Spring 2006

The ordinary music lover has always found it difficult to understand the new music of his own time – to participate in the emotions and appreciate the melodic ideas of any composer who has something original to say and an original way of saying it. It is only of recent years that the depths of feeling inherent in Mozart’s music have been generally realised and understood, yet the emotion was always there for those with ears to hear and hearts to understand!” [Igor Stravinsky, 1934]

‘Kent, sir—everybody knows Kent—apples, cherries, hops and women’ – so wrote Dickens in Pickwick Papers. And for our next concert, the Quatuor Parisii—from Paris, as you might expect—help us to celebrate two, at any rate, of this quartet, with Bridge’s charming arrangements of Cherry Ripe and Sally in our Alley. History doesn’t record whether the eponymous Sally was from Kent. I tend to think of her as Lancastrian, but that’s probably because of a dim confusion with ‘Sally, Sally, Pride of our Alley’ and Gracie Fields—thus, sadly, revealing my age. Anyway, Sally in our Alley is a much prettier tune.
Our first two concerts of 2006 ran practically back-to-back (because of artists’ availability), so thanks to all our workers for the effort involved, and of course thanks to our supporters (without whom we could not exist) for supporting. Especial thanks to new recruit Garrie Harvey, Head of Music at SCC, for providing the platform at Tunstall, and for strong-arming it back out again, virtually by himself. We had two splendid concerts, demonstrating the enormous breadth of the classical repertoire, from early music on recorder and guitar, to Late Romantic piano music on a singularly beautiful Steinway grand. What depth of artistry amongst the three musicians, too! I was particularly struck by Malcolm Binns’ magisterial performance of Bax’s 3rd Piano Sonata, and Garrie Harvey was bowled over, I know, by John Turner’s brilliant technique on the recorder. We were able to appreciate his superb artistry, as also with Craig Ogden’s idiomatic and colourful playing of Villa-Lobos, Bach, Walton and Rawsthorne.

Thanks to John Turner, we were also gifted with two new works, both of them delightful additions to the repertoire. John Joubert, nearly 80, went to considerable trouble and expense to join us for his Duettino. We were also delighted to see a number of Philip Cowlin’s family, including, despite illness, his widow Margot, who again went to trouble and expense to attend. We are indebted to both composers for their generosity, and to Peter Hope, for completing the Caprice after Philip Cowlin’s sad death in August.
I’m sorry to say we still haven’t quite sorted out the acoustic at SCC’s hall, which suffers from a not unfamiliar gremlin, namely that the larger the audience, the more the sound is absorbed. I only wish you could all have heard the quality of the Steinway during Malcolm Binns’ afternoon rehearsal. Following the Julian Lloyd Webber concert last season, SCC generously undertook to improve the acoustic, which it has done, but I understand one of the problems is that clothing absorbs the sound and spoils the acoustic. There is one obvious but impractical remedy, which would certainly catch the attention of the world’s Press but might not go down well in January, in Sittingbourne! MMcC

LOOKING FORWARD Our next two concerts cover, as usual, a wide range of music. The world-famous Quatuor Parisii will be playing Mozart’s beautiful G major String Quartet K387 (which happens to be my favourite, by coincidence) and Ravel’s gorgeous F major Quartet, one of the glories of French chamber music. They are also giving us a performance of Tippett’s Second Quartet, in F sharp, a belated tribute to his centenary (which was last year) – it is full of jazzy rhythms, strong influences of the early English madrigal composers and Purcell, and covers a wide emotional range, including one of the wittiest Scherzos in the repertoire, and a powerful, thoughtful finale. The Quatuor also include two of Frank Bridge’s entertaining folksong arrangements, genuine, if short, concert pieces. [Friday, 24th March at 7.45 pm.]

Young Ravel Cartoon Charlie Brown, who entertained us so royally at our Launch in September 2004, made a great impression on that occasion, and quite a few people wanted us to invite him back, so he returns on Friday 5th May at 7.45 (both these concerts are at Sittingbourne Community College). Charlie took keenly to the idea of a kind of “Portrait of the Artist”, so he’ll play the complete Solo Sonata No 4 by the great Belgian virtuoso and composer Ysaÿe (of which he played one movement to much acclaim at the Launch), plus sonatas by Beethoven and Ravel, finishing with John Ireland’s Phantasie Trio No 1 in A minor, a work that really established his reputation in the early years of the 20th century and a trio with passion and romantic warmth as well as a typical folksong influence. Charlie will be joined by his regular colleagues, cellist Simon Williamson and pianist Dawn Hardwick, all young artists making great starts to their musical careers in London. It’s marvellous to be able to give this opportunity for a major engagement to a talented young Kent-born musician such as Charlie, who deserves our utmost support. J McC


