Friday, 13 June 2014

Anup Biswas & Donald Boothman ’Cello & Baritone Two recitals: St Thomas Church Tuesday 17 June Cathedral Chapter House Wednesday 18 June 2014 Message from Beth Corbett - and some very timely World War reminiscences inspired by Anup's visit

Anup Biswas
St Thomas Church Exeter
Tuesday 17 June


Anup Kumar Biswas
plays for the children at
The Mathieson School
Anup Biswas was born in 1957 in West Bengal. At the age of six, he attended a mission school in Calcutta. There, his innate musical talent was spotted and encouraged by an Anglican Priest, The Reverend Theodore Mathieson.

Anup started playing the ’cello and, when he was 16, with the help of many trusts in the UK, he was brought to London where he studied at the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music. His teachers included Thomas Igloi, Amaryllis Fleming, Pierre Fournier and Jacqueline du Pré. Over the subsequent years, he has won many awards and scholarships

Anup has performed widely and regularly in many major cities. After a Vivaldi recital at Grays Inn, he played an Indian raga - at the personal request of HRH the Prince of Wales. On the 16th of March of this year Anup, with his daughter Geetanjali (vocals) and his son Satyajit (mridangam drum - see photo above), played to sell-out audiences in two gala performances at the Royal Albert Hall in London .

The children play too.
Anup's guru, Father Theodore Mathieson, died in 1994. In Theodore’s memory, Anup established a unique music school for poor and deprived children in Calcutta. It has come to be called The Mathieson Music School. By 1996, Anup had raised sufficient funds to buy three acres of paddy fields on the outskirts of Calcutta. Basic structures were built to provide classrooms and boarding facilities for boys and girls.

The School is Christian. However, children of all religious backgrounds are accepted and their various faiths respected. The regular teaching staff is augmented by qualified teachers from the UK and by International Gap Year students who volunteer to help with teaching and musical instruction. This East/West dimension gives the Mathieson pupils educational benefits which would not be available in other Indian schools. As a result, a Mathieson education is a valuable contribution to a child’s development.

The children are selected on a basis of need. Some are orphans. Some are illiterate. Some come from destitute, and often emotionally disturbed backgrounds. The school provides them with all their physical needs - nourishing meals, uniforms, clean dormitories, sanitation – as well as their recreational and educational needs.

A worthwhile cause!
Apart from their regular school activities, the children practise performance skills. There are also dailyconcerts featuring music and dance. These prepare the students for the public performances they frequently give in Calcutta and abroad.

The school is fully subscribed. Furthermore, there are a large number of equally needy children waiting for admission. The school needs financial support for its everyday running costs. There is always demand for more dormitories, practice rooms, classrooms. More staff are always needed, in order that more destitute children can be offered the opportunities this little school provides.

This is the comment of a twenty-five-year-old Gap Year student from the United Kingdom, who visited The Mathieson School, in addition to various other charitable concerns in India (including Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity):

Visited Anups schooltruly amazing work they are doingsmall, small school, all kids so bright, fluent English, awesome musical skills. They played mini-concert for me, including Indian folk dancingwas possibly the most heart-warming experience of my trip so far.”


(Note: Wednesday's Concert starts 1pm)

Cello: Anup Biswas
Mathieson Music Trust Concert
1. St Thomas Church Cowick Street
Tuesday 17 June 7.30pm
2. Exeter Cathedral Chapter House
Wednesday 18 June 1.00pm
Cello: Anup Kumar Biswas
Baritone: Donald Boothman
Piano: David King
Henry Purcell/William Shakespeare:
The Tempest "Arise, ye Subterranean Winds"
George Frideric Handel:
Donald Boothman

Xerxes "Ombra Mai Fu"
Johann Sebastian Bach
Ludwig van Beethoven:
'Cello Sonata in A Major Opus 69
Johannes Brahms:
'Cello Sonata in E minor Opus 38
Charles Gounod/Onésime Pradère:
Faust "Cavatina"
Pyotr Tchaikovsky   Sir Edward Elgar
Rabindranath Tagore: "Anondo Loke"
Richard Rogers & Oscar Hammerstein II:
"South Pacific" Some Enchanted Evening
Cole Porter: Jubilee "Begin the Beguine"
Noël Coward
Admission FREE
Donations welcomed to support Anup'sMathieson Music Trust in Kolkata
(Mathieson Music School Facebook Page)

Memories are Stirred

[Beth Corbett's father, George, was Theodore Mathieson's brother. He was also the father of Ann Travis - mother of Phonic FM "Mighty Book" Presenter, Gill.]

