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The Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique et Musique (IRCAM)

In Paris in the 1970s President George Pompidou invited Boulez to create and direct IRCAM and provided the funds and suitable accommodation for it within the newly built Pompidou Centre. Boulez’s objective was to bring science and art together in order to widen instrumentation and rejuvenate musical language. He made certain that one of the organisation’s major objectives would be the interface of computer technology and acoustic performance and he therefore encouraged composer/performer collaboration at various stages of the creative process. The software IRCAM has developed for sound modelling, transformation, and synthesis has been designed for use with instrumentalists and singers as the sound input for music compositions

Because of his own compositional methods and those of a number of his contemporaries Boulez was the first, as early as the mid-nineteen fifties to propose that orchestras should be reorganised. The normal layout of the ‘romantic’ 19th century orchestra was no longer suited to the very different assembly of instruments composers now required. For example: a score might not require any violins and violas, but call for considerably more brass or woodwind instruments than are found in the normal symphony orchestra. Or the score might require only one flute but call for six clarinets (including an Eb, a bass and a contra-bass clarinet), two cor anglais and a contra bassoon. At times a composition would require no more than about 25 or 30 of the players in a normal symphony orchestra and at others a far larger number divided into two or three separate ensembles.

In 1968, in a lecture, Boulez was already putting forward the notion that ‘the orchestra should be replaced by a kind of consortium of performers drawn on for ad hoc purposes. All that is very easy to say; and it is true that solutions of this kind can well be imagined … (and of course) there is an economic factor in music, and this factor always tells in favour of conservatism. By this I mean that in any organisation qualified for an activity of this kind it is very difficult to persuade people – simply from the point of view of intrinsic organisation – that things can be organised differently without creating major problems in any well-regulated economy.’

IRCAM has three primary missions: to promote both the creation and the development of contemporary repertoire by commissioning new works and performing them regularly; to increase the audience for the music of 20th and 21st centuries, through a diffusion policy which features a season of concerts in Paris, as well as international tours and audio-visual recordings; to contribute to training and professional placement for young musicians, instrumentalists, conductors and composers through workshops and score-reading sessions.

The instrumentation of IRCAM’s Ensemble Intercontemporaine comprises thirty-one soloists (two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, bass clarinet, two bassoons, two French horns, two trumpets, two trombones, tuba, three percussion, three keyboards, harp, three violins, two violas, two cellos, contrabass). Except that it has a very small string section it remains to the present day very much like many chamber ensembles that only play the classical, romantic and early 20th century repertoire.

The Future for Symphony Orchestras

The financial problems facing the costly, labour-intensive symphony orchestras everywhere, especially in Britain, the demands by the critics for the performance of more contemporary music and the increasing dominance of pop music on the air-waves and recordings, were by 1980 beginning to cause some concern. When, in 1985, the NCOS Orchestra was invited to play at the XVII International Society for Music in Education (ISME) Conference in Innsbruck I was asked to deliver a paper. I decided that the question of the symphony orchestra’s future was important and was a topic on which I might be able to make a useful contribution.

Even though Boulez had tried while in charge of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra to effect some changes, he had – as he had predicted – been unsuccessful. As a former orchestral musician, and at that time Director of the NCOS preparing young musicians for a profession that was already recruiting far fewer musicians than the number of students who were at conservatoires all wanting to become orchestral musicians, I was naturally more concerned about their future than Boulez had been. He wanted to create the conditions that would make it possible for the performance of new compositions that the rigidity of conventional symphony orchestra does not allow.

I chose as the subject for my talk ‘The Symphony Orchestra: into the 21st century’. I thought that in this forum of educators it might be possible to bring my ideas to those who in their turn might influence younger musicians to consider how the symphony orchestra might be reorganised so as to become sufficiently flexible to respond to the demands of present-day composers.

