Vanbrugh Music

As my time at the University of York is finally drawing to a close (9 years I’ve been here!) so are some key projects that I’ve been doing all this time. One of the most important projects finished last night. That of Vanbrugh Music.

My involvement with Vanbrugh started seven years ago (2004) when my composer friend Tom Haigh took over the Vanbrugh Voices choir (Vanbrugh is a college at the University of York). I repetiteured and sang bass for him because it seemed like a nice thing to do. As I got to know the choir and watched Tom’s conducting I started to believe I could take it on and luckily enough was asked to conduct the next year.

This proved quite successful and towards the end of the year there I was offered the position of Music Tutor (a position made up for me). The role was never fully defined and it was my task to work out what that meant. Over the next 5 years I worked hard to create what we have now, a music programme with 2 choirs, an ensemble and various extra events and socials. Three years ago (2009) I also bid for a drum kit to go in the provost’s garage. Now, owing to the hard work of the administrator and provost and some substantial funding (£25,000 to date) we have a fully fledged practice space complete with recording facilities.

Three years ago (2009) I also became a Welfare Tutor at Vanbrugh and moved into the college. My role has been to look after the students, providing cups of tea, sympathy and mediation where needed, and also dealing with some extreme cases.

My role at Vanbrugh over the years has included public speaking; Every year I’ve had to stand up and introduce Vanbrugh Music and myself to a group of what started out as 300 students and ended up 700. It’s always one of the most fun things to do and recently I’ve been incorporating throat singing to get the students interested. I’ve also been on the college council and involved in welfare team meetings all of the time I’ve been here, and attended all of the (19 a year!) Provost parties to keep the profile of the Music Tutor up.

I’ve taught conducting and orchestration to the students, and acted as mentor and music teacher. I’ve also arranged a substantial amount of music for both Chamber Ensemble and Voices. I’ve even written some original music (“Vanbrugh Suite” for Chamber Ensemble and “3 Robert Burns Settings” for Vanbrugh Voices). Every year I’ve connected students with music teachers. I’ve also generally tried to encourage groups to form and music to be made.

Every year there has been a successful Christmas concert (arguably the best time of the year). The most successful involved the Vanbrugh Voices, Vanbrugh Chamber Choir and Vanbrugh Chamber Ensemble, as well as the Ukelele Society (begun by a Vanbrugh Student) and Tom’s Girls (a choir started by my now successor Tom Marlow). The concert broke fire-safety rules, over-filling a room with a 200-seat capacity. Other concerts we have done have included spring concerts, summer concerts, concerts for the York Carnival, a musical soiree and a nursing home concert. One of my favourite concerts of the year has been the end of year SCR Garden Party at the provost’s house – always a lovely rounding to the year which is followed by a meal and usually a sing-song in the garden until late. Last night was sadly the last of these but certainly one to remember!

The core principals that I have always held for Vanbrugh Music are that of inclusion, welfare, socialising and fun. The group attracts a great mix of people who all seem to get on very well. It’s always been very welcoming to everyone and anyone and despite some grumblings I have always kept everything non-auditioning and with no need for experience. Anyone is allowed to get involved at any point and although we’re all there to make music together, music is not entirely the goal! Every year I’ve made a point of putting on a lavish Christmas social and tried to keep the group fun and light-hearted.

Also for every group there has been a voluntary secretary, chosen from the students by me. The role is fairly undefined beyond sending out the weekly rehearsal reminder emails. I’ve had the privilege of seeing each student take it on and make it their own, gaining new experience in arts admin and poster design. I’ve mentored and helped where I can and benefitted hugely from their input. On that same point I should mention that the second choir, Vanbrugh Chamber Choir, is fully student run. My role in it has been firstly to direct and make sure it got up and running, and then to mentor and teach the student conductors and directors that took it over (as well as singing bass and repetiteuring).

I haven’t mentioned, but I should, that the Voices started 4 years before I took over. This year we celebrated the 10th Anniversary of Vanbrugh Music (above is a picture of the students that performed that day, old and new). It was a fantastic, lovely summers day and we had a singing workshop in the morning followed by a lunch and then an informal concert in the provost’s garden. Below is a transcript from the speech I made that day.

