Suzy Klein takes on role of Head of Arts and Classical Music TV in October 2021

News arrives at Thoroughly Good of the appointment of Suzy Klein as Head of Arts and Classical Music TV at the BBC.

BBC Radio 3, TV and Proms presenter Klein takes on her new role in October 2021.

Thoroughly Good can’t think of anyone better to take on the role. Suzy’s path has taken in a range of roles in TV and radio in production, direction and presentation. Her knowledge and experience is considerable and her authority and sincerity on air (and in real-life) makes the appointment as exciting as it is reassuring.

“If my appointment represents something,” said Suzy Klein in the BBC press release, “it is a long-term commitment to the transformative power, inspiration and joy that the arts bring. That’s something I can’t wait to share with my brilliant commissioning team, as we work together to create the most compelling, unmissable programmes for audiences across the UK.”

Cellist Abel Selaocoe signs to Warner Classics

South African cellist Abel Selaocoe has signed to Warner Classics, building on the critical acclaim he’s received for electrifying genre-defying performances given across the UK over the past couple of years. He’s also the recepient of the Paul Hamlyn Composition Award and the PRS Foundation ‘Power Up Award‘.

Selaocoe is currently preparing his debut recording featuring a line-up of jazz, world and baroque artist collaborations.

Thoroughly Good learns from the press release announcing the singing that the debut album will feature “a music about learning to understand different ways we seek refuge, not always a place of comfort but one of empowerment that allows potential to live a fulfilled life.”

Last month Selaocoe appeared at the Ryedale Festival in two programmes – one solo, the other with members of the Manchester Collective. Both were moving experiences to be in attendance at and give a taster of the kind of material to come. Selaocoe is undoubtedly committed to his art, and in its fantastic to see his career develop at the rate it is.

This video uploaded to his YouTube account gives a sense of the early days (it was broadcast on South African TV in 2013) and the journey he’s been on over the past eight years.

Later this month, Selaocoe makes his BBC Proms debut this August 15 with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, conducted by Clark Rundell in a special programme entirely curated by Abel, which celebrates the journey between African and Western Classical music. He will be joined by his trio Chesaba, Simo Lagnawi and Gnawa London and small choral forces.

What are the four mystery Proms in the 2021 season?

Back at the launch of the BBC Proms season, four dates were billed as ‘Mystery Proms’ – events with music and performers to be announced. Today, the Proms team has announced the details of those four mystery Proms.

Friday 20 August
Mozart’s Requiem
Excerpts from operas by Jean-Philippe Rameau and an orchestral work by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges
Britten Sinfonia and National Youth Chamber Choir
David Bates conductor

Monday 23 August
Catrin Finch harp and
Seckou Keita kora

Wednesday 8 September
Mahler Symphony No.5
Proms Festival Orchestra

Friday 10 September
Bach Goldberg
Pavel Kolesnikov piano

The Proms Festival Orchestra – a new creation consisting of freelance musicians – on Wednesday 8 September catches my eye in particular, casting my mind back to the Parliament Square demonstration last October highlighting how the Government had failed freelance musicians in setting up the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.

David Pickard, Director of the Proms said of the formation of the ensemble, “We are very pleased to be able to engage so many outstanding freelance musicians to form our first Proms Festival Orchestra. Coming together for Mahler’s Fifth Symphony will be an extraordinary and moving experience given the tremendous challenges faced by freelance musicians throughout the pandemic.”

East Lothian’s Lammermuir Festival to run 7-20 September 2021

Royal Philharmonic Society Award-winning Lammermuir Festival returns to East Lothian later this year with a programme of events for distanced audiences.

There are 37 concerts across the two-week festival, with a residency from pianist Jeremy Denk, choral music from Tenebrae, Gesualdo Six, and Marian Consort, plus performances from Dunedin Consort, Roderick Williams, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Chloë Hanslip, Danny Driver, and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra,

In addition to selected performances from the festival being made available online, there will also be a series of filmed ‘Secret Places’ performances – made available in November 2021. The series will consist of selected performances from the live festival programme, juxtaposed with new concerts featuring artists performing in secret East Lothian places inaccessible to live concert audiences.

The Lammermuir Festival was founded in 2010 by artistic directors Hugh Macdonald and James Waters. It now presents concerts in September each year in one of Scotland’s East Lothian. 

The full line-up for this year’s festival (available via the Lammermuir website) is a rich and varied affair, including Bach, Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, Monteverdi madrigals, and a Dennis Brain tribute to composer Huw Watkins from the Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective.

