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Remembering Lyndon Jenkins (1938-2014): A Leading Player on the Concert Scene
Birmingham’s Symphony Hall opened in April 1991 and the following year Lyndon Jenkins joined the management team as Special Projects Manager. Although he retired from this position in 2004, he was retained until recently as Music Adviser. So to say that his role was pivotal in the establishment of Birmingham as a leading player in the classical concert music scene is not to overstate his influence. All regular concert-goers to the Town Hall Symphony Hall complex will be familiar with his direct involvement in a multitude of projects: originating themed festivals, interviewing visiting artists, broadcasting on both local and national radio, reviewer and writer for leading journals and CD producers – the list is endless.
Following his untimely death last month, a memorial concert was arranged in his honour on Sept 25th 2014 at Birmingham’s Town Hall; the quality of the performers involved was its own testament to his standing and reputation in the music business. Julian Lloyd Webber introduced the programme and his informal conversations with the artists before their individual contributions illustrated how each of them had counted themselves fortunate to be a personal friend of Lyndon, benefitting from his warmth and generous personality.
The music presented was from a broad spectrum including several from Lyndon’s own specialist fields. Ever a promoter of English music and particularly Frederick Delius (he was a stalwart of the Delius Society) the well filled Town Hall audience were treated to the Bradford-born composer’s Légende, beautifully executed by Tasmin Little on violin, accompanied by John Lenehan on piano. Another of Lyndon’s passions was Scandinavian music and especially Carl Nielsen, represented on this occasion with three of his songs – Appleblossom, Irmelin Rose, and Just Bow Your Head, Little Flower; delightfully delivered by Signe Asmussen accompanied by Rebecca Omordia; the soprano told us that it was known to her that the third was one of Lyndon’s favourites. I loved Signe’s interpretation and thought the contrasts she expressed would surely have got Lyndon’s approval.
The programme comprised ten composers in all giving it a well-balanced mix of predominantly popular pieces. For instance, there was Schubert’s Impromptu in G flat, Op 90 No 3, a piece that never fails to please and Di Xiao (no stranger to Birmingham) showed her delicious touch. And Jiaxin Lloyd Webber (wife of our compere) underlined the relaxed and family atmosphere of the occasion with two movements of the Bach Cello Suite No 1 in G. The Webbers gave us an encore (an adaptation of a Vivaldi concerto) to complete the afternoon’s music.
But in a way the music for once took second place on the bill – the projected figure of Lyndon on the back wall an ever present reminder of the man. This point was brought home by the contribution mid-programme of Brian Savin – a colleague from local radio station BRMB; he introduced some recordings of Lyndon on tape that illustrated his contact with the great and the good. In the excellent complimentary programme Andrew Jowett, Chief Executive of THSH, paid tribute to Lyndon’s input to Performances Birmingham Limited, adding to this at the end of the concert with some personal anecdotes. Indeed the programme’s text was packed with interesting recollections of Lyndon who knew everybody: Michael Kennedy recalls Lyndon’s reference to them as ‘the two dinosaurs’ and of their joint plans for a programme for this year’s AGM of the Federation of Recorded Music Societies – These you have loathed. Indeed his efforts on behalf of the FRMS should not be forgotten. The ‘everybody’ that Lyndon knew was not only the result of rubbing shoulders with the professionals, he also had time for the amateurs as well.
Julian Lloyd Webber reminded us that statues are not erected to music critics, but he hoped this concert would be a ‘metaphorical statue’ to Lyndon. It was, and a fitting one too, one that had been devised in keeping with the title of his Radio 3 programme Mainly for Pleasure.
Saffron Walden in Essex is set to become a venue for full concert performances of the world’s greatest operas.
The principal objective of the company is to produce high quality concert performances of operas in Saffron Hall using professional artists strongly supported by professional and semi-professional musicians and an invitation chorus drawn from choral societies from London to Cambridge.
Supported by Yellow Car Charitable Trust, Saffron Opera Group’s first venture will be a concert performance of Richard Wagner’s romantic comedy, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg on Sunday 14 September this year.
The idea for the company came initially from Professor Michael Thorne, the Vice-Chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University, who is a passionate Wagnerian. For each of the past twelve years, Michael has conducted a Wagner opera, including two complete four-opera cycles of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, in Portobello Town Hall in Edinburgh. There, rising young international singers hoping to make their names, are invited to sing the star roles together with local soloists and chorus. Following his first visit to Saffron Hall, he was so impressed that he vowed to perform Wagner in it but felt that, as a first class professional venue, it deserved a cast of singers already established in the major opera houses of Europe.
Through the indispensible auspices of international opera soprano Elaine McKrill, an impressive cast of no fewer than seventeen established and up-and-coming international opera stars has been engaged. They will be supported by a chorus of fifty invited singers under the direction of Saffron Walden Choral Society’s Musical Director, Janet Wheeler, and the St Albans Symphony Orchestra specially reinforced for the occasion by an additional twenty-two professional string players. Both Paul and Francis will be singing in the chorus and are now in training to hold the massive vocal score which weighs three pounds!
All involved have been amazed at the amount of support they have received from the world of opera whilst putting this performance together. For example, the opera will be sung in German and will need English surtitles. The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has provided these free of charge, together with the necessary computer hardware, and has also loaned the opera group a professional surtitle operator at a very modest cost. The Saffron Hall management have also been extremely helpful in setting up what will be a first for the hall and the Saffron Walden County High School most co-operative in making rooms available for rehearsal and for accommodating the performers who will be approximately 140 in number.
Saffron Opera Group’s remit is undoubtedly ambitious. It is confident that this first venture will be a success and that further operas will follow.
Tickets are available from Saffron Hall 0845 548 7650, online: www.saffronhall.com or from the Saffron Walden Tourist Information Office.
The cast includes:
Hans Sachs – ANDREW GREENAN
Veit Pogner – RICHARD WIEGOLD
Sixtus Beckmesser – JULIAN TOVEY
Fritz Kothner – PAUL CAREY JONES
Walther von Stolzing – JONATHAN FINNEY
David – ADAM TUNNICLIFFE
Eva – INGA-BRITT ANDERSSON
Magdalene – ANNA BURFORD
Night Watchman – STUART PENDRED