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Move over, Henry Wood: the British army was the true pioneer of the …

Patriotic, much? Yui Mok/PA Archive The BBC Proms 1 , with justification, is flaunted as the world s largest and most significant annual music festival. A bronze bust of the conductor Sir Henry Wood, is placed in front of the organ facing the audience for the season.

It acknowledges his importance in curating this type of musical entertainment classical music for the masses. In fact, Wood was not the originator. Others had succeeded in developing the idea that the musical appreciation of the nation could be elevated by providing good music to a popular audience for a modest price.

The business model involved dispensing with the usual seating arrangements, and this also imposed an informal atmosphere that people warmed to. Precedents can be found in 18th century pleasure gardens 2 . But the true origin is found in the British army, which ran the most ubiquitous, well-organised and influential sector of British music in the 19th century.

By the 1850s the number of full-time military musicians vastly outnumbered civilians in the profession. In 1878 Jacob Kappey had carefully counted them for an article in the first edition of Grove s Dictionary 3 . He calculated that there was a shade short of 5,000 musicians in the British army, and 52,000 throughout Europe.

Most of the army s music recruits came as boys from orphanages and workhouses. From trade directories and other sources we can deduce that the civilian profession, fractured and badly organised as it was, could not have provided employment for more than about 2,000 across the country. The civilian conservatoires, despite the dizzy heights they have now reached, were, at that time, little more than glorified finishing schools.

According to a report of the Royal Society into the state of musical training in London, one mother, asked why she wanted to enrol her two daughters into the Royal Academy of Music when both were devoid of any musical skill or talent, said that her doctor had recommended it . And so The Military School of Music, when it opened in 1857, was the only British institution genuinely dedicated to the production of music professionals. Proms of old.

The Graphic 8 September 1894 Military musicians had an influence in the 19th century which modern writers have been reluctant to acknowledge. Leaving aside its sheer size, it had more interaction with the population as a whole than any other musical institution. The British state recognised this and used it in the interests of what is now termed soft power : uniformed soldiers marching to patriotic music promoted national confidence, not just in the army, but in the British establishment itself.

The British military also had a broader plan: its mission was to combine the impression of invincible efficiency with more educational objectives. Little original music of any substance (other than marches) was written for military bands before the 20th century. This was intentional: the military believed that other than supporting ceremony, its main purpose was to perform the greatest music.

Many regiments had orchestras the Royal Artillery had one of 100 players with a concert series in central London; it gave the first British performances of many important works, including Tchaikovsky s 1812 Overture. Bands restricted to wind instruments played transcriptions. Bandmasters were painstakingly instructed on how orchestral instruments and even voices could be imitated by wind instruments.

Their scores, many of which survive, demonstrate remarkable subtlety in this respect. Military bands gave performances in public gardens and other sites and these were enormously popular. They matched the Proms idea almost exactly, playing great classical music to the public in accessible venues.

In 1856 certain London parks were made formally available for concerts on Sundays. The prime minister believed that such concerts would afford inhabitants of the metropolis innocent intellectual recreation combined with fresh air and exercise . But the practice wasn t supported by all.

A petition of 113,000 signatures and 550 letters was presented to the prime minister. The Archbishop of Canterbury objected too, saying he could not be answerable for the religion of the Country if the Bands were not stopped . The established church resisted all Sabbath activities other than worship.

It was a controversial episode, but as with so many Victorian moral dilemmas, it simply prevailed as a source of joy for some and deep misgiving for others, and eventually ebbed from the foreground to the background. What followed was a wide acceptance of the idea that music crosses social classes. And the idea seems to have a special potency in more relaxed environments on these summer days.

Sign in to Favourite Post a Comment Tags Music 6 , History 7 Related articles 18 July 2014 Proms 2014 open with gusto, hitting back against jingoism 8 18 July 2014 Music is becoming a multimedia experience 9 17 July 2014 Book review: The Lost Legions of Fromelles 10 17 July 2014 Auto-Tune , and why we shouldn t be surprised Britney can t sing 11 16 July 2014 Aboriginal hip-hop meets Iranian diaspora in a cross-border rap 12 4 5 References ^ BBC Proms ( ^ pleasure gardens ( ^ Grove s Dictionary ( ^ Sign in to Favourite ( ^ Post a Comment ( ^ Music ( ^ History ( ^ 18 July 2014 Proms 2014 open with gusto, hitting back against jingoism ( ^ 18 July 2014 Music is becoming a multimedia experience ( ^ 17 July 2014 Book review: The Lost Legions of Fromelles ( ^ 17 July 2014Auto-Tune, and why we shouldn t be surprised Britney can t sing ( ^ 16 July 2014 Aboriginal hip-hop meets Iranian diaspora in a cross-border rap (

More: Move over, Henry Wood: the British army was the true pioneer of the …

Classical Brit goes to Dragoon Guards

The Pipes & Drums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards have become the first pipe band in history to capture a major recorded music award by winning Album of the Year for Spirit of the Glen: Journey at the Classical BRITs on May 14th at a gala ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The award was also the first of its kind given to non-professional musicians. The CD, which was a follow-up to the band s 2007 recording, Spirit of the Glen , was recorded in part at the British base in Basra, Iraq, while on duty, making it, according to an official news release quite probably the most dangerous album ever made.

