North East Connected

Community Music Whickham and Swalwell reignite Auld Lang Syne debate

william shield largeA charitable organisation from Whickham and Swalwell has announced a week-long music festival celebrating the life and times of local born lad, William Shield.

Born in Swalwell in 1754, William Shield started life as a shipyard apprentice but eventually became famous as England’s leading composer of ballad operas and also as Master of the King’s Music under George IV.

A pupil of the illustrious Newcastle Cathedral organist, Charles Avison, Shield became a virtuoso viola player, toured widely and settled in London, helping to found the Covent Garden Opera House. He made a large amount of money, and was constantly associated with royalty and on his death, willed his favourite viola to King George IV. He was the Founder of the Roast Beef Club and is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Amongst many other works, Shield composed a light opera ‘Rosina’ which was set at Gibside and was the smash hit of 1783! The overture contains a melody strikingly similar to that of ‘Auld Lang Syne’, the melody of which is also close to that of a traditional English folk song. This has generated a long-term, spirited controversy about the origins of the Scots song. During the festival, Community Music Whickham and Swalwell (CMWS) plan on giving audience members the opportunity to compare the various melodies and draw their own conclusions.

Shield died in 1829 and many local residents do not know much, if anything, of this fantastic talent the area fathered. CMWS wish to rectify this and so you will hear, during the festival, more intriguing facts of William’s life, his contemporary musicians and the literati of the times.

The festival will take place from Sunday 10 th July to Saturday 16 th July across a number of local venues and as well as ‘William Shield the Musical’ with music specially written by John Treherne MBE, will include performances from CMWS students and prestigious guests with local connections including:

Amelie Addison, a talented violinist and cellist who is currently undertaking PHD research into the music of Shield at Leeds University. She will be giving a presentation on his life and works with musical extracts provided by herself and the excellent, multiple prize winning Akenside Trio.

Kevin Mantu, a young German Concert pianist, was a major prize winner in the Young Pianist of the North piano competition in December 2015. His programme will include music by composers associated with William Shield, such as Muzio Clementi and Joseph Haydn and will reflect the turbulent age of revolution, Napoleonic conflict, Trafalgar and Waterloo. His recital will be played on the wonderful Bosendorfer grand piano housed in the church of St Mary the Virgin, Whickham.

Gordon Dixon, cellist extraordinaire and Chief Executive of the Avison Ensemble, has agreed to perform the Grieg cello sonata. Strongly influenced by folk song, Grieg has a strong relationship with William Shield, whose compositions are imbued with the spirit of traditional music.

Whickham North Councillor, Peter Craig, is hoping to open the festival and is impressed by the scale of the project “Whickham North Councillor, Peter Craig, will open the festival and is delighted to be involved with the event. Most people have heard of William Shield” said Peter

“but don’t really know much about his work. This event run by Community Music will provide an opportunity for everyone to learn about and enjoy his music. It’s an impressive project by the group and a significant date in the North East music calendar.”

Other events, to be announced in due course, will take place in Whickham, Swalwell and Newcastle’s Literary and Philosophical Society, where a significant quantity of Shield’s music is securely housed.

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