David Allinson: Lunchtime Live

Lunchtime Live
David Allinson

Friday 1pm lunchtime informal online talks

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Amongst the many online activities of musicians during Covid 19 is a fascinating series of informal 45-minute Friday lunchtime chats from David Allinson, a distinguished early music conductor, singer and lecturer based in Canterbury, UK. With all his conducting engagements cancelled for the past year, he has taken to the internet in a most imaginative and engaging way. As well as running a number of online workshops for local Early Music Fora, since October 2020 he has been giving regular Friday lunchtime chats via his Facebook page and accessible on his website, where past sessions remain available.

Each chat is accompanied by a Spotify playlist and recommendations on further listening, scores, videos on related topics. There is usually one or two broad themes for the talks, although they remain delightfully informal and, in David’s own words: “rather impromptu”. Each 30-40′ Facebook chat is followed by a short and even more informal Zoom session where additional music examples are shared. One aspect of those, which applies to most Zoom sessions in these Covid times, is that I really don’t think that people realise that Zoom cameras normally default to on. If people could see what they look like on Zoom when they are listening to somebody else I think more would opt for the video-off option. I took a couple of screenshots from the most recent Zoom session, one with the camera showing only a ceiling light, the other showing the ‘listener’ leaning back reading a magazine.

The most recent chat (available here) is an excellent example of what to expect. Under the broad heading of “Challenging orthodoxies of dress and sound”, David started with what he described as some “well-intentioned therapy”, reflecting on turning negative inner thoughts and internal monologues into a more positive process – something that most musicians struggle with, whatever stage of their career they are at. Moving on to consider music as a ‘process’ rather than a ‘product’ he then turned to questions of how musicians dress, noting the ubiquitous black attire that gives a unifies appearance. He challenged the notion that wearing bow ties implied an air of superiority with an alternative view of it reflecting the role of the musician as the servant of the audience, rather like formally-dressed waiters.

He also spoke about the ambiguous power dynamic of conductors, drawing on his own experience in that role. He mentioned his experience of working with an Iberian choir with a distinctive presentational style of performance, which included singers stepping out from the choir to emphasis particular vocal entries, and their application of more emphatic articulation than we are used to in the UK. His related musical examples were typically fascinating and challenging, ranging from Victoria, Josquin and Gesualdo to some extraordinary singing of Corsican chant by a trio of American singers.

David Allinson has been a teacher and lecturer at Oxford and Bristol Universities and was until recently the Director of Music at Canterbury Christ Church University. He is now a freelance conductor, notably of Musical Director of the Renaissance Singers and Cantores. His lecturing experience is immediately apparent in his remarkably erudite and inspiring unscripted chats direct to camera.

Not surprisingly, given the appaling situation most British musicians now find themselves in with the dual menaces of Covid-19 and Brexit, there is an opportunity to contribute in return for the gems of wisdom offered.