Friday 24 November 2006

Musical Chairs

In an age when many establishments are cutting down on their financial committment to classical music, it is heartening to read about expansions. Merton College, Oxford, are setting up a new choral foundation with Peter Phillips, of Tallis Scholars fame, as the musical director. From 2008/09 the college will be offering up to 16 choral scholarships. Initially the choir (mixed) will sing 2 services per week. At the moment services are sung by volunteer choristers directed by an organ scholar.

David Hill, currently musical director of St. Johns College, Cambridge, is stepping down next summer to take over the BBC Singers. Currently the singers are directed by Stephen Cleobury (of Kings College, Cambridge) who becomes conductor Laureate. Though Cleobury managed to direct the singers in addition to his existing commitments, Hill evidently does not feel that the can balance everything; he is also musical director of the Bach Choir.

And Andrew Manze is stepping down from the English Concert and his place being taken by Harry Bicket; Bicket joined the orchestra in 1984 as harpsichordist. This is his first directorship of an orchestra, in recent years he has made his name as a conductor of operas, mainly baroque, at such venues as the Metropolitan Opera, Chicago, Covent Garden and the Bavarian State Opera. It was Munich who gave him his first big leg up when he took over from Charles Mackerras when Mackerras objected to the rather avant garde nature of the Richard Jones production in a Handel opera. Since then, Bicket has conducted a number of Handel's operas both there and in other venues.

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