:: The Forum

…and from the Colosseum to The Forum

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013



Following the Hilliard Colosseum experience last week I had a great Conductus concert in Otterberg with my fellow medieval tenors Chris O’Gorman and Rogers Covey-Crump (for whom I’d been deputising in Rome). Very efficiently organised as always by the Kultursommer Rheinland-Pfalz. Fabulous acoustic – it’s the biggest church in the region after Speyer. Great review in the paper too, which also noted how much the audience enjoyed it. German audiences are the best! Our research gets more and more integrated into our instinctive way of doing things. We began and ended with monophony, but the ending had a sort of mini alternative history of how polyphony might have evolved, as the monophonic conductus degenerated into elaborate chords swirling round the acoustic before stitching itself together again for the final line. It was huge fun. I’ve updated the Conductus page on this site.


Last week I was invited to take part in one of the BBC World Service Forum programmes.  The format involves three experts from different but related disciplines coming together to discuss a topic refereed by the presenter, in this case Carrie Gracie.  The topic this time was Breath. I was in the studio with Carrie  (as a singer and writer on things vocal), and my fellow panellists down the line were  bio-chemist Renato Zenobi in Zurich and author William Bryant Logan in New York.  A regular feature of the programme after it breaks for the News is one of the panellists ranting for 60 seconds on the one thing they’d do if they had the power to change the world. We each had to submit a proposal which was then voted on by the Forum office to decide whose brilliant idea would be unleashed on the 180 million World Service listeners. I was the lucky winner, with my proposal to disable all electronic forms of music reproduction and storage, and to impound all scores of western art music which would then have to be recreated from memory.  To my great surprise (and for the first time ever, apparently) my fellow panellists both supported the idea.

In fact, the debate on my megalomaniac proposal didn’t really get off the ground because of time considerations, but our discussions on the main topic were wide ranging and often quite bizarre – especially Renato Zenobi’s work on breath printing and Bill Logan’s extraordinary engagement with Air. Carrie Gracie’s hosting was an object lesson in live radio (we did it straight through as though live) – absolutely on the ball every second of the time – and Bill and Renato (as I now know them) were both formidable and friendly. It was good to hear extracts from Accenti queruli (from the Dowland Project’s Care-Charming Sleep album) and Parce mihi (Officium) too.

I was a little distracted because as I was on my way to Broadcasting House I saw the legendary broadcaster Peter White coming towards me. He’s been a hero of mine for a long time and I just had to go and do the gibbering fan thing, attempting to tell him how much I loved his programmes and what an inspiration he’d been to me. I could hardly speak –  he must have thought I was absolutely bonkers. Thankyou very much he said, and went smiling on his way.


The programme will go out on Sunday/Monday, 28/29 September, depending on where in the world you are. UK  broadcast times on DAB, cable and Freeview are: Sunday 00:05 and 11:05, and for insomniacs Monday 03:05. For times and how to listen outside the UK go to  http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/programmeguide/. It will also be available online  from Sunday 29 September and there’s a podcast (available for four weeks after the radio broadcast): http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/forum or through iTunes.