CATEGORIES

Feature

This week in our NMC Archive series, we're revisiting an article written for our Friends Newsletter by Stephen Johns, Anthony Burton and Ann McKay about their memories of recording sessions venues.

 
Anthony Burton, former Radio 3 producer and presenter, freelance writer
I can make the proud claim to have produced NMC D001 … but only because NMC decided to launch its CD catalogue with a recording of Jonathan Harvey’s Bhakti that I had supervised as a BBC Radio 3 producer in the Maida Vale One studio in the early 1980s. Producing occasional new recordings for NMC after leaving the Beeb, I only once had the luxury of returning to that well-equipped, blissfully soundproof enclave, for fine performances of two major works of Vic Hoyland by the BBC Symphony Orchestra with Martyn Brabbins (NMC D072).
 
LutyensOn the other occasions, I was caught up in the endless search for the perfect London venue, which, if it existed, would have a good acoustic and a convenient control point, would be warm, well-lit and easy to reach, and most important would be free from extraneous noise, acoustic and electrical. Memories of some of NMC’s choices blur, for example, all I can recall of St Silas, Kentish Town (how did I even get there?) is the forest of mic stands, lights, music stands and multiple percussion instruments required for James Wood’s Venancio Mbande Talking with the Trees. But I do remember of other locations how hard it was to tick all the ‘desirable’ boxes at once. For example, there was the Bishopsgate Institute on the fringes of the City, where I spent a Saturday and Sunday with Jane’s Minstrels recording music by Elisabeth Lutyens: decent sound and lighting, and absolutely no traffic at the weekend but something in a nearby office was turning itself on and off automatically and plaguing us with a recurring buzz.
 
A particular problem, especially in south-west London, is aircraft noise. This can be filtered out to some extent at the editing stage; the trouble comes when you have to edit into or out of a take with a plane on it thus suddenly causing a plane to appear in the sky or, more alarmingly, disappear from it. So on the whole it’s worth trying to avoid it. I suppose this must have forced us into a few retakes during the recording of the Jane Manning portrait album at All Saints, Petersham, a brick-built disused Victorian church on a private estate (now, sadly, converted into a house). But my memories are of some especially warm and friendly sessions, both because of the sunny nature of the soloist, and because of all the composers who dropped in for the recordings of their pieces and for the most part stayed for a chat.
 
Simon BainbridgeIn any case, adverse circumstances can sometimes help to create something special. Rosslyn Hill Chapel in north London, a regular Outside Broadcast venue for BBC recordings in my time and a frequent location for record companies, has a host of problems: buses and lorries climbing the hill to Hampstead, Northern Line trains rumbling underneath, and, if the wind’s in the wrong direction, planes making a loop over Hampstead Heath on the approach to Heathrow. (It also used to have, though I think they’ve now been replaced, a set of noisy radiators which, even after they were switched off for a take, went on making clicking sounds for several minutes.) But it was there, cocooned against all these extraneous forces, that Susan Bickley and the Nash Ensemble – with, I can now reveal, some help from the composer as conductor – mustered the concentration required to perform Simon Bainbridge’s Four Primo Levi Settings with ferocious and moving intensity.
 
Stephen Johns, NMC Trustee, Artistic Director at Royal College of Music, and ex Vice-President Artists & Repertoire EMI Classics
Opened in 1931 by Sir Edward Elgar, Abbey Road Studios are perhaps the best-known studios in the world. The list of recordings made there across all genres are a roll-call of some of the most important recordings in the history of recorded music: Elgar’s violin concerto with the composer conducting the young Yehudi Menuhin; The Beatles and Pink Floyd; film scores including Star Wars and Harry Potter; Casal’s solo Bach and Gieseking’s Debussy – all have benefitted from the special atmosphere provided by the first purpose-built recording studios in the world. Generations of staff trained there brought a particular feeling of family and stories abound of unlikely combinations of musicians rubbing shoulders in the canteen queue.
 
