Barbirolli Competition postponed

By on March 28, 2020 in Barbirolli International Oboe Competition

On the opening day of the now postponed Barbirolli Oboe Competition, this is to send a message of thanks to all involved for your understanding and support. Like events all round the world, we will have to sit this crisis out and I do hope that everyone is keeping safe and well.

I spoke to John Bethell in Port Erin yesterday and he and the whole team are very sad that they will not enjoy the arrival of participants, jurors, audience and supporters. I would like to thank John for the brilliant way in which he and the office have handled this and especially for identifying a new week for the competition:

20 – 27 March 2021!

Please put this in your diaries and remember to keep 19 and 28 March for travel days. All participants will be able to compete and you should have heard already from John Bethell about this.

We hope to stay in touch with you in the months ahead. Please send me a message here or contact  John and the competition office in Port Erin if you have any questions.

Finally, I have so enjoyed learning the set work by Martin Butler, On the Idle Hill of Summer, and I hope that everyone competing has too. Thanks to Martin!

Looking forward to seeing you all next year.

Martin Butler

Barbirolli International Oboe Competition 2020

By on March 5, 2020 in Barbirolli International Oboe Competition

The 2020 Barbirolli Oboe Competition fast approaches and we are looking forward to welcoming our contestants to Port Erin in the Isle of Man on 27 March. We have a very exciting list of entrants this year with many countries represented.

We are hoping that Coronavirus will not affect us though we are staying in close touch with the authorities in the Isle of Man and in the UK and keeping close attention to the situation day by day.  Partly as a result of the virus we have been sad to note the demise this week of the airline, Flybe, that flies daily to the Isle of Man. This will bring some disruption, but luckily most people involved have planned to arrive in the Isle of Man by other flights or by ship. Director, John Bethell and the Competition Office are working hard to ensure that plans are fully in place despite this.

I am delighted to have such a distinguished jury: Nora Cismondi now Principal Oboe of L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande;  John Anderson, Principal Oboe of the English Chamber Orchestra and Professor at the Royal College of Music and Christian Schmitt, formerly Principal Oboe of the Sinfonieorchster Basel and now soloist, chamber musician and Professor at the Hochschule in Stuttgart. Each of our jurors will be performing a recital during the week and giving masterclasses too.

Full details of Barbirolli 2020 can be found on:

Ilyes Boufadden-Adloff, Principal Oboe, L’Orchestre de Chambre de Paris



Radcliffe Orchestra: 7 March 2020

By on February 23, 2020 in Concerts, Oxford, Radcliffe Orchestra

My third concert with the wonderful Radcliffe Orchestra will take place at 7.45 pm on Saturday 7 March in Tingewick Hall at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford. John James returns to play Strauss’ 2nd Horn Concerto and we are performing Brahms and Sibelius to frame this. Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture will open, followed by Sibelius’ Swan of Tuonela (with Henry Bettinson, cor anglais) before the concerto. Sibelius’ great  Symphony No 1 will complete this rich programme.

It is such a privilege to work with the Radcliffe Orchestra,  an orchestra with a membership of primarily medics playing to a very fine standard and fearlessly taking on the most demanding of repertoire: chapeau!

The concert is given in aid of the Footsteps Foundation that provides intensive rehabilitation for children and young adults with disabling neurological disorders. Do come and support!

Words and Music with Errollyn Wallen

By on December 31, 2019 in Mansfield College

It’s 60 years since my father was appointed as Senior Tutor (later Principal) at Mansfield College (autumn 1959), so it’s fair to say that I have had a lifelong connection with the College. Music has been important there over the years: Eric Routley (hymnolgist and amazing musician) was a Fellow; David Goodall (father of horn player Jonathan Goodall) was organist in the sixties; distinguished pianist Paul Crossley was a student, as was Bryce Morrison; Carolyn Brock was the inspirational organist and Director of Music for many years and now John Oxlade has continued this role.

Under Helena Kennedy’s Principalship, music was further encouraged and it was Helena who appointed Errollyn Wallen as Honorary Fellow. On 6 December and on Principal Helen Mountfield’s instigation, Errollyn presented a delightful evening of words and music in the Chapel where I used to perform with Carolyn Brock. Errollyn involved Mansfield Fellows and Students in playing (Paul Lodge’s Zarathustra’s Roundelay, Sam Spencer with Grieg’s Nocturne Op 54 No 4, Aondoyima Ioratim-Uba playing his piano solo, Nathan Bentley playing Stephen Blundell’s Three Short Pieces for saxophone and piano with the composer), and in reading (Jenny Scoones reading Elizabeth Jennings’ Winter Love, Jamie Albrecht reading poems by Jack Spencer and Ted Berrigan). And Helen Mountfield read Sometimes by Sheenagh Pugh.

