Spring 2005

OUR LAST CONCERT Two wonderful things have happened since we started our Society’s run of concerts—wonderful to my mind, at any rate. The first was the congratulatory letter, which we were surprised and pleased to find in the January 2005 issue of Gramophone magazine (reprinted in our last Newsletter). The second happened not long after our Tunstall concert, when a lady stopped me in Sittingbourne High Street, and told me how much she’d enjoyed that evening. It was the first concert of classical music she’d ever been to, she told me, but she and her husband had loved it so much that they were coming to the next one. She had made my day, I said. It made all my lying awake worrying about Tunstall parking, road bumps and chicanes, worthwhile! Thank you once again, wonderful audience, for your enthusiasm and support, and for your patience and understanding, over our various problems. And a bouquet from me to Miles, for dealing with the car park with such aplomb.

Personally, I found the Tunstall concert quite magical, and despite the obvious problems of sightlines, pews and parking, it is a most atmospheric venue. I’ve seen pictures of the church, looking beautiful in the snow—however, I was deeply glad that this January’s light dusting arrived a few days later, even if the sight of the young lady musicians, clad in what my husband always refers to as “gownless evening straps” did make me feel a trifle chilly on that very cold night. MM

Pupil and Teacher: Beethoven and Haydn Maurice Ravel at the Piano

Galliard Wind Ensemble

Carl Nielsen

BENEFIT CONCERT Our next concert is a Benefit for the Society, given by our Artistic Director John McCabe (see later for a Profile). It is a piano recital of Haydn, Beethoven, Ravel and Schumann, and for this concert we have most graciously been loaned a splendid grand piano by John Phelps-Penry, who is one of our members. The recital will also contain two short works by John himself, one of them inspired by the sound of the bells at Tunstall Church (we hope none of the bell-ringers will sue…). The other piece, Snowfall in Winter, is connected with a visit a year or so back to Lithuania, but perhaps we can also picture that as snow falling gently on the old church and churchyard at Tunstall. Tunstall Chimes was commissioned by the British Music Society for their Piano Competition last October. The rest of the programme reflects some of John’s favourite repertoire, from Ravel’s popular Sonatine and Schumann’s well-loved Carnival Jest from Vienna (complete with quote from the Marseillaise!) to classical sonatas by Haydn, whose sonatas he has recorded complete, and Beethoven (the great penultimate Sonata in A flat, Op 110). MM

THE PRINSE QUARTET The last concert in our first season is given by an outstandingly talented young String Quartet from Holland, the Prinse Quartet, coming to us immediately after a concert at Amsterdam’s famed Concertgebouw Hall. They have chosen a programme which coincidentally reflects three aspects of Benjamin Britten: his compositions (the majestic 2nd String Quartet in C major), and his deep love of the music of Purcell and Mozart, of both of whom he was an outstanding interpreter as pianist and conductor. Purcell is represented by three of his eloquent Fantasias, Mozart by one of the most lyrical of his late quartets, in A major, K575. Their concert is on Friday, 6th May, at 7.45 pm in the Main Hall at Sittingbourne Community College, Swanstree Avenue, Sittingbourne.

Benjamin Britten

Henry Purcell

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

TALKING ABOUT MUSIC We held the first of our Discussion Groups on 31st January, and have decided to rename this series Talking about Music (with apologies to Antony Hopkins, whose famous Radio series in the 1950s and 60s were so successful). It describes very much better what we are doing—composers John McCabe and Matthew Rogers discussed, with a small but obviously very discerning group, a topic that seemed a useful starting-point: “What is melody?” Those present enjoyed some extracts from music by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Ligeti, Webern, Debussy and Malcolm Arnold (the original Whistle down the Wind, no less) and all those present took part in the discussion. Do come along and join us for the next two, both on Mondays at the Avenue Theatre, Avenue of Remembrance, Sittingbourne at 7.45 pm: March 14th and May 9th. Everybody’s welcome to take part, and the discussions are not too technical.

