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Promenade Concert - Ivor Bolton PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Bertalot   
Thursday, 26 October 2006 00:00



On Bank Holiday Monday 28th August 2006 DEREK and MARILYN CROMPTON and I (Derek was one of my first new choristers at Blackburn Cathedral when I came here way back in 1964), went to London’s Royal Albert Hall to hear and see IVOR BOLTON conduct his Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra in a Promenade Concert which was televised and broadcast live by the BBC.

Ivor joined Blackburn Cathedral choir in the early 1970s at the age of 11 from Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School here in Blackburn (where his music-master was Jack Longstaff). He quickly showed his brilliance: He was always one of the first to arrive on Sunday morning and I would sometimes find him playing one of Schumann’s difficult piano pieces in the Song School – from memory.
He had perfect pitch. When we sang an unaccompanied anthem, instead of a note being given on the organ, I would sometimes point to Ivor who would sing the correct note immediately. ‘How do you do that?’ I asked him. ‘If you ask me to sing a G, I just sing a G!’ (Of course!)

I taught him the organ and he learnt theory at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School. By the age of 17 he was a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists – winning astronomically high marks. He played the organ for one of our live BBC Choral Evensongs when our Blackburn sub organist was unwell.

I took him to Cambridge to play to Philip Ledger, who was then Director of Music at King’s. ‘Yes, he’ll certainly win an organ scholarship,’ he told us encouragingly.
He did: he went to Clare College, where he was taught by the international composer John Rutter, and where, at the end of his first term, he met his wife-to-be, Tess Knighton, who was also a student at Clare.

Outside the hall were gargantuan BBC trucks which were clearly there for the whole season, as they were fenced in pretty securely opposite what used to be the Royal College of Organists.

On the other side of the hall, by door 3, we met Ivor’s cousin Lauren, and Ivor’s father, John, who is a sprightly 89

We found our seats high up behind the orchestra where we could see Ivor’s face when he was conducting. We were right next to the historic organ which I’d played for the National Festival of Remembrance on live TV in 1982 (The Queen had been there!) and which had recently been rebuilt and was now the largest organ in the UK. Marilyn, Derek & I had a fabulous view of Ivor and of the orchestra as they played an all-Mozart programme.

This was the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra’s Prom debut, although Ivor had conducted Proms before. They were brilliant and Ivor was stunning. We couldn’t take our eyes off him for he was the very embodiment of the music itself. One could tell how the orchestra would play the next phrase through Ivor’s expressive gestures. And he looked at them all the time (that’s the only way to conduct!), and smiled and always shared the audience’s tumultuous applause with his players!
The Radio Times called Ivor the ‘British period-performance specialist’ and his leadership showed it. He’s the first British musician to be appointed Chief Conductor of this virtuoso orchestra. They clearly love and respect him as much as he loves and respects them!

The concert was thrilling beyond belief. I’ve never heard Mozart played like that before. Every phrase was beautifully shaped by every musician and it was Ivor’s inspirational musicianship coupled with the polished professionalism of his players which made it a concert ever to be remembered.

And after it was all over, and they’d played an encore, Derek, Marilyn and I made our way to the conductor’s room, past some pretty tight BBC security, to meet Maestro Bolton.

He was standing in a curved corridor talking with someone, but when he spotted us he rushed over and said, ‘This is my mentor! If it hadn’t been for you I wouldn’t have been here tonight!’ What amazing generosity! Ivor introduced us enthusiastically to everyone who was there – his agent, Jonathan Groves (son of the conductor Sir Charles Groves), the BBC producer who was responsible for tonight’s presentation, the superb orchestral leader (‘He’s the best’ enthused Ivor), and so many more.

A BBC lady came up to me: “You’ve been paged to go to the Artists’ Entrance”, she said. ‘Who, me?’ I went, and standing there were Norman and Margery Howarth from Norwich, former members of my Blackburn Bach Choir. In fact Margery was a founder member 40 years ago!

‘We read about Ivor’s concert in your last Blackburn Cathedral Newsletter,’ said Margery, ‘so we had to come!’ ‘Yes,’ agreed Norman. ‘We remember him so well in the cathedral choir all those years ago!”
They’d been with us last November for the Singers’ 40th anniversary concert. It was wonderful to see them yet again.

We made our farewells and returned to the conductor’s room where Ivor had shed his formal clothes. ‘Right!’ he said, ‘now you’re all coming to dinner with me – you and Tess and the leader, and the producer, and Jonathan Groves, and our generous German sponsors; it’s only just around the corner!’
So we walked briskly to a splendid hotel in Queens Gate, which was heavy with flock wallpaper, chandeliers and portraits of the Great and Good, where three round tables had been beautifully prepared for us to enjoy an amazing dinner.

We sat with Tess who told us that their son, Sam, (who’d been to the concert but had now gone to bed in their London home – he’s 14) was quite used to going to concerts to see his father conduct. ‘He even sat through an entire performance of Meistersinger and didn’t utter a word!’ said Tess proudly.

Ivor joined us halfway through the meal, after paying his due respects to the two generous benefactors who sat with the leader and orchestral manager at another table. ‘What have you been doing recently?’ I asked him. ‘Well, we‘ve been very busy in Salzburg with Mozart’s 250th where I conducted concerts and three operas. I’ve conducted opera with the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, and conducted in Florence, Paris and the Royal Opera House here in London.’
He paused for breath: ‘And I’ll be conducting the Mozarteum Orchestra for the opening of a new concert hall in Los Angeles in October. I’ll be conducting in the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester next April.’
‘I expect you’ll enjoy a good night’s sleep after today’s concert?’ ‘No! I’m catching the 4.30 am flight back to Salzburg tonight, because we’ve got another concert there on Thursday!’ Ivor’s energy is amazing! Derek, Marilyn and I reached our hotel at 1.00 am, totally exhausted, but boundlessly thrilled by all we had seen and heard that night, and very, very proud of Ivor.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 February 2013 11:34