The repertoire of the symphony orchestras was also being restricted by the ‘baroque’ orchestras playing the music of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven in what they claimed to be the historically ‘authentic’ style of performance, on the kind of instruments that would have been available when their compositions were written. The idea that perhaps the music of later composers, Liszt, Brahms and Tchaikovsky should be played on instruments still in their time less perfected than those now available was being contemplated. The music of the period before the rise of the orchestra as we have known it from about the time of Haydn was also becoming more popular.

At the same time young musicians, especially the best of them, were increasingly preferring the freedom of expression that playing ‘chamber music’ provided. Not only in string quartets and the like, but in string, wood-wind, brass, percussion and mixed ensembles of various sizes, playing baroque, classical, romantic and contemporary music. Quite often they performed in venues other than those normally associated with concert giving: hospitals, old people’s homes and prisons, as well as for music clubs.

At the Conference I put forward the idea that the orchestra should become a ‘resource centre’: a much larger group of musicians who would have the opportunity of playing a number of different kinds of music in various sized ensembles. It should no longer be necessary to decide to play in an orchestra and have little or no chance of playing chamber music: nor should those choosing to play chamber music be denied the delight of playing the great orchestral repertoire. And this resource centre should also include composers. Some might be composers-in-residence, as we had at the NCOS, others might also want to play in the orchestra or an ensemble. Their compositions could be tried out, with experiments and changes made in circumstances where there would be no risk to their reputation. Nor would there be the cost of rehearsals and mounting a public performance which might attract only a small audience. Within the area in which the ‘centre’ was resident those who wished to teach could provide advanced tuition in whatever branch of music they had expertise.

The Wheatland Foundation

The following year, 1986, I was invited to be a participant in another conference. This was to be organised by the Wheatland Foundation, which had been founded in the previous year by Ann Getty and Lord Weidenfeld to support programmes in the arts and the humanities. Ann Getty’s husband, Gordon Getty, was then the head of Getty Oil, which he had just sold that year to Texaco for 10 billion dollars. He was also a classical music composer. This may be why the Foundation’s first conference, held in Venice, had been about the future for opera. Jerusalem had been chosen to be the venue for this conference. It was to consider the future for the symphony orchestra.

Those of us from London flew to Jerusalem by El-Al, the Israeli air-line, in the kind of comfort I had not experienced before (nor have I since). My wife and I had three times as much space as is normally provided on Business class or that I have seen walking through First class. We each had a large armchair and there was another one between us on which they placed the tray when they served us a splendid lunch. On arrival at Jerusalem airport we were whisked away by taxi to the King David Hotel. Our room, overlooking the Old City, was extremely large and luxurious and when we arrived we found a large bowl of strawberries and a bottle of champagne in an ice-bucket awaiting us. The next four days were spent in similar conditions and included a traditional Friday Shabat Dinner with the ebullient Mayor of Jerusalem Teddy Kollick, an Arab-style Dinner where we were seated on floor cushions and served by waiters in traditional costume, a splendid meal in the Dormition Abbey and finally a grand Farewell Dinner.

On one day our meetings were held in a hotel near the Dead Sea. While our sessions were in progress our spouses were taken on a guided tour of the Dead Sea and Masada Rock, where Herod’s royal citadel had been. The citadel was the site of the most dramatic and symbolic act in Jewish history, when the rebels chose mass suicide rather than submit to Roman capture. The day after the conference ended we had a reception at the Knesset where we met President Chaim Herzog. To our surprise he addressed us in English with a pronounced Irish accent. Only later we learned that he had been born and lived in Belfast until he was seventeen.

The Foundation had invited a number of composers, conductors, performers, orchestra managers, producers of music programmes in radio and TV, agents and a critic. The conference director was Peter Diamand who had been Director of the Holland and Edinburgh Festivals as well as General Manager of the RPO for a few years. At the time of the conference he was the artistic adviser to the Orchestre de Paris. Also present were Mr and Mrs Getty, Sir Isaiah Berlin and Lord Weidenfeld.

