Friday 31 December 2010

Voices of angels and the patience of a saint

It so happened that just when the Georgia Regional Girls’ Choir were visiting us in Madrid, Spain, we also had a group from… let’s just say aEuropean capital city. Our European guests had also promised to sing and I thought it would be great fun to put our two sets of visitors, one from the USA and the other from Europe, together in the concert. Unfortunately, the European visiting group’s teacher was held up and was not able to be there to prepare her group to sing, so…… we waited….. and then waited some more.
With endless patience Ms Rawson started her Choir’s  performance and very kindly agreed to let the other visitors  take their place when their teacher arrived……Short stop for a changeover of choirs…no teacher…. no choir….please continue…and so it was that we had a double helping of the Georgia choir and missed out on hearing our European visitors. Our gain, their loss….but what exemplary charm and patience we saw that day from Ms Rawson and her excellent, dignified young singers, I congratulate them all.
Over the past years we have been fortunate to welcome visiting choirs from the United States, and one of the most striking groups which has performed for us is the Georgia Regional Girls’ Choir led by Jennifer Rawson, Artistic Director and Tour Choir Director
The Georgia Regional Girls Choir is a nonprofit, non-denominational organization for all girls in the 3rd through 12th grades and includes Tour, Apprentice and Training Choirs. All choirs perform two major concerts each year -- one during the winter holiday season, and one during the spring.  The Tour Choir performs throughout the year, including a summer tour. (GRGC notes).
For eleven years, Ms. Rawson has conducted the Georgia Regional Girls’ Choir, a premiere girls choir in North Georgia, which has toured throughout the United States and Europe under her direction, performing in Italy, London, Washington D.C., San Diego, Boston, San Francisco, the Georgia Governor’s Mansion, and the Biltmore House. Ms. Rawson has been a member and frequent soloist with the Atlanta Singers under the direction of David Brensinger for fifteen years and has had past positions with the Atlanta Symphony Chorus, The Atlanta Symphony Chamber Chorus, and the Robert Shaw Festival Singers under the direction of Robert Shaw. Her enthusiasm is contagious and her high energy, animation, and creativity combine to make GRGC a fun, as well as educational, experience for all the girls. (Ms Rawson’s notes)
Here is the repertoire sung by the Choir on their visit:
1) Pueri Hebraeorum                                    Randall Thompson
2) Salve Regina                                                Javier Busto
3) Psalm 23                                                        Z. Randall Stroope
4) Ah! Si mon moine voulait danser        Canadian folk song
5) Niska Banja                                                  Serbian gypsy dance
6) Duerne Negrito                                          Atahualpa Yupanqui
7) Las Amarillas                                                traditional Mexican
8) How Can I Keep From Singing              Quaker song
9) Keep Your Lamps                                      traditional spiritual
10) Hello, Girls                                                 American folksong
As you can see, the choice of repertoire shows a wide range of national origins and stylistic influences, and a perfect balance of inspirational and fun songs. Surprising as it may seem to readers in the USA, much of this repertoire is unknown here, and was appreciated even more for its novelty.
The concert performance was excellent, with a refinement in tuning, tone and control that was exceptional and deeply appreciated by our audiences, which were made of school students from around Madrid of exactly the same age as the singers. How we all admired your wonderful singing!
Please forgive me for not including the photo of the girl singers here: it is my policy not to include photos of minors in my blog in order to protect their privacy. As expected, their presentational skills were wonderful and their parents back in the USA can be duly proud of them in every way. I hope you will come back to Spain soon, and include us on your list of concert dates.
Thanks to Wens Travel, who coordinate all the arrangements so beautifully to guarantee a happy occasion for all.
The great thing about the Georgia Regional Girls’ Choir is that, not only do they have angelic voices, they have the patience of a saint.

We don’t have royalty in Houston, but if we did…

In June 2008 it was my great pleasure to welcome the St. John’s School Kantorei to perform in Madrid as part of their Spanish Concert Tour.  St. John’s School is in Houston, Texas.

St. John's is an independent, co-educational day school presenting a 13-year sequence of college preparatory training. A non-profit institution, it was founded in 1946 to provide the community with a school of exacting standards in the development of individual, spiritual, ethical, intellectual, social and physical growth. While the means to achieve that purpose may change, it remains the basic mission of the School.

The School seeks to develop the whole person in preparation for a lifetime of personal fulfillment and contribution to society. In particular, it is dedicated to the enhancement and the expansion of future leadership for Houston and the country.
Choral ensembles perform at a variety of events throughout the school year, including the annual fall and spring shows, holiday concerts, community events, Chapel services and more.

(School web page:

In Madrid, the Kantorei choir sang a range of sacred and secular songs, as shown in their programme information:

1)   O Magnum Mysterium....................................... Tomas Luis de Victoria (c.1548-1611, Spain)
2)   The Lamb.................................................... Words by William Blake; Music by John Tavener
3)   Totus Tuus...................................................................................... Henryk Mikołaj Górecki
4)   Ubi Caritas........................................................................................................... Ola Gjeilo
5)   Ya viene la vieja............................ Traditional Spanish Carol; Arr.Alice Parker & Robert Shaw
6)  Esto Les Digo................................................................................................... Kinley Lange
7)   Dry Bones.................................................................................. Spiritual; Arr. Peter Gritton
8)   O Day Full of Grace...................... Danish Folk Hymn; Arr. F. Melius Christiansen (1871-1955)
1)  Cantaremos.................................................... Traditional Spanish Dance; Arr. Ramón Noble
2)  Kaki Lambe..................................................................... Traditional Senegal; Arr. Brian Tate
3)  La Chaparrita...................................................... Venezuelan Folk Song; Arr.Vivian Tabbush
4)  Nelly Bly........................................................ Stephen Foster (1826-1864); Arr. Jack Halloran
5)  The Star-Spangled Banner........................ American National Anthem; arr. by Lloyd Pfautsch
6)  Yankee Doodle Dandy............................................... Traditional American; Arr. Deke Sharon
It was really a joy to listen to this inspirational choir, and to see the reaction of the audience of Spanish students, very much the same age as the singers: their admiration for the Texan choir was palpable.


Kantorei is the top Upper School chamber choir.  Selected by audition from the much larger Chorale, this select group is twenty to twenty-five members strong, and holds rehearsal for two 40-minute periods a week, with occasional extended weeknight rehearsals.  Kantorei annually participates in an Independent School Arts Festival, local High School Choir Contest, and a statewide Madrigal/Chamber Choir competition where they have consistently received superior ratings.  Singers from Kantorei have participated in some the country’s best honor choirs, being selected to sing at conventions for organizations such as the Texas Music Educators Association, American Choral Directors Association, and Organization of American Kodály Educators.  The group has performed concert tours of Austria, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, England, Hungary, Italy, Norway, and Poland. (Choir notes)
The Kantorei choir was led by their Choir Director, Scott Bonasso:
Scott Bonasso is in his seventh year as Choir Director and Music Teacher at St. John’s School, where his responsibilities include teaching intermediate general music classes and Music Theory AP, directing the upper school chapel program, and conducting the St. John’s Boychoir (a 50-voice, all-male choir; grades 4-12) which he founded in 2002, Chorale (a 50-voice mixed high school choir) and Kantorei (a 25-voice select high school chamber choir).  Mr. Bonasso is also the Director of Music Ministries at Southminster Presbyterian Church in Missouri City, TX, where he conducts the chancel choir and oversees a large music program that includes 3 youth choirs and 2 adult choirs.  Scott holds a B.M.E. degree in Choral Conducting and Vocal Performance from Sam Houston State University where he studied conducting with Peter Jermihov and voice with Walter Foster, and he also holds a M.M. in Choral Conducting from the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music, where he studied conducting with Charles Hausmann. (Choir notes)
Thanks to Wens Travel, who always coordinate all the arrangements so beautifully to guarantee a happy occasion for all:
All I can say is thank you for performing in Madrid, and please come back soon.

