A Blog about the Wardour Castle Summer Schools 1964, 1965

Gilbert and Lumsdaine

It was Anthony Gilbert who in various ways first prompted this research. Gilbert’s interview with Michael Hall that Hall quoted in his book* was the first mention of the WCSSs that I read, and remains one of the most significant passages on the topic in the published literature. Gilbert’s look of incredulity at my lack of knowledge of events from the 1960s spurred me to the particular research of this blog, and he had repeatedly offered to talk to me about the events. When I finally contacted him to make a date for this interview, he suggested including his old friend David Lumsdaine (who Gilbert first met at Wardour) and so the recorded conversation took place in York, with Gilbert travelling there from Manchester. This paragraph is a prolix way of saying that ‘I’m very grateful’.

Unlike the other interviews recorded thus far, I have known both Gilbert and Lumsdaine for five years, during which time we have spoken at length about a whole range of music (and much else besides). I also know their music well and I currently work for UYMP, which publishes both composers.

The first excerpt from the interview covers similar ground to that recounted by Hall, of the discussion that took place on 19 August, 1964, listed in the programme of events as ‘Discussion: Opera Today’:

(LS100047; from 25’42”)

‘The discussion verged and merged into music theatre, not opera at all, and a whole new set of conventions were drafted at that discussion’

Gilbert and Lumsdaine continued:

(LS100047; from 27’19”)
Lumsdaine also recalled that Birtwistle had written The Visions of Francesco Petrarca for school students, which was first performed in York (now withdrawn).

I asked them: were Eisler and Brecht part of that discussion?

(LS100047; from 32’31”)

I was curious about the impact that this event had on works that were not operatic or music theatre. In have elsewhere argued that Kelly Ground is a work that responds to opera, but which is not operatic. If the impact of the discussion of opera is as significant as Gilbert suggests that it is, then surely it impacts on works beyond those that are immediately dramatic:

(LS100047; from 33’36”)

To close this section of the interview, I asked them about the current position of Eisler and Brecht, since they currently play only a small part in London’s music contemporary musical scene. They waved away my question (suggesting the interest in these composers is cyclic) before offering their opinions on Eisler:

(LS100047; from 36’52”)

In the evening of the day following the discussion Opera Today, Stephen Pruslin gave a lecture on ‘Musical Characterization in Mozart Opera’:

(LS100047; from 40’22”)

What of Michael Tippett?

(LS100047; from 1.20’11”)


I know that improvisation formed a significant part of the SPNM composer weekends that Lumsdaine, Gilbert and Don Banks founded in 1967, and so I asked about improvisation at the WCSSs:

(LS100047; from 1.25’56”)

Lumsdaine’s description of improvisation as occurring within a framework is very much how it functions in his compositions from the 1970s, which incorporate improvisation within a frame of highly structured (carefully, precisely, obviously, structured) music. His assembling of different ideas, techniques or approaches stands as an obvious metaphor for the way in which people came together within the framework of the WCSS. For Lumsdaine and Gilbert, the boundary lines between improvisation (immediate response, discussion, inter-influence) and framework (preconceived, taught, directed response) are clearly delineated, with movement between the fields generating hierarchies – in itself not a bad thing (Lumsdaine’s music is formed by a such a process) – but with implications for all participants.

(LS100047; from 1.30’37”)

Parenthetically, the balances here are precarious, maintaining, for example, the ability for Gilbert to considered himself a student at these events and Lumsdaine not, yet without the power imbalances that would render this difference significant. In the interview the topic of ‘tutors’ arose (Davies, Goehr and Wood) and Gilbert mentioned the ‘students’ in these ‘classes’. Lumsdaine, perplexed, asked:

(LS100047; from 10’37”; 14’10”)

To return to rhythm and dissonance, Gilbert and Lumsdaine continue, speaking about the seminar on ‘rhythm’ (the first seminar of 1964, Sunday 16th):

(LS100047; from 1.32’43”)

I asked: had people read the discussions of rhythm in Die Reihe?

(LS100047; from 1.36’30”)


What, then, of repertoire from Europe? Boulez? Stockhausen? Messiaen?

