I am delighted to welcome you all to the MusicFor recitals! The first ever concert series starting with four concerts ‘Music for an Autumn Evening’ at Stroud Green’s Holy Trinity Church in North London.
I have been a professional musician – a singer and conductor – for the last twelve years and had an idea to form a new series of concerts called MusicFor that has the main aim to work as a recital series for young musicians (current students and graduates from universities and music colleges) with the opportunity to choose their own music and engage young musicians to perform in concerts I direct in order to help them gain performance experience and professional contacts they all need at the start of their careers.
As a performer, I have been exceptionally lucky; I have been a step-out soloist in the BBC Proms, in the Sistine Chapel, at the Cadogan Hall, the Wigmore Hall and in a world-premiere performance at the Barbican. I have toured the world as a member of The Sixteen, getting to sing in some of the great cathedrals and concert halls. Moreover, I find that the freedom to choose the music I would like to perform is vitally important, alongside the pieces I am asked to sing, can be very fulfilling for one as a musician. Just to illustrate, I gave a recital of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Songs of Travel earlier this year, in his own parish church of St. Martin’s in Dorking. I loved everything about it, from preparing the music, working out what I wanted to do with each song, and of course, standing there in performance telling it as a story. It is his music that I hold close to my heart, and as a counter-tenor I am unlikely to be asked to sing it in the future!
Hence, this is the main reason for the focus of MusicFor’s recitals: to give young performers the chance to put on music they love simply because they want to do it. There are no guidelines for the series, so programming is entirely in the hands of the artists. It will allow them to create an oasis in the challenging world of starting-out-in-classical-music.
My other focus of MusicFor is putting on larger-scale concerts. Every young conductor knows that you either have to become an apprentice to a big-name conductor or start your own venture, so I went with the latter! For this, I am applying the same principle as for performers: I can put on what I want to because I love doing it. I like to fit music around the calendar, either the liturgical one, the historical one or the Gregorian one. Our first concert on 20th September focuses on the Songs of Farewell, by C.H.H. Parry (1848-1918). This ties in with the hundredth anniversary of his death, the anniversary of the end of World War I (the songs themselves were prompted by a deep sense of loss: Parry lost many colleagues and pupils at the Royal College of Music during the war), and also, the ‘farewell to Summer’ that September provides. Later concerts include a concert of the music of Purcell on Saint Cecilia’s Day, 22nd November, also including John Blow’s ravishing Ode on the Death of Mr. Henry Purcell: Purcell died the day before, on 21st November. J.S. Bach’s stunning Advent cantata Wachet Auf and his Christmas cantata Ich freue mich in Dir finish the first series, on 12th December.
For these performances, I aim to give young musicians an opportunity to work amongst like-minded peers; colleagues who may recommend them or book them for other work. So much of the music world is run by word-of-mouth with a strong element of who-knows-you! Meeting orchestral musicians as a singer, for example, is a way of getting involved in a slightly different musical world, and one that could open further career avenues. And at the same time, we will also have a great opportunity to bring the young aspiring musicians and their music to the people of North London.
A little about the name: MusicFor came about originally from Henry Purcell’s song Music for a while. The first line reads “Music for a while shall all your cares beguile”. I like that sentiment; that for a short while in a busy day you can forget about it all and listen to some wonderful music. I thought that having it so closely linked to a seventeenth-century song, however, hindered me in terms of what I could do with it. The name MusicFor allows me to be creative and free in all aspects: so long as the series (or concert) is named “Music for a…” I can programme whatever I choose, wherever I choose and allow performers to pick their own music with no restrictions.
There are exciting plans ahead. I am in talks with people in my home town of Milton Keynes to bringing the series there and I am figuring out some interesting ways to bring more music to London. There are also plans to form a named choir and/or orchestra to be affiliated with the series. As they say: watch this space!
The first series, ‘Music for an Autumn Evening’, opens on 20th September at Holy Trinity Church, Stroud Green, London N4 4EL. For more information on Series One concerts, please check the website http://www.musicfor.co.uk
Should you be interested to participate and join us as a performer in one of the future concert series, please get in touch.
I also thank Strings Music Horizons for inviting me as a guest blogger this month and hope to see you all at one of the forthcoming concerts!
Daniel Collins – Artistic Director of MusicFor