It was intended that the conference should examine and define the role of symphony orchestras in the changing environment for the performing arts; consider whether the contemporary orchestra was, as it had been called ‘an obsolescent instrument’; how it might evolve and change to meet the new needs of composers and performers and how it should come to terms with its dwindling audience and sometimes difficult relationship with the recording industry. How the education and training of orchestral musicians might be improved was also on the agenda.

The largest number of those taking part in the discussions were managers of the major orchestras in Europe and the USA. They included those from the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony, the Israel Philharmonic, the Royal Concertgebouw, the Orchestre de Paris, the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra of London and two youth orchestras, the European Community Youth Orchestra and the German Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. There were four composers Pierre Boulez (also, of course, a conductor), Henri Dutilleux, Alexander Goehr and Joseph Tal. The conductors were Gary Bertini, Semyon Bychkov, Lawrence Foster and Catherine French and the performers Isaac Stern, who also acted as chairman, Alfred Brendel, and three orchestral musicians.

There was general agreement that the present orchestra structure needed to change in some way if it was to satisfy the many composers who no longer found the standard classical/romantic orchestra met their needs. What so many composers now wanted was an assembly of instruments, very different for each piece, that they had decided their composition required. Unless the repertoire the orchestras now relied on to attract an audience was to be abandoned how could the symphony orchestra satisfy those who were demanding that the orchestras play what composers were now writing? The fact that even those contemporary compositions that were written using the conventional orchestra did not attract an audience was never faced. The conservatoires were blamed for not encouraging students to learn enough music composed after 1950: their education was too limited and composer/performer co-operation was not encouraged; the musicians in the orchestras needed to change their attitude to performing new music; the unions had to be persuaded to allow greater flexibility in contractual agreements; and finally, audiences needed to be more musically educated: they had increased in number (but were now declining) though not in quality.

Anna Lindal, the assistant leader of the Stockholm Philharmonic, thought that the orchestra should become much more flexible, dividing into groups as required. Several managers pointed out that additional woodwind, brass and percussion players were nearly always called for and that these extras players would be very expensive. Also that quite often a number of those contracted full-time by the orchestra would be unemployed, but still have to be paid. Pierre Boulez made the same point and referred to his own attempts with the BBC Symphony and the New York Philharmonic. Because of contractual difficulties and the resistance of some of the players when they were required to play in positions and with responsibilities they were not being paid for, it had not proved practical in either of the orchestras.

Pierre Vozlinsky, the General Administrator of the Orchestre de Paris, asked if the Foundation could take the initiative and launch an international campaign, so that information would reach professional circles ‘to gradually move over to a system of individual service’. He pointed out that the discussions had clearly shown that there was no other way if the expense of performing contemporary music were not to be an insurmountable obstacle. This suggestion was not taken up by any of the other orchestra managers. No doubt the thought of having to engage an orchestra from a free-lance pool for every concert was too daunting. Of course it is not in the power of composers or performers to initiate action that would change the structure of the orchestra. Only the Boards of management and their managers were in a position to do that.

Even though Peter Diamand, as Conference Director, several times drew our attention to the need to arrive at a recommendation for the Foundation to consider, and after a very great deal of discussion, the Conference remained unable to come to any positive conclusion on the all-important and central question regarding the future for the symphony orchestra: ‘how it might evolve and change to meet the new needs of composers and performers’.

The Conference also devoted quite a lot of its time to considering the training that should be provided for those who wanted to become orchestral musicians. Several speakers said that there was evidence that many of the very best young players leaving conservatoires now no longer wanted to play in an orchestra all the time or for the whole of their career. Anna Lindal said that from her own experience, having only been in the profession for six years, she knew what it was like for a newcomer coming into an orchestra for the first time. After talking to many other young musicians she felt that the training of musicians for the orchestra was inadequate.

