Vladimir Ashkenazy

In the years since Vladimir Ashkenazy first came to prominence on the world stage in the 1955 Chopin Competition in Warsaw he has built an extraordinary career, not only as one of the most renowned and revered pianists of our times, but as an artist whose creative life encompasses a vast range of activities and continues to offer inspiration to music-lovers across the world.

Conducting has formed the largest part of his activities for the past 20 years and, following on from his period as Chief Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic from 1998 to 2003, Ashkenazy took up the position of Music Director of NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo in September 2004. In Autumn 2005 he completed his second highly successful European tour with them, including a televised concert at the Vienna Musikverein which marked the orchestra’s debut in this prestigious venue. Their regular work in Tokyo has included several television broadcasts and special programmes, such as a commemoration in Spring 2006 of Toru Takemitsu, a composer whom Ashkenazy greatly admires – and in homage to whom he directed ‘Riverrun’ from the keyboard in this concert. After a short visit to Seoul in June 2006 they undertook a major tour of the United States including Disney Hall in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Boston and Carnegie Hall in New York.

Alongside his position with the NHK Symphony Orchestra, Ashkenazy continues to have a warm and rewarding relationship with the Philharmonia Orchestra as their Conductor Laureate. In addition to his performances with the orchestra in London and around the UK each season, he tours with them worldwide, and has developed landmark projects such as ‘Prokofiev and Shostakovich Under Stalin’ in 2003 (a project which he also took to Cologne, New York, Vienna and Moscow) and ‘Rachmaninoff Revisited’ in 2002 at the Lincoln Center, New York.

Ashkenazy also holds the positions of Music Director of the European Union Youth Orchestra, with whom he tours each year, and Conductor Laureate of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. He maintains strong links with a number of other major orchestras with whom he has built special relationships over the years, including the Cleveland Orchestra (of whom he is a former Principal Guest Conductor), San Francisco Symphony and Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin (Chief Conductor and Music Director 1988-96), as well as making guest appearances with many other major orchestras around the world.

While conducting takes up a significant portion of his time each season, Ashkenazy continues to devote himself to the piano, directing Mozart and Beethoven concertos from the keyboard in performances in Europe and Asia, and continuing to build his extraordinarily comprehensive recording catalogue with releases such as the 1999 Grammy award-winning Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues, Rautavaara’s Piano Concerto No.3 (a work which he commissioned) and Rachmaninov Transcriptions. Most recently released is his recording of that most challenging and enriching of works, Bach’s Wohltemperierte Klavier.

Beyond his hectic and fulfilling performing schedule, Ashkenazy continues to be involved in some fascinating TV projects, often inspired by his passionate drive to ensure that serious music continues to have a platform in the mainstream media and is made available to as broad an audience as possible. Many will remember the extraordinary Ashkenazy in Moscow programmes which marked his first visit in 1989 to the country of his birth since leaving the USSR in the 1960s. More recently he has developed educational programmes with NHK TV including the 1999 Superteachers working with inner-city London school children, and in 2003-4 a documentary based around his ‘Prokofiev and Shostakovich Under Stalin’ project.

Vera Lynn

Dame Vera Lynn, DBE (born Vera Margaret Welch on 20 March 1917) is an English singer whose career flourished during World War II. Nicknamed “The Forces’ Sweetheart”, the songs most associated with her are “We’ll Meet Again” and “The White Cliffs of Dover”.

Early life

Lynn was born Vera Margaret Welch on 20 March 1917, in East Ham, then in Essex, now part of Greater London. Vera Lynn went to what is now called Brampton Primary School in East Ham. Her father was a plumber and Vera Welch grew up with her parents’ Cockney accent, which can still be detected when she speaks. She began singing at the age of seven in a working men’s club, and later adopted her grandmother’s maiden name for her stage name. Lynn’s first radio broadcast was in 1935 with the Joe Loss Orchestra. She was already being featured on the records of dance bands, including those led by Loss and Charlie Kunz. She made her first solo record on the Crown label in 1936, “Up the Wooden Hill to Bedfordshire”. (The label was soon bought out by Decca.) After a short time with Loss, she sang with Kunz. Lynn then joined the dance band of Bert Ambrose.