Andrzej PanufnikAbbey Road was the in-house studio for EMI and its historical ancestors and its relationship with the R&D department led to technological innovations exclusively for the company. Still in use today are the EQ modules designed and built in the 1960s. EMI’s first digital recordings (Previn and the LSO) were made on its own machine – a reel to reel digital tape recorder mounted above the electronic convertors and processors, all housed in what looked suspiciously like a tea trolley. With a rewind time of 25 minutes playback was not encouraged on session. Still in service at the studios are the original microphones from Neumann that have been recording orchestras, soloists, pop groups, comedians and more for the last sixty years.
 
The main classical space is Studio One. Large enough to take a full symphony orchestra plus chorus and soloists, yet intimate enough for solo recitals, Studio One has an aura unmatched in the world. A number of small redesigns over the years have seen the addition of a balcony above the large control room and the removal of the original stage and organ, but this is a sacred space and no alterations are made that would compromise the acoustic. Unusually for a London classical recording venue it is completely soundproof - only Concorde passing over was known to penetrate the cladding. One recording made there by NMC was the last work of Andzrej Panufnik - his cello concerto - performed by Mstislav Rostropovich and the LSO in June 1992. Another, perhaps quite remarkably, was Tallis’ Spem in Alium recorded in 1948 by the Morley College Choir conducted by Michael Tippett and reissued on Remembering Tippett.Remembering Tippett
 
Now a Grade II listed building, removing the immediate threat of redevelopment, and with new owners Universal Music, the future history of the Studios looks bright, but the rapid changes in technology mean that the maintenance of large open studios, in a world where the majority of recordings are made in small isolation rooms and on computers, puts the onus on continual innovation. And it is still possible for anyone to make their mark on this studio – just cross the famous zebra crossing and write on the wall. Painted over every few months, the messages of millions mirror the resonance in the studio walls of all the notes ever played at Abbey Road – probably the most loved studio of them all.
 
Ann McKay, Chief Producer, BBC Symphony Orchestra
The BBC’s Maida Vale Studios are steeped in BBC heritage and hold a special place in broadcasting history. BBC Maida Vale began life as the Maida Vale Roller Skating Palace and Club. Built in 1909, it was one of the largest rinks of its day holding a capacity of 2620 people, with a balcony enabling spectators to have afternoon tea and view skaters below while waltzes were played by the Palace band! But the Palace only operated for three years and from 1913 until the late 1920s, the building was occupied by a variety of companies including the newly-established National Insurance Scheme. Then, over a period of fifteen months in 1933/1934, one hundred men reduced the building to a shell and rebuilt it with five studios – Studio 1 being the new home of the recently-created (1930) BBC Symphony Orchestra. It was one of the BBC's earliest premises, pre-dating Broadcasting House. When the Orchestra arrived in the building all broadcasts were live, but within a few years, early recording equipment was being installed. 
 

Judith Weir

During World War II Maida Vale Studios was the standby centre for BBC News, and the BBCSO and BBC Singers were joined there by the BBC Dance Orchestra, then under the direction of Henry Hall. Eventually they were all evacuated – the BBCSO and its conductor Sir Adrian Boult to Bristol and then Bedford. The Studios were damaged by bombs in 1941. After the war, the building was repaired and in the late 1940s the BBCSO returned. MV Studio 1 is still home to the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Chorus and is used for both studio concerts (including many live broadcasts) and studio recordings. It can hold a large orchestra and chorus, and an audience of 220. 
 
Alongside the great conductors and soloists who have rehearsed, performed and recorded here, many hundreds of composers have passed through including Webern, Stravinsky, Hindemith, Vaughan Williams, Britten, Stockhausen, Boulez (Chief Conductor 1971-1975), Henze, Berio, Elliott Carter and Oliver Messiaen. More recently, John Adams, Sofia Gubaidulina, Vic Hoyland, David Bedford, Gordon Crosse, Judith Weir, Mark Simpson, Anna Clyne and Ryan Wigglesworth have joined us to name but a few. Many a fascinating conversation has taken place in the Canteen over lunch!
 
