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Hitting the high notes: 
Highlights of University's programme of concerts 2002-2003

Extracts from the Director of Music’s report to Senate

University concerts remain high on the scale of excellence, although audience numbers remain variable, and we are fortunate in having what is probably Leicester’s best small-to-medium sized hall for its acoustics – the Fraser Noble Hall - which continues to enhance the already exciting music-making of The Lindsays.

After forty years The Lindsays have announced their retirement after 2004-5. By then, the University will have enjoyed their exceptional concerts for sixteen consecutive years, and they the University’s patronage. With last year’s programme of Haydn, Schumann and Brahms, plus five twentieth and one twenty-first century works, it is pleasing to report that performances and audience attendance were well-matched: full marks to both sides!

Other highlights of last year’s professional evening concerts included a performance of Walton’s Façade given by members of Orchestra da Camera, Galina Vale’s brilliant display of guitar playing, the hugely-talented pianist Leslie Howard playing transcriptions and paraphrases by Liszt and the first appearance at the University of two Baroque groups, Bizzaries and Armonico Tributo performing Concertos for Christmas, on period instruments. [Photo: Guitarist Galina Vale]
Galina Vale
Our biggest coup came in September when a recent recipient of an honorary degree from this University, internationally-renowned soprano Dame Felicity Lott (pictured right), donated her services in a wide-ranging recital of German Lieder, French chansons and English songs to a capacity audience in the Richard Attenborough Centre. [Photo: Dame Felicity Lott]

Sadly, the lunchtime concert series was dimmed with the untimely death in October of James Walker – composer, teacher and pianist – whose career at the University began with the formation of the Archduke Trio in the early 1960s. By January, the Archduke Trio had re-formed thanks to the interest shown by the highly-experienced pianist Allan Schiller, together with violinist Philip Gallaway who continues to lead and inspire the Voces Intimae Quartet in their concert in November. Our final tribute to James Walker came in May when duet pianists Ann Stott and Jessica Marshall (both friends and Jessica once a pupil of James’) gave the first public performance of his final large-scale composition, his Grand Duo – a work of significance and symphonic proportions, a glorious crowning to an output of around 80 published works.

The Proteus Chamber Orchestra and University Singers, both run by the Director of Music, enjoyed two stimulating concerts, although having to rebuild the choir at the start of the season, the choice of music for the Singers was a little cautious in the autumn term.  Energetic performances by the orchestra of Schumann’s Spring Symphony and Saint-Saens’s Third Piano Concerto (Angela Brownridge, the sonorous soloist, pictured right) were followed in February by a very well-received evening that included Schubert’s towering Ninth Symphony preceded by one of Haydn’s choral masterpieces, the Nelson Mass. [Photo: Angela Brownridge]

The University Sinfonia under their conductor Michael Sackin continues to present enterprising programmes while keeping a strong foothold in the Classical repertoire.

Aquila Winds, a University-connected high-class amateur quintet performed Shades of Summer, a work written for them by Anthony Pither. It was given its premiere in an assured and sparkling performance at a Soundbite concert at the Richard Attenborough Centre in October. Three of its players also gave a recital at the University’s Homecoming.

The Sinfonia and Aquila Winds were by no means the only groups to feature young musicians of solo stature. The Choral Society’s annual December visit to the Church of St James the Greater featured Anthony Dean and University of Leicester graduate Penny Ormerod in Vaughan Williams’s cantata Dona nobis pacem, part of an Amnesty International concert for Peace.

In February at a Wednesday Lunchtime Concert, twelve-year-old Yifei Bao presented a piano recital of popular Classical sonatas to a large, appreciative audience; in May, two wind players from the University Orchestra, Hannah Minty (oboe) and Lynsey Knott (flute) put together a contrasting programme of twentieth-century works, accompanied by the very able Leicestershire pianist, Abigail Johnson. [Photo: Oboist Hannah Minty]
Oboist Hannah Minty

The University Wind band had the good fortune in securing the services of the widely-experienced conductor and trumpeter, Don Blakeson for three lively concerts.  Two events were shared with Dan Jones’s Big Band who, for the first time in their six-year existence, were able to field an entirely home-grown team at their May concert. In the spring term the Big Band ‘raised the roof’ in a concert at, and in aid of repairs to, Barkby Church. 

Despite the fact the Orchestral Society soon found its violin section somewhat depleted, they went on to perform – with outside help – a programme of music by Beethoven, Bernstein and Dvorak in November. Together with all the other music societies, including the colourful and popular Umoja Gospel Choir, they took part in a programme of film music in March. Once again, the event was a success both financially and musically.

