Friends Come Together to Celebrate Michael Kennedy
The Michael Kennedy Memorial Concert took place at the RNCM on Monday 5 October, featuring an all-star vocal line-up led by Sir Mark Elder and Sir Andrew Davis.
RNCM alumni Lee Bisset (soprano), Alice Coote (mezzo-soprano), Paul Nilon (tenor), Laurence Perkins (bassoon) Jeffrey Lloyd Roberts (tenor), Joan Rodgers (soprano), Kathryn Rudge (mezzo-soprano), Kathleen Smales (mezzo-soprano), Philip Smith (baritone), Richard Berkeley Steele (tenor), Wendy Dawn Thompson (mezzo-soprano), Sir John Tomlinson (bass) and Christopher Turner (tenor) descended on their alma mater, alongside sopranos Susan Bullock, Rebecca Evans, Dame Felicity Lott and Marie McLaughlin, mezzo-soprano Susan Bickley, and baritone Roderick Williams, to present an evening of wonderful music in celebration of their friend, Michael Kennedy CBE, who died on New Year’s Eve last year.
It was an occasion like no other in the RNCM’s history. Accompanied by the Hallé (with friends from the BBC Philharmonic) and RNCM Orchestra, the full-house was treated to a programme of songs and arias close to Michael’s heart. Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Serenade to Music, Haydn Wood’s Roses of Picardy, Bizet’s ‘Au fond du temple saint’ from Les pêcheurs de perles, Wagner’s ‘Wahn! Wahn! Überall Wahn!’ from Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and the ‘Final Trio’ from Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier… the list went on. There was also a performance of Elgar’s Romance for bassoon and orchestra played by alumnus Laurence Perkins, conducted by Harish Shankar, the College’s Junior Fellow in Conducting.
In her thank you speech, Michael’s widow Joyce said: ‘We have been honoured tonight to be entertained by many leading performers in the British music world. Michael and I were privileged to be able to call these artists our friends.’ And that summed it up perfectly.
Compèred by Radio 3’s Petroc Trelawny, the concert was a celebration of a man greatly respected and admired by Manchester’s classical music world and the RNCM in particular. A Fellow and Companion of the College and former member of the Board of Governors, Michael enjoyed RNCM concerts and operas as both an audience member and internationally-acclaimed music critic for over 40 years. Together with Joyce, he also co-founded the RNCM’s annual Strauss Prize, one of the College’s most prestigious competitions for vocal students.
In his tribute, Opera magazine editor John Allison wrote: ‘Michael Kennedy was the most generous of human beings – a rare quality, some might say, in a critic. But of course he was much more than just a critic…’ And in his review for the Manchester Evening News, Robert Beale noted that ‘Manchester has seen nothing like it, and probably never will again. Three knights of the realm, one dame, and nearly 20 more of the world’s top opera singers on the same platform to celebrate the memory of a great writer, Mancunian and, as they would all have said, friend.’
The concert was followed by a reception, hosted by Joyce, on the stage of the RNCM Theatre. All proceeds from the night will go to the Michael Kennedy Memorial Fund to support RNCM students through bursaries and scholarships. Anyone wishing to make a donation to the fund can contact Stephanie Clark at [email protected] or call 0161 907 5338.
8 October 2015