This week we hear from Trustee Ariel Sommer, who has been on the NMC Board since 2018.
Ever since I was a child, I was immersed in the world of music. My parents were classical musicians and I learned the piano and violin. More than just playing music, I’ve always had a deep passion for listening to music and a deep admiration for those behind the music, be it composers or performers. That passion led me to working in the music industry, in roles that in various ways offered me the chance to help build artist careers as well as bring music to wide audiences.
I have been fortunate to work with exceptional talent across musical genres and in a variety of roles at major record companies including Universal and Sony. More recently, addressing my particular passion for the power of music when married to film, I set up a music supervision agency focussing on sourcing and licensing music for advertisers, TV, and Film production companies. My passion for this craft led me to writing articles on the subject educating and promoting what it is music supervisors do to the wider media community.
Every opportunity I’ve embarked on has had at its core, an unwritten pre-requisite: To help artists or the music industry as a whole in order to ensure continued support of musical talent and maximising music’s reach across communities. It is for that reason that I was honoured to join the NMC board helping to nurture and promote British contemporary music. Furthermore, I’ve recently accepted a newly created role in the Department of Digital, Media, Culture, and Sport to be the lead for music and copyright policy-making. The UK’s population accounts for less than 1% of the global population and yet the UK has always had a vast global musical footprint and my goal is to ensure the artist community across all parts of the UK and the music industry as a whole have all the tools to grow globally.
NMC Recordings, the leading charity record label devoted to the promotion of British contemporary classical music, seeks to appoint a part time Office Assistant to provide temporary extra assistance in our Bethnal Green office.
NMC RECORDINGS OFFICE ASSISTANT
Part time fixed position, 2 days per week (16 hours incl lunch break)
1 August – 30 November 2019
We require some temporary extra assistance in the office, supporting our small team with a range of tasks including:
- fulfilling orders
- general office administration
- social media activity
- updating website content
- sales and marketing administration
The successful candidate will have excellent communication skills, both written and spoken, be enthusiastic about music and have experience of using social media platforms. To apply please email your CV along with a short statement (in the form of a tweet) as to why you would be a valuable addition to our team to: Anne Rushton email@example.com by midday on Wednesday 17 July.
Interviews to be held in our Bethnal Green office on Monday 22 July.
NMC is an equal opportunities employer and welcomes applications from all members of the community although we regret that our offices are not wheelchair accessible. Please contact Anne if you have any queries.
In this article from our Autumn 2018 Friends Newsletter, Kate Romano, a producer, clarinettist and writer, previously senior member of academic staff at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, and currently the Artistic Director of Goldfield Productions, gives us an exclusive insight into her ‘Project Erika’. We’re absolutely thrilled to have released Erika Fox’s very first album.
‘Do you know the music of Erika Fox?’ Nicola LeFanu asked me. It was a November evening in 2016 and Nicola and I were eating late-night soup in director Carmen Jacobi’s kitchen in Cardiff, listening to Nicola’s ‘Inspiring Women in Music’ essay on BBC Radio 3. Nicola had mentioned Erika on air and I admitted I didn’t know her music at all. ‘You should’ she continued; ‘you’d like it’.
Back home, I googled. Nothing. I dug a little deeper and found a small listing of some works via the old Society for the Promotion of New Music (SPNM). Nicola passed on Erika’s contact details and out of sheer curiosity and impulsiveness I picked up the phone and rang Erika. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the wonderfully sprightly, quick-witted, articulate and chatty voice on the line belied her 79 years. And Erika told me about herself.
She was born in Vienna in 1936 and came to England at the age of 3 as a war refugee. She loves theatre, literature, poetry and art. An avid concert-goer (she can often be found at the Wigmore Hall) she also craves solitude and composes at her cottage in Wales. She speaks with great regard and tenderness for her teacher, the late Jeremy Dale Roberts.
In the 1970s, Erika was actively involved with the Fires of London, the Nash Ensemble, Dartington and SPNM. Between 1974 and 1994 her works were regularly performed at Southbank Centre, major festivals and were regularly broadcast here and abroad. Her absolute masterpiece Shir which Nicola Losseff describes as ‘consumed with a fierce, internalised anger and passion, expressed in tightly-controlled climaxes which erupt into chant-like passages’ was featured on Channel 4 Television. Her puppet opera, The Bet, received over 100 performances following a premiere at the Purcell Room. Kaleidoscope won the 1983 Finzi Award and The Dancer Hotoke (chamber opera) was nominated for an Olivier Award. In 1990 Erika accompanied John Cage to Paris and Strasbourg and took part in his Europeras 1 and 2. Like many composers, she also taught, including a young Thomas Adès at the Guildhall School Junior Department.
