Alexander Walker and Teresa Cahill are awarded the Elgar Medal
Two new recipients of the Society’s Medal have been announced and will be presented later this year.
Conductor Alexander Walker has been a champion of British music and Elgar in particular over many years, performing his music both in the UK and in places as far flung as Belarus, Russia, Poland and Turkey. This year his schedule includes the Enigma Variations in Leatherhead, the Starlight Express in Abingdon and Symphony No.2 in Romania. The Elgar Society is delighted to recognise his contribution to the appreciation of Elgar’s music particularly overseas.
Soprano Teresa Cahill has been a firm supporter of the music of Edward Elgar for many years. Over a long and distinguished career, she has performed the widest possible range of his music in concert, broadcasts and on record. In so doing she has shared the stage with such well known Elgarians as Richard Lewis, Vernon Handley and Sir Alexander Gibson. This award represents a long overdue recognition of her outstanding work and commitment to Elgar’s music.
24 April 2016
The Society recognises the Philomusica.
The Philomusica of Gloucestershire and Worcestershire has become the latest recipient of the Elgar Society’s Certificate of Merit.
Since its formation in 1966, the Philhamusica has built a steady reputation in the local area for high quality choral performance and an outstanding record in the performance of the music of Edward Elgar, performing every one of his choral works, with the exception of The Black Knight.
Society Vice-Chaiman Stuart Freed presented the award on the occasion of the Philomusica’s 1000th concert, during which The Music Makers was performed, saying that the Certificate is awarded in recognition of outstanding commitment to the promotion of the life and works of Edward Elgar and continued, “I am sure that you would all agree, that to have so distinguished and far reaching a performing record as does the Philomusica, fulfils this criterion in as a full a way as anyone may wish”.
Accepting the Certificate on behalf of the Philomusica, conductor Linda Parsons commented that this award is something that will be treasured by the Phlomusica, going on to say, “ I am pleased to be living after the era of Elgar, because it allows me to have performed his music, which those who came before him could not have known”.
A concert featuring The Black Knight is planned for the not too distant future, enabling this the Philomusica to declare a “full house”.
12 October 2015
The Elgar Society welcomes Tasmin Little as its newest Vice-President
The Elgar Society is proud to announce that violinist Tasmin Little has become its latest Vice-President.
Ms Little’s commitment to English music in general and Elgar’s music in particular has delighted audiences both in the UK and worldwide and has helped to introduce it to new audiences both here and abroad. Her new recording of Elgar’s Violin Concerto together with Sir Colin Davis and the Royal NationalScottish Orchestra has gained much critical acclaim and was the Critics’ Choice Award at the 2011 Classic Brit awards.
On being made Vice-President, Ms Little said,“I am delighted and honoured to have been appointed Vice President of the Elgar Society. Elgar has occupied an exceptionally special place in my heart and his music is a constant source of inspiration. I have given over 70 performances of his searingly beautiful Violin Concerto, 60 performances of his Violin Sonata, I have recorded both works and given many performances of his delightful bonbons, such as Salut d’Amour. I am greatly looking forward to being a part of this distinguished Society and to continuing to celebrate and perform his widely admired output of compositions.”
6 October 2015
A tribute to Sir David Willcocks
Long standing Vice-President of the Elgar Society, Sir David Willcocks, passed away at the age of 95 on 17th September 2015.
Perhaps best remembered as the director of the Choir of Kings College, Cambridge and the Nine Lessons and Carols service on Christmas Eve, Sir David also directed the Bach Choir, was principal conductor of the Three Choirs Festival on three occasions during the nineteen fifties and was conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. During the 1970s he became director of the Royal College of Music. Sir David’s musical career was interrupted during the Second World War, when he served in the British Army, earning the Military Cross for his actions on 15th February 1941.
David Willcocks collaborated with many composers including Ralph Vaughan Williams, Benjamin Britten and Michael Tippett and performed with many British Orchestras including the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, the Philharmonia and the LSO, making many memorable recordings. Among his many roles within music, he was also a noted editor, organist and composer.
He was created a Knight Bachelor in 1977 in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Honours.
In 1957 David Willcocks contributed to “Edward Elgar Centenary Sketches”, a book published by Novello commemorating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Edward Elgar. Although contentious in many ways, his contribution, entitled “A Modern View” contains the following paragraph:
“That Elgar’s music should have held its place in the cathedrals, concert halls and recital rooms of this country as it has done during the last thirty years is proof, if proof were required, of the abiding value of his best works.”