The BBCSO has been recording for NMC in MV1 since the mid 1990s. It’s an excellent venue for recording contemporary music in particular as the acoustic is quite dry and clean and noise intrusion from outside is minimal. The Control Room abuts the Studio meaning the producer/sound engineer can walk straight into the recording space to make microphone adjustments or talk to the performers, and the performers can easily come into the Control Room for playbacks. There is a small group of BBC sound recording engineers that works with the Orchestra, and they have developed recording techniques over the years to great critical acclaim. And even if the recordings for NMC have come from other venues – like the Barbican or Royal Festival Hall – any remixing and/or editing will have taken place back at MV1.
 
Night MusicNMC recordings by the BBCSO in MV1 (with apologies to those missed out unintentionally or on compilation albums!) include works by Anthony Payne (Elgar 3), David Sawer, Brian Elias, Anthony Gilbert, Judith Weir, Robert Saxton, Oliver Knussen and Alexander Goehr.
 
Overall MV Studios houses a total of seven music and radio drama studios, and – outside its classical music remit – was most famously home to John Peel's BBC Radio 1 Peel Sessions, and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop (1958-1998, where the Doctor Who theme music was composed). Anyone who is anybody in pop music has performed at Maida Vale over the last 60 years – from the Beatles and Bing Crosby to Kylie Minogue and Miss Dynamite. And not just musicians but actors and playwrights too – recently Alan Bennett, Simon Russell Beale and Penelope Wilton were all spotted in the building!
 

If you'd like to receive our quarterly Friends Newsletter, you can become a Friend here (memberships start from £50). If you'd like to support our work with composers as well as our expanding Learning Programme, you can make a donation to our 30th Appeal here. Thank you!

Feature

This week we're finding out more about Caroline Nelson, who became an NMC Trustee in 2016.

Caroline NelsonI had been playing instruments for years, but it was only when I went to the University of Leeds that I began to explore contemporary classical music. In my first year, I was approached by a composition student who was desperately trying to find a pianist to take on his (somewhat crazy) piece, and I seemed to be the only willing person in the whole building! After that, I joined the department ensemble, LSTwo, where we performed compositions from staff and students, as well as visiting composers such as Chaya Czernowin and Gerhard Stäbler. 


My interest only grew after university, as I took a job at a music publisher in their contemporary classical department, where I dealt with (almost exclusively) living composers. It was in this role that I discovered NMC through a wonderful listening archive in the office. I was able to access everything NMC released with Chester and Novello composers, and so my journey began … I explored as much as I could, from Richard Rodney Bennett to Judith Weir.


John TavenerIt was during my time in that office that we were working to celebrate Sir John Tavener’s 70th birthday. As well as a host of concerts and events, I put together a proposal to NMC asking them to re-issue Sir John’s Akhmatova Requiem. It had been released back in 1981 by Carlton Classics but the recording was no longer available to buy. I was absolutely thrilled when NMC recognised the importance of having this work on sale again, and the album was released in September 2014. They were not content in simply allowing a stunning recording fall into the abyss. As Gramophone so aptly put it, “NMC deserves nothing but praise for making this remarkable music available again”. It was this experience that really opened my eyes to the extraordinary work that NMC does and compelled me to look further. 


I decided to become a trustee in February 2016 because I wanted to help NMC in fulfilling their charitable aims; collaborating with leading composers, producing high quality recordings, promoting recordings to expand worldwide audiences for new music, and preserving this creativity for future generations. I had gained experience in working with world-class musicians by this point, so felt that I had more to offer the organisation and was keen to get involved.


NMC’s work is a hugely important part of the British music scene and we are constantly striving to record new voices as well as established figures, so that the catalogue continues to be a national archive of contemporary classical music in Britain. Our non-deletion policy ensures that recordings are kept permanently available, which is something that I am incredibly proud of in this day and age.


