British Viola Society Annual General Meeting: 18 June 2015
The British Viola Society was established in October 2012 and replaced the English Viola Society, founded by John White and Dr Louise Lansdown in 2007. John White, who sadly died in December 2013, at the age of 75, enthusiastically supported the Society in its transition to the British Viola Society in 2012 and remained our Honorary President up to his death. The loss of John has left an unbridgeable chasm in the world of viola playing, teaching and research.
The British Viola Society (BVS) was formally constituted in 2012, superseding the English Viola Society. It is affiliated to the International Viola Society but operates as an independent Society with its own rules and regulations. The Constitution states that the primary aim of the BVS, as a nonprofit organisation, is the promotion of viola performance and research.
During 2014-15 we considered the possibility of changing the Constitution, to become a formal Charity. This would open up new opportunities, in particular to apply to HMRC for ‘Gift Aid’ and reclaim the tax back on UK membership subscriptions. After looking into this in more detail, it was agreed that it would create a considerable amount of extra work for the volunteer Committee, for limited gain. When the Society’s membership increases, this will be reviewed.
Some minor changes to the Constitution are recommended to meet the Society’s current operation.
Review of Activities during 2014-2015
It was a great pleasure in 2014 for the Society to collaborate with Birmingham Conservatoire and Birmingham City University in the very first Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competition.
The semi-finals and final rounds took place at Birmingham Conservatoire from 24-26 October 2014. Dedicated to Cecil Aronowitz, the South African violist and long-term collaborator with Benjamin Britten, the three-day event was open to players under the age of 21 and saw 13 semi-finalists competing from countries including Switzerland, South Korea, Lithuania, China and Germany. Timothy Ridout, a 19-year-old violist and student from the Royal Academy of Music was the winner of the Competition and an element of his prize covered his expenses to come to Porto and give a recital as part of the 42nd International Viola Congress.
It was a requirement of entry to the competition that the 57 initial entrants had to be members of the British Viola Society. This helped raise the profile of the Society and also provided funds to support extra events over the weekend, including an evening of reminiscences in celebration of the life of Cecil Aronowitz.
The second Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competition will take place in 2017.
The Society recognises the importance of continuing the great legacy left by celebrated British violists such as Lionel Tertis, William Primrose and Cecil Aronowitz both in terms of promoting and cherishing the current viola repertoire and also ensuring its continuing growth.
Responding to the 42nd International Viola Congress’ theme of “Performing for the Future of Music” members of the Society gave a concert featuring six works for viola/viola ensemble by British composers, including three works commissioned especially for the congress by BVS members Simon Rowland-Jones and Robin Ireland and a young UK composer, Leon Haxby.
This is the start of an exciting project to commission new Viola music.
Raising the profile of the Viola
The Society promotes master classes, recitals and open days, accessible to players at all levels. We publish an annual BVS Journal featuring new research and innovations, such as the electric viola.
Viola Playing Days, for example those organised by the BVS in Huddersfield, and the annual ‘Violarama’ in Cardiff, offer opportunities for violists of all abilities to come together in ensembles. It is a privilege to have the support of the Absolute Zero Quartet, which offers a vast range of repertoire arranged for viola ensembles and provides a wealth of resources for these events.
We have been delighted to have two new pieces specially composed for the BVS and premiered at the BVS’s Viola Days, in Huddersfield. In June 2014 composer, Nick Williams, from the University of Huddersfield, directed the premiere performance of ‘Cropper Rounds’ his new work for viola ensemble. Composed specially for the day this four-part viola ensemble piece is ‘a series of canons based on a West Yorkshire luddite song’.
A viola ensemble piece in four parts, ‘Violas!‘ was specially composed for the Viola Day on 16th November 2014 by Honorary BVS Member, Duncan Druce, composer and Lecturer at the University of Huddersfield. Duncan conducted this premiere, which was inspired by Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire.
BVS professionals provide development days, and courses for keen amateurs and Conservatoire level students run throughout the year. For example Martin Outram (BVS Vice-President) directs an annual Viola Summer School at Benslow Music for Diploma level students; the music charity ‘Pro Corda’ hosts an annual Viola week for Conservatoire level students; Robin Ireland and Martin Outram both direct regular Viola Workshop Days to develop the skills of amateur players.
Through the BVS website, FaceBook and Twitter we engage with a wide audience. Our BVS FaceBook group currently has over 750 members and our Twitter feeds are read widely. It is a pleasure to find so many interested violists from across the country keen to get involved and help us with our viola mission.
As a benefit of BVS membership our members receive a monthly e-newsletter, in which we promote and advertise violistic events and news of interest to our members. Our newsletter was launched in October 2013 and has reached its 20th issue (March 2015). We are delighted to feature articles from students, professional players and luthiers as well as reviews of viola events, concert news and member adverts.
Membership at 31st March 2015
- Full members: 121
- Honorary Members: 11
Our Committee 2014-2015
Louise Lansdown – President
Martin Outram – Vice-President
Sue Douglas – Secretary
Michael Freyhan – Treasurer
Janet Pazio (Executive Secretary – Membership)
Ben Lawrence (Executive Secretary – Facebook)
Laura Sinnerton (Executive Secretary )
Dr Louise Lansdown