50 Thoroughly Good bookmarked tweets from 2020

I have a habit with social media of scrolling and bookmarking. Its instinctive. There is no bookmarking strategy as such. I only really noticed I did it around February 2020.

As it’s the end of the year I figured I’d take a look at the tweets I’ve bookmarked. This selection isn’t trying to be representative of the year, other than a record of the kind of things I’ve responded to in the moment.

Just a warning: there are fifty media-rich tweets in this blog post. So it does take a bit of time to load!

I’m particularly interested in the subjects which have resonated for me, especially discussions around workplace bullying, the advice from Phoebe Waller-Bridge about writing. These two things in particular were clearly dominant themes throughout the year.

Nearly all of the tweets I bookmarked featured video which I think also reminds me of where my thinking has been in terms of content creation strategy, and specifically work. This combination of videos creates a story that I find compelling, reminding me in some cases of pre-COVID news and its impact, in particular the suicide of Caroline Flack which hit colleagues hard.

They’re also illustrations of how thinking has changed throughout the year with regards to the pandemic. The Royal Albert Hall Organ was genuinely funny at the time when the pandemic was beginning to impact UK life. I’m just not sure one would post that now.

Seeing the Imogen Holst post again reminded me how when my mood was low the nostalgia contained within previously unseen footage created an emotional uplift.

Sheer Joy

Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s advice for writers: find a friend and write for them

Pre-COVID concert going experience

Mild news fail

Margaret Atwood on a scooter

Rite of Spring without a conductor

Tricky plane landing

Laura Whitmore’s on-air tribute following the suicide of Caroline Flack

Sir Philip Rutnam resigns from the Home Office

Supporting employees who call-out workplace bullying

Deborah Meaden on Workplace Bullying

Design choices inside the Festival Hall

Who wouldn’t want to be Cherry Wainer?

Painful journalism (stick around until 1.40″)

Priti Patel

Yay. Dogs.

Royal Albert Hall Organ to the rescue

Wash your hands to the lyrics of Britten’s Friday Afternoons

Memories of the last recital I attended

How Government changed in a short space of time

Before lockdown, there was self-isolation

Rotterdam Philharmonic play Ode to Joy in lockdown

Dealing with first UK lockdown with regular dance sessions in the street

Lockdown shoulds

CBSO trumpeter and viola player with a lockdown rendition of Star Trek theme tune

BBC News theme tune played by a weather guy and members of the public

Boris Johnson challenged in the park

Carrie Gracie’s last day on BBC News

Tristan Chord on a floor keyboard

Paul Harvey improvises on four notes

How France made concert going possible in September 2020

Freelance musicians protest in Parliament Square

Kevin Brennan MP asks Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden about false claims regarded self-employed musicians support

Samar Ginsberg plays Thomas The Tank Engine

Rishi Sunak’s reskilling comment is underlined in a Government campaign

Suffolk murmaration

Footage of Imogen Holst conducting her father’s brass band suite

Dominic Cummings leaving Downing Street cut to the Imperial March

Will society be back to normal by Spring 2021?

Reverend Richard Coles and Danny Jules sing and dance for Sally Phillips

If Carols for Choirs could talk

Original footage of Dave Brubeck’s Unsquare Dance

Charlotte Higgins writes about how British classical music is struggling in the pandemic

Why one Spanish opera house put on a performance to an auditorium full of houseplants

Oliver Dowden’s committment to the arts

Questionable social media posting from Andrew Lloyd Webber

Spotify’s committment to supporting artists comes to the fore at a time when musicians can’t perform live

Intrepid Dunedin Consort head back from France concert on a hired fishing boat before travel restrictions are imposed

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s return to the concert hall

Susan Calman’s re-post of her Strictly Semi-Final Dance with Kevin Clifton

13 Thoroughly Good musical things from 2020

If it’s good enough for Fiona Maddocks (link at the bottom of this post) it’s good enough for this blog.

I started the year wanting to explore what the music was that I connected with and, importantly, figure out why.

The list that follows is a summary – the highlights – of my musical year. It doesn’t profess to be a recommended list. Such lists run a high risk of appearing like virtue signalling.

Instead, see this list as evidence of the music I’ve responded to in the unusual cirucmstances we’ve all experienced.