Tippett: a characteristic picture




PROFILE: MONICA McCABE – Artistic Administrator

As many of you will know, I’m a local girl, and despite the occasional bout of irritation, largely proud of it. I was born in Borden, where I still have strong family connections (my eldest brother is the church organist). I went to Borden C of E, and then on to what was known as Sittingbourne County Grammar School for Girls, when it was in the High Street, later moving to the new building in Highsted Road. As a family we all learned to play the piano, under Miss Cora Greenslade, who again some of you may well remember.
My first idea was a career in science, specialising in botany, but I gave up on that when I realised I’d be more likely to be stuck in a laboratory, rather than out picking buttercups under a blue sky. (Ecology had yet to be invented as an occupation.) So instead I went to London with all my belongings in a little blue suitcase, to make my fortune. I landed a job in a very eccentric classical record shop, and thereafter worked my way through various areas of the classical music world, including recording, and publishing—meeting many strange and interesting folk en route, not least my husband. For several years I was assistant editor and columnist on Records and Recording magazine, now sadly defunct. My very first assignment was to interview André Previn, one in a queue of c. 250 journalists, when he became Chief Conductor of the LSO. I was so nervous my hands wouldn’t stop shaking enough to jot notes (these were largely pre-tape days) and had to rely on my memory, which fortunately served me well enough. I have never forgotten his kindness to this obviously greenhorn reporter.
Since John and I got married, I’ve devoted my time to his career, where my knowledge of aspects of, for example, recording have proved useful. I can claim responsibility for setting up the recording of his multi-disc set of the complete Haydn Piano Sonatas, among other recordings. I’m still not sure that I’ve made my fortune, but my philosophy has been not to be too fearful to try almost everything—except perhaps page-turning and bungee-jumping, two eminently sensible exceptions. MMcC

Our Chairman, Peter Morgan, has written the following remarks: “Monica McCabe is our mentor, our motivator and our mistress. She is the one behind all the details which make each concert such a success. Her forethought and meticulous preparations make it easy for the rest of us to do our assigned tasks in the knowledge that everyone is contributing to the success of the whole. At each pre-concert meeting she presents us with a screed of instructions, which we happily accept, itemising every second of the preparation for the concert and the inevitable clearing up. We are aware of her thoroughness which is based on years of experience as John’s manager, chauffeur and constant companion as he travels the country on his musical appointments. We are the beneficiaries of all this organisational skill; and we are deeply grateful to her for her unfailing efforts to see that all goes well for our guest-musicians, our concert-goers and our publicity.” Julie and David Burns add the following: “Monica always bears the brunt of looking after the artists before, during and after concerts, and makes a very good job of looking after the committee members too! She cares deeply about the welfare of everyone concerned, and the standard of our concerts is of the greatest importance to her.”

J.S. Bach

Claude Debussy

LOOKING FORWARD, AGAIN A brief look forward to next season, 2006/07, again with six concerts. It is possible that the year after that we will have to revert to five concerts a season, simply because of the pressure of time on the overworked volunteers who make up the Committee. However, we’ve been able to organise what we think is a mouth-watering season for you, starting with a well-known and splendid wind quintet, the Galliard Ensemble, and finishing with a dynamic young percussion Duo, maraca2, whose energy and virtuosity is brilliant. Both these concerts include items which should be attractive to families. We have also been able to persuade The King’s Singers to perform for us – a bit of bartering went on, as they offered the concert at a greatly reduced fee on condition that John McCabe wrote a piece specially for them, so there will be a short première at that concert. We also have the masterly clarinettist David Campbell, with the Sacconi String Quartet, a brilliant young ensemble currently zooming up the quartet rankings, a superb young piano duet team Joseph Tong and Waka Hasagewa, and, fulfilling an ambition of the Artistic Directors right from the start, the cello and piano duo of Alice Neary (playing Bach, for which she has become justly famous) and Gretel Dowdeswell (playing Beethoven, a complete cycle of whose sonatas she has recently completed at Brunel University). They combine to give us Brahms’s supreme F major Sonata, No 2, and other highlights of the season include Clarinet Quintets by Mozart and Weber, Debussy’s La Mer in the composer’s own duet transcription (how often do we get a chance to hear this great work in Sittingbourne?) as well as duets by Mozart, Schubert and Dvořák, and the lovely Wind Quintet of the Danish master Carl Nielsen, his equivalent to Elgar’s Enigma with its portraits of his friends “pictured within”. JMcC