About the royalty thing….I have some Spanish friends who have lived in Houston for the last few years. When I told them the St. John’s Kantorei had been our guests in Madrid they were so impressed and said:  We don’t have royalty in Houston, but if we did, they’d be at SJS.

Do we assess too much in music education?

I was asked recently to comment on whether we are assessing too much: a very interesting area for debate in music education.
I would like to make a contribution from a very practical point of view, leaving serious theoretical propositioning and statistical analysis to others more qualified in those areas.
I was representative in Madrid of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) from 1997 to 2004, when the ABRSM exams were relatively unknown here. On the many occasions when I acted as steward at examination centres I often used to ask the candidates three questions:
Did you practise more than usual in the weeks approaching the exam?
Did your playing/singing improve as you practised more?
Have you enjoyed playing/singing more as you have got better?
The answer to all three questions was invariably positive.
More recently, when we introduced Rockschool exams at school parents commented that their son/daughter’s preparation on electric guitar had become more disciplined, more focused and more productive in the weeks leading up to the exam.
The crucial question here is that the candidates found the exam process to be worthwhile and positive, not a trauma to be endured. In these cases there was a genuine sense of assessment for learning, with a structure over time that the candidates themselves clearly understood and bought into.
What are features common to these experiences, involving as they do very different styles of music?
Ownership: in most cases the candidates had a part in deciding whether or not to sign up for the exam;
Integrity: candidates are confident they will receive a fair and objective assessment of their performance;
Positive outcomes: for well prepared candidates exams with the ABRSM or Rockschool provide positive feedback, recognition within school and beyond, and a platform for future success.
Were these candidates assessed too much? Apparently not, as a high proportion of them came back for more in following years.
A full debate on this question will be found in the February 2011 issue of Music Teacher magazine, edited by Christopher Walters:

Dr. Eduardo Martínez Alonso, un médico español, lleno de valor y coraje/ Parte II

Seguidor fiel de la filosofía apolítica del fundador de la Cruz Roja, Henri Dunant, él se las arregló para no definirse ni como nacional ni como republicano…sólo participó en la Guerra Civil desde la imparcialidad, como médico de campaña..
Así explica la autora la postura de su padre ante la guerra, añadiendo una frase propia del doctor: El sufrimiento físico es ajeno a  cualquier tendencia.
Dr. Martínez Alonso participó en los dos bandos y terminó la guerra en el bando victorioso. La autora describe la crueldad infringido por personas de ambos bandos, y el sufrimiento físico de la victimas.
De un lado, cuenta cómo miles de españoles del ejército republicano que colaboraron con la resistencia en Francia cayeron prisioneros del Tercer Reich y terminaron en los campos de concentración nazi.Mauthaussen…retuvo a más de 8.000, utilizados como mano de obra esclava. Miles de ellos murieron en las cámaras de gas….
Los documentos oficiales revelan que la muerte de estos españoles fueEn realidad, un convenio político hispano-alemán de septiembre de 1940…..
Sesenta años después, un decrépito Ramón Serrano Suñer (ministro de Asuntos Exteriores en 1940) aún dormía en su cama tranquilamente todas las noches mientras yo escribía estas líneas.
De otro lado, la autora incluye en su libro un texto escrito por su padre donde él relata cómo presenció el fusilamiento de 34 personas indefensas mientras él prestó ayuda como médico de la Cruz Roja en la banda de los comunistas en 1936. Los acontecimientos tuvieron lugar en Cabeza de Buey, en Badajoz, y la matanza fue una represalia por la muerte de un joven de un disparo del ejército.
Eligieron treinta y cuatro personas al azar y los subieron al camión sin medir si eran inocentes o no. Pero no era eso lo que más les importaba. La masa del pueblo estaba sedienta de sangre y odio…..Comenzaron a oírse los disparos de los Máuser, las pistolas, los revólveres, en una cacofonía infernal mezclada con los alaridos histéricos de los asesinos…. Cuando por fin tuvo el valor de abrir los ojos, tenía una pila de cadáveres ante mí.
Ante tal sufrimiento, el Doctor recuperó su labor de médico al finalizar la guerra civil, y trabajó a la vez en su propia consulta en su casa y en el hospital de la  Cruz Roja en Madrid.  Esta labor era la cara pública de su empeño para aliviar el sufrimiento que le rodeaba, pero había otra cara, la cara secreta, que él desarrolló junto con personas relevantes de la embajada británica, y de la comunidad civil en Madrid y en Vigo. Una red de personas que organizaba la fuga de miles de personas refugiadas, en gran parte polacos judíos, que se vieron amenazadas con la extradición a Alemania.
La cara secreta reunió a varias personas alrededor del salón de té Embassy, situado en el Paseo de la Castellano en la esquina con Calle Ayala, un lugar de tertulia de las personas internacionales, regentado por su dueño, la irlandesa Margarita Taylor. Ella no sólo permitió a las personas de la red verse en su salón de té, sino participó activamente en la trama de rescates, e incluso alojaba a numerosas personas involucradas en la trama al largo de los años en su residencia, situada en el piso superior del local.
Tal fue la importancia de la labor de Doctor Martínez de Alonso que ha sido condecorado con el King George Medal for Courage del Reino Unido en 1947 y nombrado Miembro de los caballeros de la Cruz de oro del mérito por las altas autoridades de Polonia en el exilio, en 1958.
En 2007, Ted Pahle, al enterarse de que la Federación de Comunidades Judías de España en Barcelona había nombrado al doctor Eduardo Martínez Alonso benefactor de los judíos que se salvaron durante el Holocausto, escribió una nota cariñosa a la hija del doctor describiéndole así:
Un médico que ayudó a curar al mundo lo mejor que pudo, a pesar del gran peligro que corría. Sencillamente: un héroe…. Lleno de valor y coraje.
La Clave Embassy, de Patricia Martínez de Vicente
La Esfera de los Libros, Madrid 2010
Ver posts anteriores relacionados:
Dr. Eduardo Martínez Alonso, un médico español, lleno de valor y coraje/ Part one
Héroes en Madrid 2010 y 1940
Amor en tiempos revueltos en teatro…

Dr. Eduardo Martínez Alonso, un médico español, lleno de valor y coraje/Parte I

El libro La Clave Embassy de Patricia Martínez de Vicente se puede apreciar y disfrutar desde muchos puntos de vista muy diferentes, y esto, junto con la importancia del tema tratado, hace que leerlo sea una experiencia no sólo informativa sino conmovedora.
En primer lugar Patricia Martínez ha escrito un libre de homenaje a sus padres: a su padre por su cariño, su generosidad y entrega a su labor de médico, aparte del  tema principal del libro, su tremendo valor y coraje durante los años 1940 a 1945; y a su madre por su constancia y el apoyo que prestó a su marido  en momentos tan difíciles que ella se convierte en protagonista, no es simplemente la acompañante del actor principal.
En segundo lugar, este libro  contribuye a los conocimientos de una época triste en la historia de España. Precisamente ahora, cuando la memoria histórica tienda a pintar a las personas y los partidos en blanco y negro, es más necesario que nunca recordarnos que la maldad se manifiesta en ciertas personas de todas las creencias y colores políticos. A la vez, el libro proporciona una interesantísima reflexión sobre la relación entre el gobierno español y los representantes de Alemania y de Gran Bretaña en los años de la posguerra.
En tercer lugar, la autora ha conseguido contar su historia con los mejores elementos de suspense de una novela de detectives de Agatha Christie. Empezando con el sorprendente descubrimiento de un diario de su padre, avanzando lentamente gracias a largas conversaciones con su madre para terminar, o así parecía, en un callejón sin salida en los registros del gobierno británico el enterarse que los documentos que necesitaba consultar seguían bajo la clasificación de secreto. Gracias a la ley de 2005 que da derecho a los ciudadanos a la información previamente clasificada, la autora pudo, por fin, contrastar  la memoria de sus padres y los frutos de sus investigaciones en mil lugares con los documentos oficiales británicos.
Por último, este libro da pie a pensar en un asunto de gran interés en este siglo XXI: la importancia de poder guardar un secreto. El hermetismo de todos los protagonismos en la labor de rescatar a los refugiados fue inflexible, incluso con sus seres más queridos, y el secretismo absoluto fue la mejor garantía de la continuidad del proyecto y de la seguridad de los colaboradores. En gran parte, la tapadera consistía en seguir una vida normal, en repetir las tareas cotidianas para  distraer y confundir al enemigo.  ¿Cuántos asuntos de los que ahora salen a la luz gracias a Wikileaks tienen una importancia mayor de lo que aparece?  ¿Quién puede garantizar la seguridad de las personas en las embajadas y consulados cuyas actividades están hoy en día a la vista de todos?
No entro aquí en profundidad en el asunto del derecho de acceso a los papeles oficiales, pero creo que una lectura de este libro nos hace reflexionar sobre los límites de la libertada de acceso a la información y sobre la necesidad de proteger a las personas que luchan en la sombre para promover el bien sobre el mal. ... continuará...

