Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Richard Hickox

News today that Richard Hickox a champion of English Choral music has died aged 60.

There was a period in the early 90's when I was spokesman on Arts on Cheshire County Council. This period coincided with the 900th anniversary of the Cathedral. We received various requests to help fund the celebrations. I must admit I was less than enthusiastic when the Dean suggested that the county council should buy new chairs for the cathedral. I soon got to the point when I was prepared to walk away from the whole project. It was that at that point the 'arts officer' sidled up to me for a confidential word. What he had in mind was that the County Council should commission a work for the Chester festival which would receive it's first performance at the cathedral. He explained that he knew John Taverner was composing a work for which he was looking for a commission. This was early in Taverner's 'Orthodox' phase and soon after he had released his 'Protecting Veil ' the sales of which outstripped all other classical music for some time.

I was very interested and the proposal was worked up. The politics were quite complex. The left of the Labour Party wanted nothing to do with a religious work and the Tories wanted to hear the work before they decided if they were to pay for it! (The Tories were an odd mix of new 'Thatcherite' estate agent types and some formidable censorious women) I had a little trouble with one of my colleagues Bill Leathwood, a staunch Methodist, who wanted to know whether this would be something that the choirs of Cheshire could sing. Eventually a coalition was put together and the worked performed in 1992 at the cathedral and then a week later at the Proms.

I went to the small 'after show' party at the Grosvenor Hotel in Chester and met John Taverner and Richard Hickox who conducted the work. I took my brother along who spent most of the evening talking to the soprano Patrica Rosario. The CD is still available. I know that for both of us (and everyone else who I spoke to who attended the performance that evening) we were profoundly moved and above all other performances I have been to it is the one that stands out in my memory.