Dame Fanny Waterman, 22 March 1920 – 20 December 2020
 

It is with great sadness that The Leeds International Piano Competition announces the death of its founder and President Emeritus Dame Fanny Waterman at the age of 100

Dame Fanny died peacefully this morning in her residential care home in Ilkley, Yorkshire. She is survived by her two sons, Robert and Paul, and six granddaughters.

Adam Gatehouse, Artistic Director of The Leeds, said:

“Dame Fanny was a force of nature, a one-off, a unique figure in our cultural firmament who infused everyone with whom she came into contact with a passion and enthusiasm and sheer love of music, particularly piano music, that was totally impossible to resist. From nothing she created the world’s most prestigious piano competition and chose to do so not in London but in Leeds, at the time a dark, industrial but incredibly lively and vibrant town in the North of England. From small beginnings it swiftly grew as word spread that here was a competition where music and the musicians came first. The lives she has touched, both through the Competition, but also through her teaching and piano books, are too numerous to mention. She was quite simply irreplaceable, and to have had the chance to work with her and eventually succeed her as Artistic Director of The Leeds has been one of the greatest privileges and joys of my life.”

Dame Fanny Waterman founded The Leeds International Piano Competition in 1961 with her late husband Dr Geoffrey de Keyser and Marion Thorpe CBE, then the Countess of Harewood. The first event followed in 1963 and she remained its Chairman & Artistic Director until her retirement in 2015 at the age of 95. As President Emeritus she attended live concerts and events until the beginning of 2020, although ambitious plans to celebrate her 100th Birthday in March 2020 had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thanks to Dame Fanny Waterman’s artistic integrity, passion, charisma and hard work, ‘The Leeds’ became the most coveted prize in the piano world and internationally acclaimed for introducing some of the greatest pianists of our time. Artists including Radu Lupu, Murray Perahia, Sunwook Kim and most recently Federico Colli and Eric Lu launched their careers by taking first prize; Sir András Schiff, Mitsuko Uchida, Lars Vogt and Denis Kozhukhin meanwhile, are among the Competition’s illustrious finalists. 

Born in Leeds (22 March, 1920), she studied with Tobias Matthay, and later as a Scholar at the Royal College of Music, London, with Cyril Smith. After a notable performing career, including a performance at the 1942 Proms with Sir Henry Wood, she felt that her real vocation would be as a teacher. Over the years she gave masterclasses on six continents, appeared on television and radio, and compiled a series of publications entitled Piano Lessons with Fanny Waterman/Marion Harewood, which now runs to thirty volumes and has achieved sales of over three million copies.

Among her greatest achievements as a teacher was in the 1950s when she trained four pianists under the age of 11 from Leeds to such a standard that they received invitations to perform piano concertos at London’s Royal Festival Hall. The four pianists were Alan Schiller, Wendy Waterman (her niece), Kathleen Jones and future winner of the first Leeds International Piano Competition, Michael Roll.

In recognition of her services to music, Fanny Waterman was awarded an OBE in 1971, the CBE in 1999 and in 2005 she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. In 2004 Dame Fanny Waterman received the Freedom of the City of Leeds, the highest honour the City can bestow and, in 2009, was invited to become President of the esteemed Harrogate International Festivals. She was made an Honorary Member of the Royal Philharmonic Society in 2010.

A full biography of her life and archive images of Dame Fanny are available at https://www.leedspiano.com/dame-fanny-waterman/

@leedspiano


Source: press release

This article on the LitHub website caught my eye We Need To Treat Artists as Workers, not Decorations. In summary, the author challenges the entrenched notion that because artists (and by extension musicians) do what they do for “love”, they are not workers, in the sense of being gainfully employed and receiving a salary or payment, and that discussing art and money in the same breath somehow compromises or trivialises the art. 

We really must get over the romantic idea of the starving artist – or musician – living a bohemian existence in a shabby-chic garret in Hoxton. 2020, the year of the global coronavirus pandemic, has revealed some hard truths about the day to day lives of artists, musicians, and indeed other freelancers, as well as some unpleasant, prejudiced attitudes, particularly from politicians who have inferred that such people, because they love what they do they do, are “not viable” (i.e. they do not contribute sufficiently to society and the economy), should look for employment elsewhere, and do not need proper financial support.

Musicians need to eat. They have bills to pay and families to support. Let’s stop being coy about talking about money in relation to music. This seems to apply particularly in the classical music world (when we talk about “the music business” we are nearly always referring to the world of popular music), where discussions about entrepreneurialism, marketing and business plans are regarded as unbecoming, almost taboo, in a profession which is devoted to sharing some of the highest, most wondrous and sublime creative achievements of mankind with others.

