Chairman address, October 2023
Dr Wendy Hiscocks
It is with some sadness and not a little regret that I come to the end of my period as Chairman of the British Music Society. My six years in this position have seen many developments and achievements for which the Society may be justly proud.
Many remember with pleasure John Gibbons’ imaginative programming with his remarkable Ealing Symphony Orchestra which marked our fortieth anniversary, in which we heard a rare live performance of Arnold Bax’s First Symphony – and surely Bax was one of those underperformed composers that the Society was set up to promote.
At this point, it is perhaps appropriate to remember our valued friend the late Chris Bye, who besides being an enthusiastic regular reviewer of CDs, was responsible for arranging the mounting of a plaque on the wall of the Morar Hotel (ex Station Hotel) which commemorated the many visits that Bax made during one of his most creative periods.
It is wonderful when members initiate their own projects. We were proud to launch the British Art Song Competition as part of Nigel Foster’s London Song Festival, and Amy Yuan’s New Talent Festival. The BMS continues to present awards for the best performance of a British work in the latter competition which continues to go from strength to strength on an international level.
Although our CD releases have somewhat slowed in number, important work continues to be done with ground breaking recordings such as the Grace Williams chamber music with Madeleine Mitchell (who has also represented us as a BMS Ambassador in America), and Matthew Schellhorn’s two volumes of Herbert Howells piano music.
One of the most important developments, and one that is crucial for the future of the Society, has been our new website; it is through this medium that we reach a wider audience with numbers for the monthly E-news growing all the time, and this is the portal through which we now receive the majority of our new members. Thanks are due to Nicholas Keyworth and Ian Martin of Revolution Arts who keep the website running as smoothly as possible and ensure that the E-news is delivered reliably on the first day of every month, as well as producing the thrice yearly British Music Society News. The ongoing digitalisation of BMS publications continues to strengthen our online presence. Nicholas’ enthusiasm for the Society extends to his delightful cameos about long forgotten musicians, some perhaps of only local fame, as he encounters memorials to these on his travels around the country.
This year we have sent copies of the BMS News to distinguished composers Professor Alexander Goehr on his 90th birthday and to Thea Musgrave on her 95th birthday. Both have written to express their delight in being remembered by the BMS in articles written by their colleague Jack Van Zandt.
Our E-news has benefitted from the vast knowledge of many contributors, notably Andrew Burn (of the Bliss Trust), John Turner, Robin Walker, David Lumsdaine, Murray McLachlan and David Matthews among others, with Jack Van Zandt returning this month to pay tribute to Peter Racine Fricker.
Geoffrey Atkinson offered to co-ordinate and contribute to a review panel in the early stages of my Chairmanship, and it has been wonderful to see this area grow and provide a much needed service in the music industry with such reliability. His team includes Alan Cooper, Gary Higginson, Kevin Mandry, Paul RW Jackson, and J. Martin Stafford. Their enthusiasm for some of the CDs reviewed is infectious and hopefully results in our members exploring new fields of unusual music hitherto unknown to them. Surely this is what the BMS is all about.
The annual Journal is one of the most challenging areas of the Society and I am full of admiration and genuine gratitude for the long hours devoted to this task by Dominic Daula, who also organised two essay competitions, and our present editor Dr. Ian Maxwell.
No summary of achievement would be complete without a sincere tribute to our longstanding Treasurer Stephen Trowell. His knowledge of the running of such a Society has been unparalleled within the committee, and I could not have carried on as Chairman without his support and guidance. The Society owes him a solid vote of thanks over the many years he has devoted his services, and we hope that he will still be willing to guide us onwards in the years that lie ahead.