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A new Principal

By on July 2, 2018 in Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama

Helena Gaunt

The process of appointing the new Principal for the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama came to an triumphant conclusion on 9 April when the Board, chaired by John Derrick, confirmed the appointment of Professor Helena Gaunt from 1 September this year.  Helena has been Vice-Principal and Director of Guildhall Innovation in recent years having held a number of positions at the Guildhall beforehand. An oboist who has been a member of the Britten Sinfonia amongst other orchestras and ensembles, Helena has a strong research record publishing on one-to-one tuition in conservatoires, orchestral musicians in the 21st century and collaborative learning. She has also been the host of the highly successful Reflective Conservatoire conferences and is Chair of the Innovative Conservatoire Partnership (ICON). I am delighted to be handing over to Helena – it feels as though the baton is firmly in her hand and we appear to be still in the box as I let go! I wish her all the best for a great era ahead.

Bromsgrove International Music Competition

By on July 2, 2018 in Bromsgrove International Music Competition

As President of the Bromsgrove International Music Competition, I attended the 2018 Final on 7 April in the Routh Concert Hall at Bromsgrove School. It was an amazing final with brilliant performances from Irena Radic (piano), Lewis Banks (saxophone), Luke Jones (piano) and Bartosz Glowacz (accordion). Adjudicators Meurig Bowen (Chair), Sarah Bruce and Roderick Williams must have been under pressure to choose a winner from such diverse and high level performances but in the end they chose Luke Jones as a very worthy winner performing Rachmaninov’s  Etudes Tableaux 5 and 9, Op 39 and Medtner’s Sonata No 9, Op 30. Congratulations should go to Chair Ian Morris and all those involved in organising this marvelous music festival.

Rhinegold

Sir James Caird Trust

By on July 2, 2018 in Sir James Caird Trust

This year’s auditions for the Sir James Caird Travelling Scholarship Trust went off well with two good days in Glasgow on 4 and 5 April and a day at the Wigmore Hall on 6 April. It is heartening to see that the application numbers are increasing but these tend to be concentrated amongst singers and string players with only a small number of woodwind, brass, percussion, piano and other disciplines applying. We hope to encourage more awareness of these valuable awards which are open to young musicians who have had one or more Scottish grandparent. Please pass on this information to anyone who might be interested: www.cairdtrust.org.uk

The level was very high with a number of reall outstanding performnaces. Congratulations to Glen Cunningham (tenor), Katherine Bryer (oboe), Liam Bonthorne (tenor), Catrin Woodruff (soprano), Jessica Ouston (mezzo soprano), Donald Robinson (cello) and Diana Sheach (french horn) on receiving the top awards.

It was, as ever, great to work with Patricia McMahon and Hector Scott on the Music Panel and thanks to Samantha Boyd for all that hard work in running the auditions.

 

Not a dull moment…..

By on June 25, 2018 in Barbirolli Oboe Competition, Oxford, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Schubert Ensemble

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……

 

 

 

 

A year to remember……

By on June 24, 2018 in Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama

As I come to the end of my year at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, this is to note my weakness as a blogger – there never seems to be time to write about what’s going on! So this is catch-up time and I expect there will be a number of posts to cover the ground since my last post at the beginning of the year.

So, starting in January the year began with the realisation that I was nearly half-way through my assignment as Interim Principal and there would be a lot to do ahead. I had undertaken to review Hilary Boulding’s Five-Year Plan for the  College which ended in July 2017, the College needed to complete the process of appointing a permanent Principal, the Murphy Review remained unpublished and the financial future of the College remained an enigma. In addition, there were all the regular things to keep an eye on – courses to review, league tables to be concerned about and the overall well-being of students and staff.

But don’t let me give the impression that all these things have been solitary responsibilities. We have been lucky to have appointed John Derrick as Chair of the Board. John has made a huge difference to the College since his appointment in the summer and by January it was clear that he was leading very strongly on the appointment of the new Principal with the great help of Jennifer Barnes of Saxton Bampfylde. John has shown interest in and also been involved in a full range of responsibilities and activities at and for the College.

John Derrick, Chair of Royal Welsh College of Welsh and Drama

John Derrick, Chair, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama

In addition, I have throughout the year been helped enormously by a great team of colleagues not least the six people who comprise the Senior Management Team with me: Scott Allin, Sean Crowley, John Cranmer, Brian Weir, Lucy Stout and Executive Admnistrator, Amanda Townsend. This is a team that runs the College with efficiency but also sets the tone: creative, friendly, caring about all people and all matters.

The early months of 2018, therefore, were taken up with a lot of ground work – commissioning departmental strategic reviews, drafting the Strategic Review itself, shortlisting candidates for the the post of Principal and working on the financial and organsational  future fo the College.