She went on to explain that despite the fact that one is already an expert on one’s own instrument and comes with a great deal of enthusiasm, the training one has received gives little guidance as to how to play in an orchestra. Very little responsible orchestral work has been offered and students are seldom required to work to a deadline or a target and never have the opportunity of playing alongside a professional orchestral musician. ‘It is usually the case that training takes place in the orchestra itself.’ Lindal thought that it ought to be in the interest of orchestras themselves to found their own orchestra schools so as to be certain of continuity and quality in their profession. ‘But we need not only continuity in the profession but also change, dynamism and new ideas.’ It should happen naturally that the young generation brings this with them. ‘One must look far and wide to find training for a profession which is more conservative.’ We are trained in a tradition, which at best belongs to the preceding generation.

My own experience, teaching at the Royal College of Music, bore out all that she had said. My pupils left college unprepared for life in the profession. I also remember that when I had been a member of the examining panel for the ARCM Diploma some members of the panel were unprepared to give a good mark to students who chose to present a contemporary work as their ‘own choice’ if it employed some of the new techniques, on the grounds that it did not give a proper basis for assessing their ability.

It was suggested that perhaps the Wheatland Foundation might explore the possibility of supporting projects specifically concerned with the education of orchestral musicians and assist, politically or economically any developments that might arise.

Having considered the preparation of young musicians for the orchestral profession the Conference turned its attention to the conditions then prevailing for those who were currently employed in the orchestras. What were the musicians themselves concerned about and were there ways the management believed things could be improved?

Isaac Stern thought that orchestral musicians were often required to work longer hours than was conducive to good performance while Pierre Boulez felt that what was destructive was playing ‘fifty-two weeks, concert after concert, in exactly the same way, the kind of routine where one week cannot be distinguished from another, one day from the next’. Peter Pastreich, Executive Director of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, responded by saying that ‘everyone knows that routine means playing with boring conductors and playing in a boring way. With the right conductor it doesn’t matter how many concerts you have to play’.

A number of speakers were concerned, as Isaac Stern said, ‘to ameliorate the tyranny of union rules, so often binding in freedom of work preparation and time and cost’. Peter Pastreich disagreed. ‘No recording session would end prematurely if we just said beforehand that we’re willing to pay overtime. It is a question of money rather than of union rules. The same is true for rehearsals. If we just said to the orchestra "keep on playing for as long as the conductor is conducting, we’ll pay’’, the rehearsals would simply go into overtime’. I was surprised to hear this from a manager, but I’m sure most players would agree – as long as the conductor was not too boring!

The status of musicians in society, the degree of stress players experienced and the degree to which self-management could be acceptable, were all considered. Apart from the ‘tyranny of the unions’ nothing stirred so much emotion as the concept of self-management and far more time was spent on this subject than it probably warranted.

In reporting the views of the members of a select committee formed to discuss Education and Youth Orchestras, Joseph Polisi, the President of the Julliard School of Music in New York, told the Conference that ‘one of the committee’s major assumptions was that although proficiency must exist to ensure a successful professional life, technical ability must be viewed as only a means to an end: a conscious, creative process of music making. The concept of orchestral self-governance was agreed to be one way to achieve a sense of personal worth and responsibility as a musician and a member of society’.

Self-governance, the notion that the members of an orchestra should do more than express an opinion, that might or might not be followed up, was vigorously opposed by the majority of the orchestra managers. However, the most outspoken opposition came from Peter Heyworth, music critic of the Observer, who for a number of years had conducted a campaign against the London orchestras, mainly because of the lack of contemporary compositions in their programmes. He told the Conference, ‘With regard to musicians taking over the decision-making process: some unflattering remarks have been made about the London orchestral scene, well justified, I think, since it is one of the scandals of the Western world and has been for a number of years. It was brought about by musicians taking over the decision-making process’. Hans Landesmann, the Artistic Director of the European Community Youth Orchestra, and a member of the select committee, pointed out that though Mr Heyworth believed the situation in London was so bad because the orchestras were self-governed, the Vienna Philharmonic had been self-governing from when it was established (as had the LSO) and had neither been managed badly or done too badly.