PAGE-TURNING We are always going to be in need of volunteer page-turners – Julie Burns did a splendid job for Rebecca Woolcock on 19th November. It requires great concentration, and details have just come to hand (via the critic Guy Rickards) of an interesting new dimension to this topic. Reprinted without permission from Edmonton Centre newsletter, Canada, and Canadian RCCO newsletter, the following programme notes are from an unidentified piano recital.

Tonight’s page turner, Ruth Spelke, studied under Ivan Schmertnick at the Boris Nitsky School of Page Turning in Philadelphia. She has been turning pages here and abroad for many years for some of the world’s leading pianists.  In 1988, Ms. Spelke won the Wilson Page Turning Scholarship, which sent her to Israel to study page turning from left to right. She is winner of the 1984 Rimsky-Korsakov Flight of the
Bumblebee Prestissimo Medal, having turned 47 pages in an unprecedented 32 seconds. She was also a 1983 silver medallist at the Klutz Musical Page Pickup Competition: contestants retrieve and rearrange
a musical score dropped from a Yamaha. Ms. Spelke excelled in “grace, swiftness, and especially poise.”  For techniques, Ms. Spelke performs both the finger-licking and the bent-page corner methods. She works from a standard left bench position, and is the originator of the dipped-elbow page snatch, a style used to avoid obscuring the pianist’s view of the music. She is page-turner in residence in Fairfield Iowa, where she occupies the coveted Alfred Hitchcock Chair at the Fairfield Page Turning Institute. Ms. Spelke is married, and has a nice house on a lake.
[We are suspicious that someone’s tongue was firmly in cheek when the above was written.]

THANKS are gratefully offered to a number of people who, though not on the Committee, have given sterling support by some essential work for us. Rosie Lintott and Yvonne Vedamuttu have been very helpful in particular with box-office at the concerts, and the Rev. Margaret Mascall has kindly acted as our liaison on Sheppey, not least in organising and collating ticket sales via B. A. Fitch Newsagents. We’re very much indebted to them all for their assistance – are there are more volunteers out there? We still need extra hands to help out in all sorts of ways (distribution, setting up displays, running the concerts, etc.).

We were pleased to see that June Morgan, wife of our Chairman, Peter, managed to get to our Tunstall concert. June has had such a bad time with her hip operation last autumn, suffering infection and recurrent pain. It’s good to see that she seems to be improving at last. Peter meanwhile has been delving into domestic black arts hitherto unknown to him—and, we have a shrewd idea, hitherto unsuspected. Keep up the good
work with the oven, iron and washing machine, Peter!

It is also good to see progress made by Mrs Jenifer Blenard, who put so much into our set-up as our first Treasurer and had to resign because of a serious leg injury—she’s been able to come to all of our concerts, and though mobility is likely to be restricted for some time to come, improvement is steady and we hope will continue apace. Being a trained therapist must be a help!


John McCabe has been described by Michael Kennedy, the former Daily Telegraph editor and well-known writer on music, as “an all-round musician”. Born in Liverpool in 1939, John was badly injured in a fire as a toddler, and was too ill to attend school until he was eleven. Despite this — and encouraged by rifling through his parents’ collection of 78s while at home — he showed early musical promise, and was taken on at the age of eight by the great piano teacher Gordon Green, who lived nearby.

His interest in writing music developed concurrently, and after leaving the Liverpool Institute (where a fellow-student was Paul McCartney) he studied at Manchester University, the Royal Manchester College of Music (now the Royal Northern College) and at the Hochschule für Musik, Munich, garnering then and later a large collection of letters after his name. He was given the award of CBE in 1983 for his services to music.