Andrew Manze and the NDR’s Beethoven 7

I’ve long been aware of Andrew Manze but always thought of him in the context of historically-informed performance practice. That changed last year with the discovery of his poignant recording of Vaughan Williams Symphony No.5 with the RLPO.

He brings some of that historically-informed performance experience to this recording with the NDR Radiophilharmonie.

Grit, urgency, and pathos can be found in the string textures. especially in the second movement funeral march. Details abound. A glorious adventure playground for the ears.

Jonathan Biss’ Beethoven Wigmore Hall recital

The last jaw-dropping live music I heard was with Fran Wilson at Wigmore Hall at the top of the year. Tears rolled. Much discussion post-concert. Biss’ playing pinned me to the back wall of the auditorium. Remarkable intensity. Moments that were immediate, uncompromising, and unequivocal. Difficult to put into words exactly what it was like. Exhilerating stuff.

Iain Farrington’s Beethoveniana

This was an unexpected joy. A visual manifestation of the times. Storytelling through dance, backed by visual tropes we’d all become rather used to because of the lockdown. Farrington’s variations and deliciously varied orchestral textures made for a tantalising musical buffet.

Musically too, there was something about the hints at familiar Beethoven melodies that was also of the time – a musical depiction of the way live music was perceived in the mind of the listener: fractured, confined, nearly-recognisable. Some variations are almost too difficult to listen to because of the memories they recall.

Dvorak Symphony No. 8 – Mariss Jansons and the Bavaria Radio Symphony

Technically speaking the recording I heard isn’t the one I’m illustrating here. It was actually a BBC Proms repeat from 2004 featuring Jansons and the Bavarian RSO that blew me away earlier in the year. Electrifying stuff. Made me feel alive. There are beautiful details to delight in in this recording: the delicacy in the upper strings in the third movement; the triumph and celebration in the fourth; and the joyous applause at the end.

Beethoven 3 from Les Concerts des Nations

Its fast and exhilarating. Terrifying. Ravishing.

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 from the Aurora Orchestra

The Aurora Orchestra’s outdoor performance of Beethoven’s seventh symphony was the first live orchestral music I heard (I think I’m right about that) after lockdown restrictions eased. Two concerts in one evening demonstrated what classical music concerts could turn into in the future. It was a highly-charged affair. The sound of an appreciative audience perhaps the most pleasing of all.

Holst’s Planet Suite in Parliament Square

Hearing the first few bars of Holst’s Mars the Bringer of War in Parliament Square was a moving experience. I went there to capture the protest mounted by freelance musicians calling on the Government to recognise the 30% of freelancers who weren’t able to benefit from the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme. This was old-school bread-and-butter content production as far as I was concerned. A call to arms, one others I knew in the media seemed woefully disinterested in. Perhaps that was part of my motivation – proving them wrong. I found it difficult to look at real human beings and know that they were struggling because of the pandemic. I didn’t really understand how other people couldn’t be moved by the sight of them. A few months on I find it difficult to listen to Mars.

Richard Stamp and Ottensamer’s Copland

If I had to rank this list, I’d probably put this recording joint first with the next one in this post. Richard Stamp’s recording with the late great clarinetist Ernst Ottensamer blew me away, lifting me from an intense bought of what felt like depression. The textures in this intimate recording soothe the soul. Ottensamer’s storytelling in Copland’s concerto makes sense of the work in a way I’ve never really got from other recordings.

Mark Simpson’s Geysir and Mozart’s Wind Serenade

An unexpected invitation to speak to composer and clarinettist Mark Simpson prompted me to listen to this album before it was released. Geysir was a revelation. Highly descriptive writing that celebrates the similarities and differences found in a wind section. It is a delight for the ears. If there is a 2020 subsitute for the live concert experience, then its this. Simpson’s work gave me renewed impetus for the autumn.

Paired with Simpson’s Geysir was Mozart’s Gran partita. The joyous industrious first movement in particular provided much-needed hope at a dark point in my year. The precise articulation throughout the ensemble is a joy to behold.

Both works were recorded at Saffron Hall in Cambridgeshire when lockdown restrictions had been eased.

Transit of Venus / Gillam / Joby Talbot

I’ve heard a lot of ponderous reflective music this year. Jaw-grinding eye-ripping stuff some of it. But Gillam’s much-anticipated ‘Time’, and Jody Talbot’s Transit of Venus in particular, was not only perfectly-timed but restorative too. Gillam’s playing is remarkable in this track. Talbot’s writing effortlessly conveys a sense of hope without resorting to musical cliche. Loved it. Still do.