Héroes en Madrid: 2010 y 1940

Esta semana nos ha impresionado a todos el acto de heroísmo de un agente de policía fuera de servicio quien, al ver que un turista había caído a la vía de metro donde él se encontraba, no dudó en arriesgar su propia vida. El agente se lanzó a la vía y pudo arrastrar al turista al otro carril, momentos antes de la llegada del tren.  Mejor verlo que leerlo, en este video de las autoridades del Metro de Madrid:
Casi a la mismo hora que sucedió este acontecimiento yo estaba hablando por teléfono, escuchando al relato de otro acto de heroísmo en Madrid que data de hace muchos años, precisamente, de la década de 1940. La autora Patricia Martínez de Vicente me contó que su padre era médico de la embajada británica en Madrid por entonces y colaboró durante varios años en operaciones clandestinos con los servicios secretos del Reino Unido para rescatar a personas perseguidas por la Gestapo.
La conversación me dejó con ganas de saber más, así que fui a comprar el libro de Patricia Martínez de Vicente: La Clave Embassy, y pudo enterarme de más detalles de esta fascinante historia, que es historia y no es cuento. Claro es que el Embassy que figura en el título del libro no es la embajada, sino el salón de té que sigue funcionando hoy en día en la madrileña Paseo de la Castellana en la esquina con Calle Ayala.
Según el diario del propio doctor Martínez, las conversaciones que ha mantenido la autora con las personas involucrados en las acciones, y los papeles oficiales que ha consultado, el número de refugiados salvados por el doctor Martínez y sus confidentes llega a más de dos mil. La acción de este libro se desarrolla entre Madrid y Vigo, y las personas en necesidad de ayuda procedían de varios países, sobre todo eran personas judías de Polonia. Estremecedor es pensar en las consecuencias que esperaban a los responsables de esta campaña humanitaria si hubieron sido  descubiertos por las autoridades. Entre los colaboradores del doctor Martínez figuran Juan Bourgignon, Walter Starkie y la dueña del salón de té Margarita Taylor.
En 1942, la atención hostil  de los agentes de la Gestapo representó tal amenaza para la seguridad del doctor que tuvo que exiliarse durante unos años, junto con su esposa, en Londres. Es, sin duda, una historia digna de contar y de descubrir.
La acción heroica del agente de policía en Madrid en diciembre de 2010 fue la respuesta instantánea a una necesidad urgente de un turista en un día concreto; la acción heroica del doctor Martínez en Madrid y Vigo en los años alrededor de 1940 fue una respuesta meditada a la injusticia durante un periodo prolongado.
¿Porqué un agente  de policía o un medico arriesgan sus vidas para personas desconocidas que nunca podrán recompensarles por su sacrificio? Según Patricia Martínez de Vicente, no hay duda: en el caso de su padre las razones son claras – Por amor al prójimo, por solidaridad, por sentido de la responsabilidad. Por humanidad.

Amor en tiempos revueltos en teatro…no es una versión light

Quién haya pensado que asistir al Teatro Bellas Artes un domingo por la tarde para asistir a la función de Amor en tiempos revueltos sería una versión light de la serie de televisión se equivoca. Esta obra está llena de tensión, de situaciones extremas y de potentes diálogos.
Todos los actores brillan con luz propia, sobre todo la magnífica Cayetana Guillen Cuervo, magistral diva con su historia misteriosa, por supuesto. Pero, para mí, la estrella es el guión: trágica exposición de la injusticia, la tiranía y la corrupción de los años 50 del siglo pasado. …
Los discursos a favor de la libertad de expresión y del proceso creativo son elocuentes, y el fervor político late con fuerza en casi cada momento.   Sin embargo, eso no quita, para nada, la pasión por la poesía, la literatura, y esa maravilla que es el teatro, la creación de un mundo que no es, de los personajes que existen sólo gracias a la magia del autor y de la inspiración de los actores.
Este es el tema que abra y cierra la obra: el amor por el teatro en sí.
Curiosamente, he leído estos días la historia real de Eduardo Martínez Alonso, un médico español que colaboró en la salvación de miles de refugiados polacos, entre otros, en España en la década de los 40. Hay momentos en la obra Amores, que nos hacen comprender qué importante haya sido la labor del médico y con qué ferocidad se trató en esos días a las personas que no cuadraban con las exigencias de los amos de la época… para leer más ver el post Héroes en Madrid 2010 y 1940…

30 years ago…John Lennon

Liverpool, 1964, tens of thousands of people thronged the streets from the airport to the city centre and stood for hours until a police escort led a group of large black cars with tinted windows past screaming fans.
It was the day four young men returned home. Liverpool has that sense of home, of belonging, and these men had been away, and they came home. In a city whose port has been for centuries the gateway to the world, a better world, anything had to be better, coming home safely in itself was something to celebrate.
How many of our brothers, fathers, grandfathers and uncles had left the Pier Head to land at the South Sea Shore, New York, in time of peace and war, some to make their fortune, some to be lost forever. The Beatles songs were only possible because of the music that travelled home with the sailors in their kit bags. These four men had travelled in style: BOAC planes and first class treatment all the way. And they came home.
Why the wait? It was  not only the songs, good tunes with clever lyrics carved out of the pebbles at the Dingle, it was not only the silly haircuts, we all thought they were naff but were too overwhelmed to say so, and the suits, no thank you. Brian Epstein wrote his own account of the tour in a Mersey Beat article:
For the first time, as it seemed then, someone from over here had gone over there and had really triumphed. Instead of English singers making cover versions of the real thing from across the Atlantic, here were John and Paul writing songs that people over there wanted to copy. And they were copying  lyrics with experiences and feelings that came from Lime Street, not Los Angeles, from the Cavern not from California, from cast-iron in your soul, not flowers in your hair.
The tunes got better later, the lyrics got cleverer, Paul brought in Linda, George brought in India, Ringo had a great time, and why not, and John brought in Yoko, found more songs, lost some weekends and went to stop making plans and live life the way he wanted, in luxury overlooking not Sefton Park but Central Park.
30 years ago today it came to an end, the might have beens, the songs, the concerts and reunions.
It was really not my idea to go and stand for hours in the street waiting to see them come home, but I’m glad we did. We had a child’s glimpse of a legend. The legend did not start 30 years ago today, it already had roots as deep as those of the oaks in Calderstones Park and foundations as secure as the Albert Dock.