As the only one taking part in this discussion with first-hand experience of playing in both a managed and self-governed orchestra, it was clear to me that whether an orchestra should be self-governing or not was usually beyond our control. Social and economic circumstances and a number of other factors affect what decision has to be taken. In the end the report from the select committee was accepted unanimously – though no conclusion had been reached.

Another committee dealt with The Orchestra as Workplace. This committee perceived that ‘there are major problems which make the orchestra a less than optimal workplace for musicians and administrators, resulting in interpersonal tension and inefficiency of operation, a lack of motivation and often of commitment to the institution. In addition, even when standards are high there is disaffection, emotional stress and increased evidence of illness associated with playing in a symphony orchestra.’ They recommended a pilot scheme to identify what has an impact on morale and to what extent it affects performance, to study work-related medical problems, to look into possible changes in the organisational structure of the orchestra and methods of professional development. In all they assessed the cost would be about $400,000.

There was not a great deal of enthusiasm for attempting to raise what was at that time a considerable amount of money when orchestras were already experiencing the financial restraints referred to several times during the conference. Naturally, there was support for the idea that stress and medical problems should be examined, though Humphrey Burton, the BBC TV producer of many performing arts programmes, thought these recommendations were a very American problem where bringing in psychiatrists forms a part of everyday life. Christopher Bishop, Managing Director of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, said that because the orchestras in London were self-governing and ran their own lives these problems did not apply. He thought that the members of the orchestras and their managers worked together in ‘an atmosphere of unity and willingness to work together’. The report of the Conference does not record whether the recommendations were agreed or not. However, it does record that the Conference Director, Peter Diamand, asked to be considered to have voted against.

Now, twenty years later re-reading the book The Evolution of the Symphony Orchestra: History, Problems and Agendas (Weidenfeld and Nicolson), a verbatim account of our discussions during the conference, I see that in welcoming us Isaac Stern remarked that our agenda was ‘long and comprehensive’ and that it would be ‘something of a task to make order out of so many possibilities’. It will probably not come as a surprise to readers who have had any experience of conferences of this kind that such recommendations as were agreed have not been implemented. However, I have reported the proceedings rather fully because this was a unique occasion, the only time as far as I know when so many performers, managers of orchestras and a number of others with an interest and influence in the world of the symphony orchestra have met to discuss its problems and future prospects.

The Orchestra for Europe

My wife and I returned to Britain on the 2nd of January 1987, just a fortnight before we set off for Denmark and my visits to conservatoires around the world which I have written about in an earlier chapter.

When during 1988 the BBC told us that their own financial difficulties required them to make cuts in their expenditure and that they would not be able to continue funding the National Centre after the end of the !988/89 course, I found that there were still a number of musicians and music educators in Britain and elsewhere who continued to believe that students having completed their studies at music college required further preparation before joining the orchestral profession. If we were going to have another attempt to provide orchestral preparation we should learn from our experience. I was also keen to see whether the ideas I had put forward a few years previously, at the ISME Conference in Innsbruck and in Jerusalem, were practical and could provide opportunities for composers and performers that did not exist in the inflexible symphony orchestra structure.

It had been clear to me for some time that to try to form an orchestra (or resource centre) each year, of the standard that would make the exercise valid, from young musicians in only one country and a few months after they leave their conservatoires and universities, had been a flaw in the NCOS plan from the start. Youth orchestras were able to draw on the most gifted from across five or six years and any other orchestra could select from thirty years or more. For ambitious students who had already done a few professional dates while still completing their course the image of the NCOS was unattractive. Why should they remain at college for an extra year? Later some of them did come to realise, too late, that they still required further preparation before entering the orchestral profession.