John Rutter’s ‘Joseph’s Carol’

I include this because it was an unexpectedly moving experience to hear it recorded by the Oxford Philharmonic, Bryn Terfel and John Rutter. Aside from the necessary COVID mitigations, the few hours I spent at Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre hearing John Rutter’s new carol and speaking to him and Terfel reminded me of the press-junket experience which will, I’m sure in due course, return.

Peace on Earth – Errollyn Wallen

Errollyn Wallen’s eery Peace on Earth was published by English National Opera in July amid the emerging Black Lives Matter movement. Performed by Idunnu Münch and Gerrard Martin, this feels in places like a homage to Benjamin Britten and his love of scales. It a carol (or song?) that gets under the skin. First heard it in Opera Holland Park’s Christmas YouTube concert. There’s a choral version on Spotify too. We had better hear it at the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols next year.

All Things Are Quite Silent – Anna Lapwood and The Choirs of Pembroke College, Cambridge

There has been a preponderance of vocal releases – video, audio, TV and film – this year. Only one album stands up at the end of 2020 as still warranting repeat listens that yield something meaningful. I love everything on the choral album, but if I had to choose one thing above all else it would be Kerensa Briggs heart-stopping Media Vita. Music that shores up my sense of hope.

For Fiona Maddocks’ selection visit the Guardian website.

10 things people said to me in 2020

The first of a handful of unorthodox reviews of my ‘Thoroughly Good’ year.

At the beginning of 2020 I hated speaking to people on the phone. Come the end of the year I find that I’ve become more at ease calling up people on-the-hoof. It is as though 2020 has reminded us that its allowed to call people up without warning.

Part of that is because of video calls. Zoom and Teams are now the communication medium most use (I think I’m right in saying). Maybe Skype.

Seeing people in conversation has been central to a different kind of communication experience.

Way back at the beginning of UK lockdown people reported exhaustion having to have quite so many video calls. The observation seemed obvious to me. We were having to listen more. We were paying closer attention to what we were saying and doing, and what others were saying and doing.

Conversations were more direct. We experienced safety being physically disconnected from the people we were talking to. This fuelled a sense of confidence to say what we thought and felt. Now at the end of the year I feel as though I know people a whole lot better, in a way that I don’t think I would have done had I interacted with them in real life.

And as a result of that, I find myself in between Christmas and New Year with a few phrases lingering in my head. These, like pictures, music, and social media, are the things that characterise my 2020.

“I’m frightened.” “So am I.”

Technically this is me saying something and what someone else said in response. My statement (“I’m frightened”) was recorded in a podcast at the beginning of lockdown in March 2020. “So am I” was the comment left by a friend of mine in comments section below.

“I’m sorry to have to ask you this … “

Around about the time I bought microphone stands and tested out doing fixed mic podcast recordings on location (it seems like another century now), I remember being emailed by a trusted PR pal prior to my visit. “I’m sorry to ask you this,” she said, “but can I just check that you haven’t visited Italy or Spain in the past few weeks, and that you don’t have a persistent cough, and haven’t had a temperature the past few days?”

There was a time when we thought an emailed declaration of good health would nail it.

“People are going to be bored in lockdown so they’ll want to read more.”

This was one of those things you hear in conversation and think, “No. I’m sure I misheard that.” But when you hear it repeated then you realise that no, that is what some people think. It’s a variation on the moldy thought that home-working or furlough would in some way trigger people to write that novel they always threatened the world they would write.

“I don’t want this to sound like a Priti Patel apology, but ….”

Months before Priti Patel made her non-apology for workplace bullying, she was the subject of considerable ire on social media because of her similarly considered obfuscation of responsibility, organisational or personal. Around about the same time I confronted someone about behaviours I felt crossed a bit of a line. There appeared to be great delight derived from referencing Priti Patel’s similar difficulty. I remember having to take deep breaths during the exchange – at times heated, aggressive and intimidating.

Sometimes apologies aren’t apologies. And when they’re not they merely confirm a hunch. How we manage ourselves in the aftermath is what is important. I reassure myself that I was brave remaining true to my values. Even now I can recall the taste in my mouth. It wasn’t pleasant.