And then, it all just seemed to stop.
I was puzzled and intrigued and most of all, keen to hear the music. But at this point, the only way to hear Erika’s music was to go round to her West London house and listen to it. So I did. After tea and cake (and more cake) and a lovely lunch we poured over large handwritten scores as Erika rummaged in boxes for archive recordings on CDs and cassettes taken from live concerts BBC Radio 3 sessions in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.
It is incredibly rare to stumble across a virtually unknown or forgotten composer whose music genuinely excites and delivers, piece after piece. Erika Fox’s language is bold, feisty, uncompromising and astonishingly fresh. Everything is tightly conceived – not one note is superfluous – in a total landscape of theatre, ritual and drama. A highly distinctive musical style emerges from a childhood suffused with music of Eastern European origin. Chassidic music, liturgical chant embellished with heterophony mingle with modal ancient melodic lines reminiscent of Eastern European folk music. She is a composer who is constantly energised by sound and its inexhaustible possibilities. I listened to her music with a growing thrill and sense of coming across a very important discovery. I loved it.
And so we fell into a trust and a friendship that lead quite naturally to what I affectionately refer to as ‘Project Erika’; an ambition and a strategy to bring her music back into the repertoire and to reach a new audience. To put it simply, I felt passionately that Erika’s music needed to be known.
I’m the Artistic Director of Goldfield Productions, a charitable organisation that supports composers of all ages and at all stages through commissions, touring work and adventurous collaborations. It’s a bespoke concept tailored to the needs (career and artistry) of composers who we feel would benefit from and enjoy working with Goldfield’s brand of music production and presentation of new music. For Erika, her greatest wish was for a lasting legacy of her music and so a recording was needed.
Firstly, people needed to be able to have access to this extraordinary music. I left Erika’s house with a selection of her live recordings (in some cases, the only existing copy) and gave them to my friend and colleague Rob Godman for a little bit of cleaning up. Rob put them on a private soundcloud page – the first step of Erika’s digital footprint.
I then talked to NMC about Erika and was met with warm support for the idea of a album. It would feature six of her chamber works; a selection of pieces that Erika is most proud of and felt were a good representation of her output. There are challenges; the enormous percussion line-up (one player, yet symphonic in scope) is both exhilarating and a tricky logistic issue. Pouring over the huge percussion shopping list, I tentatively asked Erika if there was any option of reducing the number of instruments for practical reasons. She went back to her scores, thought about it and came back to me within 24 hours. No, she said. The percussion is integral to everything. And she is absolutely right. Percussion is often at the centre of her language in a physical, musical and ritualistic sense. The composer part of me silently reprimanded the producer part of me.
We built Erika a website scrabbling around (literally – not online) for old photos, newspaper clippings, reviews, interviews, repertoire lists. Erika has worked tirelessly to bring this material to us and I couldn’t wish for a better collaborator. Nicola LeFanu curated and hosted a concert for Erika’s 80th birthday at Burgh House, Hampstead, London, and her team of loyal friends started to put her name around once more. Fundraising for an album ensued and Erika is generously supported by PRS Foundation Composers’ Fund, RVW Trust, Ambache Trust and the Hinrichsen Foundation. I think that the 100% success rate for this funding strategy demonstrates the genuine enthusiasm and widely felt determination for Erika’s music to be heard again.
Why does fine music fall off our radar? Erika and I have talked about this at length: lack of a publisher, family commitments, opportunities closed to her due to age (she didn’t write her first ‘serious’ piece until she was 30). But mostly Erika will shrug and say ‘I just don’t know…’ Happily, the climate has never been better for an 81 year old female composer to make a comeback. And my own greatest hope is that this album will be the catalyst for Erika’s wider output to be programmed once again; those who can and do will not be disappointed.
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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.
This week we're finding out more about Caroline Nelson, who became an NMC Trustee in 2016.
I 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.
It 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!!