Music man Richard prepares to call it a day - The Leamington Observer

Music man Richard prepares to call it a day

Leamington Editorial 13th May, 2024   0

FOR a smallish town a decent drive from the cultural riches of London, Leamington punches well above its weight when it comes to top quality, world renowned chamber music.

The internationally-respected annual festival, plus the considerable programme of string quartet recitals at the Pump Rooms, added to the regularly packed Early Music concerts at St Mary’s in Warwick, is testament to a formula which has been developed and perfected over years.

But while plenty of people have contributed to forging this enviable reputation, one name has over time taken on the mantle of complete indispensability. Without Richard Phillips, this proud history would simply not have happened.

Richard’s CV reads like an anthology of half-a-dozen musical lives. Organising music festivals all over the UK and beyond, managing top-flight groups, founding projects and advising on the boards of many others. Throw in a wine business and a few years teaching all over Europe and it’s been a busy life thus far.




But music has always been the principal motivator and he’s admitted to feeling lucky to have been able to make his love for it so much a part of his working life.

“I fell in love with chamber music by getting to know the repertoire when I was managing quartets in Yorkshire,” he says.


More than a hundred festivals later, the enjoyment is still there but it is time for a change. Signing off with another impressive line-up of performers and repertoire, he’s decided to call it a day.

It has been a journey of hard work but immense pride. Running festivals has always presented unexpected challenges; late cancellations, problems with venues, instruments, chairs and more.

But little could have prepared the music world for the brutal arrival of Covid and the almost complete shutdown of anything involving getting the public out to see live performances.

While many organisations accepted the inevitable and indefinite hiatus in the schedule opting to close doors and take the hit, Leamington Music, under Richard’s drive was among the earliest to reappear.

“There was a sense of pride in keeping things going as we did during covid and the restrictions it brought. But it was also a case of needing to keep the money coming in – it is a job,” he says.

Socially-distanced seating in bigger venues with quartets playing in the round saw audiences prepared to keep their masks on return to the fray, and allowed cash-starved musicians to be paid.

“We were able to pay money to some artists particularly when ticket holders opted not to take a refund. It was a few hundred here and there but it kept things going,” he says.

There is a belief that if the music offered is of a sufficiently high standard, audiences will come along. And despite a clear skewing of that audience complexion in favour of older people, there is no immediate fear for the future.

“We’re not so pessimistic. We’ve been getting a lot more younger people coming along since Covid.

“Perhaps chamber music is naturally an older person’s thing. Young people who fall in love with music tend to fall in love with a full orchestra playing fortissimo. Maybe the quieter nature of chamber music is something you come to in later years.”

This year – as in so many previous years – Richard has been there for every note and all will hope to see his smile of enjoyment and hear his trademark thumping applause for many years to come. There will be tributes aplenty as Richard calls it a day. But perhaps the most lasting tribute is that the music will go on.

Details of the 2025 Festival are already available. To find out more about chamber music concerts in Leamington visit leamingtonmusic.org

 

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