Ten years ago, appropriately on April 1st, I first came to Sheffield. I had coffee with a couple of people and the legendary Peter Cropper, and then sat in the academy’s little office in Victoria Street, sharpened a few pencils and thought; OK, let’s start a Music Academy. What should it ideally be like when up and running?
Obviously there would be a team of excellent and engaging young solo performers; A vibrant group of very young musicians playing and singing together, and with the professionals on the staff; chamber music for wind and strings in various groupings; and, of course a first class chamber orchestra exploring music of the baroque, classical and modern periods. A brilliant youth choir; many composers; jazz; rock and so on…
Well, the two academy concerts within a fortnight of each other last term, demonstrated just how close to that dream we have come in the hands of Martin and, his dedicated and brilliant team of teachers. Soloists aplenty; Aidan, Victor, Sukhi and Nathaniel all showing us that string playing is one of our greatest strengths, especially given the age range of the players. Only Tom Dimelow Steele this time on the lovely Bösendorfer on loan from the University but lots of wind- from Myvanwy’s stunning jazz -orientated Woods sonata to the magic created by Anna in her Poulenc. Chamber music? Lots. Four different string quartets with breath-taking, committed, playing of Mendelssohn, Shostakovich and Bacewitz, and wind ensembles from Catherine Baker’s stable in groups of two to seven (a little worried about the bassoons’ drinking habits though!)
I had never thought of guitars in the way we have them now (shame on me) but it was lovely to hear the soothing sounds of Ian’s guitar group and the intriguingly-named ‘Hope for the Best’ (Don’t we all! – and we get it from our students)
The first concert saw the chamber orchestra perform Schubert’s third symphony under the baton of Chris Gayford, thus uniting the Academy with CSYO even more strongly. The second concert saw the same work under the guidance of Keith Slade who is not only a clear and imaginative conductor but is proving to be a skilful and thorough (as well as highly-entertaining) trainer for the orchestra, taking it to ever higher standards and demanding the best from everyone in it.
No senior choir or singers this time, or composers or jazz or rock (no time!), but strength, promise, fun and excellent presentation abound in the juniors; Becca and Holly have brought to life a wonderful future for the Academy, both in playing and singing. The choir is working in parts (tremendous for this age group)and the orchestra is slowly building up the whole of Warlock’s evergreen Capriol Suite. If this continues for the next ten years, just imagine where the Academy will be then!