David Willcocks’ work as a choral director and trainer, writer, conductor and teacher is proof, if proof were required, of the abiding value of his best works.
7 September 2015
An Elgar World Premier
Swedish conductor Andreas Hanson and the Bjørsvik Brass will perform Elgar’s Severn Suite in its original form in an edition prepared by Dr. John Pickard
This original version will have its world premiere on Sunday September 13th 2015 with the Norwegian brass ensemble Bjørsvik Brass, conducted by Andreas Hanson. This new edition contains Elgar’s original work, stripped of the changes and instrumentation added by Henry Geehl, which were included in the first performance of the music in 1930 at the Crystal Palace.
20 January 2015
The Elgar Society mourns the loss of Carl Newton
The last months of 2014 brought more than their fair share of deaths in Elgarian circles, but none who had made such a contribution to the Elgar Society as Carl Newton, who died on Boxing Day 2014 after a long fight against leukaemia. An archivist and records manager by profession, Carl fought to bring the disciplines of his profession to the Elgar Society, a far from easy task in an organisation of factions often pulling the Society in different directions. He also served as the Society’s honorary archivist for many years, collecting and organising the Society’s disparate documents into a coherent account now placed into the safekeeping of the Worcestershire Records Office.
While this drive to instil discipline placed Carl within what many considered to be the ‘awkard’ squad, there was no doubting Carl’s loyalty to the Society, to do what was best for it and thereby to improve it, whatever others might think. While his ‘points of order’, contributions to committee meetings and Annual General Meetings for which he became renowned, were not always well targeted, there is no denying that they were always well intentioned. While his proposal of a Research Register, aimed at avoiding duplication of effort and providing support for researchers into Elgar’s life and music, never really took hold, that was perhaps predictable in an organisation of individuals pursuing their own interests as a hobby, but the idea was sound.
Despite being a regular correspondent to the Society Journal’s letters pages, Carl was in many ways a rather private person. He refused to make mischief of his first name, ‘Surr’ (a family name), and few knew that he had been an Executive Vice President of the International Records Management Council from 1984 to 1988, the Visiting Professor of Archives at the University of Northumbria, and honoured as ‘Records Manager of the Year 1999’. His marriage on his 78th birthday to the engaging Kathie seemed to be a match made in heaven but sadly, after only six months of enthusiastic travelling, he was diagnosed with leukaemia and his strength gradually diminished. He will be sadly missed.
6 January 2015
The Elgar Society’s Chairman pays tribute to Michael Kennedy
I cannot claim the closeness of the many years of friendship that many of those who have written tributes to Michael Kennedy can look back on with fondness and comfort. But for years I had admired his writings and I treasure our first meeting at the Elgar-Vaughan Williams symposium in 2008. He could not have been kinder as we shared the stage, and so immediately debunked the old adage “Don’t meet your heroes”.
It was impossible not to warm to Michael, whose humility and easy friendliness in the company of those of us fortunate enough to encounter him were readily apparent. I was especially pleased when the Elgar Society widened in 2010 the criteria for awarding our highest honour, the Elgar Medal, to embrace citizens of the UK in addition to foreign nationals, because we immediately agreed the first recipient should be Michael. In the citation, it read with absolute truth that “no-one has done more to promote the cause over such a long time and contribute so much to Elgar appreciation and scholarship as Michael Kennedy”.
His books, innumerable articles, reviews, programme notes and contributions to films and other publications added up to an immense body of work – and they were not, of course, exclusive to Elgar. In all of these activities, the citation continued, “he combines the highest levels of scholarship with musical sympathy and a warm humanity”.
Subsequent meetings with him and Joyce simply confirmed this. His A.T. Shaw lecture on The Kingdom in 2012 was exceptionally fine, bringing forth an emotional standing ovation. Despite his illness, he continued to give generously of his time to so many members of our Society, and so there were frequent opportunities for us to see him and enjoy his company. My last memory of him was at the celebratory luncheon of the North West Branch on 23 November 2014 when, ever the modest guest of honour, he continued to bring forth admiration and affection from all present.
Scholarship, the Society and each one of us privileged to know him are all the poorer for his passing.
