Remembering Lyndon Jenkins (1938-2014): A Leading Player on the Concert Scene

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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.

Geoff Read

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