Philip Ledger

Every year in King’s Chapel, Cambridge there is a Founder’s concert when former choral scholars in the famous choir (in my day known loosely as “the chaps”) are invited to return to the college and sing with the current choir. Extra trebles and a few sopranos are roped in as well in case the balance becomes too bottom heavy, and the repertoire is large-scale, with a good student orchestra to accompany. Afterwards, there’s a dinner in Hall. It’s an excuse for a reunion and a chance to rekindle the old lags’ connection with a period in their lives when, as very young adults, they were part of an ensemble of extraordinary professional standards; an ensemble that during seven services a week, as well as numerous tours and recordings, strives to set a standard by which choral singing throughout the entire world is measured.

Happy Birthday Olly!

I reckon that during a lifetime you might be lucky enough to meet one person you could safely call a genius. And when I say genius I don’t mean someone who is adept at, say, kicking a football or cooking a risotto. I mean someone whose mind, skills and creativity are at a level the rest of us can only dream about.
I think I’ve been lucky enough to meet and even work with two. One is Carlos Kleiber, whom I’ve raved about before, and the other, who I hold even above Kleiber on the genius front, is sixty today. He is Oliver Knussen. Olly. The Olster, Master of All Things Ol.

Gillett’s Gobs Of Advice: 3, The Work

So how come you have landed this fancy job in a far-off land? Well, as often as not you discover that they really wanted someone else but ended up with you instead. Don’t worry. Get over it. It’s how the world works. You’ll be amazed once you step onto mainland Europe just how many singers there are in the business, most of whom you have never heard of, all singing away and scratching a living.
Don’t let it daunt you. Just be thankful for the job you have and realise that it’s OK to be a small fish (that no-one has heard of) in a very big sea. You’re in good company and you must have done something right or you wouldn’t be here in the first place.

Gillett’s Gobs Of Advice: 2, Logistics

Whenever I’m heading off on a foreign job, my friend Stan, a writer, asks me if I am being met with a limo at the airport and transported to a five star hotel.
Okay, okay, if the job is some concerts with a nice orchestra then there is a good chance you’ll be met and driven to a decent hotel (though, curiously, never in Berlin…) but opera is almost always a different beast and before you arrive in a new and unfamiliar city all most companies will do for you is tell you when and where your first rehearsal takes place. The rest is up to you.