Saturday, 15 August 2015

Sir Herbert Brewer: Competition Adjudicator – two anecdotes

I transcribe these anecdotes with no commentary. I was unable to find any reference in newspapers or musical journals to the competition alluded to in the second story.  I add a very brief biography of Brewer at the end of the quotations.

‘The life of an adjudicator at competition musical festival is full of varied experiences and the judge is exposed to as much criticism as he himself expends on the competitors. I have judge at most of the competition festivals throughout the country, and have has the experience of  hearing hundreds of miners – friends and foes alike –sing ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow; after hearing my decision. On the other hand I have been asked if I would like to know ‘the back way out!’ On that particular occasion there were about ten thousand people present, and when the secretary put this question to me before the competition commenced, I failed to grasp his meaning. I asked him to explain, and he informed me that, at their last competition, the tow adjudicators had to escape through the back door; a four-wheeler was waiting for them and these distinguished men were put on the floor of the cab and covered up with rugs, and that is how they escaped to the station!’

‘I think the most severe task I ever has at a competition festival was when I had to listen to Chopin’s Ballade in G minor fifty-five times! We began at ten o’clock in the morning and did not finish until twelve hours later. One remembers the stories of early martyrdom and one wonders why it was reserved for the twentieth century – the alleged age of philanthropy – to discover a torture which, for subtle and exquisite agony, puts all the old instruments of torture into the shade’.
Brewer, Sir Herbert, Memories of Choirs and Cloisters: Fifty Years of Music (London, John Lane: The Bodley Head Limited , 1931) p.147f

Sir Herbert Brewer was born in Gloucester in 1865. He was an organist, conductor and composer.  After beginning life as a chorister at Gloucester Cathedral he held posts in the organ loft of churches in Gloucester, Oxford, Coventry and then Bristol Cathedral.  In 1896 he became organist at Gloucester Cathedral. Later, he conducted the Three Choirs Festival when in that city. He was also director of music at the Gloucester Orchestral Society. Brewer’s musical output included cantatas, oratorios, anthems, organ music, a few piano solos and lighter music for choral societies and orchestras. He was knighted in 1926 and died two years later in the city of his birth. 

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