A collaboration of conductors

It is unusual for larger choirs to perform the same programme twice, and rarer still for two conductors to share the honours during a concert, but that is exactly what Edmond Fivet and Philip Reed will do when their choirs, the Aldeburgh Music Club Choir and the Bury Bach Choir, together perform Mozart’s glorious Mass in C Minor and Vesperae solennes de confessore, first at St Edmundsbury Cathedral on 3 March and then at Snape Maltings on 17 March.

Edmond Fivet and Philip Reed
So how did the idea come about?  Philip says 'Edmond made the suggestion as he wanted his choir to perform the Mass. This was quickly agreed - it’s such a great work despite its incomplete nature, and I’m always happy to conduct it. It took quite a while to find the first half of the concert and we went through several possibilities before I suggested the Vesperae, and keeping the whole evening exclusively to Mozart.  Edmond adds:  ‘We were anxious to find two works which were both significant and a challenge to the choirs.  The Mozart Mass, of course, has movements for two choirs, which again makes for interesting collaboration.

Edmond has been a major force in British music education, having been Director of the Royal College of Music Junior Department and serving, for eighteen years, as Principal of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. He was appointed Director of Music of Aldeburgh Music Club in 2008. Edmond also conducts the Prometheus Orchestra, which is playing in both concerts and has championed the work of Suffolk-based composers. A widely experienced adjudicator, examiner and consultant, Edmond was appointed CBE in the Queen’s 2008 Birthday Honours for services to music and education. He says ‘Philip and I have known each other for a long while, both personally and musically, and we have been working very closely on this project’.

Philip was appointed music director of the Bury Bach Choir in 2001. Previously, he was co-director of the Aldeburgh Festival Singers (1985–1987) and conductor of the Aldeburgh Music Club (1985–2001). At the Aldeburgh Festival he has assisted Steuart Bedford, Oliver Knussen and Mstislav Rostropovich, and has conducted many concerts at Snape Maltings. He was staff musicologist at the Britten–Pears Library, Aldeburgh, before joining English National Opera in 1997. Philip is an acknowledged authority on the life and works of Benjamin Britten and has published several books, including six volumes of Britten’s Selected Letters, for which he and his co-editor Donald Mitchell received a Royal Philharmonic Society Award in 1991.

Asked if their conducting styles are very different, Edmond says ‘Technically, conducting styles vary enormously and some of the greatest conductors in the world have unconventional approaches, to say the least’. Philip says ‘Everybody’s conducting style is personal to themselves, just as a singer’s voice or an instrumentalist’s sound are unique. I recall asking ENO’s Head of Music how Charles Mackerras made the orchestra sound so different: he replied ‘that’s the magic of a great musician, if only we could all do that when conducting’.

So what are they looking forward to from the concerts? Philip says ‘I’m looking forward to making music with such an extended group of singers, and to sharing the experience of this great music with them and the audiences. I want everyone to feel the buzz that such events inevitably have after a lot of hard work.' Edmond adds ‘I would also say that the performances will be different, with musical taste, different soloists, different venues and acoustics, and reaction on the night - music has to be flexible and who knows how the feeling of the moment might affect the performance on the night?’

The obvious thing for music-lovers to do, then, is to attend both concerts! It should be a fascinating and memorable experience.

Tickets for 3 March are available from The Apex Box Office, tel 01284 758000 or via this website. Tickets for 17 March are available via the Snape Maltings website.


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