There’s no other way to put this – in the UK, the performing arts have taken a beating over the last nine months. The depressing story makes familiar reading: cancelled performances, actors and musicians financially impoverished, audiences starved of intellectual stimulation and spiritual nourishment, arts organisations going to the wall while others bite their nails wondering if they will survive – and, despite a £1.57bn support package for the arts and heritage sector (a sum considered inadequate by many, especially after a decade that has seen a 35 percent drop in public funding of the arts), a chancellor advising those not in ‘viable jobs’ to retrain for alternative work. To add insult to injury, the government is excluding the subject of music from its bursary scheme for teacher training – which should come as no great surprise considering they have already omitted the expressive arts from the new English Baccalaureate (EBacc).
All of this makes bleak reading, and it’s easy to be discouraged – angered, even – by the sheer ignorance of our political leaders. Now, perhaps more than ever, it is crucial that we continue to promote the arts and focus on the creative things that are still happening. Step forward, the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain (NYCGB), Choir & Organ’s New Music partners for 2021 (see feature, p.14). With an impressive record of encouraging young people to participate in choral singing, and at the highest level, they deserve their international reputation. Their commitment to new music is also evidenced by their Young Composers Scheme, nurturing a quartet of up-and-coming composers-
in-residence each year, who will be writing our 2021 New Music commissions – read an interview with Amy Bryce (p.34), whose work for upper voices is a call for action on climate change.
Choir & Organ has run its New Music series since 2006, and during that time no fewer than 87 young composers have featured on our pages. It has been a joy to meet such fresh minds and to remain in touch with many of them as they have continued in the world of music. Our New Music series is celebrated in a video, just released, that can be viewed on our website, choirandorgan.com. In it, we hear from four of our previous composers and listen to their music; we also hear from Andrew Nethsingha at St John’s College, Cambridge (our first New Music partners), and from Ben Parry, NYCGB artistic director, who introduces Amy Bryce.
From the outset, our New Music editor has been Shirley Ratcliffe (who has been on the editorial team of Choir & Organ since it first began in 1993). Shirley has worked committedly with the composers, hearing and writing about what has inspired them, and what their hopes have been for the future. She has now reached the point of retirement, so we say a heartfelt thank you to her for her dedication and hard work. And we’re delighted that she is now succeeded by Matthew Power, who studied composition himself at the University of London, and who was my predecessor as editor of Choir & Organ. We go forward into the new year in hope.
Choir & Organ shines a global spotlight on two distinctive fields of creativity, celebrating inventiveness and excellence in all their forms.
We aim to inspire our readers through giving a platform to conductors, organists, composers, and choirs of every kind; and by showcasing the imaginative craft of pipe organ building across the centuries, critiquing new organs and tackling ethics in restoring historic instruments.
Specialist writers appraise new editions and recordings of standard repertoire and works fresh from the composer’s pen, while our news and previews chart the latest developments in a changing world and present opportunities to become involved.
Choir & Organ is an invitation to engage with two unique areas of music – to explore the new, and look afresh at the familiar.
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