It was , therefore , a privilege to be asked to join in this concert, so Jane and I played with Errolyn, Marie Grandval’s Romance and Jane and I, the beautiful Dolce from Telemann’s D major Sonata. This paved the way for Errolyn, who had so finely introduced the evening, to sing songs from the Errollyn Wallen Songbook. What a talent!  Thank you Errollyn.

Errollyn Wallen, CBE

John Whitfield (1957 – 2019)

By on December 30, 2019 in John Whitfield

It was so sad that John Whitfield, bassoonist, conductor and musician extraordinary, died on 4 November. He had not enjoyed good health for some time but even so he has left us far too early. From his phenomenal arrival on the scene, through his years as a fine player (LSO, London Mozart Players etc.) and then to his founding work with the Endymion Ensemble, his was an extraordinary life. As Quentin Poole said in his beautiful eulogy at his funeral on 21 November in Mortlake, John was always pushing at bounderies and often beyond them. In musical terms this involved an idealism that brought him admiration from musicans and everyone. It was strange that his funeral should finally be modest in numbers of people, but the profession was superbly represented and what was said and played so very understanding of John himself. He would have been touched.

But even more so, the concert held for him at the Wigmore Hall on 5 December was quite amazing. Featuring John’s arrangements of Brahms’ C Minor String Quartet and Bartok’s Mikrokosmos Book V as well as a memorable performance of the Bach Chaconne by Krysia Osostowicz, a large audience of colleagues friends and admirers gathered to say farewell. The Bartok arrangement was for wind quintet (Helen Keen, Melinda Maxwell, Andrew Marriner, Jonathan Williams, Rachel Gough conducted by Noah Max) and the Brahms for wind nonet with double bass (Helen Keen, Melinda Maxwell, George Caird, Andrew Marriner, David Fuest, Richard Watkins, Jonathan Williams, Rachel Gough, Wendy Phillips and Chi-Chi Nwanoku conducted by Sian Edwards). John’s arrangements are brilliant and wonderful to play especially with such colleagues……

Will Casson-Smith, Quentin Poole, and Noah Max did a great job in organising everything down to the last detail. It was a memorable way both at the funeral and at the concert to celebrate John’s life . And it was so good, too, to see so many old friends.

John Whitfield

Nicholas Daniel at Oxford Chamber Music Society

By on December 22, 2019 in Oxford Chamber Music Society

On 1 December my second concert as President of Oxford Chamber Music Society featured my old friend Nick Daniel playing oboe quartets with his Britten Oboe Quartet colleagues, Jacqueline Shave (violin), Caroline Dearnley (viola) and Clare Finnimore (cello). The concert was a real treat with great performances of Oliver Knussen’s Cantata and Elizabeth Lutyens’ Driving Out the Death. Nick’s beautiful oboe playing throughout was matched by his cor anglais playing Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus. The concert began with Moeran’s Oboe Phantasy, a favourite of ours and of course they ended with the great Mozart F major Quartet – a masterful account by Nick and colleagues. Nick is so good at introducing his concerts – informative, witty and really communicating with his audience. Afterwards and wanting to catch up with Nick and his family,  there seemed to be only one thing to do on a Sunday late afternoon in Oxford – tea at the Randolph Hotel!

Nicholas Daniel, oboe

Nicholas Daniel, oboe




Concert for Kamran’s Ward

By on December 22, 2019 in Oxford

A memorable evening this autumn was spent playing for the Oxford Elysian Ensemble and Choristers of radley College in a benefit concert on 17 November for Kamran’s Ward, the wonderful home of Paediatric Oncology at the John Radcliffe Hospital. The concert was promoted by Alison Cooke, Richard Wigmore and the OEE and involved performances of choral works by Bach, Handel and Purcell. To give some instrumental interludes to the programme, Ali asked Maddy Aldis-Evans and me to play The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba (with Caroline Woolf, Diana Hinds, Vanessa McNaught and Gabriel Amherst as strong ensemble) and handel’s G minor Trio Sonata. It was great to play with Maddy, a former student of Royal Birmingham Conservatoire who was ten years principal oboe in Dessau Opera House and is now with the Sinfonia Viva. The concert was directed by Stephen Clarke.

Maddy Aldis – Evans, oboist and composer

Oxford Chamber Music Society

By on November 4, 2019 in Oxford Chamber Music Society

It is a great honour for me to be appointed as the new President of the Oxford Chamber Music Society. Founded as the Oxford Ladies’ Musical Society in 1898 and changing to its current name in 1968, the Society has enjoyed a long and distinguished history of promoting chamber music of the highest standard. In early years, Sir Donald Tovey and Ernest Walker played for the society, as did the violinist Adolph Busch, the violist Lionel Tertis, the clarinetist Charles Draper, the oboist Léon Goossens, pianists Solomon and Myra Hess, the  Hungarian, Brosa, Griller, Busch and Budapest String Quartets as well as Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten.