Being a trustee of NMC is something that I talk about a lot! I’m thrilled to be part of an organisation that focuses on their original (and very important) charitable aims, but evolves and expands with the times to include educational work, special projects and new partnerships. I’m looking forward to seeing how NMC grows further over the next 30 years and beyond. Long may it continue!! 

 

If you'd like to support our work, you can do so by donating to our Anniversary appeal here or becoming a Friend here. Every little helps and no contribution is too small! Thank you.

Feature

We're continuing our Meet the Trustees series with Richard Fries, who joined our board in 2002.

 

Richard FriesMusic is one of my greatest passions, but sadly only as a listener. Since youth I’ve had a keen interest in contemporary music, first prompted by the old Third Programme. I’d known Colin Matthews for some years, admiring not only his music (The Great Journey long a favourite), but also his selfless commitment to promoting contemporary composers. So when I retired from the Charity Commission, I was delighted to be asked to join NMC’s Board. As a charity committed to seeking a wider appreciation of contemporary British composers through making their work easily (and permanently) available, and driven by this mission rather than commercial considerations, NMC is unique – and uniquely valuable. 


I came to music at an early age, working my way through my step-father’s voluminous collection of 78s. They introduced me to great singers like Alexander Kipnis and Isobel Baillie. But the collection hardly went beyond 1828 - Schubert was my step-father’s passion, especially Winterreise (a passion I share – I have over a dozen recordings!). The Third Programme introduced me to Webern, Elliott Carter and Stockhausen. My teenage rebellion was to buy CDs of the Bartok quartets – difficult to remember that Bartok was modern in the 1950s, and a challenge to the older generation!


My career was in the civil service, joining the Home Office in 1965, so different in ethos and scope to today’s Home Office. I worked on a wide range of issues from criminal justice and policing, immigration and race relations (and even horse-racing!) Then in 1992 I was appointed to the Charity Commission with the grand Victorian title of Chief Commissioner, symbolic of the journey of modernisation on which the Commission had to embark. 


Retiring in 1999 I continued to be involved in initiatives to develop charity and not-for-profit law and regulation in this country, Europe and worldwide. It also gave me the chance to become a trustee of various charities – gamekeeper become poacher?! That was when I joined the Board of NMC, as well as St John’s Smith Square (long a favourite venue).


Living in London has been a wonderful place to enjoy all types of music. I was able to get to know contemporary music through the London Sinfonietta, the Arditti Quartet and others in a patchwork of venues, such as the Round House, the old Almeida Festival and St John’s. One of my proudest moments was hearing the  string quartet Graham Williams wrote for my wife Carole and me premiered by the Carducci Quartet. 


I’ve always been surprised at the resistance many music lovers show to contemporary music. Music must, to me, be a living, continually growing art. Historically how each generation has reacted to the past is one of the fascinations of music; and that fascination is part of the attraction of hearing contemporary music. NMC’s great contributions is to enable music lovers to keep abreast of what British composers are producing and, essential, to be able to hear their work more than at a single performance. The idea that contemporary music is all rebarbative dissonance is so wrong. Just one example to disprove this: Colin Matthews’ moving memorial Berceuse for Dresden, written for the rededication of the Frauenkirche. 


Not that I like all that NMC produces! Indeed one of my criteria for whether NMC is doing its job is precisely that no one could like every release – that’s my test of whether NMC’s reach extends widely enough to give a good cross-section of what composers are producing now!  


Emily HowardSo often I hear a new piece, am intrigued, but need to hear it again to appreciate it properly. For example I found Emily Howard’s string quartet, Afference, fascinating but tough on first hearing (shades of Xenakis); but with repeated listening it has become a favourite. That is one of the Debut Disc series with which NMC makes such a valuable contribution for young composers, offering them a whole CD devoted to their music.

