Britten Sinfonia has a new CEO and Artistic Director Meurig Bowen

Introducing Meurig Bowen

Meurig Bowen joined Britten Sinfonia last month from BBC National Orchestra & Chorus of Wales as the new Chief Executive & Artistic Director.

Find out a little more about Meurig below in this exclusive Q&A. 

WHERE HAS YOUR WORK TAKEN YOU BEFORE BRITTEN SINFONIA?
Over three decades, I’ve been really fortunate to work in a range of music management roles. First of all, there were six-year stints with The Hilliard Ensemble in London and the Australian Chamber Orchestra in Sydney. I directed the Lichfield Festival for four years and the Cheltenham Music Festival for a decade, and in between I was Head of Programming at the Aldeburgh Festival/Snape Maltings. Most recently, I’ve been Head of Artistic Planning for BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales. Being close to all that hugely varied and classy music-making has been an enormous privilege.

DID THE INTEREST IN MUSIC COME FROM HOME OR ELSEWHERE?
My father was a concert and opera singer, and so music was a big part of my life from early on – it’s likely that I attended more Messiahs, Verdi Requiems and Gerontiuses than any other under-18 on the planet (and the cool-gang would say this is nothing to be proud of). I was a chorister in my local, North London parish church choir, and that set me up for getting a choral scholarship to King’s College, Cambridge, where I studied music. I am also a long-lapsed viola player. The high points were playing Lutoslawski’s Concerto for Orchestra with the London Schools Symphony Orchestra – conducted by the composer, no less – and hacking my way through Brandenburg 6 with fellow King’s string players in the college chapel.

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO IN YOUR NEW ROLE?
Just as David Butcher did so brilliantly himself for so long, I aim to be an enabler for the musicians – to deliver for them the performing opportunities, and the audiences, so that they can be as fulfilled and inspiring as possible. That means keeping the programming as fresh as it’s always been, and striving to maximise the musicians’ contact points in the community. The social and geographical reach of Britten Sinfonia will be as important going forwards as its undoubted artistic range and quality.

WHAT ABOUT COVID AND ITS EFFECT ON MUSIC AND MUSICIANS?
Obviously, this six-month shutdown of music-making has been devastating – for the livelihoods of musicians as much as their sense of being and purpose. So many have missed the enriching effect that live, communal music-making can have. Lockdown montage videos online have been ingenious, but they were a means to an end, and we need to rebuild urgently the artist-audience bond of live performance. COVID presents us with great challenges going forward, but the need to create new live performance formats that are COVID-compliant is a great opportunity for resourceful and imaginative thinking. Watch this space…

WHICH COMPOSERS OF THE PAST ARE YOU MOST DRAWN TO?
I don’t know whether there’s a thread running through the following but here goes: Bach, Schubert’s songs and chamber music, Verdi and Puccini operas, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov, Ravel, some Stravinsky and Shostakovich, a lot of 20th century British music. There are some very fine tunesmiths amongst those I guess, and little of it is overly cerebral. But in listing those, some of my most-loved music gets sidelined: Mozart concertos, Beethoven’s Eroica symphony, Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, Strauss’s Metamorphosen…it’s so tough to narrow down! And I’m also drawn to the lives and music of a couple of musical oddballs, the eccentric visionaries Percy Grainger and Erik Satie.

AND THE LIVING ONES?
I was very fortunate to get to know Arvo Pärt when working for The Hilliard Ensemble. The best of his pieces really affect me (Tabula Rasa above all others), and so I’d rank him and Steve Reich as the two elderly greats of our time. Having said that, Birtwistle’s The Mask of Orpheus last year at ENO was mind-blowingly good, and the most recent new orchestral piece I heard that really made an impression was Anders Hillborg’s startling Through Lost Landscapes. I try to keep my ears open at all times.

WHAT ELSE, APART FROM MUSIC, FILLS YOUR LIFE?
If the COVID lockdown has delivered any positives, it’s been bonus time with my wife and daughter. That’s been very precious.

But generally…getting out into the UK’s more dramatic landscapes, travelling further afield when time allows, getting better in the kitchen, aiming for a balanced and nutritious diet of books (fiction mainly), TV and film.

And then there’s the sport. Cricket still captivates me, even if it has to be mainly via TV highlights and Test Match Special (I refuse to sign up to Sky). Rugby interests me less and less – it’s too calculating now, too pumped up. I used to play tennis, and still hope to do so again, and I manage to play golf a few times a year. The last time I played cricket was in a match I organised with David Butcher no less – Aldeburgh versus Britten Sinfonia. Each side enlisted some visiting Tibetan monks in Snape to make up the numbers. True…

MEURIG BOWEN has been appointed Chief Executive and Artistic Director of Britten Sinfonia, succeeding David Butcher.