At the end of the section about the National Centre for Orchestral Studies in chapter 22, when I was lamenting the demise of the NCOS, I wrote that ‘In 1989 there was another attempt to create ‘preparation for the profession’ or, as I have always preferred to call it ‘a first year in the profession in sheltered accommodation’. As soon as we received the bad news from the BBC I put the ideas I had expressed in Innsbruck and at the Conference in Jerusalem to the NCOS management committee. They realised that in any case the NCOS would have to be wound up at the end of the next year’s course and that my ideas gave the possibility of continuing the kind of education they had worked so hard to provide for the past ten years. Goldsmiths’ College and the University of London both agreed that I should go ahead to see what might be possible.

Before going any further I thought I should approach the Wheatland Foundation, which had suggested that it might support projects specifically concerned with the education of orchestral musicians and assist politically or economically any developments that might arise. I wrote to tell them that since the Conference the previous year I had visited conservatoires around the world and had meetings with directors, managers and administrators, both public and private. The problems everywhere were similar to those we had discussed in Jerusalem. Now we should obtain some hard facts in regard to the economics, structure, administration and the education we should provide for those wanting to become musicians then and into the following century. I was disappointed to receive a reply informing me that the Wheatland Foundation did not fund research projects. It now administered a translation fund, which gave grants to British and American publishers to assist them in translating works from a foreign language into English.

In the autumn of 1988, as the first term of the final NCOS course was beginning, I started the search for money and a suitable venue for this new venture. I was incredibly fortunate to meet Tony Goodchild, who had just come into a considerable bequest that allowed him to retire from being the head of a large school music department and concentrate on his first love, conducting amateur choirs. With his customary generosity, he assisted me in so many ways: paying for a number of trips around the country in his splendid new car, a very large and incredibly powerful green Jaguar, and on a few occasion the cost of going overseas. Without his financial help the NCOS would have had to draw on its rapidly dwindling bank account.

He also bought us a computer which in 1988 meant a very large piece of equipment that required those using it to learn a special language – this was quite a while before Windows, click and drag, the Internet, etc. had become something that children of five and six could operate with ease. The sight of it sent my otherwise expert secretary, who was a very fast typist and generally extremely resourceful, into a flat spin. Fortunately, a young lady we also employed in the office who until then had only undertaken very junior tasks came to our rescue. Quite soon she was managing this new technology with which we were now able to prepare the publicity material we needed for our new venture, The Orchestra for Europe (O for E).

After looking at several places we at last found what seemed could become the perfect home for the new orchestra – a beautiful redundant 18th century church, St. Thomas in Bristol, with a large hall attached. Both the church and the hall were large enough to accommodate a full symphony orchestra. There was also space for our offices, music library and to store the large instruments, the timpani, percussion and the double basses. For our purpose Bristol in the south-west of England would make an ideal base. It is one of the very few cities in Britain that has the characteristics of a mainland European city of the same size – about thirty-five to forty thousand inhabitants. It has a fine concert hall, the Colston Hall, where I had played many times, several theatres, including the lovely 18th century Theatre Royal, an excellent library and a University with a good music department. There was a fast and frequent one and a half hour train service to London that would enable members of the orchestra to attend a wealth of concerts and if they wished, arrange lessons with many of the finest artists in Britain.

Bristol had other advantages as a base for a musical organisation as well as its concert hall. It had no resident orchestra of its own and there were several other towns within a radius of fifty miles where it could give concerts: Bath, Gloucester, Cheltenham, Swindon and Wells, all towns I had played in with one orchestra or another. The members of this music resource centre could make a real contribution to the cultural life of all these towns and cities.

