20 November 2023

Silent Monks sing Hallelujah! Chorus.


This recent YouTube discovery might amuse readers. I think it’s brilliant!


16 October 2023

Martyn Brabbins resigns from ENO

Martyn Brabbins submitted his resignation tonight (15 October) after seven years as music director of English National Opera, saying that he could not continue to serve in a company whose board was proposing heavy personnel cuts to the orchestra and chorus.

He issued the following statement:

‘As Music Director of English National Opera for the past seven years, and Head of its orchestra, chorus and music staff, I cannot in all conscience continue to support the Board and Management’s strategy for the future of the company. While my feelings on this have been developing for some time, it reached its nadir this week, with the internal announcement of severe cuts to its orchestra and chorus from 2024/25 season. In protest, this afternoon I tendered my resignation with immediate effect.

‘Although making cuts has been necessitated by Arts Council England’s interference in the company’s future, the proposed changes would drive a coach and horses through the artistic integrity of the whole of ENO as a performing company, while also singularly failing to protect our musicians’ livelihoods.

‘This is a plan of managed decline, rather than an attempt to rebuild the company and maintain the world-class artistic output, for which ENO is rightly famed.

‘I urge ACE to reassess this situation and recognise the devastating implications their funding decisions will have on the lives of individual musicians, as well the reputation of the UK on the international stage.

‘My wholehearted thanks and support go out to the entire ENO team, especially those in the departments I oversaw. I am incredibly proud of everything we accomplished, and I sincerely hope that the company will find a path that puts exceptional artistry front and centre of its future.’

30 September 2023

Music review: Suffolk Villages Festival opening concert


This late celebration in Hadleigh was enjoyed by Garry Humphreys

THE Suffolk Villages Festival began in 1988 as the Stoke by Nayland Festival of Georgian Music, and since then has gone from strength to strength, offering programmes of music from the Middle Ages to the 19th century, sacred and secular, vocal and instrumental, including semi-staged and concert performances of early operas, all under the artistic direction of the musicologist, harpsichordist, and conductor Peter Holman.

Although there are concerts from autumn to spring, the Festival itself takes place over the August Bank Holiday, this year encompassing music by Bach (at Stoke by Nayland), Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven (the Revolutionary Drawing Room Quartet at Wivenhoe), Elizabethan and Jacobean virginals music (Steven Devine at Sudbury), and ending with Purcell’s The Fairy Queen (directed by Peter Holman at Hadleigh).

It was at St Mary’s, Hadleigh, that this year’s Festival opened with a concert postponed from last October because of Covid: “Heinrich Schütz: Drama, Virtuosity & Splendour”, featuring the tenor Charles Daniels with the vocal ensemble Psalmody and the John Jenkins Consort, directed by Peter Holman. The concert was originally planned to mark the 350th anniversary in 2022 of the death of Heinrich Schütz.

Schütz was Johann Sebastian Bach’s greatest predecessor, renowned for his vivid and profound biblical scenes — “a counterpart to Rembrandt”. The focus was on his work for the Dresden Court during the Thirty Years’ War, with music ranging from virtuoso solo motets (sung by Daniels) to large-scale pieces for multiple soloists, divided choirs, a five-part string consort, harpsichord, and organ.

A pre-concert talk by Professor Stephen Rose of Royal Holloway, University of London — “Schütz and the Thirty Years’ War”  was an enthralling and illuminating introduction to the background. It pointed out the limitations imposed by the War and resulting in music on a smaller scale than would have been normal (and musicians sometimes not receiving payment for a year or more), besides reflecting the spirit of the times.

Schütz, well aware of developments in Italy, spent time in Venice in the early years of the 17th century, studying with Monteverdi and subsequently using Italian-style ornamentation and sometimes Latin words, which did not conflict with Schütz’s German Protestantism; for Latin was regarded as a sort of lingua franca.

What this concert demonstrated more than anything was Schütz’s remarkable range of textures, emotions, and atmosphere, deriving from the use of different forces: solos, groups of voices, and the full choir. Striking moments were Himmel und Erde for three basses and Saul, Saul, was verfolgst du mich?, with its restless invocations of the crowd.

The heaviest responsibility was that of Charles Daniels, who sang several of Schütz’s solo pieces from Symphoniae Sacrae and the Geistliche Konzerte, besides taking part in larger-scale works, dispatching the coloratura with intense conviction. Soloists from Psalmody were also heard, the sopranos Gill Wilson and Annabel Malton and the tenor Zachary Kleanthous being particularly worthy of mention.

There was instrumental music, too, from the John Jenkins Consort. For me, the highlight of the evening was their playing of Johann Rosenmüller’s Sonata da Camera (1667) — such delicacy and vitality. The bass-violin continuo player, Louise Jameson, must be congratulated for her artistic underpinning of every piece in the programme.

Drama, virtuosity, and splendour was, indeed, what we heard from these different combinations of voices and instruments — heavenly music despite the War — and an imaginative and enjoyable introduction to this year’s Festival.

08 September 2023

The Amazing Vaughan Savidge!

Apologies for the long gap since my last post – and for this perhaps rather silly one – but here is an extract from the LinkedIn page for Vaughan Savidge, former BBC Radio Four continuity announcer and newsreader, indicating a remarkably long career, dating from even before radio was invented. And he’s still going strong!

In the circumstances, his comments are more amusing than perhaps he intended!

  • Voice over artist, film dubbing artist, writer

    different companies in a freelance capacity

     - Present 123 years

    It seems much, much longer.

  • Newsreader and announcer

    BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 3, Economist podcast

     - 117 years 7 months

    **** NOW with added HOME STUDIO ****

    It seems longer.

  • Gob

    BBC WS

     - 97 years

11 April 2023

Guardian cartoon pokes fun at National Trust management


30 March 2023

Classical Music: funding and support - Parliamentary debate


Message from the composer James MacMillan:

An Adjournment Debate has been scheduled today [29 March] for Parliament on funding and support for classical music. I was asked for a quote by BASCA [the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors]:

“The damage being done to classical music by people who should know better – at the BBC and the Arts Council – could impact disastrously on the musical culture of this country in the coming years. Musicians have been nurtured by these organisations over the years and the UK has earned an enviable international reputation for its music as a result. To see these erstwhile allies of culture now turn on us for short term mean-mindedness or ideological prejudice is a body blow for British music. Those responsible need to step back and reassess why they have had any involvement in music and culture in their lives. Let them see the bigger picture – British music is a success story. Please don’t ruin it.”

Here’s a link to the debate:


18 March 2023

BBC music cuts: responses consolidated

Here’s a link to a collection of the various objections to the BBC music cuts:


In addition, the composer John Adams has written:

‘As an American conductor and composer my admiration for British musical culture knows no bounds. For all my life the BBC has been the go-to access for its phenomenal orchestras and choruses, its commitment to opera and new music ensembles and for providing a platform for generations of brilliant and imaginative composers. But now we Americans hear only the worst stories coming from the UK, as if the country is on a determined self-destruct freefall. The BBC now apparently wants to join the march to the bottom by cutting its invaluable institutions. Like the crazed character in the movie The Banshees of Inisherin, it is determined to lop off its own fingers, one by one. I am honored to add my name to this list of composers to ask the BBC to come to its senses and cease trashing the best thing it possesses.’

John Adams, 14 March 2023