On the final day one concert especially catches my eye. Thoroughly Good Classical Music Podcastee pianist Clare Hammond appears with Richard Uttley paying tribute to the great British inter-war piano duo in Bartlett & Robertson with music by Bach, Debussy, Rachmaninov and Granados.

For more information, listings and to buy tickets, visit the Lammermuir Music Festival website.

Nicola Benedetti’s ‘Baroque’ tops the classical music charts

Good to see Nicola Benedetti’s ‘Baroque’ album take the top spot of the classical music charts (Official Classical Artist Chart and Specialist Classical Chart) today.

The album was released on Friday 16 July. News of Benedetti’s chart success comes at the end of a week in which she performed eight live concerts featuring excerpts from the album at Battersea Arts Centre.

The Benedetti Baroque Orchestra who accompany Benedetti on the album also perform as part of a three concert residency at the Edinburgh International Festival, charting the history of her instrument in solo performance: ‘The Story of the Violin’ (17 Aug); Vivaldi (14 Aug); and Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale  (21 Aug).

Will I be able to Prom at BBC Proms 2021?

The answer is yes.

Announced today (the alarm was raised by a contact who reads another classical music blog – yes, I was incensed) by the BBC Proms team, this year’s since WILL operate at full capacity with additional tickets for the first half of the Proms going on sale at midday on Friday, 23 July, and tickets for the second half of the season going on sale at 9am on Saturday, 24 July.

Promming tickets will be available on the day of each concert priced at just £6. There will be standing tickets available in the Arena and Gallery with additional seated Promming tickets in the Choir.

Audience members will be encouraged to wear masks throughout, and their COVID status certification will be checked on entry.

You’ll need to have evidence of a negative lateral flow test taken within 48 hours of the performance, or evidence of double vaccination, or proof of natural immunity based on a positive PCR test.

It’s unexpected news. I’d been aware more tickets would be on sale after the 19th July easing of restrictions, but not been aware of Promming now being possible.

The news comes on the day when I found my own thinking both shifting whilst in conversation with an arts administrator on the subject of masks. The need to return to events was the overriding driver, accompanied by a surprising willingness to make personal decisions about whether or not to go masked based on individual situations. Both of us nodded in agreement. “I don’t want to be seen to be agreeing with Jacob Rees-Mogg,” I said. “Who does?” said my lunch companion. “But I’m veering on the side of personal choice.”

The extent to which this will be reflected amongst the Promming audience remains to be seen. Hot sweaty evenings in close proximity of others isn’t something which necessarily leaps off the page now. Though having the freedom to choose whether or not to attend the Proms as a Prommer perhaps is the more potent sign.

It’s a difficult one to square. Cases are reaching the level they did in January (though hospital cases are significantly lower, so to deaths). Not everyone will agree. But having the option, and the opportunity to calculate the risk, is perhaps the more important (to me at least) right now.

Lewisham Music and Awards for Young Musicians raise nearly £23K for 30 young musicians

Great news for Lewisham Music who announced today that they and Awards for Young Musicians have successfully raised £22,800 to help disadvantaged young people gain access to music tuition in the Borough of Lewisham.

The funding will allow 30 children to receive tailored musical support, including free weekly instrumental lessons so they can reach their potential. 

Each child (Years 5-6 Primary and Years 7-8 Secondary) will receive two years of paid instrumental music lessons, an individual learning plan, an annual bursary of £150, and regular participatory music experiences run by Lewisham Music. Applicants need to be from a family that is struggling to meet the costs of learning an instrument and/or those experiencing barriers to accessing music education.

The money was raised as part of The Childhood Trust’s Champions for Children campaign, supporting vulnerable children affected by the coronavirus.

Benjamin Grosvenor and Hyeyoon Park return with the second Beckenham and Bromley Festival

This is a little niche and perhaps bordering on the hyper-local for regular readers of the Thoroughly Good Blog, but it wouldn’t be Thoroughly Good if I didn’t highlight something happening on my own patch here in South East London, a tantalising 10-minute bike ride away from me here in Hither Green: the second Beckenham and Bromley Festival is scheduled for 17th – 19th September 2021.

The Bromley & Beckenham International Music Festival will this year stage four concerts at Bromley Parish Church, St Peter and St Paul’s Church.