A dream about musicals: a poem by James Duggan

A dream about musicals was written by James Duggan for Jill Hyde and the members of the Liverpool Phoenix Concert Orchestra and Judy, Julie, Dolories, Diane, Kevin, Richard and John in 2010… well, I was there too……
A dream about musicals: by James Duggan
Last night I had a dream about musicals
I dropped three coins in a fountain
Julie Andrews appeared; on top of a mountain
Swaying and swirling and singing with glee
She said, “Come, sing with me”
“But, what’ll I sing?”; “Oh anything,
Just remember to start at the very beginning.”
As I began singing, a church bell was ringing,
She said, “Oh dear, I must go,
But come with me, for some tea,
To the cute little convent below.”
When we arrived, Henry Higgins
Was there with Eliza,
Eating jelly and custard and
Surrounded by a lot of young men
She spoke of the weather, and
The rain on the plain in Spain again and again and again.
Freddie arrived and sang about
The street where she lived.
Higgins was livid and stormed out of the place
Not before turning, picking up the bowl and
Throwing some custard in her face.
Andrew Lloyd Webber appeared
Rehearsing his version of Guys & Dolls
All gangsters in sharp suits and spats
But when I looked closely
I saw the cast was mostly
A few dogs and a whole load of cats.
Porgy was there with his Bess, if you ask me why, no reason,
It’s a dream, I guess
Lloyd Webber said wow
And the cats went miaow:
The whole thing was a bit of a mess.
I moved out west
To a bright golden haze on the meadow
And a strapping young man said, “Welcome to Oklahoma.”
His name was Curry and he showed me his surrey
The whole thing happened in such a hurry
There was a horse and a cow and a calf,
We had a bit of a laugh and I said,
“This place should be called Jokelahoma!
I floated to somewhere unspecific
To a sunset on some enchanted evening
Ah yes, South Pacific.
There a panto dame and a girl were sharing a wig
I started to stare
The girl said, “Shoo!”,
Grabbed some shampoo and
Washed that dame right out of her hair.
Julie A appeared again in a car
No, a taxi,
Being chased by a horrible nazi,
She said, “Sing!”, but when I opened my mouth
Nothing came out
I had woken up and then I knew
For a dream about musicals
To come true
Needs an orchestra like the one
Playing here
On the stage
For one night only
Especially for you.

Thanks James.
See also my post on the Liverpool Phoenix Concert Orchestra

Amateur music- making: why do we do it?

I have been thinking about this over Christmas, especially after playing in a local non-pro Big Band  directed by Robin Cooper, and the next night attending  a lovely Christmas concert by some good friends here in Madrid. It also took me back to June and the visit here of the Liverpool Phoenix Concert Orchestra, which I’ve written about in another post.
Here are my ideas, I’d love to hear your comments on why you perform as an amateur musician.
Here are some reasons why some people (I’m not telling you which reasons are mine) might be involved in music as an activity that is not a form of income for them:
A star is born: persons who long to be on the stage and who dream that their big break is just around the corner, they are a discovery just waiting to be ….discovered;
Man in the mirror: persons who have a huge political/social conscience and hope to change the world through their campaigning through the platform which the arts can give them;
Love story: persons who believe that true love could flower in the next audition or in the interval at the very next show;
I don’t like Mondays: persons who have jobs that range from tedium to nail-biting tension and find performing a healthy escape;
Coca-cola reminiscence: persons who’d like to teach the world to sing, love doing music and want to share their pleasure with others … now we’re getting there…;
Moon riverdwellers: when Johnny Mercer wrote these gorgeous lines, don’t you think he was expressing that search for those spine tingling musical moments we’ve all had thanks to people around us when we’ve been playing/singing in choirs, bands or orchestras…
We're after the same rainbow's end-- 
waiting 'round the bend,
my huckleberry friend,
Moon River and me.

So there’s my Christmas quiz, all polite comments will be posted here for us all to enjoy.
This post is dedicated to the Big Band of the Aula de Musicas in Madrid: directed by Robin Cooper, and to all my friends from Liverpool and the Christmas Spirit group directed by Judy Macinnes:
Liverpool  Phoenix Concert Orchestra
Musical Director: Jill Hyde
Associate Conductor: Dr. Robert Howard
Violin: Christine Bratherton (Leader), Rose Sims, Robert Howard, Suzanne Dawber, Lyndsey Travis, Paul Dadswell, Jane Little, Yan Zhang
‘Cello: Charlotte Sawyer
Double Bass: Julia Cadman
Flute: Laura Bonnett, Jane Berry, Frances Aston
Oboe: Alex Swift
Clarinet: Susan Hyde, Maggie Edwards, Lyndsey Whelan
Bassoon: Helen Chatterton, Sara Padmore
Saxophone: Howard Fenton (flute), David Toller
Trumpet: Tony Lister, Gary Boden, Julie Baker
Trombone: Jonathan Malits
Tuba/ Bass Guitar: Mike McLoughlin
Percussion: Alasdair Chatterton, Janet Malits
Liverpool  Phoenix Concert Orchestra
Administration: Tish Bratherton
Tour Organisers: Jill Hyde, Tish Bratherton, Howard Fenton,
Susan Hyde, Christine Bratherton
The Singers:
Kevin Beer
Julie Davies
James Duggan
Delories Dunn
Diana Grayland
Richard Hunter
Judy MacInnes
John Ruescas

The Liverpool Phoenix Concert Orchestra in Madrid

How would it feel to play in an orchestra conducted by your school music teacher,  sitting next to one of your own fellow pupils 35 years  after leaving school, and one thousand miles away from home?
I found the answer last June when Jill Hyde, the extraordinary music teacher for many years at the King David School, Liverpool, brought her orchestra to Madrid. Obviously, Jill is slightly over 21, and the orchestra are not school children but adults who represent all kinds of trades and professions, or none, and who belong to the Liverpool  Phoenix Concert Orchestra.
How did this group of amateur musicians from Liverpool come to be performing in Madrid? Two years ago the orchestra were invited to do some concerts in Elba by friends who have retired there. Everything went so well that when they  thought they had to repeat the experience somewhere else in the sun, Jill contacted a former pupil who has lived in Madrid for years. Of course, said former student, this would be a great idea, and he showed Jill and Sheila around Madrid when they visited the city to make plans, and introduced them to some good friends, and there you are.
In the end the orchestra played several concerts at a Madrid school, including commentaries so that local pupils could practise their English, and finished the tour with a concert of songs from the shows  at the magnificent International Institute in the city centre.
The local talent provided the singers, while the orchestra were the Liverpool group, plus a couple of locals who just could not resist the chance to play along, thanks Adam and Pavel…
We had each rehearsed in our own cities, Liverpool and Madrid, and as I rehearsed with the singers, we listened to iPhone recordings and did our best to match the tempi. Many times the singers asked me how the tempi would work and what we would do about keeping in time all together, and I always felt I knew exactly how it would sound because I knew how Jill would conduct this was uncanny that she did exactly what I expected, after all these years.
We were also extremely lucky in having Robert sharing the conducting, a real perfectionist with tact and diplomacy in his veins.
In the final concert the playing was wonderful and the singing was exquisite. To be honest there were some problems of balance, ok yes more than a few,  which we’ll get right next time some time… but it was a great evening and was probably the first time ever in Madrid that these songs from the shows have been heard with a live symphony orchestra, all in English, in this combination.
We were all held spellbound by the Richard’s commentaries, and can’t forget the beautiful poem written especially for the occasion by James. If he sends it to me I’ll publish here, it was too good to hear only once.
Here are the players:

Liverpool  Phoenix Concert Orchestra

Musical Director: Jill Hyde
Associate Conductor: Dr. Robert Howard
Violin: Christine Bratherton (Leader), Rose Sims, Robert Howard, Suzanne Dawber, Lyndsey Travis, Paul Dadswell, Jane Little, Yan Zhang
‘Cello: Charlotte Sawyer
Double Bass: Julia Cadman
Flute: Laura Bonnett, Jane Berry, Frances Aston
Oboe: Alex Swift
Clarinet: Susan Hyde, Maggie Edwards, Lyndsey Whelan
Bassoon: Helen Chatterton, Sara Padmore
Saxophone: Howard Fenton (flute), David Toller
Trumpet: Tony Lister, Gary Boden, Julie Baker
Trombone: Jonathan Malits
Tuba/ Bass Guitar: Mike McLoughlin
Percussion: Alasdair Chatterton, Janet Malits
And the organisers:

Liverpool  Phoenix Concert Orchestra

Administration: Tish Bratherton
Tour Organisers: Jill Hyde, Tish Bratherton, Howard Fenton,
Susan Hyde, Christine Bratherton
Here are the singers:

The Singers:

Kevin Beer
Julie Davies
James Duggan
Delories Dunn
Diana Grayland
Richard Hunter
Judy MacInnes
John Ruescas
Commentaries written and presented by Richard Hunter
The Musicals Mystery: A poem composed for  Salute to Broadway  by James Duggan.
Our thanks are due to all those friends who made this concert possible, especially to Pilar Piñan, Director of the International Institute, Madrid, and Kevin Robb, Representative of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music.
So how did it feel sitting in the orchestra being conducted by Jill Hyde, sitting next to Julie Baker? It was great, of course, Jill being as musical and full of musical feeling as ever. It was inspiring because Julie plays beautifully, any student in Liverpool is very lucky to be on her list.
And the most striking thing… the same feeling I always had I every rehearsal: that playing music is the best ever way to spend an evening, and why didn’t I find more time to practise before I came?
Thanks to all my friends in Madrid for such a huge effort, especially Judy, and to all my old, sorry-longstanding- and new friends in the Liverpool Phoenix Concert Orchestra.
Come back soon.

Now we’ll have a merry little Christmas

It wouldn’t have mattered if every train had been cancelled due to snow or if every taxi driver had gone on strike, I would have got home on Sunday carried along on a wave of sheer joy, thanks to the Christmas Cocktail concert by Judy Macinnes, Julie Davies, James Duggan, Delories Dunn, Richard Hunter, John Ruescas and Jonathan D. Mellor.
A Christmas Cocktail was a beautiful concoction of songs, poetry and silly nonsense of the best kind, mixed by the group themselves with ingredients including a touch of Noël Coward, Gustav Holst, and that trusty old friend, Traditional, and  served in the bar at the Hotel Vinci Via 66. This was an inspired choice of venue as we were able to enjoy the singers’ voices without the hassle of amplification, and we were all so close, it was lovely.
John Ruescas has such a beautiful, tender tenor voice that he is able to make the most of any romantic song, and manages to make the apparently unequivocal When you tell me that you love me sound like the saddest ever song of unrequited love, and his moments of The Most Wonderful time of Year turn your thoughts immediately to far away family instead of at- home comforts. By contrast, Delories powers on with her great voice and stage presence, and has the great advantage, for me, of coming up with songs from the very Americanest of repertoires which I haven’t heard before.
Richard, of course, was superb, reciting the first world war poem of the unofficial truce at Christmas 1914 followed by Tannenbaum in German and English. The world stopped turning for a few moments then, and the horror of that war, and all the other wars since 1914 and the ones tragically still under way, was hanging there with us in the room.
It served me right for doubting, but Anything you can do I can better did not seem, on the face of it, the most appropriate choice for a Christmas event, and there they were, Julie and James, wrecking the song mercilessly and bringing the house down with a Madrid 2010 mix of the great  duet. James also recited, this time The Boy Actor, which he performed so movingly that I was not only one to mistake this for his own work, apologies to Noël, not Gallagher by Coward.
Everyone, of course, did more than just these items I have mentioned, and were accompanied by Jonathan at every turn, who even did a turn on his own, and so sympathetically was his accompaniment.
And Judy, boss for the night, soloist, duetist, librettist and inspiration for the concert. Thank you for the ideas, the choice of music and for your wonderful singing. A great night and a wonderful way to get Christmas rolling. Thanks to you all, we have started to Have Ourselves a Merry Little Christmas…

Goodbye, Mr Today's Music (Español)

Acabo de enterarme de que el Centro para la Difusión de la Música Contemporánea (CDMC) no tendrá continuidad en la temporada del 2011. Esta es una noticia triste y es difícil entender la razón de esta acción.
El CDMC ha sido una luz brillante en la escena de la música en Madrid durante estos últimos años. La programación, a manos del Sr Fernández Guerra... Mr Today's Music, ha sido de un nivel incuestionable y ha cumplido con un requisito indiscutible: el de ofrecer al público un repertorio que no se ofrece en el  circuito comercial. Con esto quiero decir que las empresas como Ibermusica, o Juventudes Musicales  siempre van a llenar el Auditorio Nacional de Música con grandes figuras, sean solistas o orquestas con un gancho indiscutible, como Misha Mayska o la Sinfónica de Londres interpretando a Mahler o a Beethoven... pero el logro histórico del CDMC, y de su director, ha sido precisamente en traer a esta ciudad a conjuntos y repertorio que jamás se hubieran escuchado en los conciertos populares.
No puedo decir que he asistido al cien por cien de los conciertos de los lunes, pero sí he tenido la gran suerte de haber presenciado a algunos momentos maravillosos en la sala de la Reina Sofía, y he podido escuchar un repertorio genuinamente contemporáneo, ecléctico, y siempre de una calidad indiscutible. Confieso, eso sí, que me he esforzado en no perder a los grupos llegados de tierras británicas, ocasiones que además me han servido de reunirme con viejos amigos de conjuntos de Birmingham y de Londres, pero este asunto no se trata de nacionalismos ni de modas: más bien tiene que ver con reconocer una labor bien hecha, y de avisar de que se va a echar en falta una actividad musical que, me temo, ne se verá en mucho tiempo. Adiós al CDMC, goodbye  SrFernández-Guerra, el Mr. Today`s Music - we'll miss you.