Chairman, the Elgar Society
16 September 2014
The complete incidental music for Arthur
Edward Elgar: The Binyon Settings
The Spirit of England Op. 80 for Soprano Chorus & Orchestra
With Proud Thanksgiving for Chorus & Orchestra
JUDITH HOWARTH, Soprano
LONDON SYMPHONY CHORUS, Simon Halsey, Director
PHILHARMONIA ORCHESTRA, John Wilson, Conductor
Carillon Op. 75 for Speaker & Orchestra
BBC Concert Orchestra, Simon Callow
John Wilson, Conductor
Premiere Recording of the complete Incidental music for Arthur — A Tragedy
ORCHESTRA OF ST. PAUL’S, Ben Palmer, Conductor
This unique new release not only commemorates the outbreak of WW1 through the music of Sir Edward Elgar but celebrates the poetry of Laurence Binyon (1869-1943), a writer whose work should be more widely known. It is possible that Binyon wrote the best known verse of poetry during World War 1 and even the best known verse of the war. In For the Fallen, a poem written at the end of August 1914 during the retreat from Mons by the British Army, Binyon recognizes the challenges, hardship and struggle the ordinary British soldier will face in the years to come. Within For the Fallen is the verse recited throughout the country on Remembrance Sunday before war memorials, services and other ceremonies such as The Festival of Remembrance.
They shall grow not old, as they that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
In other verses and poems Binyon, despite his Victorian upbringing, understood that Britain was facing a long struggle that would not ‘be over by Christmas’ as many presumed in the Autumn of 1914.
Between 1915 and 1917 Elgar set three of Binyon’s poems to music for soloist (usually soprano), chorus and orchestra all of which were drawn from his anthology of poems The Winnowing Fan, published in December 1914. The three poems set by Elgar were For the Fallen, To Women and The Fourth of August grouped under the title The Spirit of England from the opening line from The Fourth of August. In composing these three settings Elgar offered a work of solace, hope and support during the dark days that were to come.
In this disc we have also included Elgar’s re-working of For the Fallen for the unveiling of the cenotaph in London in 1920. Sadly, this was never played at the time. Originally arranged for Chorus and Military Band by Frank Winterbottom, With Proud Thanksgiving is recorded here in Elgar’s version for Chorus and Orchestra.
Elgar collaborated with Binyon once again in 1923 when he composed incidental music for Binyon’s play, Arthur. Elgar composed this for the pit band of the Old Vic theatre that amounted to no more than fourteen players. The short run of the play about the last days of King Arthur was produced by Lilian Baylis. This is the premiere recording of the complete music for “Arthur”, expertly edited by conductor Ben Palmerand recorded here with his Orchestra of St. Paul’s.
In 1942, during World War II, Binyon looked back on his relationship with Elgar and forward to the time when the bells would ring in England again signifying peace. Carillon, his poem for reciter and orchestra, is recorded here by the renowned actor Simon Callow in Elgar’s original setting from 1914.
Composing in wartime: Elgar and his contemporaries
Special Elgar Society event, Sunday 11th May 2014
‘When England held her breath’ Composing in wartime: Elgar and his contemporaries Sunday 11th May 2014, 10.00 a.m. – 7.00 p.m.
Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DT
Music has a special role to play in times of national emergency. To commemorate the beginning of World War I, the London Branch of The Elgar Society and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama present a day seminar focusing on composers working in the UK and further afield during the war years. Illustrated talks will be given by experts in the subject, musical examples will be performed by Guildhall students, and the day finishes with a song recital. For full programme and booking details see: http://www.gsmd.ac.uk/about_the_school/home/view_all_events/?tx_julleevents_pi1%5BshowUid%5D=3671
5 May 2014
The Powick Asylum music in a new recording
With support from The Elgar Society and the Kay Trust, Somm Records have released a new recording of the music that Elgar wrote for the staff band at the Powick Asylum.
Conductor Barry Collett directs the Innovation Chamber Ensemble (members of the CBSO) in what is the first professional recording of this early music by Elgar. The new issue includes first recordings of music discovered since Barry’s earlier recording with the Rutland Sinfonia some quarter of a century ago.
The sessions took place in Birmingham in July 2013 and the CD officially launched in March 2014 at the Elgar Birthplace Museum, since when it has climbed to number 8 in the BPI’s specialist Classical Chart.
The CD can be purchased from the Elgar Birthplace Museum shop at http://www.elgarmuseum.org/index.php/the-elgar-shop