There are a lot of people I have to thank for my amazing time at Vanbrugh. I had real trouble both last night and at the anniversary articulating exactly how I felt. Every year I meet an incredible group of people who I grow to know and love. Every year an alarming portion of them disappear, and I never hear from them again. This year I will be disappearing with them which is both sad and optimistic. I look forward to seeing what the future holds, and to watching Vanbrugh Music grow and change with each successive Music Tutor.

I will be leaving York soon as I will have finished my PhD. When I think of York though, I’ll mainly be thinking about Vanbrugh. It has been my spiritual and literal home while I’ve been here.

Thank you to:

Caroline Hall
Allen Warren
David Efird
Georgina Heath
Steve Burton (Rock Tutor)
Vanbrugh SCR
Vanbrugh JCR

The Secretaries:
Jo Vaizey
Sara Dimmock
Susana Pardekooper
Ali Duffy
Rob Furnival
Megan Jackson
Jayne Chuter
Laura Turner
Alice Gardner
Claire Moody
Johnny Campbell

Conductors:
Emma Ritzkallah
Saul Jones
Max Elliot
Jo Vaizey
Rhian Davies

Directors:
Rhian Davies
Jo Vaizey

And to everyone that took part and made Vanbrugh Music what it was xx

Vanbrugh 10th Anniversary Speech

Audio MP3

Starts with the end of a speech by Caroline Hall, founder of Vanbrugh Voices.

Caroline Hall:….Each conductor has a different warmup by the way and, you know, you have a great stock of them. And then we had Tom from community music and then Hannah, and finally Edd, with his wonderful range of warmups and so on.
So I think that was the early days and that I think that very important thing to say about it and that the college, it’s all very del leaving the ideas and doing it, the college has been terrifically supportive. Allen Warren was the provost then and if it hadn’t been for him we couldn’t have got going really. One of the things I found in here – I actually did a formal grant application to the York Vanbrugh College amenities fund request and it stresses how important the choir is you know, being head of the councilling service I know all about this and the benefits of singing blah blah. And we put in basically for money to buy some carol book, um books of songs rather than using photocopies and we got 800 quid or something off them. Later on the Senior Common Room itself sponsored the buying of the electric piano and just throughout the college has found a home for us, has been terrifically supportive and David now, he’s carried that on and it’s really important and Vanbrugh now, as Edd will probably explain you know is a music college and that’s been really important.

One of the joys I’ve had in it is seeing people develop, you know we’ve also had as well as conductor somebody whose acted as secretary as something that came on, and to see people develop those skills, see people develop their singing skills and conducting skills, has been brilliant. And me too actually, I’ve also found – I went back to my diary – did I have anything about this? No but ten years ago I started having singing lessons. So now I can sing as well you know! Quite good to be in a choir and um yep, so that’s all happening.

But I think the greatest joy of all and I realise why I did it, is because actually I love choral singing and if nobody else sings with you you can’t do that but really the best thing is that everyone does come sing with me and I thank you all so much, it’s given me so much pleasure over the years and long may it go on. Thank you.

You can take up the story

Edd Caine: Um before I start – (Jo) we have a little presentation for you

Caroline Hall: Oh gosh! Aw thank you!

Edd Caine: So, I don’t want to talk too much about myself but I thought it would be good to talk about how Vanbrugh Music has grown from those beginnings. So I started, my friend Tom Tom Haigh who was the, what the third conductor was he?

Caroline Hall: The second?

Edd Caine: Second? Because Hannah his girlfriend was before him

Caroline Hall: Oh was he? ok he was the third

Edd Caine: He was a good friend of mine, I worked with him at Banks [Music Shop] and I played piano for him and sung bass for him to even out the numbers. When I joined Vanbrugh Voices it was at its worse maybe 3 or 4 people and at its best maybe 8 or 9. And I remember singing in the dining room and how difficult it was but I also remember very clearly rehearsing in what is now the catering office, a tiny little room up beside georgina’s office and joshing around with Arnold [Arthers] and Kingsley [Longbottom] at the back. And that was uh was such a long time ago now.

