This week I received an email. Specifically it was from my old school in Cranleigh. Contained therein I was presented with the programme of events for the music department for the forthcoming Summer term in 2023. As well as taking me through the delights of the events which included the Helen Wareham Competition a couple of tea time concerts and Cranleigh Live, I also found myself drawn to a couple of reviews about previous events.
In particular, I read through the review on the Merriman Orchestra and Choir concert which had taken place in the previous term and was the first large scale choral concert at Cranleigh in five years. One of the paragraphs which particularly stood out for me was the following:
Music has the power to ask difficult questions, to explore challenging themes, and it is not always meant to be easy listening. As ‘high culture’, we need to invest considerable time and energy in both performing and understanding it, and the large audience which attended the Merriman Orchestra and Choir Concert endorsed the opinion that high culture must be maintained and supported.
I wholeheartedly agree with this statement and, for someone who left Cranleigh back in the early 1990s, it is a good reminder that music of such high value and consideration is still being performed to the same exacting standards that were instilled in me as a pupil.
Since leaving full time education some 25 years ago now, I have often found myself involved in music at some level. Reflecting back on this journey it occurred to me, after reading that review, that it is only in the last year or so that I have finally managed to achieve my own musical satisfaction.
It all started back in 1996 when I graduated with a degree in music. At the time I had no ambition for a career in music and indeed was encouraged away from this path by others around me. Being somewhat naive, and with no one to give me any better advice, I followed a course into business which, although very dull at the time, did prove to be useful later on when I started to run my own enterprises.
After a few years of no music at all in my life, I decided that I was bored of spending my time in dull grey spaces on industrial estates and abandoned all of that iin favour of doing something with music. I began with a foray in to the world of location recordings. Whilst I knew almost nothing about the technology required, at the time I teamed up with my friend Robert Durant who provided the technical know how to make this all work.
We ran a successful business together for around 20 years which focussed mainly on recording choirs and schools. This brought me back into the world of music, and was a chance to experience a range of musical abilities and performance styles which ranged from primary school singing through to professional chamber choirs.
Alongside this I then proceeded to run a number of choirs of my own. For the most part these were amateur / community choirs which were largely un-auditioned. That said everyone wishing to join was subjected to a basic voice test and there was at least some expectation of being able to read a music score to a basic level.
As time went on however, I found myself getting further and further away from the standards which were instilled in me at Cranleigh. In fact it was the lockdowns of 2020 which brought this all to a head. For a while I had been considering the alternatives to recordings and running choirs. In terms of recordings, with music so freely available via streaming services, it was becoming harder to sell amateur choirs the concept of a recording, and particularly one which was delivered on physical media.
Choirs too were also heading in a direction which I was less keen on travelling. I remember in December 2019 having prepared my resignation from the post of MD to Cirencester, MVC it was only the arrival of Anne-Marie as the new accompanist which prompted me to carry on for a bit longer. And so through lockdown I persevered with choirs, albeit zoom wasn’t overly useful. Despite this, we did some good things. We made a few videos and tried to do things which were slightly more interesting than people staring out of little boxes.
Of course, whilst these videos are still available on my you tube channel, it’s unlikely any of the choirs will remember or appreciate the effort which went into creating them. That, for me, was the final straw. I never ask for thanks, or a pat on the back, or any form of public acknowledgement . No, I will leave that to the sort of person who thinks that by putting on a set of tails they are qualified to stand in front of an orchestra or choir, jump around a bit and then bow at the end taking credit for other people’s hard work. What this showed me was that choirs nowadays have a very different agenda and music features quite low down on their list of priorities.
It always amused me, when I was MD of Cirencester Male Voice Choir, that regular monthly committee meetings were held, but it was only every 3-6 months that a ‘music’ meeting was called to which I was invited to talk about the music plan. Now obviously, I can already hear the fools on the committee spitting at me saying that I have no idea how much admin and organisation goes into keeping choirs running….
The thing is, I have run a number of choirs which had no committee and relied on just me. So yes I am aware there is admin to be done, concerts to be arranged, tickets to be sold, money to be accounted for, venues to be booked and reviewed, membership to be renewed, marketing to be done….. the list goes on. Yes of course there is that, but without music the choir has absolutely no purpose whatsoever!
Amusingly, from what I have seen of Cirencester MVC recently, their own music team aren’t even involved in the musical performances any more. They seem to have gone off supporting my friend Anthony Brown and his orchestra. Once again, the committee of dullards will have no idea that they only got that set of gigs because of my connections which date back to 2012… I’m looking forward to the day when they have to actually think up an idea of their own…!
And so amid the nonsense of ‘committeeing’ and the chatter of some very dull people all trying desperately to find something to make them more important, I made a departure from the world of choirs into the world of being a wedding musician.
This finally, along with Anne-Marie, gave me the chance to make music on my own terms and be wholly responsible for the quality of the music which is being produced. And it is without doubt the best musical thing I have ever done and brings me full circle back to my time at Cranleigh.
For me music doesn’t have to be high brow. Whilst I appreciate the sentiment in the quote above, I am quite happy spending my time playing covers of popular and contemporary songs on my beloved Nord Stage Piano alongside Anne-Marie with her fabulous Yamaha Electric Cello. It might be a long way from Rachmaninov performed on a full size concert Steinway, but what I finally have the opportunity to do, is make music to a high standard and work in a business where music is centre stage.
Our music may not always be what Richard Saxel termed as ‘high culture’. But it is always performed to the most exacting of standards, whether live or recorded. From Bach’s Cello Suite number 1 to the latest offering from Lady Gaga, our clients recognise the professionalism and attention to detail which goes into each and every one of our music performances.
As Hans Christian Andersen once said, “Where words fail, music speaks.”
If you would like to hear some of the music that Anne-Marie and I have been making over the last couple of years then head over to the JAM Duo Website where there are already more than 200 recordings of us playing together….
Jules Addison has finally found a sector of the music industry where he fits in and can achieve his ambitions. As he suspected all along, if you want a job doing properly, do it yourself and never rely on other people!