The British Society of Music Therapy looks back,
with MARGARET CAMPBELL
13 September 2008 at St Luke's [London UK] marked the 50th anniversary of the British Society of Music Therapy (BSMT) together with the 40th anniversary of the foundation of Juliette Alvin's seminal training course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, the first of its kind in the UK. The celebration reached its climax in an Orchestral Concert in the LSO's Jerwood Hall before a capacity audience. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the performance was that most musicians in the full symphony orchestra as well as two of the soloists were music therapists. Nonetheless they gave performances that any major orchestra would have been proud to present.
The programme opened with a new composition by Gillian Stevens, Sound from Silence -- a very atmospheric work written for the occasion with singing bowls (Susan Nares), voice (Sarah Verney Caird) and drum (Dylan Fowler). The composer explained that we all work from silence and that she had wanted to create a piece of music which would call on the special abilities of music therapists to listen and respond. In this she certainly succeeded and the audience was rapt throughout.
Deirdre Bencsik. Photo © 2008 Steve Kelynack
Then came the Cello Concerto No 1 in C major by Haydn in memory of Juliette Alvin -- herself a notable cellist -- which received a highly sensitive performance by Deirdre Bencsik with Leslie Bunt conducting. It was clear from the first that his conducting skills are quite astonishing, and I can only say that during his performance I was reminded more than once of the great Barbirolli.
Leslie Bunt conducting at St Luke's. Photo © 2008 Steve Kelynack
This was followed by the rarely-heard Concerto in A minor for oboe and strings by Ralph Vaughan Williams with Stella Compton Dickinson as the very accomplished soloist. This is a taxing work to bring off and demands tremendous skill on the part of the soloist but she left no doubts on this score.
Stella Compton Dickinson
After the interval, there was another piece, specially commissioned for the occasion, by Christopher Walker to a text by Susan Pontin called A Constant Hum. In this most original work, the audience is divided into two parts and directed to sing five bars repeatedly, under the direction of Sarah Verney Caird and Susan Nares. Again, a very unusual experience to which the audience readily responded.
For me, the pièce de résistance was the performance of the Beethoven Piano Concerto No 5 in E flat major, the 'Emperor', with Malcolm Troup as soloist, which ended the concert. The combined efforts of orchestra, soloist and conductor brought about a performance that any top musicians would find hard to beat. From the opening phrase to the gloriously colourful finale, the audience was enraptured. As for myself, it was an experience I shall never forget.
Malcolm Troup (left) and Leslie Bunt. Photo © 2008 Steve Kelynack
At the reception which followed, we had ample opportunity to meet old friends and colleagues over a glass of wine. There were four presentations and tributes: Dr Helen Odell-Miller and Professor Tony Wigram paid tribute to the work of Juliette Alvin, without whose pioneering zeal music therapy would never have taken root in the UK to the extent it did. Auriel Warwick and Claire Flower spoke about the BSMT, Ann Sloboda described her Music Therapy Course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, and Dr Wendy Magee (BSMT Chair) and Stephen Sandford (APMT Chair) outlined future directions. A presentation was made to Denize Christophers who for so many years before her retirement had been the guiding spirit behind the BSMT.
Professor Malcolm Troup spoke on behalf of the Governors of the Music Therapy Charity which, since 1960, has been raising money for this cause and in particular to support the Fellowship in Music Therapy which Professor Troup established at City University in 1979. He drew special attention to their contribution to the success of the evening, with his ex-pupil, Professor Leslie Bunt, who was the first to achieve a doctorate in music therapy and went on to write several classic books on the subject, as conductor, and Professor Tony Wigram (of Aalborg University, Denmark) playing his viola, while the Chairman, Professor John Lumley of St Bartholomew's Hospital, sang lustily among the audience.
Malcolm Troup also paid tribute to some of the other people who had distinguished themselves in the ranks of music therapy, such as the late Alfred Nieman, who had been responsible for introducing the therapeutic technique of free atonal improvisation during Professor Troup's time at the School as Director, and myself as editor of the BSMT Journal from 1974 to 1990, a role which I took on at Juliette Alvin's own request, having originally interviewed her for the Daily Telegraph in the first-ever art-report on Music Therapy to appear in the UK, following the launch of the Music Therapy Charity by Lady Alexandra Trevor-Roper at a 'Winston Churchill Memorial Concert' at Blenheim Palace on 28 November 1969.
Copyright © 28 September 2008
Margaret Campbell, Worcestershire UK
MALCOLM TROUP AT ST MARTIN-IN-THE-FIELDS
STELLA COMPTON DICKINSON TALKS TO BILL NEWMAN