Choice was made for right reasons

From: Paul Allen

Chairman, Music in the Round

As a local writer, I have a lot of sympathy with Music Lover’s desire to hear the work of local composers played in Sheffield (Letters, March 1).

As part of our remit, Music in the Round does support local music-making, including composition by students which we have played in public.

But with the appointment of Charlie Piper as Associate Composer-in-Residence we aim to do a number of things which we didn’t think should be ring-fenced for locals.

We advertised it widely, got 70 good applications including talented local ones, and then the musicians of Ensemble 360, who led the process, listened without knowing whose work was whose, in the company of an independent observer not connected to Music in the Round.

They were looking for someone who would respond to their talents and draw out their aspirations.

This was how we got to Charlie’s appointment, and I believe it was a fair and expert process.

As our growing audiences in Sheffield and throughout the country know, we are committed not simply to the highest standards of music-making but also to presenting it in an intense, intimate and informal way: chamber music as a visceral experience.

We want to extend that to new music as well as such great classics as the recent Beethoven mini-festival, breaking down barriers that may come from a lack of knowledge or comprehension or a fear that “it’s not for the likes of us.”

Over the next three years I shall be disappointed if Charlie’s work, apart from producing good music and helping us all freely explore how composition works and relates to established music, doesn’t encourage local composers to do great things themselves – and I hope we can put those things into the public experience.

I’m also aware, as someone who came to Sheffield in 1967 expecting to stay for two years, that the city is fantastically good at sucking people into its bloodstream.

Who knows whether Charlie Piper will one day be thought of as a local?