The Master’s Newsletter, February 2016
I should like to begin by thanking everyone who made the Installation Court and Dinner back in November such a successful occasion and so enjoyable. The Dinner itself was excellent and a credit to the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors, in whose magnificent Hall we marked the beginning of our new livery year. I was particularly pleased to welcome Dame Gillian Weir both as our guest speaker and also our new Honorary Freeman. As you will know, the Honorary Freedom is the highest honour the Company can bestow and current holders include Dame Cleo Laine, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and Dame Janet Baker along with our Royal Honorary Freemen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Kent. Dame Gillian is a fitting addition to this list. The musical performance by the vocal group Voces8 concluded our evening magnificently and I am grateful to them for appearing in what is a busy world-wide schedule.
I was also pleased to welcome the new Master’s Chaplain, the Reverend Canon Mark Williams, to the Company that evening. You can read about him on page 3 of the latest edition of Preserve Harmony. At the Dinner, I also paid tribute to our Beadle, Ken Tappenden, who has now retired. His successor, Shaun James, was acting as his assistant that evening and we welcome him to the Company. Shaun James has had a career as an Army musician in the Grenadier Guards, has taught at Kneller Hall and has served on many military campaigns. I look forward to the military discipline which he will doubtless bring to the role of Beadle.
I am writing this after nearly three months in the Master’s Chair. I have represented the Company at occasions organised by the Worshipful Company of Actuaries, the Worshipful Company of Basketmakers, the Worship Company of Barbers, the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers, the Worshipful Company of Marketors and the Worshipful Company of Apothecaries and I attended the Lord Mayor’s briefing at Mansion House, the Lord Mayor’s Reception for contributors of the Lord Mayor’s Big Curry Lunch (of which Michael Hockney MBE is joint Chairman and I am a member of the Committee), the City New Year Service with the Lord Mayor at St Michael’s, Cornhill, a concert by the LSSO in the Barbican and the January meeting of the Madrigal Society at the invitation of the President, Sir Peter Dixon, in Tallow Chandlers’ Hall (and it was good to see the new musical director, Liveryman and Steward Richard Lyne, in control).
I have also attended a dinner in Ironmongers’ Hall given by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in honour of their Past Chairman, Alderman David Graves. I have presented Jazz Medals at the Royal College of Music and the Beethoven Medal at the competition which was held at Deptford Town Hall, now part of Goldsmiths’, University of London. I also attended, as did a large number of Liverymen and the Court, the St Cecilia’s Service, organised by Help Musicians UK (formerly the Musicians Benevolent Fund) in St Paul’s Cathedral where, once again, the Musicians’ Company led the procession of Livery Companies. Many, but by no means all, of these events were in 2015, as was our Company Carol Service.
I am most grateful to Pastmaster Jonathan Rennert for arranging the Carol Service and for directing the music with his usual expertise. I was very touched and honoured to be invited to conduct a carol during this Service and I chose Sir John Tavener’s God is with us. The commissioned carol this year was composed by Dr Ed Hughes, Senior Lecturer in Music and Head of the Music Department at Sussex University and a former music student of Pembroke College, Cambridge. He chose as his text the poem Stupendous Stranger by Christopher Smart, a Fellow of Pembroke in the 18th century and well known as author of the words Benjamin Britten set for his Rejoice in the Lamb. Ed Hughes’s carol is a very fine piece and I am most grateful to him for enriching our collection of commissioned carols which began when I was President of the Livery Club over 10 years ago. The current President of the Livery Club, Keith Maries, arranged for us to dine in Tallow Chandlers’ Hall this year and this was very successful. As usual, we invited the Worshipful Company of Turners to join us for both the Service and the Dinner.
There have been meetings of the Membership Committee (chaired by the Senior Warden), the Finance Committee (under the new chairman, David Cresswell), the PR Committee (chaired by Christopher Lawrence), the Donations and Awards Committee (chaired by Lady Brewer) and the Master & Wardens Committee. The Concert Committee auditions take place at the Wigmore Hall early in March to choose the young musicians who will represent the Company at the three Company concerts 2016/17. The panel of experts will be chaired by the new chairman, Peter Hewitt. This year’s Company concerts continue with two at the Wigmore Hall on Monday 15th February and Monday 11th April and one at St John’s, Smith Square, on Tuesday 28th June, all of which have been curated by Ian Ritchie. I do strongly encourage support for these from all members of the Company.