So when I was there there was also a guy called Johnny Campbell who was the secretary of the choir who I thought I’d mention because He was a very effusive guy, he was very enthusiastic and a good interesting person. So the other thing I remember about that time that particularly I enjoyed were the socials that Caroline [Hall] would put on and bring lots of really lovely pork pies to. So that’s become quite a theme.

So I took over the choir from Tom. I think it was just a case of I sat behind the piano a lot and thinking “gah, I could do that better”. Bit of an egotistical person at the time. And I took it over and Caroline suggested that I take it over I think at the end of Tom’s-

Caroline Hall: Well I gathered you were quite good at music really

Edd Caine:Well I try my best. And I think I did an alright job in the first year so it was a good time, the choir grew. We emphasised on getting more people in essentially, trying to up the recruitment drive.

It went well and towards the end of the year I think Allen and Caroline were floating the idea of having a music tutor, having a position for someone that conducted the choir and did other musical things in the college. And I was quite, really kind of pleased and very chuffed to have a position made for me it was kind of nice.

I think – I seem to remember Caroline your words were “The choir needed a bully” I was quite forceful in getting people to do stuff.

So I remember having a very nervous awkward meeting with Allen (sorry I’ve got quite a lot of speech to get through, I’ve got quite a lot to talk about I’m really sorry I’ll try and be quick) I remember having a very nervous awkward meeting with Allen sort of discussing terms and how we do it and that kind of thing and how it mustn’t encroach on my PhD which it so has. And I remember the phrase he used as the Music Tutor should become “part of the furniture” of Vanbrugh College, part of the furniture of academic life. Always there, the presence being an important thing and always being at events and doing stuff as part of the college and just being part of it as it were. So I made that kind of my thing That’s what I wanted to do. When I got in there I tried to become indispensable as it were. So just to be there to be at everything, trying to go to everything and every party and how I used to run around at all the provost parties with a notepad asking if anyone was musical, if they wanted to do stuff and whether they needed a teacher or anything like that. And the first year or so I spent kind of defining what the music tutor roll was and what that meant and what I was supposed to do.

So since then I think 2007 I started the Chamber Ensemble which at first was an oboe, a clarinet, me and I think we had a violin at one point but I think she gave up pretty quickly. I’m still in touch, well sort of in touch with the two instrumentalists there. And that started off very small and we just chipped away at it and it’s grown and grown and it’s very nice to see. We started off rehearsing in the GCR which is the tiniest place in the world for performers. And then we ended up in the Warren which is over there and that was when Lucy was there actually which was nice and we played Bach and lots of things and sort of more classical stuff. Now it’s sort of grown certainly in the christmas term to the point where we have to use the SCR which is a nice thing. It’s a nice thought that we have to use the space a lot of the time. So the ensemble is something that re-invents itself almost weekly I think because we get so many people dropping out and coming back in and that kind of thing. We ended up – I ended up having to wr- I wrote arrangements, fresh arrangements every week for a while and the arrangements would become redundant the next week when we lost a couple of people. Luckily this year my bklood pressure has gone down because I’ve just bought flexible arrangements.

So in 2009 we had the chamber choir start. This was fist started by a student, Rhian [Davies] who isn’t with us today unfortunately but – she just wanted to start a close harmony group didn’t really know what she wanted to do with it but could I help? and so I said yes ok I can help but you’ve got to run it, I don’t have the time, I’m very busy I don’t have the time to take it [rehearsals] so it started out with the idea that it’s a student run choir and it’s kind of gone on from there and the way I’ve shaped it over the time is that the students run it and I just help out if need be. And it’s gone on from that and it’s gone very well, and in particular Jo, when Jo [Vaizey] took it over it really kind of made it a lot stabler, which is really nice because it’s a lot of weight off my shoulders really. And now it’s such an enthusiastic group and it’s such a great little thing that’s happening and it’s great to see that it’s still thriving.

So that was that and the other thing that’s happened that’s part of this is the Garage so in 2008 I think it was just before Allen left he, I was talking to him about the need for provision for rock musicians and he kind of mentioned that he had a garage and that it wasn’t being used for anything, and I can’t remember if it was David – was it you that got the drum kit in? (yes) So I think the next year when David came in we pushed for a drum kit, we bought one and we stuck it in this dusty horrible room with an old radiator. Terribly bad for health and safety, not very good at all but it was quite popular, it was good, it was very loud in there.