Dr Jerome Booth, Chairman of Britten Sinfonia’s Board of Trustees comments:

“Britten Sinfonia has always been fearless in its approach to music making and Meurig shares our sense of energy and inquiry. He is an experienced and adventurous programmer and a passionate advocate for reaching wider audiences with music of the highest quality and ambition. The match between his dynamic approach and one of the world’s finest chamber orchestras is an enticing one and we look forward to welcoming him this summer.’’

Meurig Bowen comments:

“I’ve been a long-time admirer of Britten Sinfonia’s distinctive musicianship and the vitality and sheer excellence of its music making. It’s therefore a great joy to be able to follow in David Butcher’s footsteps and to work with Britten Sinfonia’s virtuoso musicians, highly committed staff and board to help shape an invigorating future for one of the world’s finest chamber orchestras.”

Meurig succeeds David Butcher, who has left Britten Sinfonia to take up the post of Chief Executive of Manchester’s Hallé Orchestra from September 2020.

Lockdown updates

Norwich Chamber Music

With true creative resilience, many organisations are bouncing back with online activities to keep us going during tis strange lockdown period. This post has been pulled together by Norwich Chamber Music group to give you an easy-access set of links

Although live concerts, as we know them, have been put on hold, you can get ready for a festival of delights– the Wigmore Hall will be presenting a lunchtime concert every weekday in June, played live to an empty house (In full compliance with current guidelines) and relayed via Radio 3.  Recitals will also be available on the Wigmore Hall website and BBC Sounds for the following month.  Perhaps an excuse to sit with a glass of wine and imagine you’re in the concert hall (with extra benefits!).  Please read the article below for further information.  A full programme of artists can be found on the Wigmore Hall website – many of the performers are alumni of the JIC concerts.
https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/may/12/glimmer-of-hope-leading-performers-return-to-londons-wigmore-hall

For those of you who enjoy an occasional visit to the world of full orchestral music, American conductor Michael Tilson Thomas has created a series of video lectures, liberally illustrated by the San Francisco Symphony, exploring some of the symphonic masterpieces of the repertoire.  The series is called Keeping Score, and it’s well worth a look: https://michaeltilsonthomas.com/keeping-score/

Some of us are thinking regretfully of the cancelled 2020 Glyndebourne festival. But there’s some consolation in their programme of streamed past performances, which begins on Sunday 24th May.  See here for details:
https://www.glyndebourne.com/openhouse/
Why opera matters, a programme from Glyndebourne by Petroc Trelawny, first broadcast in 2014https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/b048bghw
Glyndebourne operas also available on Radio 3.

And here’s a reminder of the range of continuing on-line treats:
An excellent summary of global online resources featuring classical music, opera, theatre and dance is on Bachtrack:
https://bachtrack.com

This Guardian page automatically updates, so you can use the click-through week after week
https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/mar/16/classical-music-opera-livestream-at-home-coronavirus?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Great musicians have opened their houses or played in empty concert halls on a daily basis to share their music with audiences around the world.   We particularly enjoyed daily twitter concerts by Igor Levit (see recent New Yorker magazine article about this great pianist, link below).
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/05/18/igor-levit-is-like-no-other-pianist?utm_source=onsite-share&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=onsite-share&utm_brand=the-new-yorker
 Igor Levit has now finished his two month run of nightly house concerts on Twitter (52 concerts), but you can still catch up with his wonderful series of mini recitals.

Lockdown listening
Whatever you’re listening to – whether on-line streams, forgotten or unplayed CD from the back of the shelf, recommendations from friends, familiar favourites, new discoveries, Radio 3 – we’d be delighted to hear something about your experience of music under lockdown.  Just send us a few sentences (or more if you’re feeling inspired) to share with the members of our community.  We’ll edit, and circulate in the next newsletter.  Think of it as an ongoing concert-interval conversation!