In late January there was a Meeting of the Court at Innholders’ Hall, followed by an informal lunch which was, as usual, open to all Freemen and Liverymen. During these meetings there were discussions about the Company finances and the balance about what the Company spends on itself (the General Fund) and what the Company spends on its charitable work with young musicians (the Charitable Fund). As we all know, the world has changed over the last 30 years and what is expected of any institution in financial terms has increased. The conclusion was reached that the stronger the General Fund is the more of our income from capital we can spend on our charitable work. Part of the drive to strengthen our General Fund is to ensure that all active Liverymen, who receive privileges which cost the Company money, pay the annual subscription (or, as some companies call it, ‘quarterage’). As we all know, the annual subscription was introduced in 2003 along the lines that most other livery companies operate and all Liverymen clothed since then pay the subscription as part of their Liverymanship. Those Liverymen clothed before the change in 2003 were asked to pay the subscription on a voluntary basis and my fellow members of the Court and I hope that this now will include all such Liverymen. These delicate issues have been live through the Masterships of my three immediate predecessors and it has fallen to me to conclude the matter. I trust that the Livery as a whole is sympathetic and will agree that we should continue to maintain our position in the City and in the music profession and, where possible, increase our effectiveness.
I look forward to welcoming as many Liverymen as possible to the Court and Livery Dinner at Ironmongers’ Hall on 13th April. Roger Wright CBE, Director of Aldeburgh Music and former Controller of Radio 3 and Director of the BBC Proms, will be the guest speaker.
I also hope that many liverymen and freedmen will attend the Company’s Members’ Open Day which will be held on Monday 23rd May at the beautiful Foundling Museum in Brunswick Square. It is a fine opportunity for members of the Company to learn more about how the Company operates and there will be some opportunities to hear and meet some of our Yeomen.
Among the Livery Club events planned is a visit to HM Dockyard at Portsmouth on 13th to 14th May and to King’s College, Cambridge, on 25th June where we shall have the opportunity to meet Stephen Cleobury CBE and to see him in action with the Choir. Livery Club events are open to Freemen as well as Liverymen. My thanks to the Club President, Keith Maries, for organising these events for us and we look forward to seeing many of you there.
I also ought to mention the Lord Mayor’s Big Curry Lunch at the Guildhall on Thursday 7th April which the Company is again supporting. This wonderfully colourful event, in aid of ABF – The Soldiers’ Charity, is open to all. The Jubilee String Quartet, Yeomen of the Company, will be performing. I do encourage you to support this remarkable event, which is in its 9th year. Tickets are available from Miss Amy Kenyon on 0207 811 3960 or firstname.lastname@example.org and not through the Musicians’ Company office.
As you will know, the Company has produced an all-purpose card which is on sale through the Company office. Like dogs, it is not just for Christmas (and Christmas is not mentioned anywhere on this card) and it can be used for any occasion; indeed, I have used it many times in the last three months to thank fellow masters for their hospitality. I recommend it to you most warmly and would like to thank Judith Rich OBE for organising its production.
Fellow Liverymen will wish to join me in congratulating Pastmaster Leslie East on being awarded the OBE in the New Year’s Honours List after a lifetime in music and music administration and it is a very fitting tribute to Leslie. We also warmly congratulate Liveryman Robert Wilson on being awarded the MBE in the same Honours List.
2015 seemed full of anniversaries – Magna Carta, Agincourt, Waterloo to name but a few. However, 2016 will give last year a good run for its money with the 950th anniversary of the Norman Invasion, 400th of the death of Shakespeare, 350th of the Great Fire of London and 100th of the Battle of the Somme. I am sure that some of my colleagues can add to this list. The City will certainly be marking the anniversary of the Great Fire and possibly others too. The Company will be involved in as much as possible and you will be informed as and when we have any details.
Greetings to you all and good wishes for the new year,