The trouble starts early on. Having observed from the outside, and, briefly, the inside of the conservatoire system in the UK, and having talked to many musicians – students and professionals – and others in the industry, it is quite evident to me that trainee professional musicians are not being equipped to cope with the realities of the working life of a musician. The focus is largely on performance, in a rarefied atmosphere which discourages talk of “career” or “job prospects”, and instead encourages student musicians to believe that they can sustain a life as a performer when they leave college. Few music colleges offer courses on the business side of being a freelance musician; thus, musicians are often naïve about money because they’ve been told it cheapens their “art” to talk about it. It’s a high ideal, and one which is quickly shattered when students enter the real world. 

Add to this a prevailing attitude that because you do something you love you don’t need to be paid for it – nor should you ask for money. For goodness sake, let’s stop telling musicians that unpaid work is “an opportunity” and that they should be grateful for “the exposure”. Exposure doesn’t pay the bills!

When artists assert that they ought to get paid, and paid fairly, it’s because they want to make a living, not a killing. They want enough to keep doing it. Artists are like other professionals who work from a sense of commitment—teachers, social workers—and who opt for satisfaction over wealth. They still have bills to pay. You don’t have to be doing something for the money to want to get money for doing it. You just have to be alive.

William Deresiewicz (author of The Death of the Artist)


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Composer Thomas Hewitt Jones releases his latest Christmas work, ‘The Shepherd’s Tale’ and offers the chance to join an online singalong with the Choir of King’s College London on Saturday 12 December, encouraging choirs who are unable to sing together during COVID-19 to be able to take part in choral singing at home while spreading some good-humoured seasonal cheer.

Thomas is making the music available as a singalong video complete with an ANIMATED BOUNCING SHEEP which newcomers to his music can follow along with the soundtrack. 

Originally commissioned by Battersea Choral Society for their 20th Anniversary celebrations in December 2018, ‘The Shepherds’ Tale’, the latest collaboration between composer Thomas Hewitt Jones and poet Matt Harvey, is a warm-hearted retelling of the Christmas story from the perspective of the shepherds and is among Thomas’ most directly appealing choral works to date. Straightforward to learn and a joy to sing, the music moves from dismay to celebration in its kaleidoscopic fifteen minutes’ duration, broadly laid out in five sections that follow the emotional pilgrimage of the shepherds in all its doubts, longings, and final affirmations. ‘The Shepherds’ Tale’ places centre stage the wonder of these lowly observers of the earth-shattering events, more often recounted artistically through the eyes and ears of the Magi and the Holy Family.

The COVID-19 pandemic has massively affected choirs around the UK and choral singing is currently only permitted in distanced form until vaccines are fully available to the general population, yet the Christmas season is normally the focal point of the year for many choirs.

Thomas Hewitt Jones says “2020 has been a difficult year for many of us, so to
spread some joy at the end of the year I wanted to make something that has ‘feel-good’ factor while respecting and celebrating the best of seasonal tradition. In normal times, choral singing is one of the most inclusive areas of our culture and I wanted to bring a smile to the face of singers everywhere this Christmas, even if they can only sing at home. My hope is that this online singalong will spread some Christmas joy for people of all denominations, celebrating the universal message of hope & rebirth while encouraging musicians everywhere to practice their sight-singing!

Lyricist Matt Harvey says “It was a pleasure to work with THJ on A Shepherd’s Tale. It’s always worthwhile to revisit and reimagine the old stories. And to interrogate them from a contemporary perspective.“

Publisher Antony Kearns, MD of Stainer & Bell Music Publishers, says “This wonderfully warm, good-humoured new work for choir and small orchestra is the latest from the Hewitt Jones/Harvey writing stable. Lasting 15 minutes, this through-composed retelling of the Christmas story from the shepherds’ perspective offers an unashamedly tuneful yet emotionally complex journey, which is sure to delight performers and audiences alike.

Get into the festive spirit! Follow the bouncing sheep and sing along with King’s College Choir, London.

Listen to The Shepherds’ Tale

The sheet music is published by Stainer & Bell

Part 2The problem with perfectionism, and releasing expectations


 

In my first article, I discussed how musicians can judge when it’s time to ‘let go’ of a piece of music and decide it is ready for performance or should be put aside for awhile.

In this second article on ‘letting go’ as a musician, I will explore how criticism and negative feelings can hold us back as musicians, and how ‘letting go’ allows us to cultivate a greater sense of acceptance, self-reliance and confidence.

Musicians are by nature highly self-critical, a habit which is often inculcated at a fairly early point in one’s musical study, by teachers, peers and one’s self.  Self-criticism is important: the ability to self-critique is a significant aspect of productive, intelligent practising. It also encourages musicians to become independent learners who are able to make informed judgements about their progress, technical facility, artistry in performance, and career development.

Alongside this, there is also the need to seek feedback and endorsement from others – teachers, mentors, peers and critics – which also help support one’s musical development.

