Voices

The Labour leader has been rightly scorned for music that merely ticked boxes. He could so easily have been a lot less boring…

MUSIC: A true Pilgrim goes to Cornwall

Sainthood in Cornwall is a family business, founded by St Petroc and passed on to his two dozen children with names that wouldn't mean much to a Vatican hagiographer but survive on the map of south-west England. One is St Endelienta, aka Endellion, whose church stands on an isolated hill a few miles inland from Port Isaac. And it was here in 1958 that a group of Cambridge undergraduates on a reading party stopped to sing madrigals to the locals - who bore it stoically and asked them back the following year. Suddenly St Endellion had a festival. And it still does - of a rare kind that runs more as a community of friends than a commercial enterprise. Like Dartington, it blurs the boundaries between audience and performers, amateurs and pros. And twice a year - Easter and summer - a hard-core of several hundred Endellionites invade this otherwise quiet corner of the world, turning themselves into an ad hoc choir and orchestra, and catching what they can of rural communality between rehearsals. Nobody, however grand, gets paid: it's all done for love. And it could easily be brushed aside as an English middle-class equivalent of Marie Antoinette milking cows but for the fact that the artistic standards are so high - set with exacting seriousness of purpose by conductor Richard Hickox, who has presided over the festival for 26 years.

Philistines: That's how Sir Colin Davis views the Cabinet

Tonight's Promenade concert at the Royal Albert Hall is unique. It will undoubtedly be the only time during the whole promenade season that the orchestra is in tears at the end of the concert.

Opera: The Pilgirm's Progess St Endellion, Cornwall

John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, with its biblical cadence and personification of Virtue and Vice, revives the wit and insight of mediaeval morality. Yet it would be easy to trivialise, by some pert or pompous staging, into lofty platitude or halfcock Rabelais.

Classical & opera / EMI Centenary Gala Concert

Sir Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra host the EMI Centenary Gala Concert in Birmingham's Symphony Hall (0121- 212 3333) tonight at 7pm; on 8 Jul at 8pm three Great Cathedral Choirs of England also perform there, conducted by Christopher Robinson

RECORDS: REVIEWS

ROCK

Composer feeds his creativity with an Antarctic adventure

The British composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies is to spend a month in the barren wastes of Antarctica to gain inspiration for a new symphony.

Rue Britannia

CLASSICAL MUSIC London Philharmonic Choir 50th Anniversary Royal Albert Hall

Obituary: William Cole

There can be few, if any, persons past or present who could list LVO, DMus, FSA, FRAM, FRCM, FRCO after their name, and it may be that in this, at least, William Cole was unique. One of the most distinguished musicians of his generation, he had an extremely successful and full life. The staggering breadth of his involvement in so many spheres leaves one wondering how he managed to fit it all into one lifetime.

Unravelling Ravel

As the LSO prepares to present a series of four concerts featuring the works of Maurice Ravel, the conductor Andre Previn explains why the composer deserves to be known as more than just the man who wrote the music for Torvill & Dean

CLASSICAL MUSIC: New Queen's Hall Orchestra; Barbican Hall, London

The New Queen's Hall Orchestra has spent the past five years trying out piston-valve horns, narrow-bore trombones and other items from the inventory of obsolete instruments in the hope of reviving an early 20th- century orchestral sound. While the likes of Roger Norrington have removed the varnish from Brahms and Wagner, the NQHO has focused on English romantic music, the repertoire in which their earlier namesake excelled. In a message of birthday greeting on Saturday that was itself a touch of authenticity, Sir Edward Heath recalled the playing of that original pre-war Queen's Hall Orchestra, which he had heard. In a rather more offbeat way, the presence in the band of a female clarinettist named Marie Lloyd gave another authentic twist to the sense of occasion.

CLASSICAL MUSIC LPO / Menuhin Barbican, London

Short of being forgotten, there can be no worse fate for a composer than to be remembered, like Max Bruch, for one work played to death while the rest of your output is ignored. Bruch was a 19th-century German of large output and academic virtue, but his First Violin Concerto, written for Joachim and beloved of all other virtuosi since, including Rafal Zambrzycki- Payne who played it on Sunday night at the Barbican, really does glow with fine tunes and emotion worn on the sleeve. Players love it as a vehicle for their shining talents. Not so the composer. When praised for his masterpiece, his habit was to complain that it was too successful.

The opera's the thing

Matthew Warchus is directing Shakespeare from two different angles this year - `Hamlet' for the RSC and Verdi's `Falstaff' for Opera North. And he knows which form can best bring the Bard to life.

Music: Twenty years on, Britten's still great

Benjamin Britten died 20 years ago on Wednesday and, as always with anniversaries, it was time for taking stock. Britten died at an age (barely 63) when some composers (Janacek, Vaughan Williams) were still settling into their stride. You can't help wondering what might have emerged from another decade or two, teased by the fact that although his final years were dogged by illness, his last works - Phaedra and the Third Quartet - show no sign of diminishing power. On the contrary, they introduce a focus and economy of means that could easily have developed into a whole new musical vocabulary, given the chance.

Letter: In time with a Vaughan Williams opera

In his perceptive critique of Vaughan Williams' delightful Sir John in Love, currently revived in concert, Michael White seems to imply that the opera's first professional staging did not occur until the late 1950s ("A celebration of the English spirit", Real Life, 17 November). In fact it took place at Sadlers Wells in 1946 or 1947. I was there, sitting next to the composer himself. Despite the enthusiastic response to Sir John, Vaughan Williams seemed pensive. He might have been wondering why it had taken so long for his work to reach one of our national opera houses.

Music: A celebration of the English spirit

Music history is littered with great composers who dedicated large parts of their lives to opera, largely in vain. Schubert and Haydn are obvious examples, unless you thrill to the experience of overlong, unstageable scores. Another is Vaughan Williams, whose five operas never made it into repertory and seem to have been bypassed in the sudden, New Age scramble to rediscover the affirmative Englishry of his orchestral works. According to the textbooks he had no dramatic muscle, which isn't true. He just had no real chance to flex it. English opera wasn't a serious proposition until 1945, when Britten turned the tide of opinion with Peter Grimes; even a name like Vaughan Williams had to be content to see his operas given student premieres - a start in life that marked them, damningly, ever after as Suitable For Amateurs. That, certainly, was the case with Sir John in Love, Vaughan Williams's affectionate adaptation of The Merry Wives of Windsor. It had its first performance in 1929 at the Royal College of Music, and hadn't been seen or heard for nearly 30 years. Until last weekend, that is, when the British Youth Opera gave it a revelatory exhumation at St John's Smith Square - proving that if the piece doesn't quite hit the target, it's a tantalising near-miss.
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