Winter 2006

Let’s make it a Full House for

The King’s Singers

Friday 26 th January, 7.45 pm
Bourne Hall, Sittingbourne Community College

Probably the most famous and versatile vocal ensemble in the world, the King’s Singers have delighted audiences everywhere since 1965, when six choral scholars from King’s College, Cambridge, first formed the group. They have since sung with many famous orchestras world wide, and recently with the Cincinnati Pops. They have appeared with artists as diverse as Dame Kiri te Kanawa, the jazz pianist, George Shearing, Dudley Moore, and Evelyn Glennie, the Scottish percussionist. The group has maintained stability over the years; today’s six bring the total in the last forty-one years to just nineteen singers. Their programme will include music by Byrd and Tallis, leading Elizabethan composers, and a new work written for them by John McCabe. ‘Cartography’ is a setting of six short poems by Jo Shapcott, evoking landscape and memory on a journey from Hadrian’s Wall to Offa’s Dyke.

It is a rare treat that The King’s Singers are coming to Sittingbourne. Renowned for the blend and balance of their performances, their popularity is rooted in their infectious enthusiasm. To quote the Times: They are ‘still unmatched for their musicality and sheer ability to entertain.’ Spread the word among your family and friends and within your local community. Invite someone to fill the spare seat in your car. Let’s make sure we have a full house. And please note: Copies of their recent beautiful CD, “King’s Singers’ Christmas”, will be on sale at the November concert.


It was pleasing to see a good turnout for the first concert of our 2006/07 Season, given by the highly entertaining Galliard Wind Ensemble. We sold fifty-plus tickets on the door, in addition to our membership, which was great, but as always a bit scary, since we have no way of knowing how many to expect before the night. So we want to encourage as many as possible to pay up front for the season ticket, as this is assured income for the Society. However good the artists are to us, our concerts are costly to arrange, and since our artists are professional, they rely upon their concert fees for their income. There are many hidden expenses also, notably the hire of pianos. It is hardly surprising that our finances are always on a knife-edge. We must expand our committed membership to build a secure future. Local sponsorship has not proved easy to find, though we are grateful to Swale Borough Council and M-Real for their assistance, and also for the support from Swale Charitable Trust.

Mixing Babies with Music

The Galliard Wind Ensemble played superbly, and I particularly admired the ladies’ glamorous green dresses. Kathryn Thomas, the flautist, has an eight-month old baby and has only been getting four hours sleep at night for months. After travelling down from North London, and a long rehearsal, though a giggly one – the musicians are obviously good friends – Kathryn was at one point stretched out on the floor backstage, grabbing forty winks. Then, after the concert, an hour or so on the journey home, and may be another broken night. Babies just have to mix with everything!

Incidentally, Alice Neary, our cellist in November, also has an infant, now about two years old. When the child was a baby she used to take it to concerts with her; the empty cello case doubled as a backstage cradle – with supervision, of course!

Monica McCabe


Alice Neary (cello) and Gretel Dowdeswell (piano)

Friday 24 th November, 7.45 pm

Millenium Hall, Fulston Manor School, Brenchley Road, Sittingbourne

These two young artists have both won several major awards and have received critical acclaim, as solo artists and together as a duo – a musical relationship now long established. As winner of the 1998 Pierre Fournier Award, ‘The Times’ described Alice Neary as a young cellist ‘of the highest calibre’. Gretel Dowdeswell is also a founder member of the Gould Piano Trio; she broadcasts frequently on BBC Radio 3. Their programme will include solo as well as duo pieces.

Solo Cello Suite No 2 in D Minor – J.S. Bach

With his six solo cello suites Bach gave an authority to the cello as a solo instrument it had not known before. The suites explore the rhythmic character of dance; each movement is built around a different dance, arranged to emphasise the contrasts between them. In this Suite the movements are: Prelude, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Menuet I/II, and Gigue.

Sonata No 21 in C Op 53 (Waldstein) – Beethoven

Considered one of Beethoven’s greatest piano sonatas, it was dedicated to Count Ferdinand von Waldstein, an early patron of Beethoven, who arranged for Beethoven to study with Joseph Haydn.

Cello Sonata No 2 – Brahms

Brahms explained that his two great cello sonatas were ‘for piano and violincello’, meaning that the piano was given equal importance to the cello, rather than simply providing an accompaniment, which was often then the case.

Passacaglia for Cello – William Walton

Written in 1980 for the Russian cellist Rostropovitch, Walton used a dance form first used by Baroque composers, notably Bach. Other famous examples are the finale of Brahms’s 4 th Symphony, and the Passacaglia in Benjamin Britten’s opera ‘Peter Grimes’.