“Classical music doesn’t have to be boring.”

This is a trigger phrase. It calls to mind lots of highly-respected experienced marketing types who quite rightly point out the paradox that results from such a mindless statement.

Classical music isn’t boring. No music is boring. To dismiss a genre as boring shows ignorance. To hold up a genre as boring in a bid to demonstrate how you could potentially save it is pointing to a problem that isn’t there and, in the process, being misleading.

“People love all of that mindfulness shit.”

In a year that has for a whole variety of reasons seen the subject of mental health elevated beyond platitudes into something real and present, hearing people speak in a disparaging way of some of the tools friends, colleagues and associates use to maintain their mental health, has consistently made me frustrated. And possibly even a little bit hurt.

“It’s a bit navel-gazy. Change it back, please.”

This was a comment made in response to my copywriting.

The comment stings. Not because I think my copy sings necessarily. I don’t think I’m an expert. Or brilliant. Or beyond criticism. Far from it. Questioning what one does is part of the creative process after all.

It was what the comment really represented: a command. An indication that not everyone is at ease with collaboration. And even less equipped communicating cleanly.

“You get angry when someone crosses your boundaries.”

We often misunderstand the meaning of the word angry.

Angry for some means losing one’s temper. Flushed cheeks. Green stream.

Angry for me means my heart pounding fast in my chest. My legs go shaky. There is an insatiable need to meet the challenge (whatever it is head on). Between you and me, I’m often terrified by the experience.

It’s happened three times this year. Managing it in the moment is what’s key. And the key to managing it is being aware of when it’s happening. Be observant. Don’t take evasive action – that’s when things can have a habit of getting a bit sticky.

Determining whether the person crossing the boundary in question is a repeat offender, and calculating the likelihood of them changing their behaviour is also terribly important. It’s a work in progress. For all of us.

“Thanks for being a colleague, a confidant, and a friend.”

In a year that I think is probably fair to say for all of us fed self-doubt, one message in a card at the end of this year took me completely by surprise.

“You speak a lot of truth.”

I don’t share this one because of the content of it., although I appreciate some will conclude that I’m being massively egotistical by including it. What I’m more interested in is the effect reading the statement had on me. There was a rush – like water seeping into an empty space. A sense of relief. Sometimes when one experiences relief, a split second follows when we realise just how much we needed the reassurance in the first place.

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra sells 16K digital tickets plus a new season for 2021

Kudos to the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for stepping up to the plate and releasing their digital ticket sales figures for their Autumn 2020 season: a useful benchmark which can help producers get a sense of what defines success in the digital realm.

The near-16,000 digital tickets sold for twelve concerts is impressive because it has surprised me. There are assumptions held (we all do it) about the age of an audience, their tech-savvy-ness, and/or their willingness to convert to the digital experience. Given that the capacity of the Poole Lighthouse is 1500, selling 16,000 tickets is an impressive win.

A lot of that depends on what those tickets were – season or individual events – of course. But the bottom line is, its an impressive start. And by sharing it with the wider world, an important strategic point is made: there is still an audience for this, this still matters to communities, and we need to get the concert halls open.

The BSO announced today a new season of concerts for the new year.

Highlights include the UK premiere of American composer and DJ Mason Bates’ Auditorium and the continuation of the Orchestra’s Voices from the East series, with performances of Nurymov’s Symphony No.2 (UK premiere), Rimsky-Korsakov’s rarely performed Symphonic Suite ‘Antar’ (Symphony No.2) and Penderecki’s Prelude for Peace.

Sir John Eliot Gardiner will conduct Brahms and Schumann, and there are welcome returns for Marta Gardolinska, David Hill, Karl-Heinz Steffens and Mark Wigglesworth.

Pianist Benjamin Grosvenor returns as Artist-in-Residence in a recital programme with duo partner violinist Hyeyoon Park. Horn player Felix Klieser makes his UK concerto debut, and there are performances from mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnston and pianists Stephen Hough and Sunwook Kim.

Listings below. For boooking and more information visit the BSO website.

