excerpt from 'Southbank Centre Archive' (279 words)

excerpt from 'Southbank Centre Archive' (279 words)

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Southbank Centre Archive

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As a child, the Festival Hall meant visits with my grandmother to Festival Ballet's Nutcracker, at Christmas. Fifteen years later I was back, this time on the other side of the curtain. I worked as a dresser for Nutcracker, whilst struggling to set up my first company, Strider.  Working with Festival Ballet felt like being part of a large friendly travelling circus- everybody mucked in to get the show on, clambering up and down the tiers for choral singers. Just to get on and off stage was a real effort! Beryl Grey was the always immaculate ringmaster and I must say I loved the whole experience. The concert hall has for me two particularly wonderful memories. When I left school in1965, I came to London on a relentless voyage of discovery and  made sure I never missed a concert with Pierre Boulez. He gave extraordinary programmes with the BBC Symphony Orchestra;  in those dry Festival Hall acoustics it felt as if he literally  prised  my ears open to the nuance and detail of Webern, then overwhelmed the senses with lush orchestral pieces by Debussy. Every night it was like an education in an evening. In a totally different genre, I remember an unforgettable concert by the American composer/singer Meredith Monk. To a packed out house, she began by walking onstage alone, clutching a glass of water. She took a few sips, waited for the audience to settle down and then began to sing, unaccompanied, strange little moans and wailings broken up by sharp gasps of breath. She had the entire hall in the palm of her hand.You could hear the proverbial pin drop. Best wishes, Richard Alston

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