The Wright way
PUBLISHED: 10:15 16 December 2014 | UPDATED: 10:15 16 December 2014
Aldeburgh Music’s new chief executive, Roger Wright, is excited by Suffolk’s enormous cultural and creative wealth – and he wants more people to know about it. He starts with Andrew Clarke
Roger Wright, former controller of BBC Radio 3 and artistic director of the annual Proms concerts at the Royal Albert Hall, loves the view from his new office.
From the top floor of the admin buildings which abut the Snape Maltings Concert Hall he can see out over the reed beds towards Iken and Aldeburgh. Across the room out of the other window he can see the hustle and bustle around the Hoffman Building in the main Snape Maltings complex.
Roger Wright loves being at the centre of things and, as the new chief executive of Aldeburgh Music, he plans to make sure that the Suffolk-based centre of musical excellence is at the heart of local cultural life.
He wants to reach out to other local cultural institutions, to work together and tell the world about what is happening in Suffolk.
“I’m very much the new boy on the block, but one of the things that I have been struck by is the range and quality of what goes on in Suffolk.
“Even when you look at what goes on here at Snape – I was struck by the lack of awareness in the outside world of what goes on here throughout the year – not because the people haven’t been shouting about what’s been going on, but because there is so much else going on elsewhere.
“What I want to do is come up with a way of promoting Snape as, for want of a better phrase, a creative campus.”
Roger says there are no sweeping overnight changes planned to either the Aldeburgh Music programme or to the festival. Instead he is feeling his way into the job, tapping into the years of experience around him.
He enjoyed the Brazilian literary festival, Flipside, at Snape this year and wants to see more of this sort of thing. In fact he wants to see the concert hall and other Aldeburgh Music facilities used year round for a wide variety of cultural events, rather than just being regarded as a home for the Aldeburgh Festival and Snape Proms.
One of the key elements that keeps Aldeburgh Music fresh, says Roger, is the flexible nature of Benjamin Britten’s and Peter Pears’ original ideas for the organisation.
“If you have an organisation created by a composer and a performer, in a place which is all about its roots and community, and also dedicated to inspiring young musicians and training the next generation of young artists, then you have permission to develop any element of that.”
And Aldeburgh Young Musicians (AYM) provides a shining example of the quality of home grown talent across a huge range of different musical styles.
“So if anyone asks whether the Britten-Pears founding vision is alive and well today then they have to look no further than AYM because it is built on extraordinary quality. It is from this region and it fosters the development of an amazing range of musicians.
“The one thing that is different from 1948, when the festival was founded and Britten began his work with young people, is that today young musicians don’t put music into compartmentalised boxes as we might have done a generation ago. In today’s world they just see music as music and ask the question: ‘Is it any good or not?’
“That means that there is now a lot more crossover between different music styles. There is a sense of energy and rediscovery in modern music as a result of this cross-fertilisation.”
Presentation of music has changed too, says Roger. Much more is expected of singers, and audiences are used to sophisticated lighting arrangements in theatres.
Concert halls need to embrace an element of showmanship in the presentation of their work.
“That doesn’t mean to say that everything has become theatrical, but you do need to respond to and build upon an audience’s expectations. ”
Roger’s immediate goal is to find ways of integrating Aldeburgh Music’s activities more fully with the rest of the arts in Suffolk.
“I’m looking forward to meeting and talking with DanceEast, the New Wolsey, HighTide and various others to find out how we can work together – whether it’s in terms of cross-promotion or full-scale co-productions or whatever, but I think we should be shouting about the quality of work that is being created here in Suffolk.”
Indeed, it was the quality of Suffolk’s arts provision and the opportunities of taking it to the next level that tempted Roger away from the BBC.
“I had spent 17 years back at the BBC. Before that I had worked for Deutsche Grammophon in Hamburg and before that as artistic administrator for The Cleveland Orchestra in the United States.
“I count myself really lucky to have been asked to work in those places. So when the question was first put the idea was so intriguing, and the more I thought about it, I thought I would love to work here. It’s a remarkable organisation with an extraordinary heritage, reinventing itself throughout its history in one of the most beautiful places in the world – and having one of the great concert halls of the world. Trust me, I have seen a lot of concert halls in my time and there is nothing to match this.
“It was also about giving back, and that unique opportunity to work at a local, regional, national and international level was a big new challenge.”