And at one point I got the facilities manager in just to say right what do we need to do just to make this health and safety compliant and that kind of thing and she uh, I think she tried to dissuade me with a large figure I think she said “oh no I think it’ll be about £10,000” I said “oh, ok” and then I told David [Efird] and he said “ok!” at which point she went “Oh no no! It’ll be like £15,000”, “alright”. Thereafter I think I can give no credit for myself. David and Georgina drove the- (the garage) drove the garage, drove into the garage. Created the garage practice space which if you haven’t seen it is a fantastic space now. We’ve got new equipment, we’ve got drums, PA’s we’ve got guitars and amps and that kind of thing and we’re just building a recording studio which is extremely exciting. Nothing to do with me but its great that that’s come out of that. We also have rock tutor now called Steve [Burton] who’s doing a fantastic job.

So that’s that. All of these groups I’ve kind of nurtured and created (sorry, have been nurtured and created, I feel I’m saying myself a lot here) with the core message of what Vanbrugh music is about. And that is that it is an all inclusive group. Anyone can join, it’s non auditioning and it’s there for fun. At it’s heart I think of it more as a welfare group – it’s a place where people come and socialise and meet (no not as in – welfare doesn’t need to mean etc.) so it’s a place where people come and enjoy themselves. They socialise and they express and meet through music which is I think the main purpose of all of these groups and that’s why it’s so important that they’re all-inclusive, non-auditioning and catch-alls for everyone and i think that’s what’s happened and I’m very pleased with the result, I’m very pleased at the way it’s gone in that respect. So and the socials have been great- the christmas social is the highlight of the year to me- er, one of the highlight so of the year, and also the SCR garden party at the end, just kind of always been very high class fantastic events that define these groups to me, apart from the music obviously.

So my question I was asking to myself last night when I couldn’t sleep (which is why I’m very tired by the way) was how can I chart the progress, how can I decide how this has grown, this thing that caroline started and by what measure. and there’s a number of things we could talk about, the number of ensembles, how they’ve come on, there’s the equipment which Caroline mentioned, the pianos, and the people, the number of people involved maybe.

So the first one I thought of was the Christmas concert. The first christmas concert I performed in was in a virtually empty dining hall. There were about 20 people in a row on seats. We had to really shout to get across. So that was the beginnings form my perspective. Then we went to- then we decided to have them in the SCR. And the SCR got about half full for the first concert, which was exciting, at least it was an enclosed space and it looked a bit fuller than it was which was nice, and then the next year the SCR was absolutely packed so people coming out of the door it was lovely.To the point where the year after that we thought we can’t have have it in here. We took it down to V/045 and this was 2009 [actually 2010] which happened to be I think the peek christmas concert, it was the best one. It was the year Tom [Marlow] started here in which we had an enormous ensemble, we had Tom doing his own little choir which he brought on, we had the Ukelele society which was started by Emily Scaglioni, another Vanbrugh Student and we had three ensembles – the chamber choir, the vanbrugh voices and the chamber ensemble. We put it in V/045 expecting at the most 100 people. The limit is 200 i think we totally overdid our health and safety limits. We had people coming in the door, everyone packed, everyone still coming in the door as we were performing. Which was the most amazing experience and I thought that that to me is what i aim, what I’ve been aiming for Vanbrugh Music to be as a place where everyone comes along, everyone gets involved and there are various groups started by students or started by us and it’s a great atmosphere and community. So we haven’t had that since, we’ve had close and that’s good, but that’s what I’ve been aiming for.

So I think that’s a good example of how it’s grown. The second one, equipment. Caroline’s already mentioned the keyboard, which was bought by the SCR which was just such a fantastic help. Before then we had a clavinova which is still in the garage

Caroline Hall: Oh that’s what we had

Edd Caine: which had had two gammy legs and was really heavy to carry

Rob Furnival: oh that was a pain that thing

Edd Caine: yeah and every time we tried to bring it we were afraid of breaking it and our own legs. But the keyboard that the SCR bought was such an enormous help to us and opened the door to so many things. So there’s that so we went from the piano, to a little keyboard to clavinova, to the SCR keyboard so there’s obviously a certain amount of investment involved. The other one was where we stored our music. We started out with a drawer in the SCR in a filing cabinet in which there was a little box with some music and a few books

Caroline Hall: few! 800 quid’s worth!