War years

In 1940, one year after the beginning of World War II, Lynn began her own radio programme, Sincerely Yours, sending messages to British troops serving abroad. She and a quartet would perform songs most requested by the soldiers. Lynn also visited hospitals to interview new mothers and send personal messages to their husbands overseas. During the war years she would tour Egypt, India, Burma, giving outdoor concerts for the troops.

In 1942, Lynn recorded the Ross Parker/Hughie Charles song “We’ll Meet Again”, also appearing in the film of that name. The nostalgic lyrics (“We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again some sunny day”) were very popular during the war and became one of the emblematic songs of the war. Contrary to later reports, she neither sang nor recorded the “Rose of England” during this time and it was only in 1966 when her producer, David Gooch, selected it for her album More Hits of the Blitz that she became familiar with it. The album itself was a follow up to Hits of the Blitz produced by Norman Newell.

Post-war career

Lynn’s Auf Wiederseh’n Sweetheart became the first record by a British performer to top the charts in the United States, doing so for nine weeks. She also appeared regularly for a time on Tallulah Bankhead’s U.S. radio programme, The Big Show. “Auf Wiedersehen, Sweetheart”, along with “The Homing Waltz” and “Forget-Me-Not”, gave Lynn a remarkable three entries on the first UK Singles Chart, a top 12 (which actually contained 15 songs owing to tied positions).

Lynn remained popular in the 1950s, peaking with “My Son, My Son”, a number-one hit in 1954. Lynn co-wrote the song with Gordon Melville Rees. In early 1960, she left Decca Records after nearly 25 years, and joined EMI. She recorded for EMI’s Columbia, MGM and HMV labels. She hit the top 10 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart in 1967 with “It Hurts To Say Goodbye”.

Dame Vera hosted her own variety series on BBC1 in the late 1960s and early 1970s and was a frequent guest on other variety shows, notably The 1972 Morecambe & Wise Christmas Show. In 1972, she was one of the key performers in the BBC anniversary programme Fifty Years Of Music. In 1976, she hosted the BBC’s A Jubilee Of Music, celebrating the pop music hits of the period 1952-1976 to commemorate the start of Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee year. For ITV, she presented a TV special in 1977 to launch her album Vera Lynn in Nashville.

Vera is also notable for being the only artist to have a chart span on the UK single and album charts reaching from the chart’s inception to the 21st century — having three singles in the first ever singles chart, and most recently having a #1 album with We’ll Meet Again — The Very Best Of Vera Lynn.

The Three Tenors

The Three Tenors is a name given to the Spanish singers Plácido Domingo and José Carreras and the Italian singer Luciano Pavarotti who sang in concert under this banner during the 1990s and early 2000s.

The trio began their collaboration with a performance at the ancient Baths of Caracalla, in Rome, Italy, on July 7, 1990 – the eve of the 1990 FIFA World Cup final. Zubin Mehta conducted the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Orchestra del Teatro dell’Opera di Roma.

The Three Tenors phenomenon was applauded by some for introducing opera and zarzuela to a wider public, but some opera purists scorned it due to the large amount of money they collected from concert tours and album recording (in excess of USD 1 million each for every concert) that the three singers received.

Some critics believe that performing opera arias in sports stadiums such as Wembley, with heavy amplification, contributes little to the understanding and appreciation of opera as a Gesamtkunstwerk (whole art work) as Wagner conceived it. “I understand the complaints of purists,” Domingo told an interviewer in 1998.

“But I don’t want the purists to go to the Three Tenors”. The Three Tenors have been a phenomenon of shrewd marketing. Promoter Tibor Rudas helped create story, spectacle, and occasion to sell the concerts more as multimedia happenings than as musical events.

The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards

The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards are Scotland’s senior regiment and her only regular cavalry.

The Regiment was formed in 1971 from the union of two famous regiments, the 3rd Carabiniers and the Royal Scots Greys. The 3rd Carabiniers had themselves been constituted in 1922 form the amalgamation of the old 3rd Dragoon Guards and the Carabiniers (6th Dragoon Guards).

The history of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards is therefore the record of 3 ancient regiments and, through the Royal Scots Greys; they can claim to be the oldest surviving Cavalry of the Line regiment in the British Army.

With the other Cavalry Regiments they now form part of the Royal Armoured Corps but, though horses have been replaced by tanks and armoured cars, it is the cavalry spirit of the past which provides the inspiration of the future, whatever it may hold.