6 January (Lighthouse, Poole)
Kirill Karabits conductor
Ravel — Le tombeau de Couperin
Couperin — Suite from L’Apothéose de Lully
R Strauss — Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme Suite
[*pre-recorded performance]

13 January (Lighthouse, Poole)
David Hill conductor
Jennifer Johnston mezzo soprano
R Strauss — Träumerei am Kamin
Mahler — Songs of a Wayfarer
Brahms — Symphony No.2 

20 January (Lighthouse, Poole)
Karl-Heinz Steffans conductor
Fauré — Pelléas et Mélisande Suite
Beethoven — Symphony No.3 ‘Eroica’

27 January (Lighthouse, Poole)
Mark Wigglesworth conductor
Wagner — Die Meistersinger Suite
Vaughan Williams — Symphony No.5

3 February (Lighthouse, Poole)
Kirill Karabits conductor
Copland — Fanfare for the Common Man
Mason Bates — Auditorium (UK premiere)
Gershwin — Catfish Row: Suite from Porgy and Bess

10 February (Lighthouse, Poole)
Kirill Karabits conductor
Borodin — In the Steppes of Central Asia
Nurymov — Symphony No.2
Rimsky-Korsakov — Symphonic Suite No.2 ‘Antar’

17 February (Lighthouse, Poole)
Kirill Karabits conductor
Felix Klieser horn
Mozart — Horn Concerto No.4
Bruckner — Symphony No.0 ‘Nullte’

24 February (Lighthouse, Poole)
Sir John Eliot Gardiner conductor
Stephen Hough piano
Schumann — Genoveva Overture
Brahms — Piano Concerto No.1

3 March (Lighthouse, Poole)
Marta Gardolińska conductor
Schubert — Symphony No.3
Liadov — The Enchanted Lake
Shostakovich — Symphony No.9

10 March (Lighthouse, Poole)
Benjamin Grosvenor piano*
Hyeyoon Park violin
Schumann — Kreisleriana
Clara Schumann — Romances
Cesar Franck — Sonata in A
[*Benjamin Grosvenor appears courtesy of Decca Classics]

17 March (Lighthouse, Poole)
Kirill Karabits conductor
Sunwook Kim piano
Beethoven — Piano Concerto No.4
Schumann — Symphony No.4 (original version)

24 March (Lighthouse, Poole)
Kirill Karabits conductor
Penderecki — Prelude for Peace
Haydn — The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour on the Cross

Orchid Classic’s release of Simpson’s Geysir and Mozart’s Gran Partita

I wrote a few weeks ago about burnout. I was listening to Copland’s clarinet concerto at the time same time as writing the post. I recall thinking how Copland’s music helped me identify what I was thinking and feeling at that moment in time. Music to raise your levels of awareness. That kind of thing.

A few weeks on and it feels like made good progress on a recovery. The fatigue has passed. So too the phenomenal aches and pains. And there’s a growing sense of solidity too. And a commitment to carving out time to rest, relax and potter.

This week’s musical accompaniment (and NLP anchor, if you like that kind of thing) has been Orchid Classic’s new release featuring recordings of Mark Simpson’s Geysir and Mozart’s wind serenade in B-flat major – ‘Gran Partita’ – recorded at Saffron Hall in Cambridgeshire earlier this year.

It is a remarkable recording – brimming with colour and energy. Simpson’s Geysir is a captivating soundscape that evokes the mesmerising power of nature at its most insistent – when a geyser bursts forth. The textures Simpson combines between upper and lower wind have a quality to them I feel as though I could touch with the tips of my fingers.

Tonal harmonic progressions emerge from melodies in the upper wind contributing to a growing tension that can only be resolved one way, driven by deep powerful chords in the lower registers of the brass. It’s an aural rollercoaster. A treat for the ears. An unfamiliar concert opener coming out of my JBL speaker making me feel as though I’m in attendance at an actual concert.

That means there’s a theatrical quality to the whole thing, not only in Simpson’s score, but in the performance and recording too. It’s a listening experience that takes me someplace else.

The Mozart Gran Partita on this recording is something I’ve come back to repeatedly over the past few days. Every time it’s brought me an enormous amount of joy, either by pulling me from moments of melancholy or by helping me understanding how much of a recovery I’ve made. I’m not quite sure which it is yet.

The musical deep breaths that open the first movement are followed by a jolly industry in the allegro, depicting a colourful kind of celebration that isn’t as incongruous with our shared present-day experience as one might imagine.