Music is a world where there is much judgement and criticism (both positive and negative); it is also highly competitive, and such competitiveness can lead to questions such as “am I good enough?” and toxic feelings of inadequacy and failure, which can impede one’s musical progress and even seep into one’s daily life, affecting self-esteem and confidence.

Letting go of such feelings, the need to seek approval or endorsement from others, stepping away from competitiveness, is not always easy, but the ability to recognise, confront and manage them can make us better musicians – more confident, resilient, centred and motivated.

Letting go of perfectionism

The notion that one must play every single note perfectly is, in my opinion, one of the most significant contributors to feelings of failure and inadequacy as a musician. Unfortunately, the musician’s training still places an undue emphasis on perfectionism, which can lead to anxiety, stress and injury, and encourages unhealthy working habits. Perfectionism can destroy our love of music and rob us of joy, spontaneity, expression, communication and freedom in our music-making. In short, it can lead us to forget why we make music. Perfectionism filters into the subconscious and creates a pervasive, hard-to-break personality style, with an unhealthily negative outlook.

Instead, it is far more healthy and productive to let go out perfection and strive instead for excellence in everything one does. Excellence is realistic, quantifiable and attainable. Excellence develops confidence and responsiveness and offers continued inspiration. And by striving for excellence we can stay connected with our artistic muse, our desire to make music, and the overall meaning of that music.

Letting go of the fear of failure

Hand-in-hand with perfectionism goes the fear of failure – failure to play the music “correctly”, failure to achieve that grade, diploma, competition result, failure to secure that job. We fear that we will appear foolish, weak or inadequate, or that we will be embarrassed, or an embarrassment to others, if we fail.

Fear of failure may also lead one to take a “what if…?” attitude to one’s music-making. “What if I make a mistake in a performance?”. Will my teacher/peers/colleagues think I’m a lesser musician because of it?

Let go of the fear of failure by recognising that “to err is human”, and that mistakes and failure are a crucial aspect of learning. A mistake can and should lead us to evaluate what we are doing, and all errors and setbacks should be seen as opportunities for self-analysis and critique, resulting in self-correction, adjustment, improvement and, importantly, progress.

In a performance situation, letting go of the fear of failure allows us to play our music “in the moment”, creating a concert experience that is spontaneous, communicative and enjoyable – for performer and audience.

Fear of failure is also related to ego, and letting go of ego makes us better musicians, and human beings.

Letting go of external validation

Throughout one’s musical study, as a child, teenager and adult, one seeks and receives approval, endorsements and validation. While such feedback can be extremely helpful – and outward signifiers of achievement such as good exam results or positive critique from, for example, a respected musician, teacher or critic can encourage greater motivation – it can be all too easy to place too much emphasis on negative feedback or to “read between the lines” of critical commentary.

We may also measure our progress against that of others, but comparing oneself to others is negative and counter-productive. Just because so-and-so can play Gaspard de la Nuit, it does not necessarily make them a ‘better’ musician. Stop trying to compete or compare: accept that we are all different as musicians, and instead focus on our own strengths and talents. Alongside this, release the notion that there is certain repertoire that we should play (for too long I felt trapped by this pressure, but when I let go of it, I found far greater fulfilment and enjoyment in my music making).

We develop and flourish as musicians if, instead of looking for approval from teachers, colleagues, reviewers or the audience, we self-critique and recognise the value of what we have to say. We should measure our personal success against the challenges set by the music, not by extrinsic aspects – the endorsements of others (except perhaps a few respected or trusted mentors and colleagues). As Schumann said, “As you grow older, converse more with scores than with virtuosi.” 

Remember why we make music

Above all, it is important to remember why we make music – because we love it and want to share our passion with others. Music is also a shared cultural gift, and one which gives pleasure to many, many people. This knowledge should infuse our playing and sustain us over the long term.

Photo by Javardh on Unsplash

The similarities between my industry, classical music, and my son’s, hospitality (he’s a chef at a Michelin-starred restaurant in west London) are many. In both industries, a specialist training or apprenticeship is required to learn and hone the appropriate skills and expertise to support and further one’s career. The working hours are long, often unsociable, and the pay is low, for performers and chefs alike (only a very few, in both professions, reach the dizzy heights of international stardom and the remuneration that goes with it). Both professions are inextricably linked to the general public by providing services which people want and from which they gain enjoyment. And both contribute a not insignificant amount to the UK economy. 

Live music and hospitality have been severely impacted by the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic (and let’s be clear, it is government policy, not the virus itself which has caused such damage in both sectors). The government has, in my humble opinion, displayed an alarmingly puritanical attitude towards hospitality in particular, and live music to a lesser degree, in its imposition of restrictions to limit the spread of the virus (hospitality accounts for a tiny fraction (just 2%) of infections in the UK and both hospitality and classical music venues have made huge efforts to ensure they are “covid-secure” to keep customers/audiences safe). Both industries have been unfairly scapegoated by government, and the result is that many hospitality and music/arts venues has suffered severe financial losses. Both industries rely on paying customers – buying food, drinks and concert tickets – and when customers are non-existent or very limited due to social distancing, these industries suffer, some irretrievably. 