La Música es Nuestro Idioma

La financiación de la EU hace posible que jóvenes músicos de Madrid, Londres y Reykjanesbaer compongan y interpreten su música juntos.
De Timothy Jones, Karen Sturlaugsson y Peter Romhany
Tres ciudades - un proyecto
La idea para este proyecto se gesto un día de sol brillante en Madrid, nació musicalmente en un pueblo costero en temperaturas bajo mínimos cerca de Reykjavik y terminó en un Londres con una capa de nieve. La Música es Nuestro Idioma es el titulo de un proyecto Sócrates Comenius subvencionado a través de la Unión Europea. Se trata de facilitar la movilidad de profesores de música y sus  alumnos de tres centros de España, el Reino Unido y Islandia entre los tres países. El colegioMorpeth School, a través del Globetown Action Zone, ha sido la institución coordinadora y los socios son mi colegio  en Madrid y la Escuela Municipal de Música de Reykjanesbaer.
Los tres ingredientes del proyecto son una reunión de planificación que tuvo lugar en  Madrid en septiembre de 2005, una reunión de trabajo de profesores conducida por una compositora que tuvo lugar en la Escuela Municipal de Música de Reykjanesbaer en noviembre de 2006, y una sesión plenaria en el colegio Morpeth School en Londres que dio lugar al concierto final en elGuildhall School of Music and Drama.  Acciones adicionales han continuado hasta febrero de 2008, y hay planes para más acciones en el futuro.
Una experiencia previa compartida
El hilo conductor que une los tres profesores de música encargados de este proyecto es nuestra experiencia previa del programa Connect de la Guildhall School of Music and Drama, dirigido por Sean Gregory. El colegio Morpeth School presenta un proyecto de seis semanas con el Connect desde el año 1998, centrado en los colegios de primaria de su zona, organizado por el Globetown Action Zone. Mi colegio  disfruta de organizar talleres con Sean Gregory desde el ano 2003, gracias a la coordinación de la oficina de Artes del British Council en Madrid, y unos de los momentos mas memorables de esta colaboración es la improvisación en tiempo real conducida por Sean en el colegio en España conectado por video conferencia con el grupo Connect EQ situado en la Universidad del Este de Londres, en marzo de 2004. Los vínculos entre la Escuela Municipal de Reykjanesbaer y elConnect no podían ser mas fuertes, ya que la compositora asociada con La Música es Nuestro Idioma es Sigrun Saevarsdottir-Griffiths,  licenciada por la Guildhall  y antigua alumna de la Escuela Municipal de Reykjanesbaer.
Nuestras experiencias previas compartidas hicieron posible que hablemos el mismo idioma sobre nuestras esperanzas para el proyecto cuando nos reunimos en Madrid para escribir nuestra solicitud de financiación. Nuestros objetivos principales son incluir a los profesores y a los alumnos en el proceso de componer la música, y incluir la música en una experiencia social y cultural más amplia.
Kiss the Sky Besar al cielo
Cuando siete profesores de los tres centros se reunieron en la Escuela de Música Municipal de Reykjanesbaer catorce meses después de la reunión original, Sigrun ya había decidido que el concierto donde íbamos a tocar como grupo Comenius tendría como tema la música de Jimi Hendrix. El titulo Kiss the Sky es una frase de la letra de Purple Haze.
La idea de actividades para romper el hielo y de calentamiento adquieren un sentido especial en un pueblo costero islandés con vientos helados y la amenaza de nieve constante, así que pronto nos pusimos a trabajar en dos partes musicales diferentes con ideas que surgieron del grupo bajo la tutela de Sigrun. La sección A es un ritmo de 6 por 4 con un ostinato al piano alternando con una frase melancólica al clarinete. La sección B es una ritmo de 5 por 4 con una melodía fuerte de metales. Poco a poco salieron las ideas para los fondos que iban a acompañar a los solos y la forma de la pieza se desarrollaba al largo del día.
Gracias al Ibook de Apple pudimos grabar y hacer copias de nuestro trabajo y Sigrun puso tareas para cada grupo, según los instrumentos que iba a incluir cada grupo en la pieza final. Para Morpeth School la tarea fue desarrollar la sección en 6 por 4 e incluir un grupo grande de metales. El grupo de Madrid  iba a ser batería, piano y dos violines, así que la tarea fue desarrollar la material en 5 por 4 y centrar la atención en los violines. El grupo de Reykjanesbaer iba a incluir viento madera, metales y guitarra eléctrica, así que tenían que componer algo nuevo relacionado con las otras secciones que podría servir como introducción centrada en la guitarra eléctrica, adaptando unas frases de Jimi Hendrix.
Se acordó que al volver a casa cada profesor/a enseñaría las secciones de tutti a sus alumnos y trabajar con sus alumnos para componer la sección asignada a su grupo, listos para combinar todo tres meses mas tarde.
Desde la calle Brick Lane al centro de las artes Barbican, Londres
Para algunos de los estudiantes entre los cuatro de España y seis de Islandia esta visita en febrero de 2007 fue su primera visita a Londres y había un programa de actividades de tres días aparte de los ensayos y el concierto. El grupo de alumnos de tres naciones compartieron un curry en la calle Brick Lane, núcleo de los primeros inmigrantes asiáticos en Londres, visitaron la zona de Covent Garden, compraron en la tienda de música Chappells of Bond Street, visitaron sitios nuevos y antiguos, desde la catedral de St Pauls hasta el London Eye, y disfrutaron de ver el espectáculo El Rey León en el barrio de los teatros, el West End.
En nuestro primer ensayo juntos había un ambiente de asombro y de admiración mutua cuando cada grupo interpreto su composición. Los fragmentos que habíamos llevado a casa en noviembre se habían convertido en piezas con personalidad propia, y Sigrun puso su magia para crear una obra coherente.
La interpretación final formo parte de un concierto organizado por elGlobetown Action Zone con el Connect en el salón de actos de la Guildhall. Había doscientos alumnos de cuatro colegios de primaria de la zona que habían preparado su música con sus profesores y con los alumnos de la Guildhall bajo la supervisión de Sigrun, todo basado en el tema de Jimi Hendrix Besar al cielo, además de la banda del colegio Morpeth School y los tres grupos Comenius. Las obras preparadas por los colegios de primaria son originales y variadas y las interpretaciones consiguen un nivel alto. La presencia de los alumnos de España y de Islandia añadieron sus propios ingredientes a ya por si diversidad cultural de los niños locales de Tower Hamlets. Había jóvenes de muchas culturas, todos hablando el idioma de la música.
Al visionar la dvd del concierto esta claro que sin duda hemos podido conseguir los retos que nos pusimos al escribir nuestra propuesta original. Nuestros alumnos han colaborado con nosotros al componer su música, han colaborado en un concierto en un marco de gran prestigio como parte de un proyecto mas amplio que ha marca la vida de cientos de jóvenes cada año y hemos incluido a nuestros alumnos en una experiencia que les ha sido valiosa en el sentido mas amplio culturalmente y socialmente.
En mayo de 2007 quince alumnas de Morpeth School pasaron una semana en Madrid cuando ofrecieron conciertos y dirigieron talleres de voz en colegios y en dos institutos de la ciudad. En febrero de 2008 treinta alumnos de Morpeth School, dirigidos por Pete Romhany, pasaron tres días en Liverpool juntos con treinta alumnos del colegio local. Juntos ofrecieron conciertos por y con los alumnos del King David High School y el Formby High School, y hicieron una visita guiada del Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts(LIPA), el centro de artes escénicas fundada por Sir Paul MacCartney. Estas visitas demuestran que el proyecto tiene la potencial de seguir y que podrá avanzar en el futuro para incluir más alumnos de cada país. Uno de los objetivos prioritarios es llevar a los alumnos de España y del Reino Unido a participar en el festival anual de instrumentos de viento que reúne a más de mil jóvenes.
Los fondos de la UE Comenius posibilitan la movilidad de pequeños grupos de alumnos durante un tiempo limitado. A partir de este punto de partida las relaciones entre nuestros centros han crecido a través de las visitas de grupos mas grandes financiadas por vías alternativas, y es nuestra intención continuar a profundizar en las relaciones que se hayan desarrollado, no solo al nivel institucional sino al nivel personal, ya sea de profesores o de los alumnos.
Queremos constatar nuestro agradecimiento a las administraciones responsables del Comenius en cada país, en el Reino Unido el British Council, en Islandia la Office of International Education at the University of Iceland y en España la Direccion Territorial Madrid Oeste de la Communidad de Madrid y la Agencia Nacional Sócrates.
El proyecto estaba previsto para tres años; por razones técnicas se quedó en sólo un año.  
Los autores
Peter Romhany, Director de música del colegio Morpeth School, Londres
Karen Sturlaugsson, Jefe de estudios de la Escuela de Música Municipal de Reykjanesbaer, Islandia
Timothy Jones

