<< -- 3 -- Bill Newman MAESTRO
I was invited to Russia to hear works by contemporary composers, and
I listened to fake Shostakovich, fake Prokofiev. I must have heard about
25 different works, and not one movement came through as something new and
original. At the end of the day I was walking back to my hotel with a guide
- a spy of course! - and passed by a church which was lit. "I want
to go in there". "But sir, no one goes to church any more
and all the icons are in museums". "Look, I want to go in,
and if you won't come, don't!" As I walked in - the church
was full for once - the chorus broke into one of those marvellous hymns,
and it was just as if someone happened to open the doors of my heart. I
started to cry; I couldn't help it. The guide looked at me, and said
in French: "Monsieur M ... mais qu'est que c'est?" "It's
music ... music, again!" I replied. There was one small piece
that impressed me, a piece with a small voice part. I obviously remembered
the composer, then I heard another work by him and thought it quite beautiful
- Arvo Pärt. Since then, he has written other music, but it is now
all the same piece that hardly gets started, doesn't somehow develop!
Of course, I don't really listen to much contemporary music any more
at my age. Instead of being opinionistic, I try to give out. I want to learn
more ... to communicate with God'.
It must have taken so much out of you in sheer hard graft, organizing
and planning this Festival. 'I really think it was the biggest mistake
of my life'. Why? 'Because it took so much out of my composing.
You know what Solzhenitsyn said in one of his novels: "Silly people
want to teach, and intelligent people want to learn". Now, I have
this tremendous desire to learn, to study. It has become my very great pleasure.
But this festival doesn't give me enough time, peace of mind, and
my son Francis now does all the work.' But its success, and all those
recordings coming out? 'Yes, they are important, especially as they
are live events.' Next year he wants to do The Saint of Bleecker
Street.' I shall be there! A committee sits at regular intervals
to decide on repertoire, engagement of artists. They have the wonderfully
dedicated Richard Hickox where before it was the late, great Thomas Schippers,
to bring distinction to those special concerts and opera.
Copyright © 5 September 2000
Bill Newman, Edgware, UK
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