In ensemble passages throughout the combined wind has a burnished quality to it that is momentarily overwhelming. Being able to hear individual lines brought out in amongst this mix reinforces the sense that actual human beings are making this remarkable sound. Imagining actual human beings playing this familiar work in such an arresting fashion is important what with the pandemic this year. Potent perhaps? Human beings making things in the weeks after the first lockdown restrictions were lifted. A recording that captures a collection of musicians thoughts and feelings in the moment. I like the idea of it. I acknowledge I might be getting a little carried away here.

Notable movements to listen out for:

1. First movement: the combined textures of Nicholas Daniel’s fragile oboe line and Mark Simpson’s rounded upper register clarinet gives this a sharp insistent energy full of determination and, as a result, hope. It is incredibly uplifting in a way I didn’t think I would feel uplifted right now.

2. The ensemble in the second movement minuet presents itself as a rich three dimensional block of colour, a deep container out of which multiple lines cascade out like a waterfall defying gravity.

3. The third movement adagio is delivered with elegance and poise throughout, topped by devastatingly fragile solo lines.

4. The same unbridled enthusiasm that exudes the first movement is present in the finale.

I’ve read plenty of blogs where the writer starts waxing lyrical about why something moved them. I admit to have been a little dismissive about what they’ve written. So I’m mindful I might be falling into the same trap here.

But it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that this recording has acted as an important signpost for me this year. That people I feel I half-know (and fully respect) are responsible for something that has brought me so much needed joy these past few days is a wondrous thing. Lovely lovely work.

Mozart’s Requiem from ENO

ENO’s performance of Mozart’s Requiem conducted by Mark Wigglesworth with soloists Elizabeth Llewellyn, Sarah Connolly, Ed Lyon and Gerald Finley was originally planned to be filmed in front of a social distanced Coliseum audience. England’s second lockdown put pay to that.  

Elizabeth Llewellyn undoubtedly shone in the performance with a gentle, delicate sound that felt solid. It consoled, too. This was fantastic exposure for Llewellyn – really pleased for her. Gerald Finlay’s contribution was grave and warm (if the two words aren’t a contradiction).   

(Don’t think I’m passing comment on Connolly and Lyon by not talking about them. It’s just that Llewellyn and Finlay were the voices I connected with most.)

Light was also shone on the impact distanced musicians has on performance. “The fragility of the arts has been exposed by this pandemic,” said Lucy Thraves to me earlier in the week. ENO’s performance also exposed the limitations of current mitigations.  

The distance between conductor and chorus, so too that between individual singers, exposed how much our appreciation of music depends on proximity. To date this year, I think this is possibly the biggest music performance in terms of on-stage forces I’ve seen. And I wonder whether its the upper limit too right now. It was evident how distance placed greater demands on ensemble, with the disparity between voices and orchestra easy to detect in places. Speeds varied at times. I have taken ensemble for granted, that much is clear. The BBC Proms next year seems like a long long way away in terms of getting anywhere near what was experienced in 2019, for example.  

The performance didn’t touch me in the way I’ve long anticipated billed performances of Mozart’s Requiem can be something for our collective emotions to coalesce around, though others might have felt differently. But there was a simplicity to the presentation that was the pleasing and an undoubted sense of occasion seeing classical music billed on a Saturday night at 7pm.  

I’d like to think this was a test for other such TV broadcasts in the weeks and months to come.  It would be something rather wonderful if classical music reasserted itself in the schedules, being made more visible to more people.  

Mozart’s Requiem is available on BBC iPlayer until October 2021

Arts Council England announces Round 2 recipients of Culture Recovery Fund

Round 2 recipients of the Cultural Recovery Fund were announced on 17th October – a total of £76m bringing the total given out so far to £334m.

Classical music organisations, music education, ensembles and venues who received grants from ACE are listed below. For a full list visit the Arts Council website.

For a list of Round One recipients see this blog post from Monday 12 October.

