with BASIL RAMSEY
As one-time organist of the church of St Luke's, Old Street, on a fringe
of the City of London, I warmly welcome news that its dereliction since
1959, brought about by ecclesiastical panic when subsidence at one corner
of the church was a possibility, is to be fully restored as a Grade 1 listed
building for the London Symphony Orchestra to use as a music education centre.
With a good deal of money from Lottery and Arts Council coffers as well
as sponsors, plans are duly ambitious and inevitably state-of-the-art technology
is very much to the fore. It is hoped for completion by December 2001.
In a new BBC TV series dealing with British masterworks, the first last
weekend was for Vaughan Williams' Tallis Fantasia in the resonance and radiance
of Gloucester Cathedral. This included a brief extract from an interview
with Herbert Howells, which produced vivid memories for me of this composer
and his eloquence in conversation. In a flash I realised what I have previously
overlooked: his music is likewise - invariably rich and eloquent in substance
and so gracefully laid out, whatever the instrument, although sometimes
a trifle heavy-handed in texture.
To our overseas readers Herbert Howells could be overlooked, for his
quintessential English musical flavour does not usually travel well. It
is found at full strength - yet in delicious flavours - in the two considerable
clavichord collections: Lambert's Clavichord and Howells' Clavichord,
which could travel well as the exquisite miniatures they are, and deserving
of a better fate than neglect. They mostly fit the piano without protest.
A friend of a colleague the other day enthused over the delightful experience
of listening to Brahms' second symphony whilst sipping elderflower wine,
which raises the possibility of countless subtle partnerships of alcoholic
brews with music. The more fanciful amongst us may indeed produce an almost
endless list of experiments in combining the two. My friend immediately
posed the question of what Elgar might have matched with Worcestershire
cider from the traditional cider houses, which he certainly visited on occasion.
I tremble to think.
As an unusual diversion, I invite readers to send
their most successful foray into pickled music. If the sober among you
bristle with annoyance, please allow this indulgence to the rest of us.
The most intriguing of answers will be published.
Copyright © Basil Ramsey,
July 14th 1999
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