The Pipes and Drums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards have their roots in the small pipe band which came to the Royal Scots Greys in 1946. This came about as a result of the demobilisation of various Scottish Territorial Armoured Corps units and were the Scots Grey’s first official pipers.

The first album “Spirit of the Glen” was runner up at the Classical BRIT awards in 2008 and the second album “Spirit of the Glen: Journey” won the title of NS&I Album of the Year at last year’s Classical BRIT AWARDS – the first time a military band and non professional group has achieved such an accolade.

The Royal Air Force Squadronaires

The Royal Air Force Squadronaires is one of the United Kingdoms finest Big Band’s with a world wide reputation for musical excellence. The origins of the Squadronaires can be traced back to 1939 when many of London’s professional musicians were recruited into the Central Band of the Royal Air Force based at RAF Uxbridge. Many of these musicians had previously been jazz and dance band performers and it was suggested that they form what was to become the Royal Air Force Dance Orchestra, later known as the Squadronaires.

The big band gained a reputation for versatility and flair, helped by such iconic band members as the trombonist George Chisholm and vocalist Jimmy Miller. They soon developed a distinctive style that rivalled many American Bands. Throughout the war years they were regularly voted ‘Best British Dance Band’ and in one memorable review that appeared in The Melody Maker they were described as having given ‘the greatest dance band performance that has ever been broadcast this side of the Atlantic’.

Following D-Day the ‘Squads’ toured France, Belgium and the Netherlands but were stopped in there tracks at the German border, they were then forced to make a tactical withdrawal as General Von Runstets counter offensive forced the allies back towards Paris.

This tradition of musical expertise lives on with today’s Squadronaires. Two recent recordings ‘Flying Home’ and ‘Doin’ Basie’s Thing’ have brought critical acclaim. The Band is the only military ensemble to have performed at the world famous ‘Ronnie Scott’s’ Jazz Club. The Squadronaires have also appeared at the Royal British Legions Festival of Remembrance with Will Young and Russell Watson, most recently at the Edinburgh and Goring Jazz festivals, the Royal Windsor Tattoo and warming up the crowds on the Esplanade at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The band has also been privileged enough to step inside the gates of Buckingham Palace playing at state events and Her Majesties garden parties.

As with all members of the Royal Air Force, RAF Music Services personnel are required to support British Forces on operations overseas, musicians have been deployed to Iraq with personnel currently serving in Afghanistan and The Falkland Islands. Roles have included force protection, guarding installations and supporting helicopter and air transportation squadrons.

Under the direction of its current leader, Sergeant Kevin Miles, the band has assembled a repertoire that reflects its style and versatility, from original dance band classics to the latest big band classics.

The Royal Air Force Central Band

Music has always been an important part of the Royal Air Force. From back in 1912 when the Service existed as the Royal Flying Corps up until present day – music has always served as a great source of motivation, honour and pride. This culminated in the formation of the Central Band in 1920, two years after the Royal Air Force was formed.

The Central Band has many notable achievements in its rich history. In 1922, it was the first ever military band to broadcast on BBC Radio – remaining to this day the most frequently featured military band in that medium. It was also the first military band to make a long-playing record: in April 1955 HMV released a recording of what is to this day the most requested piece in their repertoire – Eric Coates’ music for the film ‘The Dambusters’. The Central Band also ended a 155 year tradition by including women in its ranks whilst taking part in the ‘Changing of the Guard’ ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

Over the years the Central Band has made many recordings: ‘Salute To Heroes’, released in 1990, sold over 60,000 copies in two years, resulting in the award of a silver disc. Two complementary recordings, ‘Heroes of the Air’ and ‘Salute to the Royal Air Force’ have proved just as popular.

The Central Band is generally regarded to be the premier military band in the United Kingdom. As such, it is always in great demand, undertaking more than 370 engagements a year and travelling a distance of more than 64,000 miles. The band has represented the Royal Air Force at every major military event and performed at all of the principal concert venues in Britain.

The band is also internationally renowned, having the distinction of being the first band outside the USA to be awarded the ‘John Philip Sousa Citation for Musical Excellence’.

In recent years the band has performed in Holland, Germany, Australia, Cyprus, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Hungary and the USA. In its bid to remain at the cutting edge of wind band music it has given highly acclaimed concerts with both the British and the World Associations of Symphonic Bands and Wind Ensembles (BASBWE & WASBWE). More recently the band has forged links with the Royal Northern College of Music, the Guildhall School of Music and the London College of Music.