Although not an official Students’ Union music society, Robert Kenny’s Modern Languages Choir also took part in the Societies’ concert in March. The choir has been very much in the limelight this year. Dr Kenny’s particular skills in training young vocal talent and acting as compere in his annual events, Music for Christmas and Music for a May Night, have attracted even larger audiences than usual. In this year’s May Night concert, Robert used the occasion to celebrate his thirty years at the University and to raise around £3,000 for Loros in the presence of the Lord-Lieutenant of Leicestershire, Lady Gretton, and the Lord Mayor of Leicester.

Students who auditioned for and were awarded music scholarships continued to benefit from a strong team of instructors. It is particularly appropriate that the end-of-year concert was able to involve a number of vocal soloists in Mozart’s Solemn Vespers (K 339), an event that attracted an encouraging number of singers at its rehearsals throughout May and the first half of June, under the baton of the Society’s Chorus Master, Willard Welsford.

In an organisation with only two salaried staff, it is easy to take for granted the help afforded by the support staff: porters and security; Graphics and Reprographics; the gardeners; and front-of-house teams – paid and unpaid.

Our present sponsors remain the same: namely, Photostatic Digital who, as mentioned above, have been generous financial (and personal) supporters of The Lindsays for ten years. Gayton Graham continued their support of one scholarship holder for the third year running, and even after a take-over, Gayton Graham’s support is promised for a further three years; the Sheila Spires Bequest provides much-needed extra income for the University Singers’ concert in February; and both the Arthur Humphreys and Ernest Mathieson Requests have supported specific concerts in the Wednesday Lunchtime series. As well as a slight increase in the number of  ‘Friends of Music’, we have also benefited from an increase in the number of donations received. Special mention must be made of the generosity of Lutz Luithlen and Elizabeth Shaw. 

We thank all our supporters and organisations, not forgetting our audiences, both large and small.

* * * * * * * *

In the year 2002-3 the Richard Attenborough Centre presented the first of three seasons of a new concert series sponsored by HSBC Bank. Entitled A New Musical Generation at the Richard Attenborough Centre, the emphasis is on supporting young musicians who have already begun to establish themselves as artists in Britain and abroad. 

The RAC has undertaken music educational outreach projects such as Time for Jazz and Weaving with Sound. Time for Jazz was funded by East Midlands Arts and the National Foundation for Youth Music. Richard Fairhurst, international jazz pianist and composer, delivered and led workshops in five schools across Leicestershire.  Seventy-nine students from Guthlaxton College, John Cleveland College, Leicester Grammar School, Thomas Estley Community College and Burleigh Community College participated in the project.

Weaving with Sound was a project focusing on outreach for disabled students.   Funded by the National Foundation for Youth Music, Leicester City and County Councils, the Eastern Orchestral Board and the Ulverscroft Foundation, the project was led by Matt Anderson of Sambawamba, who facilitated workshops to enable young people from Ashfield Special School, Western Park Special School and Birkett House Special School to make music with a soundbeam and to collaborate with able-bodied musicians from Viva Sinfonia in making new music. The project enabled enthusiastic carers to be trained in the use of music technology including the soundbeam, so that they can carry on this work with their disabled students.

There have also been a number of exciting music courses at the RAC, one being a choral vocal workshop for singers from the Leicester Philharmonic Choir led by Val Machel; a conducting course led by Andrew Constantine who recently received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Leicester, and Julie and Richard Latham of the drumming duo Beats Working, who led a workshop for children from special schools in the presence of the Earl and Countess of Wessex among others.

The lunchtime Soundbite programme has continued to flourish. One of its successes is in connecting the musical community of Leicester with the University of Leicester.  Highlights of this series have been BBC Radio Leicester’s ‘World on Your Street’ showcase with musicians who are refugees performing their own brand of music from countries such as Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Ghana.  Early in June, Yoko Muraoka (violin) and Mariko Terashi (piano) performed Beethoven’s Violin Concerto (first movement) so that Yoko could feel more relaxed about the performance of the whole concerto which she was to give in Tokyo fairly soon afterwards. In February, Vicky Clayton, Education Officer at De Montfort Hall, gave a performance of folk music from Lincolnshire interspersed with side-splitting comic stories.

These were just some events in a packed musical programme at the University during the last academic year. For full details of this year’s music programme (2003-2004) please see the website: or contact the Department of Music and the Richard Attenborough Centre.

Anthony Pither, Director of Music
Philip Herbert, Organising Tutor (Music), Richard Attenborough Centre

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Last updated: 8 October 2003 10:55
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