Britten Sinfonia £197,810
Bromley Youth Music Trust £213,000
Chapel Arts Centre Ltd £55,827
Chiltern Music Therapy £118,552
Drake Music £84,650
Faber Music Ltd £130,000
Ikon Arts Management Limited £58,000
Gilbert and Sullivan Festivals £120,000
Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival £50,000
Kingdom Choir Recordings Limited (KCRL) £150,000
Kings Place Music Foundation £562,000
London Contemporary Orchestra £50,000
Military Wives Choirs £92,057
Music for Youth £109,000
Music in Hospitals & Care £248,570
Oxford Philharmonic £210,639
Paraorchestra and Friends £156,000
OperaGlass Works Ltd £70,000
Pro Corda Trust £60,000
Voces Cantabiles Music £115,000
Yorkshire Youth and Music £55,000

Royal Phiharmonic Society Awards 2020 shortlist announced

The RPS Award shortlist has been announced this evening. It’s a compelling list – a signpost or spotlight for those creative endeavours and individuals that tell a vibrant story of the classical music scene. The shortlist is included below. The winners are announced on Wednesday 18 November at 7pm on the RPS website.

Listen to RPS Chief Exec James Murphy on the Thoroughly Good Classical Music Podcast discussing this years awards shortlist.

Chamber-Scale Composition supported by Boosey & Hawkes in memory of Tony FellLiza Lim – Extinction Events and Dawn Chorus
Naomi Pinnock – I am, I am
Raymond Yiu – Corner of a Foreign Field  
Concert Series and Events supported by PRS for MusicBeethoven Weekender – Barbican
Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival
Ryedale Festival
Venus Unwrapped – Kings Place
Conductor supported by BBC Music MagazineDalia Stasevska
Jonathon Heyward
Martyn Brabbins
Ensemble supported by Schott MusicCity of London Sinfonia
Manchester Collective
Scottish Ensemble
Impact supported by ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music)Across The Sky – Cheltenham Music Festival
Sound Young Minds – City of London Sinfonia
The Lullaby Project – The Irene Taylor Trust
Instrumentalist supported by ISM (Incorporated Society of Musicians)Lawrence Power – viola
Sean Shibe – guitar
Yuja Wang – piano
Large-Scale Composition supported by the Boltini TrustDavid Sawer – How Among the Frozen Words
Errollyn Wallen – This Frame is Part of the Painting
Frank Denyer – The Fish that Became the Sun (Songs of the Dispossessed)
Oliver Vibrans – More Up
Opera and Music Theatre supported by Sir Simon and Victoria, Lady Robey OBEOpera Holland Park
Nixon in China – Scottish Opera
The Turn of the Screw – Garsington Opera
SingerLise Davidsen – soprano
Natalya Romaniw – soprano
Nicky Spence – tenor
Storytelling‘Bright Stars Shone for Us’ by Tama Matheson
Our Classical Century – BBC Radio 3
‘Rough Ideas’ by Stephen Hough
Young Artists12 Ensemble
Sheku Kanneh-Mason – cello
Timothy Ridout – viola

Figures over sentiment

Arts Council England’s announcement about the first recipients of the Cultural Recovery Fund earlier this week has generated a bit of noise. In particular, much ire appears to be levelled at ACE and DCMS for ‘stipulations’ attached to receiving the award, manifest in a requirement that organisations extend thanks, use the hashtag “HereforCulture” and, outline how the money will help bring live performance back and support freelancers.

This in addition to the hushed exchanges and furrowed brows about why some organisations received the funding and others didn’t.

The noise has continued today with some arguing that the requested statements put out on arts organisations social media accounts left an Orwellian taste in the mouth – a kind of hand-wringing appreciation for funds some regard as less of an award and more of a necessity. To extend heartfelt thanks so publically and uniformly could be seen a gratitude for legitimatisation and validation by a government body, when the money is instead a ‘life-saving’ response to a critical situation.

To say thanks for something which will play a crucial role in the survival of an organisation or endeavour seems like a thoroughly decent thing to do – an easy win for a sector which has at its heart a belief that its work promotes a sense of wellbeing in the individual. Wellbeing extends to courtesy too. And if you can’t demonstrate your values in your activities and utterances then you’re very quickly going to lose the very audience the money you’re asking for is there to protect.

But what the resulting ire highlights isn’t so much a fawning sector, nor an Orwellian government, more an ill-thought out (and probably hurried) digital campaign.

To ask everyone to basically say the same thing (and then engage with those accounts) shows an editorial strategy built on figures (reach, impressions and engagement) rather than sentiment. Figures won out over sentiment. Some organisations framed their statements in a tone of voice which suited them. Others copied and pasted. The intent was sound. The originating direction could have been a little more sophisticated.

