          Primary school teacher, Govanhill