When Easter Day arrived this year I realised that I had had a March in which most of the elements of what was always to be a crowded year came together. This involved my primary role for the year as Principal of the RWCMD with practising and performing on the oboe, conducting the Radcliffe Orchestra in their spring concert, teaching, being a trustee of the Munster Trust and on the Board of the National Childrens’ Orchestra, attending the winner’s concert of the Barbirolli International Oboe Competition (the wonderful Ilyes Bouffadain-Adlof) and attending concerts and plays at the College. But in addition my family were just as active: Jane had twelve concerts that month with the Schubert Ensemble including a trip to Scotland and the North as well as a Wigmore Hall concert in this their final year as an ensemble; and Lizzie was equally busy at school, taking Grade VII violin, playing in the NCO and generally nagivating the family diary.
Which all goes to show that you can pack a lot in if you want!
The Radcliffe Orchestra is remarkable in consisting mainly of doctors and other staff at the John Radcliffe Hospital and other Oxford hospitals. It is a full symphony orchestra that tackles ambitious repertoire with an admirable and positive approach. That professional medics can also maintain their playing at a really a good level is remarkable…….a thing that I know well from having a brother-in-law who does just that as well as many musical medics as friends. My programme was really ambitious – La Forza del Destino overture, Strauss 1st Horn Concerto with the excellent John James as soloist and Elgar 1. Here individual sections played with distinction and the back desk solos were played with a quality that Sir Edward would surely have approved of.
On 18 March, I performed Benjamin Britten’s Six Metamorphoses after Ovid in St John the Evangelist, Oxford in a highly inventive celebration of Ovid’s bimillennium based on Handel’s Semele with danced version of the Metamorphoses choreographed by Lucia Boué. The Oxford Girls’ Choir and Cantiaquorum was directed by Richard Vendome and the event was produced by Penelope Martin-Smith. It was a treat to play these much loved characters for Mika Tse (Pan), Amelie Rothwell (Phaeton), Lucia Boué (Niobe), Libbeth McShane (Bacchus), Emily Wenban-Smith (Narcissus) and Lisa Milne (Arethusa).
It is an honour to be a trustee of the Countess of Munster Trust, a trust that awards a large number of significant grants to talented young musicians for postgraduate study. Being a trustee is a pleasure but also involves quite a lot of time in the spring each year. Candidates are now asked to supply video recordings to be selected for audition and so it is incumbent on the trustees to view and hear these in February and March – hence the sight of me with earphones on at all spare times including during train journeys (mostly between Didcot and Cardiff) and late-nights in hotel rooms (especially the Angel Cardiff).
My work for the Royal Welsh College had many points of interest in the month as well. On the 5 March I went to Manchester to attend the spring meeting of the ConservatoiresUK Principals’ Board. It has been great to re-connect with this having been a member for all those years when in Birmingham. Linda Merrick is doing a great job as Chair and dealing with the pressures of a post-Brexit relationship with Europe as one major task. The future of the Erasmus programme is a facer for all as the UK conservatoires have done so much to build up their connections, partnerships and projects with Europe. Countless students come to the UK from Europe to study and UK artists look to Europe for work. We can but pray for a good outcome.
On 8 March we were delighted to welcome the Welsh Minister for Culture, Lord Elis-Thomas to the College having also had a meeting earlier in the year with the Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams. Our concerns are to try to work alongside the Arts Council Wales and all other cultural organisations to build the infrastructure where much seems to be under threat at the moment. Most notably the Music Services in Wales are facing a difficult future with huge cuts being made by local authorities. We are now busy involving the Music Education Council to support our musci teachers for the next generations……
At the end of the month I enjoyed the College’s New 2018 mini festival including Isley Lynn’s Albatross and Katherine Chandler’s Buddy – most effective new work, played by our dynamic students. One More Look, a review of works by Andrew Lloyd Webber, was also very enjoyable and full of energy. And then there was La Cenerentola an enchanting production by Martin Constantine and conducted by David Jones. Sophie Dicks and Christine Byrne shared the title role both singing in great style whilst Rhodri Jones’ Ramiro and André Henriques’ Dandini were both excellent. The understudies were good too – including Edmund Caird as Dandini, but here’s a proud father talking!
So that was March……