Arts Council England and DCMS announce first recipients of Cultural Recovery Fund

A selection of recipients (classical music/venues) of the first tranche of ACE/DCMS Cultural Recovery Fund. The complete list of data is available on the Arts Council England website.

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra secures £834K

In response to its £834,000 grant from Arts Council England, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra issued the following statement:

“This grant from the Culture Recovery Fund – along with support from donors to our £12.5 million Sound of the Future fundraising campaign – allows us to return to giving live concerts in a safe and Covid-compliant way: we have just announced a series of ensemble concerts at CBSO Centre, and we are working towards restarting larger-scale concerts at Symphony Hall.   The funding also enables us to share more of our work on digital platforms, and to increase the reach of our community work at a time when many people may find it hard to attend concerts in person.

By getting back on stage, we will be able to start engaging freelance musicians and guest artists, and we will also help other parts of the live music sector – agents, publishers, venues and other suppliers – to start earning as well.”

Mozartists secure £99K

Mozartists CEO Debbie Coates said in response to the ACE Grant:

“These have been uniquely difficult times for our industry, and the knock-on effects both to our organisation and our talented freelance artists have been horrendous. This grant provides some light at the end of the tunnel, offering us a lifeline so that we can resume the presentation of world-class performances and generate vital work for our artists. We are immensely grateful for this show of support and confidence in our work.”

London Philharmonic Orchestra statement

David Burke the LPO’s Chief Executive, commented:

Everyone at the London Philharmonic Orchestra is grateful for this grant from the Culture Recovery Fund as it will enable the Orchestra to continue to bring the wonder of orchestral music to global audiences. We also acknowledge that the plight of freelancers, in particular, needs to be constantly reviewed and all of us who care about the arts need to remain vigilant to ensure that the many thousands of freelancers are able to continue their vital contribution to the country’s economy and well-being.”

Watch the LPO’s In The Stream of Life on Marquee TV

Wigmore Hall

John Gilhoolly, Wigmore Hall:

“We are working very hard to bring artists and audiences back to Wigmore Hall and this government injection of funds is a great first step for our national cultural life, so much part of our national identity. However, this crisis could go on and for the arts. There is no end yet in sight and further help will be needed right through the UK, and especially for freelance musicians and artists who have lost so much.”

Saffron Hall, Cambridgeshire

Chief Executive, Saffron Hall Trust, Angela Dixon said:

“We are delighted and relieved to receive this money from the Cultural Recovery Fund. These funds will contribute towards the survival of Saffron Hall and allow us to support other arts organisations and freelancers locally and nationally through to March next year as we continue to build a safe environment in which to share music. 

We do not know how long this crisis will last, but over the last seven weeks we have welcomed 118 musicians to our stage and over 1,380 audience members to our reconfigured socially distanced auditorium and we are determined to keep going. 

Many thanks to the brilliant Saffron Hall team, the board of trustees, our amazing volunteers, our members and supporters and Saffron Walden County High School.”

Classical music organisations (venues and ensembles) in receipt of the Cultural Recovery Fund

Blackheath Conservatoire of Music and the Arts Ltd £228,000
Chineke Foundation £300,000
City of Birmingham Symphony orchestra £843,000
City of London Sinfonia £75,000
Classical Opera & The Mozartists £99,452
English Chamber Orchestra £102,034
Ex Cathedra Ltd £114,078
Hampshire Music Service £249,000
IMG Artists (UK) Ltd £100,000
Intermusica Artists Management Ltd £198,000
Halle Concerts Society £740,000
London Contemporary Voices £50,000
London Philharmonic Orchestra £650,000
London Symphony Orchestra £846,000
Manchester Camerata Limited £229,000
Manchester Collective £156,174
National Youth Choirs of Great Britain £170,000
National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain £250,000
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment £75,000
Orchestra of the Swan £130,000
Orpheus Sinfonia £69,966
Philharmonia Limited £967,413
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic £748,000
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Ltd £996,702
Saffron Hall Trust £245,000
Sinfonietta Productions Limited £80,990
Snape Maltings £950,000
St John’s Smith Square £227,147
West Suffolk Council £250,000
Wigmore Hall £1000,000
Wiltshire Music Centre Trust Ltd £188,158