Firstly, Messiaen:

(LS100047; from 17’49”)

Gilbert’s take on the performance (Tuesday, 18 August 1964) of Quatuor pour la fin du temps:

(LS100047; from 26’16”)

The Messiaen discussion lead to Boulez/Stockhausen:

(LS100047; from 21’20”)

There remains some confusion about exactly which pieces by Stockhausen were played in Smalley’s recital:

(LS100047; from 54’45”)

Number IX is the works with the repeated chords. The sources I have that also suggest number IX are derived from Gilbert’s memory, and offer therefore no corroboration.


What of music from the US? Feldman? Cage? Babbitt?

I asked: was there much American music performed?

(LS100047; from 54’45”)


I asked them to tell me about John Alldis and the choir:

(LS100047; from 1.26’01”)


What of the SPNM and the place of the WCSSs in the context of what was going on?

(LS100047; from 11’43”)

How many composers where there?

(LS100047; from 14’58”)


I have a good knowledge of the concerts that were programmed, and several of the interviews I have undertaken have fleshed out details and memories of these events. I need to know more about the events that aren’t listed in the programmes, and I first began the interview with Gilbert and Lumsdaine by asking what went on alongside the programmed events:

(LS100047; from 2’33”)

They returned to the issue of flexibility later in the interview:

(LS100047; from 1.03’49”)

There are some changes to programmes that remain for me confusing. Having in a previous post suggested that Ring a Dumb Carillon wasn’t performed, Gilbert suggests it was, and in so doing they both comment on flexibility in programming:

(LS100047; from 58’45”)

The students also performed lunchtime concerts. I asked: who performed in those?

(LS100047; from 1.10’09”)

Alan Hacker and Roger Smalley gave informal concerts too:

(LS100047; from 1.10’22”)


Gilbert and Lumsdaine also made some comments about specific concerts.

Sunday 16th August

5.0 p.m. Lecture

in the Assembly Room

8.30 p.m. Concert

(LS100047; from 3’24”)

Gilbert suggests that Neville Gambier’s Suite for String Trio was performed. On the flyer given to me by Michael Hall (a preliminary programme) this composition was crossed out, and it was not included in the printed programme.

There is little information available about Neville Gambier, so I asked who he was:

(LS100047; from 4’18”)

I asked Gilbert if he remembered what Goehr had said in his lecture. Although he missed the lecture, their response is significant, suggesting how well-known Goehr’s ideas were at the time (and also the waning influence of Fricker and Hamilton):

(LS100047; from 5’27”)

Monday, 17th August

Recital 5.0 p.m.

Early Organ Music

Peter Maxwell Davies will introduce and play early music on a newly restored Snitzler organ. Works by: Dunstable, Taverner, Byrd, Tomkins, Gabrielli, Scheidt, Zipoli etc.

(LS100047; from 6’59”)

Monday Seminars (this except runs into their comments, excerpted above, about students and teaching):

(LS100047; from 10’08”)

Thursday, 20th August

5.0 p.m. Recital

in the Assembly Room, Susan McGaw

(LS100047; from 37’40”)

Friday, 21st August

8.30 p.m. Concert

at Old Wardour Castle

(LS100047; from 43’06”)

Gilbert suggests a concert in 1965 that took place outside, although it is not obvious which concert this is; perhaps it was not listed in the programme.

Saturday, 22nd August

Gilbert’s memory of the Participant’s Concert differs from the programme, with works by the students of the school also being performed. He also explains the genesis of the events:

(LS100047; from 44’19”)

Friday, 20 August at 8 p.m


(LS100047; from 1.08’14”)


Finally, some more general comments about the 2nd WCSS and it’s legacy:

(LS100047; from 1.06’41”)

I asked why there were only 2 WCSSs:

(LS100047; from 1.45’23”)


*Hall, Michael (2003) Between Two Worlds: The Music of David Lumsdaine (Todmorden, Arc Publications), 31-32

Amongst their other comments, they indicated that the following people were (or may have been) there:

Anthony Payne, Peter Hayworth (opera discussion?), Julian Rushton?


Michael Graubart

David Ellis

John Tilbury


Tim Souster

Michael Graubart

Harry Hancock

Filed under: Commentary from Interviews, How was it funded?, Legacy of the WCSSs, Other information, What music was performed?, What was analyzed/discussed?, Who was there?, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: