People in Chandler’s Ford are blessed. There will be an unmissable Celebration Concert on the 25th of May (Saturday) in Chandler’s Ford, held at St. Boniface Church. The concert is open to everyone.
This highly anticipated concert of choral music features The Convivium Singers and St. Boniface choir.
The music director behind this concert is the remarkable Dr. Hugh Benham from Chandler’s Ford.
I’m very fortunate that Dr. Benham agreed to my interview. In this interview, you’ll learn about his passion about music, his story in the very community that he loves, and his special message to young musicians.
You’ll also know how you can actively support this concert and help nurture many young musicians.
Can’t wait to read all of them? Click on the links below to go straight to the topics:
You love your community. Tell us something about your life in Chandler’s Ford.
“I’ve lived in Chandler’s Ford for most of my life, and have seen it grow from a ‘village’ to a large place. It’s been good to have been able to contribute something to the community via St Boniface church, and to have roots here.”
“One of the best things that’s happened was the re-opening of our own rail station – ten years ago now. I use this when I can.”
How long have you been an organist at St Boniface church?
“Since 1970. I had previously been organist at St. Martin in the Wood in the same parish (1965–1968) and St. Mary’s, Bishopstoke (1968–1970).”
What’s it like being an organist? Any secret?
“It’s demanding and rewarding. Every service is different, although the more services you play for the more experience you get, the more ready you are to cope with the unexpected, and the more you enjoy doing the work.”
“The secret is to prepare well and to concentrate. Don’t be over-ambitious – it’s better to play something fairly simple well than try to make an impression with something you haven’t mastered. Go for variety of sound – play quietly at times, and very loudly only at very special moments.”
Any funny story?
“A funny story? This wasn’t funny at the time, but about 30 years ago I remember a priest catching his robes alight from a lighted candle. He responded with great presence of mind and escaped without injury.” top
Has the organ that you play ever broken down?
“The present electronic organ has never broken down in 25 years – a great tribute to the workmanship of Allen Organs – indeed it has been virtually fault-free. Its predecessor (an early 20-century pipe organ) was sometimes troublesome (notes sticking, etc.) but generally kept going. In its early days it was possible to work the bellows by hand, so that if there was a power cut it could still be played. Pumping it had to be done by someone other than the player, and was hard work – rather like pushing a car, perhaps.” top
You’re an established writer and you are an expert in Baroque Music and the composer John Taverner. You also wrote a book called Latin Church Music. How have these influenced you?
“They’ve taken a lot of time, and I have learned a great deal. The main thing is not to write anything that you as writer don’t fully understand yourself! Read every paragraph as critically as if it had been written by someone else. If in doubt it can be useful to read a passage to a non-specialist. If he or she can see what you’re driving at, there’s hope!”
I know you’ve nurtured a lot of musicians. Please tell us some brilliant work you’ve done for the community.
“It’s been more a case of always being there and on time, rather than any brilliance. It’s been particularly great to contribute to people’s lives through playing the organ at weddings and funerals (at a guess about 800–900 weddings over the years). The support from the clergy and churchwardens at St Boniface church is excellent. St Boniface Choir is amazingly loyal and friendly – but we still need more choir members, including young ones.”
How can we actively support your Celebration Concert on the 25th of May? Sponsorship?
“People can support the concert by coming to it (tickets are only £8.50). Donations made payable to Chandler’s Ford PCC are very welcome. It’s possible to sponsor a piece or a singer – details from me at the church or from the Parish Office.”
“By supporting the concert, we shall be helping to further the careers of about 20 visiting young musicians — Convivium Singers is a young concert choir whose members are drawn from Portsmouth, London and elsewhere and who in June will be performing at a choral festival in the Czech Republic.” top
You also wrote many influential music textbooks that young musicians today must read. Do you have any message for our young musicians?
“My books are not essential reading for young musicians, but the books on Baroque Music and on Harmony and Counterpoint have been found useful by quite a lot of students and teachers.”
“Young musicians who are really serious about what they’re doing might reflect on the example of J.S. Bach – everything done successfully is the result of lots of hard work. Or on Ralph Vaughan Williams – it took him ages and infinite perseverance to mature as a composer.”
“Other observations: everything takes longer to do than you expect. So it’s usually unwise to leave things to the last minute. In exams, read the questions carefully and do exactly what they tell you to do, rather than what you would like them to ask for. As a musician, try to consider your audience – which may be the people to play to, or compose for, or the examiner who has to read your essays!”
“This is all excellent advice, but easier to give than to follow. I wish I’d always followed it myself.”