The Society was for many years hosted by the renowned Deneke sisters, Marga and Lena, at Gunfield in Norham Gardens. There are many musicians who will still remember playing there. But since 1969, OCMS concerts moved first to the Maison Francaise and then to the Holywell Music Room. Countless great chamber ensembles have performed for the Society and it is heartwarming to see this tradition continuing to this day.

With this in mind, I was delighted to be able to attend the first concert of the season at the Holywell Music Room on Sunday 3 November. The Pavel Haas Quartet gave outstanding performances of Beethoven’s third Razumovsky Quartet, Op 59 No 3 and Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No 3, Op 30. To hear such great playing in the intimate acoustic of Holywell was a real treat. Let’s hope the quartet will return to OCMS soon!

I look forward to the next concert on Sunday 1 December, when my dear friend Nicholas Daniel will be joined by his colleagues in the Britten Oboe Quartet. Don’t miss it!

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Pavel Haas Quartet





Incorporated Society of Musicians, Oxford

By on October 5, 2019 in Incorporated Society of Musicians, Mansfield College

I was delighted to be asked to talk to the Oxford Centre of the ISM on 22 September and, thanks to Carolyn King’s brilliant organising, to see so many people there. Carolyn had the idea of holding this event in Mansfield College where in the 60’s and 70’s my father was Senior Tutor and subsequently Principal. After Paul Harris’ kind introduction and having played a favourite Telemann Fantasia (No 1 in A), I was able to tell everyone that the Seminar Room in which we were assembled was once part of my family’s garden, and that nearby my father used to enjoy playing croquet in the Principal’s garden, an area now taken up by the magnificent new Bonavero Institute of Human Rights.

My talk was, therefore, partly a trip down memory lane but this served to make the point that music in Oxford, always remarkable, has grown and grown to making the city a major centre for music and the arts. I also touched on my various ‘lives’ in conservatoires (Royal Academy of Music, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Codarts Rotterdam and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama) in celebrating the huge strides that music and music education have made in the past 50 years. Long may our conservatoires thrive!

50 years! It’s true that since those days of my first oboe lesson with Stella Cook in Taphouse’s Music Shop and subsequent lessons with Eric Ashcroft at Magdalen College School, I have been playing for 58 years! The years don’t make me any better, but I am thrilled that playing the oboe is still something that I so love. So, let me stop this post and see if I can play another Telemann Fantasia at all respectably.

Thank you Carolyn, thank you Paul and the ISM. It was so good to catch up with everyone there.

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Mansfield College, Oxford

Albion Ensemble

By on September 29, 2019 in Albion Ensemble

September has brought some wonderful music making not least two wonderful days with members of the Albion Ensemble. Peter Francomb and Helen Cass had the great idea to get the Albion to join the Riverside Quintet to play decets on 8 September and miraculously we managed to bring Philippa Davies, Andrew Marriner, Peter and myself together with Sarah Burnett (bassoon) to make this happen.

At the same time we were approached to provide a surprise performance for Felix Warnock’s retirement from the role of Chair of The Radcliffe Trust on 9 September thus bringing about a two-day festival of wind ensemble playing.

On the 8th, the quintet met to rehearse briefly for the following day and then, after a drink or two, to play decet music by Francaix and Dvorak before being treated to an absolutely superb dinner provided by the Riverside Quintet. So thanks to Richard Austen, Laura Douglas, Roy Simpson, Miles Chapman, and Helen Cass for some hugely enjoyable playing and also amazing cuisine. Roy, your hospitality was perfection itself and the wine still resonates along with the music!

The plan to ambush Felix at the end of his farewell dinner at the In-and-Out Club, St. James’ Square went perfectly. We assembled at Al Duce restaurant in Duke of York Street for our main course whilst the Radcliffe Trust had their dinner and made appropriate speeches. Around 9.30, we were ushered into the dining hall at the Club with Felix visibly surprised. We gave him and the Radcliffe Trustees a 20-minute recital including favourites from Felix’ era with the Albion in the 1980’s including the unforgettable tour of the Far East in 1985: Farkas 17th Century Dances, Bizet Jeux d’Enfants, Reicha Op 88 and Debussy Petite Suite. Bizet and Debussy were, of course, the unbeatable arrangements by Gordon Davies and it was only natural therefore that we finished with his Flight of the Bumble Bee. Having had to ask Gordon to re-send us the music shortly beforehand it was good to know that fingers and coordination still functioned and the bee buzzed itself to the end without incident!

We were able to thank the Radcliffe Trustees for their support for our annual workshops in The Midland Arts Centre, Birmingham all those years ago – weekends that we so enjoyed thanks to great ensembles coming along and the incredible hospitality of Harlan and Delia Walker, musical hosts extraordinary.

But this was a remarkable two days that brought together old colleague-friends who had done so much together……….let’s hope for more reunions like that!


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