Music is Our Language

Young musicians from London, Reykjanesbaer and Madrid compose and perform music together thanks to EU funding
By Timothy Jones, Karen Sturlaugsson and Peter Romhany
A tale of three cities
This project was dreamed up in bright sunshine in Madrid, began in a musical sense in a freezing town near Reykjavik and ended ankle deep in snow in London. Music is Our Language is the title of a music project financed through the European Union Socrates-Comenius programme to fund mobility of teachers and students from three schools in the UK, Iceland and Spain between the three countries. Morpeth School, working through the Globetown Action Zone, was the coordinating institution and the partners were my school in Madrid and the Reykjanesbaer Municipal Music School.
The project had three main ingredients: a planning meeting which took place  in Madrid in September 2005, a teachers meeting led by a composer at the Municipal Music School in Reykjanesbaer in November 2006 and a plenary session at Morpeth School in Tower Hamlets, London which led into a final performance at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in February 2007. Additional actions have continued up to February 2008 and more are planned for the future.
Shared experience
The common thread uniting the three music teachers leading this project is our experience of the Guildhall’s Connect Project, directed by Sean Gregory. Morpeth School have run a six week project with the Guildhall each Spring term since 1998 through the Globetown Action Zone, especially focussing on their feeder primary schools. The Madrid school have enjoyed workshops led by Sean Gregory since 2003 co-ordinated by the British Council Arts team in Madrid, and a highlight of this work in progress is a real time group improvisation lead by Sean at the school in Spain connected via a live video link with the EQ Connect group at the University of East London, in March 2004. The relationship between the Reykjanesbaer Municipal Music School and the Guildhall could not be closer, as the composer associated to the project is Sigrun Saevarsdottir-Griffiths, a Guildhall graduate and former pupil of the Reykjanesbaer school.
Our shared experience meant that as teachers we were speaking the same language about our hopes for the project as we met in Madrid to write our bid proposal. Our fundamental goals included involving teachers and our students as composers and making the music part of a wider social and cultural experience.
Kiss the Sky
By the time seven teachers from the three schools met up at the Municipal Music School at Reykjanesbaer fourteen months later, Sigrun had already planned that the concert at which our Comenius group would perform would be based on the music of Jimi Hendrix. The title, Kiss the Sky, is part of the Purple Haze lyric.
Ice breaking and  warm up exercises take on a special meaning on a November morning in a coastal Icelandic town with gale force winds and the constant threat of snow and we soon moved on to establishing two contrasting musical sections as ideas emerged from the group under Sigrun’s guidance. The A section is in 6/ 4 with a piano riff and a contrasting haunting clarinet melody. The B section in 5/ 4 has a driving brass theme. Backing figures were improvised to accompany solo segments and the shape of the piece developed during the day.
Thanks to an Apple ibook we were able to record and copy cd’s of the day’s work and Sigrun set homework for each group, depending on the forces we planned to involve in the piece. Morpeth School would develop the 6/ 4 section and involve a large brass group, featuring a solo trumpet. The Madrid group would involve piano, drums and two violins so the task was to develop the 5/ 4 material, especially featuring the violins. The Reykjanesbaer group was to involve woodwind, brass and electric guitars, so the task was to create new material which would serve as an opening theme featuring, appropriately, the electric guitars as soloists.
It was agreed that on their return home, each teacher would teach their students the tutti segments and work with their students to compose their own sections, ready to fit everything together three months later.
From Brick Lane to the Barbican
For some of the four Spanish and four Icelandic students February 2007 marked their first visit to London and they were given a packed three day programme apart from the concert and rehearsals. The three nation group shared a curry in Brick Lane, visited Covent Garden, shopped at  Chappell’s of Bond Street in Wardour Street, saw sights old and new from St Paul’s to the London Eye, and enjoyed a performance of The Lion King in the West End.
There was a sense of wonder and mutual admiration as each group listened to their colleagues’ compositions in our first combined rehearsal. The fragments which each of us had taken away from the November meeting had blossomed into characteristic pieces, and Sigrun intuitively groomed them to make a coherent whole.
The final performance was part of a concert organised by the Globetown Action Zone with the Guildhall in the conservatoire’s Main Hall. There were two hundred children from four local primary schools who had been coached by Guildhall students and their class teachers under Sigrun’s guidance, all working on the Jimi Hendrix Kiss the Sky theme as well as the Morpeth School band and the small groups of the three Comenius centres. The work produced by the primary groups was original and varied and was performed to a high standard. The Spanish and Icelandic presence added their own ingredients to the wealth of cultural diversity of the children from Tower Hamlets. There were children of many cultures, all speaking the language of music.
Watching the dvd of the concert, it is beyond doubt that the fundamental goals which we set ourselves when writing our bid proposal have been fulfilled. Our students have worked with us as composers, have taken part in a concert in a prestige venue as part of a larger project which touches the lives of hundreds of children every year, and which has involved our students in an experience which has been of untold value to them in the wider social and cultural sense.
In May 2007 fifteen students from Morpeth School spent a week in Madrid where they performed and led workshops at local primary and secondary schools. In February 2008 thirty Morpeth School students, led by Pete Romhany, spent three days in Liverpool with thirty students from the Madrid school. Together they performed for and with students from King David High School and Formby High School, and were given a guided tour of the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts. These latest visits show that the project has the potential to continue and that it can advance in the future to include more students in each country. High on the list of aims is to enable students from Spain and the UK to take part in the annual wind festival in Iceland which draws more than one thousand young persons.
The EU Comenius funding provides for the mobility of small groups of students during a limited time. From this starting point the relationship between our schools has developed through visits by larger groups financed in other ways, and it is our intention to continue to deepen the relationships established not just between the institutions, but between persons, students and adults. We would like to thank the country administrations responsible for handling the Comenius project, in the UK the British Council, in Iceland the Office of International Education at the University of Iceland, and in Spain the Agencia Nacional Socrates.
The project was planned to last for three years, but ended after the first year for technical reasons.
The Authors:
Peter Romhany, Head of Music at Morpeth School, London
Karen Sturlaugsson, Deputy Principal, Reykjanesbaer Municipal Music School, Reykjanesbaer , Iceland
Timothy Jones

World class opera course: Opera Studio 2011

I just received news of the latest plans from the University of Alcala, just outside Madrid. This university is one of the  most historic centres of learning in Europe, as it was founded in  1499 .The university is housed in some of the most beautiful buildings, many of which have been fully renovated and brought up to 21st century standards.
The university’s imaginative extension activities arm, under the auspices of the Fundación General, organises numerous courses and events. One of the most interesting, musically speaking, over the last few years has been an opera course held in the summer under the direction on Giancarlo de Monaco, culminating in staged settings of scenes from highlights of the repertoire, performed as night falls in the open air courtyards in this incredible setting.
I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy some of these performances, which have improved in scale and quality every year, so I’m glad to receive news of the latest offering from the university’s Fundación General, this time under the direction of Lourdes Pérez Sierra, who has been the administrative driving force behind the previous courses.
Lourdes Pérez is active in arts management and consultancy, as you can see in her 2009 venture, Arts for Leadership
The new series of events, under the title Opera Studio, is aimed at graduating students and young professionals from Spain and abroad and includes the following titles:
Managing your career
Vocal technique
Lied interpretation for singers and pianists
Corporal expression for opera singers
Interpretation of baroque opera for singers
Interpretation of contemporary opera
Healthcare for singers.
All sections of the course are self standing and can be followed individually, and they are spread over the months from February June2011.
The series will be launched with a group of masterclasses by Teresa Berganza, from 8th to 10th February.
Full details of the course can be found at

Los Miserables en el Teatro Lope de Vega

El miércoles asistí al último pre-estreno de Los Miserables en el Teatro Lope de Vega en la Gran Vía de Madrid. Es una producción de Cameron Macintosh a cargo de la empresa Stage, así que la calidad está garantizada en todos los sentidos:   escenografía, vestuario, luces, organización, y, lo más importante la calidad de los actores y de la orquesta en directo.
Tengo que decir que otras obras me han impactado más en las emociones, como Miss Saigon, o Movin' Out, pero la fuerza histórica del tema de Los Miserables es potente, y se plasma perfectamente lo esencial de la obra de Victor Hugo. Claro, la obra del gran escritor francés ocupa dos tomos de 700 páginas, y aquí se resume todo en dos actos.
Sin embargo, se queda reflejada toda la crueldad de una época: los pobres maltratados, la justicia  a la venta, los malos que sobreviven entre tanta revolución que deja todo más o menos igual después que antes.
No voy a nombrar los actores, si quieres una lista, acercase al teatro para esta información.   Me ha encantado los números de los solistas, realmente potentes, son melodías complejas, difíciles y conocidas. Por supuesto, I Dreamed a Dream, supongo que lo hemos visto o oído  de gracias a la famosa SusanBoyle escocésa, pero en vivo queda más emocionante, y en el contexto de la obra, una maravilla.
Así que: váyanse con prisa para adquirir sus entradas porque esta obra  es una maravilla y se quedará con el cartel de NO HAY ENTRADAS de un momento a otro.