For now, we hope you’re all keeping well, enjoy the sunshine and we look forward to seeing you at the John innes centre for teh next season

Peter Lawson
Chairman

Norwich Chamber Music

Norfolk & Norwich Chamber Music presents Beethoven Weekend with James Ehnes and Andrew Armstrong 15/16 February 2020

James Ehnes

James Ehnes

Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 February 2020

Beethoven violin sonatas

James Ehnes violin
Andrew Armstrong piano

Programme 1 Saturday 15 February 7.30pm
Sonata in F, Op.24 (‘Spring’) Sonata in A, Op.30 No.1 Sonata in C minor, Op.30 No.2

Programme 2 Sunday 16 February 3pm

Sonata in G, Op.30 No.3 Sonata in A, Op.47 (‘Kreutzer’) Sonata in G, Op.96

James Ehnes and Andrew Armstrong complete the cycle of Beethoven’s violin sonatas which they began last season. Among the famous works in these two concerts are the lyrical ‘Spring’ Sonata Op.24, the dramatic Sonata in C minor Op.30 No.2, and the ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata Op.47.

The Iceland Symphony Orchestra Sunday 9 February 2020, 7.30pm at Theatre Royal Norwich

 

Icelandic Orchestra

Iceland Symphony Orchestra

Yan Pascal Tortelier conductor
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet piano

Bizet L’Arlesienne Suite No. 2
Ravel Left Hand Piano Concerto
Thorvalsdottir Aireality
Prokofiev Romeo & Juliet

PRE-PERFORMANCE TALK: 6.30pm
in Targetfollow Room, Norwich Theatre Royal

For details of the whole Theatre Royal programme please check the website or pick up a brochure.

https://norwichtheatre.org/ to book
Box office Tel 01603 630000

Assembly House Classical present Brodsky Quartet to start the year in style

The first Assembly House Classical concert of the year is the Brodsky Quartet next Thursday, 9th of January at 1pm at the beautiful Assembly House.

The Brodsky Quartet are one of the top string quartets in the country. They have recorded soundtracks for film and TV as well as working with artists like Bjork and Elvis Costello and Paul McCartney. Start the year off by coming to this wonderful concert.

Booking details: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/brodsky-quartet-tickets-82832753997

https://www.brodskyquartet.co.uk

Since its formation in 1972 the Brodsky Quartet has performed over 3000 concerts on the major stages of the world and released more than 60 recordings. A natural curiosity and insatiable desire to explore has propelled the group in many artistic directions and continues to ensure them not only a place at the very forefront of the international chamber music scene but also a rich and varied musical existence. Their energy and craftsmanship have attracted numerous awards and accolades worldwide, while ongoing educational work provides a vehicle for passing on experience and staying in touch with the next generation.

“There was a pause of almost a minute before the audience applauded – testimony to the spell that the new-look Brodsky Quartet had cast.

…it was obvious to all that the “new era” will be as exciting as all those that have gone before.”​
Limelight Magazine

“…the players gave unstintingly of their passion and energies, playing with a spirit so transformational you felt they were actually improving the world.”  The Strad

Tonight at St George’s Church Tombland UEA Chamber Choir Christmas Concert

Sunday 8 December 2019, 6.30pm (doors 5.45pm)
St George’s Church, Tombland, Norwich

Christmas with UEA Chamber Choir

UEA Chamber Choir
Tom Primrose conductor

A selection of seasonal music for a capella voices

Experience centuries of seasonal music with UEA’s Chamber Choir as they present a programme of a capella vocal gems. A not-to-be-missed highlight in Norwich’s musical Christmas calendar!

Tickets: Free to attend. Capacity is limited, so please arrive early to avoid disappointment.

Norfolk & Norwich Chamber Music presents André Schuen : Lieder on Thursday 21 November

NNChamber headerAndré Schuen
Thursday 21st November 2019, 7:30pm at the John Innes Conference Centre
Pre-concert talk by Richard Wigmore at 6.15pm

For fans of the Lieder repertoire, we have a real treat at our second November concert. Andrè Schuen has given song recitals at the Wigmore Hall, the Oxford Lieder Festival and the Vienna Concert House, and has also performed on the opera stage worldwide. In 2016 he received the Young Artist of the Year award from ECHO Klassic in Germany (equivalent to the Gramophone awards). Andrè is joined by Daniel Heide for a recital of Mahler and Schubert songs.

Programme:

Mahler: Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht; Ging heut morgen übers Feld; Ich hab’ ein glühend Messer; Die zwei blauen Augen
Schubert: An den Mond (D.259); Im Frühling; Der Schiffer (D.536);
Abendstern; Des Fischers Liebesglück; Der Musensohn; Sei mir gegrüßt;
Du bist die Ruh; Dass sie hier gewesen
Mahler: Liebst du um Schönheit; Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder!;
Ich atmet‘ einen linden Duft; Um Mitternacht; Ich bin der Welt
abhanden gekommen

Andrè Schuen, one of today’s outstanding young baritones, took leading roles in all three of the Mozart/Da Ponte operas under Nikolaus Harnoncourt, and gave highly successful performances of Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin and Schwanengesang at the prestigious Schubertiade in Schwartzenberg. In this programme, Schubert and Mahler meet their common ground in settings of the poet Friedrich Rückert.

