The Summer School has been in progress since 1953 but has, under Gavin Henderson's direction, become a real radical influence on contemporary British music, with guest tutors setting up initiatives all over the place. Elvis Costello's recent "Meltdown" season at the South Bank had its roots here, as does Keith Tippett's Rare Music Club. Artists leading courses this summer include Tom Ades, Woolrich, Joanna MacGregor, the Brindisi and Brodsky Quartets, and Louis Andriessen, who directs the advanced composition course. There is also a daily programme of concerts in the Great Hall, making this month in the country one of the busiest music calendars of the year.
Saturday's opening concert by the Consort of Musicke was preceded by Henderson's headmasterly address in which, like John Gielgud in Forty Years On, he wandered through a mazy peroration, introducing the staff, reading out a list of house-parents and issuing stern warnings on the need for croquet equipment to be signed out before use. The Consort's programme, "From Dusk to Dawn", began with some good old-fashioned "Carry On Henry"-style eye-rolling on a ditty beseeching one to come to bed. Although leader Anthony Rooley promised us more risque stuff to come, it was too "hey nonny no" to cause offence.
The following night featured the avant-garde improvisation of Keith and Julie Tippett. Tippett's short solo set was a gem, though he played so quietly that it sorely tested the mettle of his listeners, few of the early music types returning for the second half. The pay-off came when, after the opening tonal marks had honed our concentration, he then broadened out, repeating a baroque theme and a brief quote from "The Nearness of You" until we were immersed in a strange nursery world of powerful, half- sensed images, the effect enhanced by the gentle strumming of bells and chimes.
Later that night, Sheila Barnes and Adrian Hobbs completed the evening with a programme of songs by Poulenc, Debussy and Walton, the elegant lines drifting through the windows and out into the great courtyard, as students went off to cram their scores of the Salzburg Mass for the following day.
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