Throughout 1989 discussions with the church authorities, the architects and our fund-raising efforts went well enough for the NCOS management committee and the Delegacy of the University of London to start taking the necessary steps to wind up the Trust. In October three months after the last concert by the NCOS orchestra at the Barbican in London, the NCOS Trustees and Management Committee was disbanded. It had been agreed that the money remaining in the NCOS Trust account, the music library, the musical instruments and the office equipment should all pass to the new Orchestra for Europe management structure and Charitable Trust, with Lady Evelyn Barbirolli OBE as Chair of the Management Committee, which would take on responsibility for the new orchestra. Lord Harewood (The Rt. Hon. The Earl of Harewood, KBE) agreed to be the orchestra’s President, bringing his invaluable experience gained at the Royal Opera House, English National Opera and the Philharmonia Orchestra; the Vice-Presidents Sir Yehudi Menuhin OM, KBE, Sir John Tooley, General Director of the Royal Opera House and Richard Burke, with his knowledge of the European Commission, each brought their wide experience of musical and political affairs. Sir Charles Groves, CBE was Chairman, International Council of Consultants and Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, formerly Principal Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Bolshoi and then Chief Conductor of the USSR Ministry of Culture Orchestra was to be the Artistic Adviser. I was appointed as Artistic and Executive Director.

We thought there would be enough money in the new O for E Trust account for us to have time to raise the funds required for the new orchestral course, this time for young musicians from right across Europe, not only those in Britain. If a number of countries within the EC contributed to the funding of the enterprise we believed we this could achieve our goal.

Everything seemed to be going well, but … I can do no better than to quote from the Bristol Evening Post of 1 November 1989:

The much-vaunted plans to move a European orchestra to Bristol (in 1990) have been put back for a year – a victim of Britain’s medieval church laws. The Orchestra for Europe intended to move into St. Thomas’ church, an elegant 18th century building near Bristol Bridge, in January. But the change of use of a church is a very complicated business. The city planners have to agree – so do the diocese, the Church Commissioners, the Redundant Church Advisory Board and the Privy Council. The St. Thomas’ scheme is likely to be approved by the Privy Council, but only after it has been advertised for a period of up to Christmas. This means the builders can’t get inside to start the alterations necessary to house a 90-strong orchestra of young musicians from all over the continent. The delay means that hundreds of applicants for places for next year’s orchestra have had to be turned away and their money refunded.

In the end the Privy Council did agree, though first objections from the Georgian Society to anything in the church being changed had to be overcome. There was also a campaign against the hall adjoining the church being used by the orchestra. It had for some years been used as a night refuge for the homeless and a rather fierce correspondence against any change of use (though other plans for the homeless were being made) ran in the local newspapers for several weeks. With the help of the Church Authorities we also overcame this problem.

As well as approaches to companies and individuals I went to Brussels to speak to one of the EC committees, the Comite Jeunesse of the European Parliament, where I gained the impression that if we were to be based anywhere other than in England we might well have received funds. Unfortunately, at that time Mrs Thatcher had been busy wielding her handbag and the British were not very popular. Other visits included Madrid and Istanbul, where I attended the Conference of the Association of European Conservatoire and Academies and spoke to them about O for E.

Though we raised a good deal of money, 1990 was as bad a time as we could have selected – the BBC was not the only organisation to be making what Richard Hoggart called ‘candle end’ savings. Everyone was cutting back. The conductors and soloists we needed to book for the concerts we proposed to give in Europe had to be booked well ahead, at least one or two years ahead, often longer. We could have started but I was unwilling to risk having to cancel concerts at a later date because of lack of money or run into the kind of debt so many arts organisations have run up. At the beginning of 1991 I felt I had to advise the management committee that we should call it a day. Extremely reluctantly they did so. The letters I received from artists, conductors and those who had hoped we could continue our work, are testimony to how disappointed many musicians and music-lovers were.

A few months after we had left a tramp managed to get into the church and made a bed for himself on top of the organ and then in the morning he went on his way leaving behind him a smouldering cigarette butt. The very fine organ caught fire and was completely destroyed, as was nearly everything else in the church, leaving the whole of the roof and all the walls covered in thick black tar, the result of the smoke. It would have cost us a fortune to repair the whole building and in the meantime we would have had nowhere to work. So, as it turned out we were saved from what would have been a major financial disaster had we not decided to call a halt when we did.

Chapter 24

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