Andrè Schuen’s website

Advance notice: Norfolk & Norwich Festival concert
In partnership with the  Norfolk & Norwich Festival, next year NNCM is sponsoring a concert by the renowned American pianist Richard Goode. This event, on Saturday May 16th 2020 at the John Innes Centre, is additional to our current season, so everyone will need to purchase tickets to attend. Booking has now opened – please do get your tickets soon to avoid disappointment! The programme will include Beethoven’s last three piano Sonatas, Op 109, 110 and 111
https://nnfestival.org.uk/whats-on/richard-goode/book/201/

Message from the Chair
We have a strong and hard working Committee, but we are always seeking new Trustees and volunteers. At the moment, we would particularly welcome the support of a Trustee or Volunteer interested in the general roles of  Secretary, Minutes Secretary or Marketing Advisor.

With best wishes
Peter Lawson
Chairman
Norfolk and Norwich Chamber Music
https://norfolkchambermusic.org

Concerts at The Chapel, Park Lane, Norwich this weekend

Chapel concerts are coming thick and fast at present; I promise a quieter time next year – perhaps!

The EUSEBIUS QUARTET were outstanding success when they were in residence at Aldeburgh last year and they will visit the chapel for the first time on Saturday to play Haydn, Bartok and one of Beethoven’s greatest quartets, Op 132. The next evening the MORIARTY WIND QUINTET give a concert as a prelude to their schools visit on Monday under the auspicies  of Norfolk & Norwich Chamber Music. Those of you who came to their concert last year will remember that both the musicians themselves and their pogromming is original and entertaining. Roger

THE CHAPEL PARK LANE
Tickets £15 on the door – Under 23’s come free

Saturday 16th November 7.30pm – 9pm

EUSEBIUS QUARTET
Haydn String Quartet Op.9 no.1
Bartok String Quartet No.3
Beethoven String Quartet in A minor, Op.132

Sunday 17th November 6.30pm – 7.30pm

MORIARTY WIND QUINTET
Holst; Quintet in A flat Op. 14
Debussy; Petit Suite (arr. Gordon Davies)
Zemlinsky; Humoresques
Hindemith; Kleine Kammermusik for Wind Quintet, Op.24 No.2

Norwich Cathedral Choir with Norwich Baroque Saturday 16 November 7.30pm

Saturday 16 November 2019, 7.30pm

0R7A2331Copyright © Paul Hurst all rights reserved.jpgAshley Grote, Master of Music Norwich Cathedral Photo Paul Hurst

HANDEL Israel in Egypt

Norwich Cathedral Chamber Choir
Norwich Baroque

Katherine Crompton soprano
Kirsty O’Neill soprano
Timothy Morgan counter tenor
Simon Wall tenor
Edward Grint & Bradley Travis bass

Ashley Grote conductor

Tickets £5-£28

Please see www.cathedral.org.uk for full details of these and other events. We look forward to welcoming you to Norwich Cathedral.

Keswick Hall Choir presents Americana 2 Saturday 30 November 2019

Americana-2-Poster

Saturday 30 November 2019

Americana 2: Exploring North American choral music

Aaron Copland In the beginning
Dan Forrest Good night, dear heart
Randall Thompson Alleluia
Ernst Toch Geographical fugue
David del Tredici Acrostic song
Eric Whitacre When David heard

Plus folksong and spiritual arrangements by James Erb, Robert Fountain and John Rutter

A programme exploring some jewels of 20th-century American choral music. Copland’s choral fantasia joyfully expounds the Genesis story of creation, while Whitacre’s deeply felt setting of a line from the Second Book of Samuel really plucks at the heartstrings. The programme will include both a speaking chorus (Toch) and a whispering chorus (del Tredici) as well as Randall Thompson’s classic setting of just one word.

Director: Chris Duarte

Venue: Church of St Peter Mancroft, Norwich
Time: 7.30 pm

Tickets £12/£7/£2, and can be bought:

  • From St. George’s Music Shop, 17-19 St George’s Street, tel. (01603) 626414;
  • Online via ticketsource;
  • On the door!