It’s a privilege for me to be able to support NMC as a trustee and friend as it approaches its 30th anniversary. The range and quality of what NMC’s small team led by Colin and Anne manage to produce on NMC’s stretched resources is a wonder. And their ability to keep abreast of new technology – so far from the era of 78s on which I grew up! – is stunning. My wish for NMC is that this year’s anniversary should be celebrated by the support of music lovers enabling NMC to grow ever stronger.    

 

If you'd like to support our work, you can do so by donating to our Anniversary appeal here or becoming a Friend here. Every little helps and no contribution is too small! Thank you.

 

Feature

Last year, we were delighted to introduce a new label to our roster: multi.modal! We're now releasing their second album and we're sharing with you an article written for our Friends Newsletter by Claudia Molitor, co-founder of the label. Find out more about the label and their first release below, and find their new release, Boudaries, here.


Claudia MolitorTullis Rennie and I met two years ago as we started lecturing positions at City, University of London. Over the first few months we quickly realized that in much of our compositional work we are interested in weaving together seemingly disparate fields of musical practice such as composition, improvisation and field recording. We also realized that we both had a passion for promoting such interdisciplinary work by fellow artists, and so we developed the idea of creating a record label that would aim to muddy the borders between improvisation, field recording and composition. A label whose releases would reflect contemporary music practices which tend to be collaborative, outward looking and multi.modal. 


I have had the good fortune to work with NMC before, contributing a song to the superb NMC Songbook, being one of the composers involved in their collaboration with the Science Museum and in 2016 releasing The Singing Bridge. So I knew that if we were to launch multi.modal I definitely wanted to work with NMC, who understand our ambitious aim of developing releases that are interdisciplinary and adventurous. Needless to say collaborating with NMC has been wonderful and by working with them, multi.modal will reach many more people than we could have achieved on our own.


For our first release, Decoys, we asked artists and fieldrecordists Angus Carlyle and Mark Peter Wright to create a recording and a graphic score that for them represented their work. Their recording forms side A of Decoys and this is what they wrote about it:


The air was sharp as needles; painful to swallow; our eyes streamed. An ochre hue blanketed everything. Dusty haze seemed to drape from all things physical; shadow limbs haunted the space. 


We kept moving; there was no other choice. Underfoot felt as though time had been composted, its roots were crosshatched with debris and discarded tech. You could read the materiality of the landscape like an archeological ruin, listen to it like a witness. 
Winds wiped a molten energy through skin, stone and sky. There was turbulence down here that dragged a bubbling bucolic mass of movement, a micro-tectonic world of things being awakened and stirred. 


Our relentless and ungainly movement continued – we didn’t know how to stop. The air churned in transmissions of static; weather turned metallic; teeth registered frequencies of the felt and uncertain. Here, high up on the mountain we sat, attempting to decode its auditory particulates.'

 

Decoys Graphic Score

 
We then invited the fabulous violinist Alison Blunt to join Tullis (trombone) and myself (piano) to interpret the score Angus and Mark created. We deliberately decided not to listen to their recording, so we would be completely free to work with the score as we chose... it was therefore very exciting to realize how many commonalities there are between their recording and our interpretations which forms Side B of the vinyl release. 


If you want to find out more about the artists involved or about SPARC, please visit:
sparc.london • www.anguscarlyle.comwww.markpeterwright.net 
www.claudiamolitor.orgwww.tullisrennie.com • www.alisonblunt.com

 

Decoys   Boundaries

 

If you'd like to receive our quarterly Friends Newsletter, you can become a Friend here (memberships start from £50). If you'd like to support our work with composers as well as our expanding Learning Programme, you can make a donation to our 30th Appeal here. Thank you!

Feature

This week in our NMC Archive series, David Lefeber tells us about being a sound engineer and producer on NMC albums.

