Looking forward (and a little back)

New Year, new lockdown. Staying positive, MusiCB3’s fact checkers have been looking up 2021 anniversaries (in between turkey, Christmas pud, and the Queen), and have found plenty of lives to celebrate including…

…the centenaries of the births of Mario Lanza (more on MusiCB3 shortly), Robert Simpson, Ruth Gipps, Astor Piazzolla, Thurston Dart, and Malcolm Arnold.

Seascape by Ruth Gipps. Performed by ROCO.
The first movement of Malcolm Arnold’s First Brass Quintet. Performed by the Berlin Brass Quintet.

A little further back in time, Albinoni is celebrating his 350th anniversary, while Michael Praetorius has his 450th. Praetorius is particularly ubiquitous at Christmas celebrations, so I suspect he will probably have a larger presence than usual for the 2021 festivities.

2021 also marks the centenary of the death of another great tenor, Enrico Caruso, one of the first big operatic names to make mass market recordings.

Other deaths commemorated this year include Igor Stravinsky (50 years), Englebert Humperdinck and Camille Saint-Saens (100 years), Sweelinck (400 years), and Josquin des Prez (500 years).

The Royal Albert Hall is due to celebrate its 150th anniversary with a series of events running from March into next year. Although it’s unclear, thanks to Covid, when exactly the events will run, you can be assured that MusiCB3 will be doing its own bit for the celebrations.

Happy 150th to the Royal Albert Hall

2020 was a particularly difficult year for musicians. Despite music sales soaring through lockdown showing how big a part music plays in people’s lives, not least in promoting mental well-being, many musicians struggled. Concert venues were closed, instrumental teaching was curtailed or moved online (it is possible to teach instruments online, but it is not without its challenges), and public music-making was either impossible or subject to sometimes confusing rules.

There were positives though. Lockdown choirs, orchestras, and music making in general became popular, bringing people together from across the world. I took part in a lockdown performance of Mozart’s Requiem which included participants from Cambridgeshire, but also from Canada, Japan, Australia (kudos to the latter two countries, who were up at an unearthly time of the morning to sing), and from across Europe.

The Eurovision Song Contest didn’t have a competition this year, but everyone enjoyed themselves at a distance anyway, and there was a Last Night of the Proms, albeit with no audience at the Royal Albert Hall. Some musicians managed to play between lockdowns, with the Maltings at Snape being one of the first concert venues to re-introduce concerts to small socially distanced audiences.

The world of rock and roll saw the passing of Little Richard, Charley Pride, Spencer Davis, Van Halen, and Bill Withers. While classical music mourned horn player, Barry Tuckwell, soprano Mirella Freni, two great names of the organ world Jennifer Bate and Catherine Ennis, composer and conductor Kenneth Alwyn, and the doyenne of the Leeds piano competition, and best selling composer of piano tutors, Dame Fanny Waterman at the grand age of 100.

It was a sad start to 2021 too, as the death was announced of Gerry Marsden, of Liverpool group, Gerry and the Pacemakers. As we enter yet another lockdown, never has his hit song, courtesy of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, You’ll never walk alone, seemed more appropriate. In the video below it’s sung by Gerry and the Pacemakers, and the fans of the football club, who took the song to their hearts, Liverpool. Here’s hoping that before too long we will all be back on the football and rugby terraces, in concert halls, orchestras, and choirs, and with our family and friends, once more.


About mj263

Music Collections Supervisor at Cambridge University Library. Wide musical interests. Often to be found stuck in a composer's archive, or enthusing about antiquarian music.
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