Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Ode to Joy’

On the Theme of Islands

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 9th May, 2017

Europe Day concert 2017The annual Europe Day concert in St. John’s Smith Square is always an emotional occasion for me. Although I abandoned any ambition for a musical career in my early teens, music still has the ability to move me more than any other art form. So strong is its influence that I cannot write with music on in the background, as it distracts my mind from the task at hand. But it’s not just the music that stirs my emotions on Europe Day; my belief in the European project is unshaken, while arguing that the EU should certainly reform — as many political leaders on the continent, such as the European Commission’s Foreign Affairs supremo, Federica Mogherini, now concede. And yes, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy does sometimes bring tears to my eyes. How brave Emmanuel Macron was to use that European anthem for his victory celebration in the Louvre on Sunday, rather than the Marseillaise! Would even Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron dare to do that in the UK? I have attended several Europe Day concerts and for me tonight’s programme beat all previous offerings. The Maltese presidency chose a subject thread for the evening: Music on the Theme of Islands — underlining not only Malta’s maritime history but also the situation of the British Isles, too. There was a brilliant selection of both orchestral and choral music, from Sibelius’s The Tempest to Martinú’s Ariane. Of course, there was an added edge to this evening’s concert as everyone was aware that it might be the penultimate occasion of its kind, assuming Britain leaves the EU by the end of March 2019. In common with many people in the church this evening, I find that a matter of immense sadness. But while I would prefer to stop Brexit in its tracks it is absolutely vital that a Hard Brexit is avoided and that the UK maintains as close a connection with the EU27 as possible.

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Europe Day in London

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 9th May, 2013

European Union Youth OrchestraIt was good to see Parliament Square in London ablaze with the flags of the 27 EU member states today; I hope some of more Eurosceptic MPs in the House of Commons opposite took note of where this country rightly belongs. Europe House (headquarters of the European Commission and European Parliament offices in London, in the old Tory HQ in Smith Square, hosted a drinks reception before the traditional Europe Day concert at St John’s. The theme of the latter was appropriately Irish, given that Ireland currently holds the six month rotating presidency of the EU Council of Ministers and indeed the Irish Ambassador, Bobby McDonagh — who is sadly coming to the end of his London posting — gave a fine and pertinent, succinct address at the beginning, reminding us all of how peaceful cooperation has transformed Europe, despite current economic woes. The concert that followed, performed by the European Union Youth Orchestra, under the baton of Laurent Pillot, was the best such event I can ever remember, with an eclectic mix of classical and more modern works by Percy Grainger, Charles Villiers Stanford, William Wallace and Aloys Fleischmann, as well as the more predictable Richard Wagner and of course ending with Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”. The singing was particularly fine, performed by soloists from the European Opera Centre: Elsa Benoit, Daire Halpin, Martin Piskorski and Wolfgang Resch. It’s true the musicians were playing and singing to the converted but nonetheless it is on occasions like this that I am once again reminded of the wealth and depth of European culture and how we, as European citizens, in our wonderful diversity, can be united in celebration of values and heritage that make Europe a living entity that has so much to offer the world.

Link: http://www.euyo.org.uk

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David Walter’s Thanksgiving Service

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 27th June, 2012

The breadth and depth of friendship and affection for the late broadcaster and Liberal Democrat activist David Walter was on view this afternoon when St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, was packed by family, friends and former colleagues, remembering one of the kindest and most intelligent of men (a rare combination). So many people came that the berobed ushers spent much of the first 20 minutes on tiptoes bringing in extra chairs. The service itself was a charming balance of religious and secular, reverent and irreverent, in keeping with David’s character. Traditional hymns such as ‘Come Down, O Love Divine’ and ‘Praise, My Soul, The King of Heaven’ shared the bill with Ralph Vaughan Williams’s ‘The Turtle Dove’ and the tongue-twisting Gilbert and Sullivan ‘I Am The Very Model of a Modern Major General’. The justly renowned St Bride’s choir did us all proud; Bainton’s ‘And I saw a New Heaven’ was indeed heavenly. Patrick Worsnip gamely read, in ancient Greek, ‘The Playmaker’ from Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations, in recognition of David’s classical erudition, while David’s daughter Natalie joined fellow Royal Shakespeare Company actors Kathryn Drysdale and Mark Hadfield in a spirited extract from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. There were three addresses, the first fittingly by David’s son Pete, who spoke of the night he had spent with his father in hospital near the end, during which he had learnt many things about David he never knew. Sir Trevor Macdonald concentrated on David’s professional integrity, his modesty and the extraordinary fact within the broadcasting profession that David never had an unkind word to say about anyone. Finally, (Baroness) Susan Kramer spoke of the way that David had touched various Liberal Democrat politicians’ lives. When she choked slightly towards the end, we all choked with her. But Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ — the anthem of the European cause that was so dear to David’s heart — lifted our spirits and prepared us for the merry wake round the corner at the Press House Wine Bar.

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The Castle of Love on Europe Day

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 9th May, 2011

Franz Liszt wrote only one opera, Don Sanche or the Castle of Love, while aged 13. When the work had its premiere in Paris in 1825, there was a generous reception — particularly when the pint-sized composer was virtually carried on stage. But the libretto is preposterous even by 19th century opera standards and the music not that innovatory so the work was rarely performed afterwards before disappearing from view for a long period. As this is the bicentenary of Liszt’s birth, however, and Hungary currently presides over the EU, he was a fitting choice for tonight’s Europe Day concert at St John’s Smith Square. The European Opera Centre backed by the European Youth Orchestra under the baton of Laurent Pillot gave us some of the highlights of this often rather Mozartian curiosity. The concert was closed with the European Anthem, Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’, which brought the audeince to its feet and many a tear to the eye. Meanwhile, David Cameron may have small-mindedly refused to fly the European 12-star blue flag outside 10 Downing Street today, but Westminster Council, in contrast, used the flagpoles left over from the Royal Wedding to fly not only the European flag but those of all 27 member states.

Link: http://www.euyo.org.uk

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