Page 8, 5th December 1958

5th December 1958
Page 8
Page 8, 5th December 1958 — A singer's diary: 1958

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Locations: Coventry, Glasgow, London


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A singer's diary: 1958


Owen Brannigan IT is nearly time to discard the wellworn diary. and maybe you would be interested in the special highlights I have noted in it.

I am happy to remember these highlights, and the rest of the entries, which in the past year might style one as unusual for one bearing the rare, abused, and humble title of a British native professional singer.

Add to the foregoing Roman Catholic, bar the Masonic Lodge. roll over my surname. and I would seem as eligible to contribute to the British musical scene as was Chesterton's grocer considered worthy of purveying wine.

IT is hard to believe that the livelihood and venue of a serious singer in this country is. shame to say, influenced and dependent on religious societies other than our own.

The Cathedral festivals. the Oratorio choirs, the choir weekends, the " Central Halls "—all engage. entirely from the musical standpoint, such as they want and know to be the best in English solo singing.

It would be foolish to ignore the quality of many of the performances. the importance of them in English music, or indeed the necessity of them, if one sings in England with a view to paying the rent by using one's larynx artistically. I have still near kinsmen who think Handel wrote "The Messiah" for Methodists. and that my appearances in certain buildings from time to time have set the seal well and truly on any hopes they had of my eternal salvation.

WITH a dignified tolerance based on the importance of always striving for the highest possible musical standard. and with my religious convictions always worn high on my sleeve, I find myself in demand by all denominations, the ultimate righteousness of which I have no doubt.

For instance, I have taken great pride to include in my pre-engagement publicity what 1 consider to. be my main diary highlight of 1958.

I refer to the great honour our late Pope conferred on me early this year by considering Eugenio Brannigan worthy of the papal award Pro Ectlesia et Pontlfice. I haven't noticed any loss of engagements with the non-Conformists because of it—on the contrary. I find in the main they honour its importance and congratulate me more than do my f el l ow-Catbo I ics.

WHO would say that at this year's Aldeburgh Festival 1 should not have created the title role especially written for me by Benjamin Britten in his brilliant "Noye's Fludde" because it was performed in the beautiful old Church of Orford by permission of the Vicar"?

You would find, apart from reading its history in the pamphlets in the church porch, that it exudes from its every niche the identity of one of our most ancient pilfered shrines.

Or, again, that I was wrong to repeat the success in one of our larger losses — Southwark Cathedral—recently, Yet some Catholics I know didn't hear me because of the surroundings.

IWILL not refrain -11from mentioning that with Britten's full consent I had the opportunity to find for myself a Catholic venue for

the first London performance of this work, and regrettably found it impossible.

My over-enthusiasm for this was urged by the pride we C,atholics should have for having been responible in the very beginning for the performance of this and other " Miracle Plays."

Furthermore, I saw the importance of using any opportunity to attract great music hack to the roots whence it sprang. and if on this occasion I failed I will try again, because my humble contribution to Catholic Action is energetically devoted to this end.

ANY celebration connected with the magic word "centenary" is worthy of remembrance, and as any singer throughout the world would be I was honoured indeed to be one of those chosen to appear at the Gala Centenary Performance at the

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, before Her Majesty the Queen on June 10, 1958.

I am afraid the atmosphere and pride of such an occasion can only be known to the fortunate ones on each side of the footlights, but to say " I was there," and that in a state of nervousness J sang some Hilt or other, and came away proudly with my historic silk programme. is enough.

An invitation to sing Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in Geneva on United Nations Day, which was broadcast to 36 nations, was both a memorable concert and a most unusual and coveted honour.

I had sung at Glyndebourne in 1946 with the famous conductor for this special occasion, Ernest Ansermet. He remembered and asked especially for me. These sort of happenings are worthwhile.

DURING the past few weeks, I have been typically living up to the almost ridiculous adaptability expected of any English singer by recording everything as far apart as my role in Britten's Peter Grimes and the Sentry in " Iolanthe ", with a bit of Hoffflung opera and, needless to say, a few north-country folk-songs thrown in.

Now I become seasonal, with " The Messiah " and carols taking me anywhere between the Royal Albert Hall and St. Andrew's Hall. Glasgow, with conductors ranging from Sir Malcolm Sargent to an unmentionable lady who conducts somewhere in the provinces, a horrible amateur orchestra, with an outsize silver-mounted baton.

You can therefore imagine me struggling between heaps of parcels and tied-up Christmas trees to make a connection at Crewe, or perhaps colliding in a fog with mistletoeand holly-laden shoppers in Coventry, while at the same time trying to maintain a " festive quality " voice for " Why do the nations " or perhaps "The Twelve Days of Christmas " which, to me, seem to last twice that number.

STILL, I suppose after all this it is likely that I will be handed the bass line to sing in "Adeste Fideles " at my local church at midnight Mass, and a carol also, later at 11 o'clock.

I wouldn't dare miss I

On Records

A SPLENDID and inexpensive ' present this Christmas would be the two latest Owen Brannigan H.M.V. records 7P 154 and 155 (45) on which the famous bass sings arias and recitatives from Handel's Oratorios. They include the Chorus "Wretched Lovers" and the aria "0 Ruddier than the Cherry" from Ads and Galatea, composed for the Duke of Chandos at Edgware; and the spirit aria "Go, my Soldier, Go" and a chorus from one of the composer's favourite works. Theodora.

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