Opinion

Editorial, December: Britten centenary and Help Musicians UK

- 2 December 2013

Did anyone else pick up on those Britten anniversary celebrations they’ve been having? I suspect even if you’d spent the past year sealed in a box you would have at least heard strains of an unmistakable melody floating in the air. I noticed some jokey grumpy comments on Twitter about the sheer quantity of Britten’s music that has been programmed this year, the feeling among some being that saturation point had been reached a while before the actual birthday came round.

As a concertgoer, I’d say it’s been worth it. But I’d be interested to know what the experience has been like for the hundreds of organisations around the country that have honoured the anniversary in various ways. In the most mercenary terms, it may have proved a selling point or it may have felt more like a ­ ooded (­ udded?) market. I wasn’t able to make it up to Aldeburgh for the big day unfortunately, but I had the chance to celebrate – a couple of days early – at the Musicians Benevolent Fund’s annual St Cecilia bash. Understandably it went big on Britten, including the laying of a wreath on the composer’s memorial stone in Westminster Abbey during a service which featured plenty of his music. I would have told you all about the procession of the livery companies accompanied by the composer’s Hymn to the Virgin, but a public transport debacle led to a slight delay in my arrival. While a little wounded that they started without me, I perked up well enough at the Banqueting Hall lunch after the service, during which Richard Lyttelton – outgoing chairman – talked about the MBF’s gradually introduced name change to Help Musicians UK. It’s all about modernising and saying on the tin what it is that you do. But don’t worry, I haven’t been going against protocol by using the old name above. The good people there appreciate that some of us in the classical music industry fear and distrust change, so they’re keeping it in the background to spare us a wobble. If you’re the Christmas card sending type, you could do a lot worse than heading to shop.helpmusicians.org.uk to stock up and help them help musicians.

As I bah-humbugingly prepare to initiate Messiah-avoidance strategies, it remains only for me to say Happy Christmas! (Other seasonal festivals also available.)

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