But there were some marvellous artistic experiences too: a beautful concert bt the WNO orchestra in the Dora Stoutzker Hall with Angus West playing Mozart’s 4th Horn Concerto most eloquently, the RWCMD Symphonic Brass in a concert entitled Crossing Borders, the opening night of WNO’s La Forza del Destino at the Millennium Centre, the semi-finals of the Stoutzker Prize for instrumental soloists featuring some brilliant performances from our students and other student performances from the Richard Burton Company  in The Night Watch, In the Next Room and Between Riverside and Crazy.

All this set the scene for the appointment of the new Principal at the end of February and a March to remember……..watch this space!

Oxford Bach Ensemble

By on January 12, 2018 in Uncategorized

I am looking forward to playing Bach’s G minor Concerto with the Oxford Bach Ensemble tomorrow, 13 January at 7.30.  Conducted by Edward Higginbottom in St Margaret’s Church (where I was a member of the choir all those years ago), the concert includes Part VI of the Christmas OratorioJesu Meine Freude and Der Gerechte kömmt um – a veritabe feast!  Proceeds are going to Sarcoma UK and Help Musicians – do join us!

Soul Music: Ich habe genug

By on January 12, 2018 in Soul Music

Having recorded my contributions in August for BBC 4′s Soul Music on Bach’s Cantata, Ich habe genug, it was great to hear the programme as it came out this Wednesday. Congratulations to Rosie Boulton for putting together such a beautifully judged view of this great work. And thanks to all who made contact with appreciative comments – the power of Bach reaches us all!

Tomassini International Oboe Competition

By on December 18, 2017 in Tomassini International Oboe Competition, Uncategorized
Tomassini 2017

Seulgi Kim, winner of the VII Tomassini Oboe Competition with conductor Daniele Giulio Moles

It was an honour to be asked to join the jury for the VII Tomassini International Oboe Competition in Petritoli, Italy from 30 November to 3 December. The jury were: Thomas Indermuhle (Chair), Jean-Louis Capezzali, George Caird, Marco Salvatori and Daniele Giulio Moles. There was an exceptionally high level amongst the contestants and after two rounds which included performances of Bach’s G Minor Sonata, Schumann’s Romances, the Strauss Concerto and Berio’s Sequenza VII, six wonderful oboists emerged for the final round: Ayaka Nishino (Japan), Ilyes Boufadden-Adlos (France), Seulgi Kim (South Korea), Mariano Barco Esteban (Spain), Camille Giraudo (France) and Auli Morales Natalia (Spain). In the end, Seulgi Kim emerged as the winner with a scintillating performance of Mozart’s C major Concerto with Mariano Esteban second and Ayaka Nishino, third.

it was a pleasure, too, to take part in the Jury concert on 2 December in which I played Finzi’s Interlude with pianist Valeria Picardi. Thomas Indermuhle performed CPE Bach’s G minor Sonata with pianist Silvia Ciammaglichella and A. Nishimura’s Karura and Jean-Louis Capezzali played the lyrical Pixis Grand Sonate and Songs Without Words by Mendelssohn arranged by David Walter.

It was a great visit to Petritoli and a fine festival of oboe playing commemorating the great Italian oboist Giuseppe Tomassini. Congratulations to the amazing Lorenzo Luciani, Director extraordinary! And thanks to Marco who drove me to and from Ancona airport at unsocial hours!!

RWCMD and WNO Winter Opera Gala

By on December 18, 2017 in Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Uncategorized

royal-welsh-collegeThe Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama collaborated with Welsh National Opera in a significant Opera Gala on 25 November to celebrate their association in creating the David Seligman International Opera School. Conducted by Carlo Rizzi and with the wonderful Welsh National Opera Orchestra, Opera Course students including Huw Ynyr Evans, Xi Jiang, Oscar Castellino, Rachel Goode, Blaise Malaba, Rhodri Prys Jones, Wendy Silvester, Lucy Mellors and André Henriques performed scenes from Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore, Verdi’s La Traviata and I Vespri Siciliani, Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri and a complete performance of Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi in an unforgettable evening.

The International Opera School is supported by a distinguished Circle of Presidents including Sir Bryn Terfel, Rebecca Evans, Sir Brian McMaster, David Pountney and Carlo Rizzi. They are joined by the Hodge International Chair in Opera, John Fisher of New York’s Metropolitan Opera, by International Chair in Directing, Martin Constantine and Head of Vocal Studies, Angela Livingstone in leading a school that promises to provide the highest quality training available in opera. In assocaition with Welsh National Opera, the School will enable emerging artists to train alongside some of the leading figures in opera today.

English Oboe Days, Lübeck

By on December 3, 2017 in Uncategorized

Thanks to Diethelm Jonas, I enjoyed two days this month (23 – 24 November) in the Hochschule fur Musik, Lübeck working with Celia Nicklin, Christopher Redgate, Michael Britton of Howarth’s and the Lübeck oboe class. After Chris Redgate’s lecture and recital featuring his 21st Century Oboe and some of the works written for it, I had the chance to lecture on Léon Goossens and his influence on oboe playing  and on the composition of Britten’s Temporal Variations. I also enjoyed working with Diethelm Jonas’ excellent class of oboists. Thank you Diethelm for your amazing hospitality!

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