 

David Lefeber

As a producer and engineer on many of NMC's recordings, I am in an enviable position of not only hearing the music of many of the composers and performers featured on the label but also of working very closely with them towards achieving those recordings. The listening required, rather different to that done for pleasure, is perhaps best described as technical listening. My role is to act as a mirror for the players, to listen to how they are interpreting the music, referencing the score, and reflecting back on the successes or otherwise of particular approaches. I am not an interpreter, merely a mediator between the score in performance and the final polished recording. This relationship is extremely flexible and always to the service of the music.

 

So much of the music recorded on NMC is very new. This offers up an added bonus of working alongside composers in the sessions, of helping the performance captured by the microphones reach their expectations as closely as possible.

 

For a composer, the very act of writing down in notation one’s musical intentions is an extremely skilled operation, one honed over a lifetime of experience. Notation, conventionally speaking, is an imperfect code for performance, this is why we need interpreters. Having the composer on hand during the sessions to elucidate her or his intention beyond the score's codification can never be underestimated. It is a perfect opportunity to fine tune small details (dynamics, articulation, phrasing, sometimes orchestration too), changes that often find their way into post-recording score revisions (...or maybe that little gem of information was meant to be a secret...). Scores, after all, are not carved in stone. In my view, it is important as producer to provide the time and space for a composer to find solutions to any small issues that arise. There is no other occasion where a work can be heard in such detail. A recording session offers the luxury of having as many goes at musical passages as it takes to reach the satisfaction of all parties involved. For composers new to recording, this is a revelation. NMC affords that opportunity to many young composers like no other British label.

 

Much of my experience of listening to music these days is thus during sessions. And then of course editing too. It is highly detailed listening. I might also describe it as structural listening, building a mental sonic picture during the sessions of how the piece will be put together during the edit whilst also representing what composer and players intend. Such an approach to listening can be exhausting and not ideal for domestic 'pleasure'. But the producer's hat is a difficult one to remove. It is hard not to spot mistakes or less-than-ideal recorded sound and just hear the music. However, the mere beauty, drama or perfection of some works can wrench that hat off my head. Janacek's String Quartets, every time. Bach's A Musical Offering, St John's Passion or Goldberg Variations. Stravinsky's Agon or Les Noces (Royal Ballet's production a few years back still resonates in me). A recent trip to hear WNO's production in Cardiff of Janacek's From the House of the Dead  blew me away. And in two visits to the Royal Opera House, George Benjamin's Written on Skin (to my ear one of the best modern operas), and Harrison Birtwistle's The Minotaur  will stay with me.

 

David Lefeber

(photo 1: David Lefeber at Erika Fox sessions, photo 2: Anne Rushton, David Lefeber, the Mercury Quartet and Mark Simpson at recording sessions for Mark Simpson's Debut Disc)

 

If you'd like to receive our quarterly Friends Newsletter, you can become a Friend here (memberships start from £50). If you'd like to support our work with composers as well as our expanding Learning Programme, you can make a donation to our 30th Appeal here. Thank you!

Feature

This week in our NMC Archive is a blog written for our Friends Newsletter by Hannah Vlcek, who worked at NMC for more than 15 years and who shares with us some of her fond memories.

 

My first day at NMC started a day late. I received a somewhat strained phone call from Jenny Goodwin, then working freelance on CD booklets, asking me to stay at home as (it turned out) my intended manager had vanished; the Trustees had to decide what to do with me. I’ll always be grateful to Bill Colleran, Bayan Northcott, Noel Periton and Colin Matthews for deciding that I might be useful in helping Jenny to tidy up the chaos left by my predecessor. (Of course, my name may have helped: the first, highly efficient NMC Administrator had been Hannah Taylor, née Rogers, and for several years I was joined by NMC’s excellent Sales & Marketing Manager, Hannah Bissett, née Teale.)