Artistic Directors and Bromley residents Benjamin Grosvenor and Hyeyoon Park (this brings my tally of classical music talent on my doorstep to a mind-boggling ten people) founded the festival with festival director Raja Halder, putting on four concerts and raising £4200 for a local hospice too.

Watch Hyeyoon Park and Timothy Ridout perform Martinu’s Three Madrigals in the Beckenham and Bromley International Festival 2020

This year violist Timothy Ridout and cellist Bartholomew LaFollette return, plus there’s a festival debut from BBC Young Musician winner Laura van der Heijden. Concert programmes will include Rachmaninoff’s Trio Élégiaque No.2, Schubert’s Trio No.2 in E-flat and Britten’s Lachrymae, one of the 20th century’s greatest works for viola and piano, and the festival finale including Brahms’ titanic Piano Quintet.

The festival will also feature Joseph Tawadros in a programme of his own original music. Born in Cairo and raised in Sydney, Tawadros is a multi-award winning composer, improviser and champion of his extraordinary instrument, the Oud. His music draws on Arabic traditions combining it with western classical, jazz, world, folk, metal and bluegrass. 

Joseph Tawdross

Free tickets for under-12s and a fiver for under-21s. Everyone else, £22. Not bad.

To book tickets and get directions to St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Bromley, visit the Beckenham and Bromley International Festival website.

Liverpool says goodbye to Vasily Petrenko

It’s all too easy to read stuff online and lose sight of geographical differences across the UK. Not so with anything inspired by or reflective of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra who last week said goodbye to their Chief Conductor Vasily Petrenko.

An op-ed by Head of UNESCO City of Music, Kevin McManus in the Liverpool Express explicitly highlights the impact Petrenko has on the orchestra and the city too.

“As well as being a giant of the conducting world Vasily is also a hugely charismatic individual and has served as a brilliant ambassador not just for the Phil but for the city itself. He has taken the city to his heart, embraced its people, moved his family here and most significant of all he has shown his incredible taste by becoming a loyal supporter of LFC. Importantly he takes this love for the city with him wherever he is working and having such a prominent and respected figure acting as an advocate for the city is priceless.”

What I especially like about the piece is how unusual it is to see someone in an official capacity talk so passionately about an orchestra, illustrating just how important an orchestra can be to a local community.

That’s always been evident in the communications surrounding the RLPO over the past 10-15 years – a statement not only on how the organisation understands the relationship it has with its local audience, but also a measure of its pride in sharing that with a wider audience beyond Liverpool.

Some of the larger orchestras could do more of that. It’s an easy win to tell the story of how their activities underpin civic pride. It’s also a different story too, one that draws on authenticity.

Discover Thoroughly Good Recordings made by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Oslo Philharmonic, and Vasily Petrenko.

Verbier Festival changes its opening night

The Verbier Festival announced earlier today that its first-night concert has changed with the Verbier Festival Orchestra replaced by the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra. Soloist Denis Matsuev and conductor Valery Gergiev remain at the top of the bill. Trumpeter Timur Martynov joins for the concerts too.

The change ahead of the 16th July opening night is because a ‘small number’ of VFO musicians have tested positive for Covid-19 during rehearsals. Those in contact with those who have tested positive have themselves been placed in quarantine.

On the face of it such an announcement may not necessarily seem like a massive deal – just a reduction in numbers and a change of programme. But that change of orchestra highlights the precariousness of live performance right now, and represents money spent bringing together a symphony orchestra from across the world amid challenging travel restrictions, housing them, feeding them, and testing them.

The Verbier Festival Orchestra is a training orchestra for young musicians aged between 18 and 28. The last VFO concert I saw in 2019 was Schumann’s second symphony. A mammoth band and a good one too. That the programme has had to change to something smaller-scaled (Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony) demonstrates the impact the coronavirus is still having.

The Festival said earlier on today, “The Festival’s safety protocols, developed in partnership with medical experts and approved by the Canton of Valais, have ensured that its team was prepared for the possibility of the reappearance of the Covid-19 virus. Its Protection Plan was activated to stop the spread of the virus, which led to this change to the Festival’s opening night programme.”

The 28th Verbier Festival is supported by public and private funders, including Madame Aline Foriel-Destezet, The Friends of the Verbier Festival, the Festival’s major donors, including its Chairman’s Circle, the Commune de Val de Bagnes, Loterie Romande, Canton du Valais, and its loyal Principal Sponsors, Bank Julius Baer and Neva Foundation.

Read blog posts about Verbier Festival 2019