The Enrique Purcell Cultural Association, Madrid

he Enrique Purcell Cultural Association
This association, which goes under the Spanish version of the great English composer’s name, was registered with the Madrid regional government as a not- for-profit  organisation on its formation in 2002. It is governed by an elected committee which follows the association’s   legally binding statutes.
The aims of the association are to arrange and promote music activities for young people, especially through the youth chamber orchestra, theJoven Orquesta Enrique Purcell, which rehearses in the Madrid suburb, Pozuelo de Alarcón.
The association has received funding from the Pozuelo de Alarcón local authority since 2003 and this funding, together with the provision of rehearsal rooms and a regular series of concert dates in local schools and churches, has enabled the association to function continuously and to arrange numerous additional events. Over the years the orchestra has joined with students from Poznan, Poland, and with fellow Spanish players from Huelva, Salamanca, and Alcalá de Henares.
2010 has been an especially interesting year for the association, partly due to Spain’s presidency of the European Union in the first half of the year.
On 9th May  2010 the Joven Orquesta Enrique Purcell took part in a concert organised to celebrate Europe Day, together with students from British, French and German schools in Madrid. Pavel Crisan shared the conducting with colleagues from the schools involved. The concert, and the formal ceremony to commemorate the permanent situation of the European flag, was organised by the city council, and was attended by the Mayor of Madrid, Spain’s Foreign Minister, representatives of the European Parliament and European Commission, and  ambassadors of several countries, including the United Kingdom.
The combined orchestra’s rendition of the European Anthem was featured in the closing segment of the evening news on the state television channel, RTVE.
The closing event of the Spanish presidency of the European Union was held in Madrid on 30th June 2010, and several members of Joven Orquesta Enrique Purcell took part, again playing the European Anthem.
It was a memorable occasion, and speeches were made by four government ministers: the Foreign Minister was joined by the ministers of Education, Culture and Justice and the Secretary of State for  European Affairs, among other public figures. An entire programme was dedicated to this event on the TVE2 channel.
You can see the invitation to the 30th June event attached as  a pdf. It is our policy not to post photos of our young players on public sites, for their safety.
We would welcome news of similar groups around Europe and would be delighted to explore possible joint concert ideas.
Timothy Jones is the Founding President of the association and Pavel Crisan is the orchestra’s Musical Director.
Asociación Cultural Enrique Purcell: number 24,144 in the Madrid regional government register of associations.

Asociación Cultural Enrique Purcell y la Joven Orquesta Enrique Purcell

Asociación Cultural Enrique Purcell y la Joven Orquesta Enrique Purcell
La Asociación Cultural Enrique Purcell es una entidad sin ánimo de lucro, registrada en el Registro de Asociaciones de la Comunidad de Madrid con número 24.144 y con fecha de 20 de mayo de 2002.
El día 9 de mayo  de 2010 la Joven Orquesta Enrique Purcell participó en un concierto con motivo del Día de Europa,  junto con alumnos del British Council School, el Lycée Français de Madrid y el Colegio Alemán de Madrid, a la invitación del Ministerio de Exteriores, el  Parlamento Europeo y la Comisión Europea.
A continuación se procedió a la izada de la bandera europea en su emplazamiento permanente en Príncipe Pío, en presencia de embajadores de varios países europeos, el Ministro de Exteriores y el Alcalde de Madrid. La actuación de la orquesta fue emitida por TVE en varios momentos, incluyendo las imágenes de cierre de la edición del Telediario de la noche.
El día 14 de mayo la Joven Orquesta participó en un concierto en el Colegio Alemán de Madrid, que incluyó obras de Dvorak, Warlock y Beethoven
El Acto de Clausura de la Presidencia Española de la Unión Europea tuvo lugar en la Casa de América  el 30 de junio de 2010 y algunos miembros de la Joven Orquesta Enrique Purcell participaron en este histórico evento. Entre los representantes del gobierno de España figuraban los Ministros de Exteriores, Justicia, Educación y Cultura, además del  Secretario de Estado  de Asuntos Europeos, entre otras personalidades. Un amplio reportaje del acto fue difundido por La2 de TVE.
Los fines de la Asociación Cultural Enrique Purcell son:
  • La promoción, desarrollo y difusión de la música en su ámbito geográfico a través de todo tipo de actividades culturales que conduzcan a ello
  • El fomento de la enseñanza y la educación musical
  • El estudio y la defensa de nuestro patrimonio musical
  • El apoyo y, en su caso, la creación de agrupaciones musicales
Las actividades de la Asociación son:
  • La organización de conciertos y certámenes musicales, así como cualquier acto público de contenido musical
  • La edición y patrocinio de publicaciones
  • La realización de cursos, talleres, intercambios, viajes culturales, exposiciones, conferencia y cualquier otra actividad tendente a potenciar la cultura musical de nuestra Comunidad.
El espíritu de colaboración de la Asociación:
Se contará con la colaboración con otras entidades públicas o privadas para la consecución de los fines de la Asociación.
Ser socio de la Asociación:
Para adquirir la condición de socio de la Asociación, se requiere tener mayoría de edad y tener capacidad de obrar y tener interés en el desarrollo de los fines de la Asociación.
Timothy Jones,                Presidente Fundador    - Pavel  Crisan, Director Musical

Dance, International School of Performing Arts/Español

Dicen que promesa es deuda, así que, aquí os presento la página web de la escuela de danza de la segunda joven que apareció en mi artículo Dos jóvenes no tan jóvenes... Tengo noticias de la apertura de la escuela en Tres Cantos, a través de su Facebook:
y por fin, la página web: Conozco a Ana desde hace años, así que estoy seguro que esta escuela va a triunfar y podemos esperar a ver grandes resultados. ¿Qué mejor manera de empezar que con una actuación a favor de la Asociación Española Contra el Cáncer?
Aprovecho para hacer una mención de las dos organizaciones de exámenes de danza del Reino Unido: de un lado, la Royal Academy of Dance, que se especializa exclusivamente en el ballet clásico, y de otro lado la Imperial Society of Teachers of Dance que tiene una gama más amplia de estilos, que incluye tap (claqué) , clásico y moderno. Dentro del ballet clásico incluye los estudios del maestro Cecchetti .
Bueno, suerte a todos y buen puente aquí en España...

Gillian Howell in Timor, Day 56

Gillian Howell, musician and educator, is in Timor Leste. Her blog posts are original, informative and moving. Here's a taster...
Thursday, Day 56
Today was the first day of The Right To Play project and I’m relieved to say we got off to an overall strong and productive start, especially given my anxiety of the previous day! We had a group of about 20 children (fewer than planned, but perfectly good numbers for a project of this kind). Marqy and his team worked alongside Tony and myself, and it was a good day.
We started with some music games and warm-ups, establishing some foundational music disciplines in eye contact, imitation, careful listening, and cuing:
  • Physical warm-up with stretches, copying hand gestures
  • Call-and-response structures, using names and rhythms
  • Passing the clap swiftly around the circle, changing direction in response to clear eye contact, and being ready to respond to unexpected changes
  • Passing multiple contrasting sounds around the circle in opposing directions, first with eyes open, then with eyes closed.
We introduced our framing theme of human rights, and children’s rights in particular. We asked the children if they could think of any human rights, and their responses brought about some clarification of what is meant by rights, and how they are different to wants, or likes.
Then we started on some music-making. We had the idea of presenting children’s rights through the music in the context of a child’s childhood years, from birth through to the age of about 12 or so. Today we focused on the music to represent brith and the start of life. Read more...