NUTS AND BOLTS As a matter of information, we felt you might like to know something about the nuts and bolts of running a Society like this. It would take far too long to outline the whole process, from choosing the artists, through discussing dates and programmes with them or their agents, booking halls, getting the programme notes prepared and printing them, and so on. But there are some things you might find interesting. One of our major costs is the hire of pianos. It is not generally appreciated just how expensive this is, nor how important it is that visiting pianists should have the best that we can afford. We can’t ask artists of the calibre of Malcolm Binns, for example, to play on anything less than the best, if we can afford it. The cost of hiring the full-size Steinway, for instance, was £900, including tuning – but what most people don’t know is that a very large proportion of this expense is the cost of removals. For example, of our hiring costs of c. £530 for the smaller Yamaha for our first concert of this season, only one-third was the cost of the piano, the balance being removal charges. In that instance, tuning costs were additional, making a round cost of some £575—or roughly 57 paying customers. This, inevitably, restricts us to the number of concerts we can give involving piano—in our first season we had three, in our second we have two, and we’re planning next season to have two. As a pianist, I’d like to have more, but we can’t afford it.

UNIVERSITY HONOURS We were delighted to be told that Jeane Holmes, our indefatigable Membership Secretary, was recently awarded a B.Sc. from the Open University, in the Social Science Faculty—one of her dissertations was on Information and Communication technologies and networks and how they are remaking ‘international order’. We were also delighted to learn, only a few weeks later, that our Artistic Director has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Music by Liverpool University.

OUR PATRON, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, is celebrating his 70th birthday with events around the country, among them appearances under the auspices of the Sounds New Festival in March. On Friday 24th March at 7.30 pm in the Pavilion on the Sands, Broadstairs, saxophonist John Harle performs Bennett’s Soprano Saxophone Sonata, Three Piece Suite and 3 Sondheim Waltzes, plus works by Duke Ellington and Ravel, with RRB at the piano. On Saturday 25th March at 7.30 pm in the Gulbenkian Theatre, Canterbury, the Orchestra of the Swan, conducted by Nicholas Cleobury, plays Bennett’s Saxophone Concerto (John Harle the soloist), Seven Country Dances, and Reflections on a Theme of William Walton, plus Stravinsky’s Apollo and a new work by Errolyn Wallen. The following day, Sunday 26th March, in collaboration with Dance Warehouse , also in the Gulbenkian Theatre but at 3 pm, Bennett’s Saxophone Sonata, Jazz Calendar and Theme from Murder on the Orient Express, together with a new work by Basil Athanasiadis, will form the basis of what should be a delightful event. Finally, on Sunday 26th March at 7.30 pm in the Gulbenkian Theatre, RRB joins forces with vocalist Claire Martin for an evening of cabaret songs and piano music.

NEWSLETTER EDITING It may be that after this, there might only be one more such Newsletter, a general introduction to next season which we might circulate more widely than restricting it to the Membership. The reason is quite simple: lack of time. Your Editor is going to be extremely preoccupied with his own compositional work over the next few years, and nobody else on the Committee as it is at present can possibly add this to their other duties. I’m rather amazed at how much they all manage to do, anyway! If some willing person were to step forward and take this on, it would let us continue, but unless someone does, it will be impossible for us to continue. This isn’t a financial problem, simply a time/logistics difficulty. If you’re willing to help us, or know anyone who might, please do let us know! JMcC

CONCERTS IN THE AREA We would like to draw your attention to some other local concerts:
Faversham Music Club Thursday 16th March at 8 pm in Queen Elizabeth’s School, Abbey Place, Faversham: the Royal Academy of Music Brass Soloists, directed by James Watson.
The Eimer Trio: Saturday 18th March 2006, 7.30 pm, at St Peter’s Methodist Church, St Peter’s Street, Canterbury, as part of the Music at St Peter’s series, again in association with Sounds New. The programme consists of trios by Haydn (E flat major), McCabe (Desert III: Landscape) and Shostakovitch (his great Trio No 2 in E minor).
Rochester Choral Society Saturday 8th April 2006 at 7.30 in Rochester Cathedral: Masses by Langlais, Pizzetti, Widor, plus Vaughan Williams’s Five Mystical Songs and Serenade to Music. A gorgeous programme!
Sittingbourne Orpheus Choral Society conducted by Michael Downes: Saturday 13th May in Fulston Manor School at 7.30 pm: the programme includes Fauré’s popular Requiem and Poulenc’s stirring Gloria.
Maidstone Symphony Orchestra / Brian Wright Saturday 20th May in the Mote Hall, Maidstone: Walton’s scintillating Partita, Schumann’s Cello Concerto (with Adrian Brendel), and Elgar’s 1st Symphony. .

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