As with all members of the RAF, Central Band musicians are required to support British forces on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Musicians have been deployed as ‘force protection’, guarding installations and supporting helicopter and air transportation squadrons.

The Central Band of the Royal Air Force is immensely proud of its achievements; it represents the heritage and ethos that all members of the RAF have contributed to. In it’s 90th anniversary year the Central Band can look forward to a bright and fulfilling future.

The Fron Choir

Froncysyllte (pronounced vron-cuss-ulth tay) is a small village at the eastern entrance to the Vale of Llangollen. Set in beautiful countryside in the Northeast corner of Wales it would be “just another village” if Thomas Telford had not built his famous aqueduct to carry the Llangollen Canal across the River Dee. Thousands of visitors come to this World Heritage Site each year to marvel at his engineering skills and the groundbreaking work of the local iron foundries 200 years ago that made the project possible.

In 1946 the people of Llangollen (which is 4 miles down the road) as a gesture to International Peace, decided to ask former enemies, to come together in the friendly competitive atmosphere of a traditional Welsh Eisteddfod. Invitations went out for 1947 and the Llangollen International, Musical Eisteddfod was born. Europe was in the grip of ruin. No one was sure if anyone would come. But they did come, and have been coming ever since.

The village decided that the Eisteddfod was a good idea and Mr Gomer Powell called a public meeting with the formation of a choir as the object. The Froncysyllte Male Voice Choir was formed at that meeting with J.R. Jones (Joe Jordan) as the first Chairman (Joe never became a Member of the Choir as he maintained that his voice was just too awful), Mr Lloyd Edwards, a well-known local piano teacher was appointed Conductor and immediately became the driving force behind the Choir with his devotion and enthusiasm. Menna Hughes, daughter of Robert Hughes the founder Treasurer and one of Lloyd’s pupils was appointed as the first Accompanist. To compete in the Male Voice Competition at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod the Choir needed 60 voices so Wilfred Jones, the leader of the Froncysyllte Youth Club, persuaded the young men of the village to join. He was so successful that the 1947 Fron Choir had the youngest membership of any Welsh Male Voice Choir – a tradition of youth that has continued to this day.

The Choristers stayed together after the Eisteddfod with Watkin Williams (a prominent County Councillor and much respected character in the village) as the Chairman. Lloyd Edwards together with John Richard Davies as his Deputy went on to win major choral competitions and a reputation for excellence at home and abroad. Lloyd held the Choir’s baton until his untimely death in 1970.

Now in its 62nd year, the Choir has had four excellent Conductors since Lloyd. John Daniel, who for 21 years followed in his steps and led the Choir to success in the National Eisteddfod of Wales and the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, as well as an International reputation. Val Jones succeeded John in 1991 and for the next 11 years consolidated that reputation in competition. From 2002 until 2009, Ann Atkinson led the choir during one of its most exciting phases, a major recording contract with Universal Music and four “Voices of the Valley” CD’s and the “Voices of the Valley – Live” DVD.

The “Fron” Choir now has a first class Conductor in the person of Leigh Mason and looks forward to continued progress and success as one of the most distinguished Male Voice Choirs in a nation renowned throughout the World for producing Male Voice Choirs of the highest quality.

The Coldstream Guards

The band is renowned around the world and in 2009 signed a record deal with Universal’s Decca Label. The new album Heroes, including The Great Escape, Where Eagles Dare and The Ride Of The Valkyries, is available now.

The Band of The Coldstream Guards has now been in existence for over 200 years of continuous service, making it one of the oldest military bands in the world.

The band can be regularly seen performing at state ceremonial events across London and further afield. The band has a wealth of talent and can be made available to support any event in a number of formats from small ensembles to a full marching band.

Susan Tedeschi

Tedeschi’s knack for musical truth–telling has been apparent in the years since she first captured the public’s musical imagination. Growing up in the Boston suburb of Norwell, Massachusetts, she began singing with local bands at the age of 13, and subsequently pursued her passion for music while studying at the prestigious Berklee College of Music.

After establishing herself as one of New England’s top–drawing live acts, and making her recording debut with her embryonic 1995 album Better Days, Tedeschi achieved an impressive musical and commercial breakthrough with her 1998 indie release Just Won’t Burn. The album became a massive grass–roots success, with a minimum of hype and plenty of old–fashioned word of mouth.