John has pursued a dual career as composer and pianist, making many piano records, including a famed set of the complete Haydn piano sonatas for Decca, and ranging from Clementi and Scarlatti through to his own and much contemporary British and American music. As a composer he has written works ranging from full orchestra through to chamber, solo instrumental, brass band, film and TV music (“his” TV series Sam has recently been released complete on DVD). Quite a few works are recorded, including his Flute Concerto (with Emily Beynon) and his full-evening ballet Edward II, which was commissioned by Stuttgart Ballet and received a 15-minute standing ovation at its première—it was later taken up with great success by Birmingham Royal Ballet. Since moving to Swale, he has written several works inspired by this area, including Tunstall Chimes (to be heard in his recital), Les Martinets noirs (a concerto for two violins and string orchestra written for the Amsterdam Sinfonietta and inspired by the sight of swifts flying over Albany Park), and The Maunsell Forts, for brass band.

John’s life is largely overtaken by music, but given the opportunity, he loves to read, and watch films (his long-suffering wife will testify to his inability to bypass a book, record or music shop). He has been an avid cricket follower since 1950 (when he saw one of Brian Statham’s earliest county matches, in Liverpool) and can quote statistics at least as well as Bill Frindall. Watching golf (though not playing it) is another favourite relaxation, and he harbours the fond belief that he can play snooker (he lost his only competitive match). He also loves good company, food, red wine and good Scotch. MM

AGM Proper notice of full details will be given in due course, but please make a note in your diaries that our first Annual General Meeting will be held on Monday, 11th July 2005—we hope it will be at 7.30 pm at the Avenue Theatre, Avenue of Remembrance, Sittingbourne.

WINE AND WISDOM Don’t forget our Wine and Wisdom evening: Minterne Junior School, Minterne Avenue, Sittingbourne, on Saturday 5th March at 7.30pm – £4 each, including supper. Please bring your own wine and glasses – fruit juice will be provided. Please book tables of 8 (or less) by telephoning Julie and David Burns on 01795 410 840.

TICKET OUTLETS We are very grateful to The Rainham Bookshop, The Barley Mow (Faversham), B A Fitch Newsagents (Sheerness) and Sittingbourne’s own Swade Music (Roman Square) for kindly acting as ticket sales outlets for us. Tickets are available roughly one month before each concert. Postal sales can be made through Mrs Jenifer Blenard, 149 Athelstan Road, Faversham, Kent ME13 8QW. Please send a cheque made out to “The Sittingbourne Music Society”, and a stamped, addressed envelope. Please note: we are unable currently to deal with telephone bookings, and cheques should not be made out to inviduals.

CAR-SHARING We are still in need of volunteers for Committee work, and in particular we need volunteers for car-sharing duties, so we can help people with transport problems to get to our concerts more easily. Please help!

NEWSLETTERS BY E-MAIL: After numerous teething troubles, we now seem able to send the Newsletter by e-mail to those who have kindly agreed to receive it in this way. It will be sent in two formats: Publisher (for those who have this software) and as a pdf file which people can open and/or print in the normal way, for those who haven’t. We hope this will work well and be useful to everybody.

FORTHCOMING CONCERTS IN THE AREA Saturday 14th May, The Swallows Leisure Centre, Sittingbourne, Kent, at 7.30 pm: Sittingbourne Orpheus Choral Society, with their new conductor Michael Downes, will perform Mozart’s powerful Requiem and the exhilarating Dixit Dominus by Handel. The programme will also include Bach’s Concerto in D minor for 2 violins and string orchestra.

Maidstone Symphony Orchestra have two fascinating concerts coming up, both on Saturdays at the Mote Hall, Maidstone, at 7.30 pm, conducted by Brian Wright. On 19th March, Chlöe Hanslip plays Elgar’s great Violin Concerto—Carl Nielsen’s delightful Pan and Syrinx and the Mussorgsky/Ravel Pictures from an Exhibition complete the programme. On 21st May there is a Gala Concert, opening with John Adams’ brilliant curtain-raiser A Short Ride in a Fast Machine and Beethoven’s 3rd Piano Concerto in C minor, followed by Richard Strauss’s autobiographical masterwork Ein Heldenleben. John Lill is the soloist.

Rochester Choral Society, at Rochester Cathedral, Saturday 16th July at 7.30 pm: Tippett’s enduring masterpiece A Child of our Time, plus Elgar’s beloved Enigma Variations and Britten’s Te Deum.

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