The Master’s Newsletter, May 2020

Dear Member,

I thought that I would write after the Prime Minister’s address on Sunday to give you an update on where we are and what we are doing in these ever more trying times. I live in Guildford, where Lewis Carroll lived and died, and I often used to wonder whether he did not take some of the inspiration for Wonderland from this leafy corner of Surrey. In the last weeks, I have thought that he probably simply observed everyday life in Britain…”Curiouser and Curiouser” (as it now is!).

After the latest Government statement, I am very sorry to have to tell you that the following Company and other events have now been cancelled:

May 12: Clergy Support Trust Service, St Paul’s Cathedral
May 18: Musicians’ Company Concert, Purcell Room
June 7: Young Jazz Musician Winner’s Gig, Pizza Express Soho Jazz Club
June 24: Election of Sheriffs, Guildhall, and
Midsummer Banquet, Drapers’ Hall
June 25: Dankworth & Harvey Jazz Composition Awards, Music Hall, GSMD – Transferred to 5th November
July 8: Court & Informal Lunch, Skinners’ Hall

For the New Elizabethan Award Public Selection Round on 10 July we are still hoping that the Royal Academy of Music will be open, so further news later. We hope that we will have a July Court meeting, remotely, by Zoom, to cover Company business but obviously this would be without the ceremonies or the lunch.

We are planning for our Company awards auditions in June and the Piano award auditions in July to go ahead by submission of video recordings which will be assessed by an independent panel.

This means that we will now have no public events until September at the very earliest. You will I am sure have seen that Covent Garden is now closed until September, and that the whole of the Glyndebourne season has been cancelled.

This gives us a very considerable backlog of Freedom and Clothing ceremonies, which we will have to imaginative in finding solutions for if we are not to have to hold a 4 hour Court meeting to bring all new applicants into the Company. But that too will have to wait until there is more clarity in the overall picture. More news later.

It goes without saying that no other Company has had any events either, and that none are planned for the foreseeable future. My diary remains as resolutely empty as it was when last I wrote. The Lord Mayor and the Sheriffs, and several Company Masters, have now been granted a second year in office because of the exceptional circumstances (The Lord Mayor and Sheriffs until November 2021).

On a more positive note, I mentioned in my last Newsletter that we are offering our Yeomen the opportunity to record concerts, for payment, which we will arrange to distribute on social media. Some 40 Yeomen have signed up for this concert series, which will be called The Musician’s Company Young Artists’ Midday Music. Concerts will be at 12.00 noon twice a week from 18 May into September. Christine Twite, the Yeomen Coordinator, will be circulating emails to give further details in due course.

The Lord Mayor has asked all Masters for details of what their Companies are doing to maintain their charitable activity during the lockdown. I am attaching a copy of his recent letter which he has asked to be passed on to all Liverymen. I will be writing to tell the Lord Mayor of the Midday Music series and inviting him to share details with colleagues and other Masters. I hope that this will give us some useful publicity, and showcase our magnificent Yeomen Young Artists in front of a wider audience.

On an even more positive note, I am not sure that I can recall such a splendid Spring as this year. Maybe it is because for the first time in years I have had time to look at it! Whatever the reason, daffodils, bluebells and lilacs, and now the hawthorns, have been magnificent. On a cycle ride last week I heard the first cuckoo. I didn’t write to The Times – I suspected they had other fish to fry. But it lightened the day.

Keep well, keep cheerful, and let us hope to meet personally sooner rather than later.

All the best


John Nichols