SaxtonFor me, the best part of the job had always been arranging and attending recording sessions. My first were for an album of Robert Saxton’s chamber music, produced by Stephen Johns (now an NMC Trustee) and conducted by Christopher Austin at St Silas’s Church in Kentish Town, punctuated by breaks for Mass; very soon after that came the excitement of Elgar’s Symphony No 3 ‘completed’ by Anthony Payne. A small audience was allowed into the cavernous Studio 1, BBC Maida Vale to hear one of the first run-throughs by the BBC Symphony Orchestra with Andrew Davis. I sat next to Bayan, trying to guess which parts were Elgar and which Payne, and got them all wrong (the sections that sounded like genuine Elgar to me were, of course, pure Tony.)

 

Elgar

I also got the chance to sit in the control room with the engineer and producer. Watching a really good producer at work is fascinating – a mixture of psychology and extreme listening (or occasionally vice versa); at Maida Vale that would be either the legendary Trygg Tryggvason with Andrew Hallifax, Colin with Trygg, or the BBCSO’s own chief producer Ann McKay and engineer Neil Pemberton. Many more recent NMC recordings have been produced, engineered, then edited and mastered by one man, the multi-talented David Lefeber.

 

However, attending sessions could involve more than score reading and remembering to put five sugars in Trygg’s tea: I have found myself page-turning for several very tolerant pianists, though none so fast as Rolf Hind in Simon Holt’s breakneck Klop’s Last Bite; and, in BCMG sessions (also with Rolf), joining Stephen and Jackie Newbould in providing a hummed background note to Simon’s eco-pavan. The most recent sessions I attended have been among the most rewarding: Hugh Wood’s long-planned song cycles with James Gilchrist and Simon Lepper, and the ‘Watkins Trio’ sessions at Menuhin Hall of Richard, Huw and Paul, for Richard’s album of horn works written for him. 

 

A Book of ColoursBoots of LeadWild Cyclamen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If any NMC Friends reading this are wondering whether it’s worth attending a session: there is no better way (other than performing it yourself) of getting to know the way the music is put together, since you’ll hear it rehearsed, deconstructed and then performed. All you have to do is turn up, and be silent when asked!

 

Back in the NMC office, I’ve had the pleasure of working on booklets for releases as varied as: Brian Elias’s Laments – which set verses in a near-extinct Greek/Italian dialect, Grico; NMC’s reissue of Birtwistle’s Punch and Judy, proofing its remarkable libretto by Stephen Pruslin; and plunging into the Baroque universe of Gerald Barry’s opera The Intelligence Park, its libretto by Joyce scholar Vincent Deane. Even these though are eclipsed by The NMC Songbook – not only its booklet, with nearly 100 composers and poems and 25 artists, but its planning. Scheduling it was probably the most fun I’ve had with a spreadsheet. It’s a perfect example of how so small an organisation as NMC can be flexible enough to accommodate a unique and expanding project: it was originally meant to be just one disc but ended up as four. And it could never have happened without Iain Burnside.

 

Brian EliasPunch and JudyBarry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There has also been the occasional bit of glamour: at the Gramophone Awards for The NMC Songbook, NMC was on the same table as Bryn Terfel, there with the Hallé. As dinner was served, he carried bread rolls around the table, singing ‘Notte e giorno faticar’. This was the one name I could drop to impress my mother, until she heard Judith Weir on Woman’s Hour!

NMC SongbookThe most valuable part of working for NMC has been the opportunity to work with its catalogue of distinguished composers, artists and ensembles. It has been a privilege to work with Anne, Ellie, Helen and Lucile, with NMC’s invaluable trustees, past and present, and most of all with Colin (whose emails I shall miss particularly – I have fond memories of an early series which purported to be from one K. Stockhausen of Sirius). Thanks, Gustav and Imo. Long live the Blue Sheep.

 

If you'd like to receive our quarterly Friends Newsletter, you can become a Friend here (memberships start from £50). If you'd like to support our work with composers as well as our expanding Learning Programme, you can make a donation to our 30th Appeal here. Thank you!

 

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