Spirit of the Glen also made history for a pipe band album by staying stayed at number-one for 14 weeks on the classical charts and gaining a place in the top-20 pop charts, outselling albums by, among others, Bon Jovi, 50 Cent and Elton John. It was nominated 1 for a 2008 Classical BRIT, but did not win. Journey was recorded mostly in a tent at the Basra airbase, while other parts were captured at the end of a runway.

On some parts of the album, background noise of Basra can be heard. It s important for them not to forget that they are not a band for me, said Lieutenant-Colonel Felix Gedney. They re my tank gunner, my lorry driver, my signals operator.

I see them very much as soldiers first. The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards signed a 1-million recording contract 2 with Universal Music in 2007. As with the mainstream BRIT Awards, the Classical BRITs are determined by public vote.

References ^ was nominated ( ^ signed a 1-million recording contract (

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Classical Brit goes to Dragoon Guards

MEET HERO: John Andr , British Army Officer

Welcome to RWA/NYC s Hero Blog Tour. **Spoiler Alert** This hero is an actual historical figure. If you re hooked on the AMC drama series TURN and don t want to know the fate of one of the historical characters, do not read any further! But if I ve piqued your interest, read on.

John Andr The Controversial Hero by Lisbeth Eng Major John Andr , a British army officer during the American Revolution, was a beloved hero to his country, though a villain to many Americans. Serving as Adjutant General to the army, he was a favorite aide of the Commander-in-Chief of British forces in America, General Sir Henry Clinton, and headed his intelligence service. Andr is forever linked to the most despised traitor in American history, General Benedict Arnold.

Embittered by petty grievances and reprimanded by General Washington for dubious business dealings as military commander in Philadelphia, Arnold sought out the British for gold. He demanded the equivalent of one million dollars in today s money in exchange for betraying West Point, a crucial military fortification, to the British. After petitioning Washington for command of the fort, Arnold schemed to deliver the plans of West Point to the enemy.

This would hand the British an important strategic advantage, and perhaps ensure victory for the Crown. Andr and Arnold began a correspondence, through coded messages and go-betweens, to negotiate terms for the betrayal. Beyond his exorbitant monetary demands, Arnold wanted to retain his rank as general, but in the British army.

The two met in secret on the shore of the Hudson River near the coveted fortress. Fatally for Andr , the British vessel, which delivered him to the rendezvous and was to return him to the safety of New York, was fired upon by the Americans and forced to sail away without him. Andr was now compelled to return to his post by passing through enemy lines, disguised as a civilian, with the plans to the fort tucked into his boot.

Before reaching the safety of British-held territory, he was captured by suspicious American militiamen, searched and delivered to Continental commanders. When Arnold got wind of the capture, he fled, just ahead of the pursuing Americans who now realized his duplicity. Andr alone was left to face the consequences.

A military court found him guilty of being a spy and sentenced him to hang. Andr was more than a military man; he was a poet, musician, actor and artist and was loved by his colleagues. His commander, General Clinton, was crushed by his death, and a grateful King George III ordered a memorial to Andr erected in Westminster Abbey.

What makes Andr s story poignantly tragic and compelling is his character, and the remarkable relationship he developed with his captors. In the days between his arrest and execution, the American officers who guarded him were impressed by his civility, candor and bravery. Major Benjamin Tallmadge, Washington s chief of intelligence, declared that had Andr been tried by a court of ladies, he is so genteel, handsome and polite a young gentleman that I am confident they would have acquitted him.

Witnesses who attended the execution testified to his courage and composure. Moments before he fixed the hangman s noose around his own neck, Andr called Tallmadge forward and they warmly shook hands. Tallmadge would later write in his memoirs, I became so deeply attached to Major Andr that I can remember no instance where my affections were so fully absorbed in any man.

Even Washington, whose hand shook when he signed the death warrant, conceded that Andr was more unfortunate than criminal, an accomplished man and gallant officer. Andr remains a controversial figure. There is no denying that he acted as a spy, by disguising himself in civilian clothes within enemy lines and carrying incriminating documents.

His connection with Arnold s treason will forever taint his reputation on this side of the Atlantic. Some historians consider him an arrogant, manipulative and calculating schemer, motivated more by ambition than by a sense of duty to his king. It is difficult to judge the motivations and character of a historical figure from the distance of over 230 years.

I am no historian, though I contend, from the research I ve done, that Andr was an honorable man, motivated by patriotism and the chance for military acclaim. Colonel Alexander Hamilton s words perhaps sum up the feelings of the Americans who got to know Andr and regretted his death. “Never perhaps did any man suffer death with more justice, or deserve it less.” Young, handsome and brave, Andr exemplified the classical romantic hero. One witness described his execution as a tragical scene of the deepest interest, his grave at the foot of the gallows consecrated by the tears of thousands.

Remarkably, those were the tears of his enemies. Lisbeth Eng writes historical romance and loves doing research. Her World War II romance, IN THE ARMS OF THE ENEMY, is available in paperback and e-book at Amazon, B&N and other online booksellers.

Her current work-in-progress is a romance set during the American Revolution.

Please visit her at .

1 References ^ (

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MEET HERO: John Andr , British Army Officer



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