Saturday 26 November 2011

Gabrieli are doing it for themselves

How much does it cost to put on a concert and where does the money come from? It is a fact of life that ticket receipts do not cover the total cost, even for a relatively small event. In 2010 we put on a concert performance of my opera When a Man Knows; it was done on a shoe string, but we still needed some substantial sponsorship to fill in the gap between ticket sales and costs. And of course if you want to put on, say, a Handel oratorio using fully professional forces properly rehearsed, then you are looking at a significant funding gap; one generally filled by sponsors, usually big name firms.

Of course, you've got to find someone willing and interested, the content of the event needs to appeal to the sponsors. This scrabbling for money has always happened, in the past composers and performers needed patrons and sponsors. Impresarios like Diaghilev spent most of their working lives searching for the next sponsor and Sir Thomas Beecham’s seasons at Covent Garden only happened because of his father’s money. Since the formation of the Arts Council, this role has often been taken by government, but as the arts have dropped in importance to a series of governments who seem to have done their best to look philistine, companies are having to hustle for themselves.

The Gabrieli Consort have had a long relationship with Christ Church Spitalfields; in 2005 their concert season there consisted of 6 concerts, but in 2011 they only performed there once. What tends to happen with such independent groups is that they perform where it is economic to do so, so you can end up with the slightly crazy situation of well known British performing groups appearing mainly outside Britain. If you want to see some of the more interesting work from groups like the Gabrieli Consort, the English Concert and others like them you have to travel to see them. In fact, thanks to the Barbican Centre’s Great Performers season, we tend to see more performances from visiting groups then UK ones.

Gabrieli's solution to this is to do it themselves. Following on from their Proms performance of Mendelssohn's Elijah  with Simon Keenlyside, Paul McCreesh and his forces went into the studio to record the work. The project was part funded by collaborators at the City of Wroclaw, Poland, where McCreesh is artistic director of the Wratislava Cantans festival, but having secured that partnership Gabrieli still needed to top up with a group funding event organised by the Gabrieli Consort themselves. The recording of Elijah will come out on Paul McCreesh's new label, Winged Lion Records; the label's first disc is Berlioz's Requiem  recorded with the Wroclaw Festival; a disc which is already winning acclaim.

So they are repeating the group funding/crowd sourcing again this autumn/winter in order to fill the sponsorship gap for their concerts as part of the 2012 Christ Church Spitalfields Festival. The extra money gives them the flexibility to mount a performance of Purcell's Fairy Queen, the Monteverdi and Stravinsky masses and a new a cappella choral programme, plus various educational extras and outreach which are now part of the contemporary performance experience.

All this will help to celebrate the amazing fact that the Gabrieli Consort are 30 next year.

The fund raising takes place as part of the Big Give, starting 5th December, the advantage of this is that funds raised through the Big Give will be matched by funds from major supporters and sponsors, so that if you include gift aid then £100 in donations will become £225.

All this happens from on Monday 5th December. Further details at and

As next year is Gabrieli’s 30th anniversary and they are inviting people to share their thoughts and reminiscences via the groups Facebook page or by sending an email to

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