How did I come to organise this recital by Anup Biswas (in particular, in the year when we are thinking about the two world wars of the twentieth century)?

Christmas "Airgraph"
from Middle East Forces
stationed in Egypt in 1941
I had decided to read letters written by my father when he was a 30-year old man in London, just married, and had been called up to serve in the armed forces. He was shipped off to North Africa/Egypt in November 1940. The following year he sent a printed Airgraph to my mother.

An Airgraph was something produced/written on a foolscap-size piece of paper, but it was photographed, and the result was something of only post-card size which was delivered to the addressee. This Airgraph, from November 1941, was a mass-produced Christmas card which had been issued to the soldiers to send home. It shows a galloping camel (with a V for Victory on his saddlecloth) being ridden by a cheery Father Christmas who is waving his hand!

The message reads Christmas Greetings from M.E.F. (Middle East Forces). Underneath this, my father has penned out a line of music notes with the handwritten message, A little puzzle for you - it’s a ’cello obligato with an appropriate sentiment. I should mention that both my parents were very musical - they had met at a Music Camp - he played the violin and she the oboe. A whirlwind romance ensued. My father proposed within 6 weeks!

Stölzel's Bist du bei mir"
as recorded in Anna
s notebook
Mary (his new wife) was expecting their first baby, but he had left her in the East End of London, which was suffering very heavy bombing at the time. As you might imagine, this tiny photographic postcard is very tricky to read, particularly as it’s now over 70 years old! I had no idea what the tune of the line of music was. I thought it might be some sloppy operatic song, such as Puccini’s famous aria Your Tiny Hand is Frozen [Che Gelida Manina from La Bohème] ... or, at any rate, something of that ilk.

I sent a copy of it to Royal College of Music in the hope that their students could help. I had no luck there. Neither did I get any help from Julian Lloyd Webber. Eventually I asked Anup. Within forty eight hours I got an email with the message I have got it! it is Bist du bei mir [If you are with me] by J.S. Bach [from the notebook of Bach’s wife Anna Magdalena, and designated BWV 508, an aria from the 1718 opera Diomedes by Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel]. But the song is a sad one, normally played at a funeral.

... !!!!   How thrilling and exciting was that ... ????

Battle of Gazala June 1942
Panzer II Ausführung J versus
US-supplied General Grant Tank
But I was devastated when I read the translation of the words: If you are with me, I will gladly go to my death and to my rest. Ah, how pleasant would my end be if your dear, fair hands shut my faithful eyes! Hayley Westenra, amongst others, has recorded this for us to hear on iTunes.

[Also performed at Glenorchy Church, Exmouth, on 16 April 2014 by Mary O'Shea and Frances Waters - listen on Mixcloud]

My father was captured in June the following year (1942) during the Battle of Gazala [Tobruk, Libya: Erwin Rommels Panzerarmee Afrika versus Neil Ritchies Eighth Army]. He received a shrapnel wound to his elbow. He then endured 16-months (as a jail-bird... !!!) in a Prisoner of War Camp in Northern Italy. When the Italian Armistice was announced in September 1943. all the soldiers escaped, by cutting a hole in the wire fence and marching out.

My father walked well over 600 miles through mountains riddled with German soldiers and was lucky to reach Allied lines in the south in December - many escapees didn’t make it, and the weather turned very bad during the winter, so some died of exposure. Brave and generous Italian peasants fed and sheltered them, at risk to their own lives - because German soldiers would shoot any Italians who were found to have harboured escapees.

My father reached England again in January 1944. He was given a mere 28 days leave (during which he saw his baby son for the first time, who was now nearly 3 years old!). He was then packed off to Europe where serving soldiers were needed to continue the war.

Pretty Amazing Stuff ... !!!

What a cushy life we have today .... !!!!

Beth Corbett

1 comment:

  1. Can I point out that I took the photo of Anup playing his cello, shown above. It is at Eastcombe Primary School in Gloucestershire UK. Angie Ayling