Thursday, February 10, 2011


I know I've been neglecting you all this week. I've been away - more of that in a moment - but while I was gone the Henley Report on music education in England was published, as was the government's response. It seems very positive. Darren Henley's recommendations are spot-on, and the government, Michael Gove in particular, appears to be taking on board the majority of the points made. The term 'ring-fenced' even appears in relation to funding for music education, which is fabulous. But - and there are some big buts - the excellent In Harmony, in effect the British version of El Sistema, is only awarded funding for one more year... It's easy to talk... As Tom Service says, it's what happens next that will really count. And the National Union of Teachers is extremely sceptical about the likely results, not least because many local councils haven't waited for the report and the response and have already started handing out redundancy notices to music staff. Here are:

The Henley Report;
The government's response;
The ISM's response;
Tom Service's response in The Guardian;
The NUT comment. 
UPDATE: Follow the link from here to the 9 February 2011 release to see the response from the CBSO - again, welcoming the report, but nudging the government for firm commitment to ongoing support.

Meanwhile I was having the week that was...

Last Wednesday I gave a talk on Mahler and Musical Endgames at Symphony Hall, Birmingham. The next morning Tomcat and I travelled to Mainz to see Schott's fascinating historical headquarters. There you're greeted by a bust of Big Richard himself; there's a beautiful room, now replete with treasures of memorabilia, in which he presented the text of Meistersinger to the company for the first time; and the corridors are adorned with costume designs for Strauss's operas. Thence we went to Freiburg, just to see Freiburg; and Stuttgart, where we sat down to bask in pre-spring sun on the opera house steps, got talking to someone who turned out to be the former prima ballerina Julia Kramer - and ended up spotting numerous ballet stars wandering by, including the legendary Marcia Haydee herself. They were all there for the company's 50th anniversary festival. As an underage balletomane a few decades back, I always longed to go to Stuttgart to see the renowned Stuttgart this afternoon was an extraordinarily fine surprise. Here is Julia:

Back home I took part in the launch on Tuesday of The Road to Jericho with the devoted and idealistic team of Simon Hewitt Jones, Drew Balch, Candace Allen, Antony Pitts and friends, which involved test-driving something I'm trying to write about my visit to the West Bank last year. On 10 June at the Spitalfields Festival the London performance will take place and I'll be doing an open pre-concert interview with Simon, Drew and the inspirational Ramzi Aburedwan, head of Al Kamandjati in Ramallah, who will be here with his ensemble Dal'Ouna. Here is the video for The Road to Jericho:

Yesterday I went to Amsterdam and back to interview a Very Important Maestro. (And also passed a beautiful Amsterdam afternoon walking in the park with Norman Perryman, creator of magnificent kinetic paintings to music (you may have caught our double-act interview on Dilettante Music a few months back).

Here is the maestro.

Blimey, guv, it was quite a week. Back now, with a cold.