Edd Caine: Yes and then we took over – we ended up taking over two filing cabinets in the SCR which I was quite pleased with.Then we ended up with a cupboard in what was David [Efird, Provost]’s office and now that is the music office. We have now stacks of music. We have folders full of photocopies. (yes, we never got another 800 quid) we did get some books from various different sources which is great, and caroline actually helped a lot with that but we do a lot of photocopying. So we’ve gone from again from the sort of space to this nice very official looking office and title which is great.

but I think the ultimate sign of the progress of Vanbrugh Music and how it’s become important in the college is this:

Vanbrugh College Logo


I feel very proud to have occasioned it, the piano in the logo, which it think is so important to Vanbrugh now. It’s so important to Vanbrugh now and I hope that it carries on like that.

So quick word about the future. This is Tom Marlow over here who I hope most you have met already. He is the second Vanbrugh Music Tutor, or will be as of October and he’s a community musician and I’m sure will do a fantastic job and yeah. So Tom has been shadowing us recently and he’s done very well with the groups I hope you all agree and I look forward to seeing what he does with it. There’s also a music committee or there will be, we haven’t really met yet, but that’s to involve the JCR and to involve the rock tutor and the music tutor and have a kind of driving force behind Vanbrugh Music and make it a much more involved thing. We have or will have online resources for teaching and for communities and that kind of thing. And we hope to get the JCR much more involved with publicity and creating that community and forwarding the ensembles so that it’s much more of a college wide thing. Although to be honest I’m very happy with the size it is. It’s always been a joy to work with all of you.

So I have a few thanks to say, a lot of them in absentia. A lot of them didn’t come

All of the secretaries that have been helping us out. It’s a voluntary position. I’ve always defined it as something that the secretaries define themselves. I ask them to do a certain amount of things and nothing that I couldn’t do if they were too busy to do it. But apart from that they define the roles [– they help with posters] they choose to do anything that will help with their careers and gain experience and it’s created some great results and I’ve seen some people flower into these fantastic things and to build up their own portfolios and it’s great.

So just to list them all, thanks to:

Johnny Campbell
Alice Gardner
Claire Triantis (who was formerly Moody)
Laura Turner
Ali Duffy
Rob Furnival
Megan Jackson
Jayne Chuter
Rhian Davies
Jo Vaizey

And also to the conductors of the chamber choir which we haven’t really touched upon but the chamber choir is conducted by students so,

Emma Ritzkallah
Saul Jones
Max (whose last name I’ve forgotten (elliot))
Max Elliot as well.

They’re all doing it voluntarily and they’re all doing such fantastic job.

(and Jo) And Jo of course. well I’ve already thanked Jo as secretary. Jo has been a powerhouse over the time she’s been here. She’s directed the Chamber Choir, she kind of brought it out of a very unstable situation, a very political situation into a very positive and wonderful situation and she’s been secretary to that and the Voices as well and done a fantastic job.

And to thank the provosts Allen [Warren] in absentia and David [Efird] without whom non of this would have happened and college as Caroline has pointed out has been extraordinarily supportive and it’s great that they hold it in such high regard. I remember when I was first music tutor I was put on the Welfare Meetings and to College Council and in each meeting I thought “I’m not important enough to be here, I’m just conducting the choir, what am I doing here?” and actually I’m really touched looking back at how seriously they treated me and how seriously they took the role. I became a welfare tutor on the back of that which was extremely useful to me.

So this and to thank Caroline again for starting it all and the SCR for funding a lot of our work and supporting it in such a great way and allowing us to use their space. And to thank Georgina Heath who’s also not here who, if she left Vanbrugh the whole place would just crumble to dust. She just does such a lot of work to help this going and I’m terribly indebted to her.

And finally just to thank everyone who takes part. Which is really what it’s all about. You’re all such great people I feel so privileged to work with you all, sorry

what I wanted to say was that every year a whole bunch of people go and whole bunch of people start, and every year I lose a whole bunch of best friends, and gain a whole bunch of new ones

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