Definition: ‘PASSACAGLIA’

A ‘passacaglia’ is a musical form derived from a court dance. The Spanish is ‘passacaille’, which combines two words meaning ‘to walk the street’, suggesting

it is music to be played by wandering musicians. Sometimes confused with the

similar ‘chaconne’, a passacaglia is built around a constantly repeating

melody in the bass line and is in 3/4 time.

( From Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia)


SIR MALCOLM ARNOLD (1921-2006) – The Great Entertainer

A tribute by John McCabe


The recent death of Sir Malcolm Arnold has robbed the musical world of one of its most flamboyant characters. He was a composer of great range and variety, as well as a conductor of exceptional gifts – gifts mostly seen in his own music. I can also recall, however, his superb interpretations of Tchaikovsky and Berlioz. His vast output inevitably includes some duds, but there is a remarkable number of excellent works. He was one of the few contemporary composers to have achieved genuine and widespread success, including, but not only, his immensely successful film scores. His witty music for the film ‘Hobson’s Choice’, and one of his English Dances chosen to introduce the TV programme, ‘What the Papers Say’, are good examples. Equally humorous are the ‘Sea Shanties for Wind Quintet’, which were played by the Galliard Wind Ensemble at our September concert. He was loved by orchestral players and by audiences alike. Malcolm Arnold was recently described as the English Shostakovitch. There is much truth in this, and his refusal to kow-tow to Britain’s musical commissars (resulting in his neglect by some of the establishment) somehow reinforces this image. The heart of his music lies in his nine symphonies, which cover an enormous range, from the sunlit, extrovert, No 2, to the shadows underlying the profoundly moving No 5, to the extreme spareness, even gloom, of No 9, whose D major ending is curiously uplifting. Malcolm himself suffered from chronic mental illness, also alcoholism, and his life story makes uncomfortable reading. Yet he had the strongest constitution imaginable. After every reverse he pulled himself back together again, in later years with the aid of his carer, Anthony Day. He continued to write those blazing – sometimes sentimental, sometimes humorous, sometimes savage – works, which will surely keep his name alight. But he will be remembered most as one of music’s greatest entertainers.


Sir Thomas Beecham on Film Music

“Movie music is noise.

It’s even more painful

than my sciatica.”

New Works and Recordings

by John McCabe

Our Artistic Director has recently been phenomenally busy, as composer and pianist. He has three new compositions being premiered this winter:

  • Wednesday 10 th January 2007 : His 6 th Symphony, ‘Symphony on a Pavane’, commissioned by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, will be performed by them in the Queen Elizabeth Hall (South Bank), with the American conductor, Steven Sloane.
  • Friday 26 th January : ‘Cartography’, John’s latest work for the King’s Singers (see p. 1).
  • Friday 16 th February : His Horn Concerto , commissioned by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, will be played by David Pyatt (horn) with the Orchestra, under Tadaaki Otaka, in Swansea, and on Saturday 17 thin St. David’s Hall, Cardiff.


New piano recordings by John:

  • Three Piano Sonatas by John Joubert (Somm), also Joubert’s Song Cycles , with Lesley- Jane Rogers (Toccata Classics). These discs will be released in 2007 to celebrate Joubert’s 80 th birthday.
  • Complete Piano Music of Alan Rawsthorne (Dutton Epoch CDLX7167).

A Programme of Dance-inspired music for Two Pianos , (with Tamami Honma) by Copland, Stravinsky, McCabe, Britten, McPhee and Athanasiadis (Dutton CDSA6881).


Also, for release in 2007:

  • John’s ‘Pilgrim’ for Double String Orchestra , Ballet Suite No1 ‘Arthur
  • Pendragon’ and Piano Concerto No 1 (with John as soloist), with the

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, under Christopher Austin.

There are also some items on mixed recital programmes, from other sources:

  • ‘Scenes in America deserta’ , King’s Singers (Signum Classics) – autumn release.
  • ‘Concerto funebre’ , with violinist Sarah-Jane Bradley and Orchestra Nova, under George Vass (Dutton Epoch) – autumn release.
  • ‘Canyons’ , Royal Northern Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Chandos).



Outwitting the Gremlins

My first issue of the Newsletter looked great on my computer; each page

fine-tuned – exactly as I wanted it. But my version of Microsoft Word

proved incompatible with John McCabe’s computer, and when he down-

loaded it for printing, a gremlin had been at it, changing the fonts, messing

up the layout and, most embarrassing, transforming my discreet little

signature into a loud shout, in much brasher type. Not what I intended.

Thankfully, for this edition, we’ve found a way

of outwitting the Gremlins.


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