In addition, both industries rely upon supply chains and “behind the scenes” workers: when a restaurant or concert venue closes, the knock-on effect is highly damaging to a wider group of people/jobs beyond those directly involved with the venue.

In recent months performers have protested outside parliament to draw attention to the plight of the performing arts, and in early October HospoDemo organised a similar protest to highlight the difficulties experienced in the hospitality sector this year. It was supported by a number of leading British chefs and chef-patrons, including Yotam Ottolenghi, Jason Atherton and Tom Aikens. The second HospoDemo is tomorrow, 7 December, and its aim is to protest the tougher tier-system restrictions, introduced in England on 2 December, which will cause many in hospitality to miss out on vital trade in the run up to Christmas, and will force many pubs, restaurants and hotels to close for good. 

Because I have a personal, and, if you will, vested interest in the hospitality sector – and before 2020, my son believed that being a chef meant a job for life because “people will always need to be fed” – I am lending my support to HospoDemo. I can’t be at the protest in person, but I shall be doing my bit in an act of solidarity for an industry which has, like live music, been horribly impacted by coronavirus restrictions.  

Read more information about HospoDemo and its aims here 

jason-atherton-hospodemo
Chef Jason Atheron (centre) at the first HospoDemo (image: gastromasa.com)

In these troubled times, it is reassuring to know that there will always be Christmas music – from the sublime Carols from Kings to ridiculous Christmas pop songs which are played ad nauseum in shops (though less so this winter, since most shops have been closed!). Whatever your taste in Christmas music, there is a wealth to satisfy musicians’ and listeners’ appetite for it.

Composer Richard Blackford, a recent recipient of an Ivors Composer Award for his choral work Pietà (the world premiere of which I had the pleasure of attending at Poole Lighthouse last summer), has written a short piano piece ‘Christmas Dawn’, released today by Nimbus Records, which, I think, expresses a certain wistfulness in keeping with both the spirit of this strange year and the turning of the season, but which also has a charming warmth and tenderness, and an uplifting sense of hope for the new year.

Richard Blackford explains how the piece came about:

In November 2020 I was asked by Em Marshall-Luck, Founder-Director of the English Music Festival, to write a piece for her Christmas Garland concert at short notice. Having promoted a successful two-day festival in St Mary’s Church, Horsham, Em’s belief in the vital importance of offering live music-making during the COVID pandemic was stronger than ever. I decided to write a short, atmospheric piano piece Christmas Dawn, in support of her….the festival and those who were willing to travel to Horsham to hear the music played live.

This attractive and very appealing piano miniature has a hymn-like quality, and begins with a simple lyrical melody over a chordal bass line. You can well imagine a SATB choir singing this, and I even found myself imagining words to fit the melody as I played it.

As the melody develops, the texture and figurations become more expansive. A brief contrasting section introduces ppp staccato chords in the treble, with an answering quaver figure in the left hand. Delicate and a little playful, it suggests snowflakes, the sparkle of Christmas lights or the excitement of children on Christmas Day. The main theme returns, this time richer and more joyful, and with a more florid accompaniment, before the music returns to the simplicity of the opening, closing with a prayer-like cadence and a brief, final sparkle in the last chord.

The piece has been recorded by pianist Simon Callaghan, who brings a persuasive warmth and spaciousness to the music. For those who would like to learn the piece, the sheet music is also available and I would say it is around Grade 6 level. There are a couple of tricky corners, including some large chords (which small-handed pianists could spread) and some passages of cross-rhythms, but the piece offers plenty of scope for expressive playing and I’m sure many amateur pianists would thoroughly enjoy it. In addition to its choral flavour, I particularly like the contrasting textures and some unexpectedly piquant harmonies and colourful modulations.

Recommended

Download the track

Purchase the sheet music

I hope the music and the video will give pleasure at a time when Christmas cheer is much needed. – Richard Blackford

Meet the Artist interview with Richard Blackford


Richard Blackford studied at the Royal College of Music London, where he was awarded the Tagore Gold Medal and the Mendelssohn Scholarship, then in Italy, on a Leverhulme Award, with Hans Werner Henze. He was subsequently first Composer-in-Residence at Balliol College Oxford and later with the Brno Philharmonic. He completed his Doctorate at Bristol University, where he has also been Lecturer in Advanced Orchestration. His music, which includes three operas, two ballets and many works for orchestra, chorus and chamber ensembles, has been performed and broadcast all over the world and has been recorded on Sony Classical, Warner Classics, Decca, Signum and Nimbus labels.