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Editorial Musings - 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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