Just Won’t Burn achieved Gold sales status and won Tedeschi a Grammy® nomination for Best New Artist, alongside such unlikely company as Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Macy Gray, and Kid Rock. Her next release, 2002’s acclaimed, Grammy®–nominated Wait for Me, was produced by legendary studio veteran Tom Dowd. She moved to Verve Forecast for her fourth album Hope and Desire, which marked a substantial departure for the versatile artist, presenting her in the role of interpretive vocalist.

Now, with Back to the River, Susan Tedeschi takes a major musical leap forward. “I worked really hard on this one,” she states. “I’ve enjoyed writing with so many different songwriters and loved working together with musicians to get across my ideas and visions.” “I’m really excited about this record, and I’m anxious to have people hear it,” Tedeschi concludes. “People have been waiting for new music from me for awhile, so I look forward to touring, to bring these songs to as many people as I can.”

Sonny Rollins

Sonny Rollins is a saxophone colossus. The revered tenor saxophonist first received that appellation via the name of his 1956 Prestige Records album. Even then, at age 26, the title seemed fitting. He had already played and/or recorded with bebop giants Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and J.J. Johnson—and had established himself as the prominent young voice on his instrument via recordings and performances as a leader.

Walter Theodore Rollins was born in New York City on September 7, 1930; his name has been incorrectly stated as Theodore Walter, a switch Rollins made in the mid-’50s. A child of music-loving parents of West Indian ancestry, Rollins first played piano then turned to saxophone at around age 7. One of his uncles, Hubert Myers, a professional saxophonist, helped him pick out an alto saxophone. Young Sonny was enthralled.

“I used to play for hours and hours at home,” the mostly self-taught Rollins recalled recently. “I was in my own world, my own reverie. I did a lot of free association, just ideas that came to my mind, which is why I have told people—what I told Joshua Redman [in Jazz Times]—that I consider myself a free musician.”

By age 12, Rollins began to play in groups with “like-minded boys my age,” including saxophonist Jackie McLean and drummer Arthur Taylor. He worked his first professional job at age 14. At age 15, enamored by tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, Rollins bought his first tenor, a King Zephyr. “It was what I wanted,” he said.

Four years later, Rollins was in the jazz big leagues, recording with singer Babs Gonzales, then trombonist Johnson, and Powell—whose Blue Note date also spotlighted trumpet marvel Fats Navarro and fiery drummer Roy Haynes.

In 1951, Rollins began to record as a leader, first for Prestige. His nine albums, including Saxophone Colossus and Tenor Madness (with John Coltrane) and featuring Monk, McLean, and others, have been collected in the 7-CD set, The Complete Prestige Recordings.

The era found Rollins working with Davis, Monk, and the Clifford Brown–Max Roach band as well before stepping out as a leader. He also recorded for Blue Note, Riverside, and Contemporary Records. Recordings from the latter two are gathered on The Freelance Years.

In 1959, Rollins took a sabbatical from performing to further develop his musicianship. He lived on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and often practiced on the Williamsburg Bridge. He returned to performing in 1962 and released The Bridge (RCA), a classic featuring guitarist Jim Hall and Bob Cranshaw, his bassist almost nonstop ever since.

Rollins also later led a quartet with trumpeter Don Cherry and drummer Billy Higgins, both of whom had played with maverick saxman Ornette Coleman; and recorded with his idol, Hawkins. In 1966, he wrote and performed a jazz score for the film Alfie, and, in 1969, took another sabbatical, this time traveling to India and studying with a guru.

In 1972, with the encouragement and support of his wife Lucille, whom he had met in 1956 in Chicago and married in 1965, Rollins again returned to performing and recording—beginning his up-to-the-present association with Milestone Records.

That association has resulted in a bevy of superior recordings that touch on such genres as straight-ahead, funk, pop, and, of course, calypso. Among these are Next Album, Don’t Stop the Carnival, G-Man, Sonny Rollins +3, Global Warming, and This Is What I Do, which earned Rollins his first performance Grammy.

In November 2004, Rollins suffered a tremendous loss when Lucille, who had not fully recovered from a stroke, died. “We were together 48 years,” he said. “I miss her.”

In the wake of Lucille’s death, Rollins has maintained his performing schedule of 20-25 dates a year, playing recently in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and on Long Island. Listeners have reported that Rollins is playing with characteristic vitality, furthering his position as a musical colossus.