Do we still need music critics?

Critic – one who engages often professionally in the analysis, evaluation, or appreciation of works of art or artistic performances The debate about the value of music criticism and those who write it is not new. In the digital age, the music itself has not changed, but the technologies through which we discuss, transmit and…

Benjamin Britten and the Challenge of Singing

  Portrait of Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten  by Kenneth Green 1943   The voice is an extraordinary thing. Air pumped from our lungs, passes over the fleshy folds in our throat, to emit a full spectrum of sounds. Some more pleasing than others. Last weekend I shouted and screamed so hard at a football…

Pietà by Richard Blackford – world premiere at Poole Lighthouse

Pietà by Richard Blackford Jennifer Johnston, mezzo-sopranno Stephen Gadd, baritone Amy Dickson, saxophone with Bournemouth Symphony Chorus, Bournemouth Symphony Youth Chorus, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Gavin Carr The Stabat Mater, a Medieval hymn which portrays Mary’s suffering as Christ’s mother during his Crucifixion, has been set to music by numerous composers, most notably Pergolesi,…

The Power of Music and Birdsong

Southwark Cathedral and London Bridge surrounded by fields around 1548   Man has always been enraptured by birdsong. The nightingale’s song is not only a thing of rare beauty but a complex affair. Naturalists have likened the nightingale’s musical talents to that of a jazz musician, who is able to improvise on several instruments at…

A Riveting Ripper at the Coliseum

  Jack the Ripper’s frenzied killing spree in Victorian London has never ceased to fascinate and appall.  Iain Bell, composer of the ambitious new opera of the same name, and his librettist Emma Jenkins, decided, when creating their new work, to rid the stage of his presence altogether and to focus instead on the Ripper’s…

McBurney’s Magic Flute Enchants Again.

  Mozart’s Magic Flute is an unusual opera, full of Viennese slapstick, magic and strange journeys through a fairy-tale landscape. Emanuel Schikaneder, who wrote the libretto, was a theatre-manager, actor and most importantly, Mozart’s friend. The two relished working together and being both a little strapped for cash in 1791, they strove to create an opera…

Dior and the Story of the Perfect Dress

  In his autobiography Christian Dior tells the story of a fortune teller he met at a 1919 charity event for veterans of the Great War. He was an impressionable, imaginative young man. The fortune teller told him that he would suffer poverty earlier on in his life but that his luck would change and…

Love In a Creative Climate

  Artistic duos tend not to receive the attention they deserve in art history. We often read about the art movements and the artists who create them. The artist’s partner or lover meanwhile is often overlooked, or simply seen in terms of a muse. An ambitious exhibition at the Barbican, entitled Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy…

Sax and Jazz. Jean Toussaint Still Has Youth Appeal

  Sunday night in Camden. The temperature has plummeted and there are few people about on the high street. Outside the Jazz Cafe however there is a queue forming. I rush to join it and edge my way forwards between the metal barriers to get my wrist stamped. A young man runs alongside us peddling…