Consort of Twelve founder says farewell to the area

Ian
Ian

The Consort of Twelve – an ensemble of musicians from Hampshire and Sussex who specialise in the performance of Baroque music – will have to continue without their founder.

Ian and Jean Graham-Jones, who moved to the Chichester area from Cornwall in 1972, have now moved to Devon to be closer to family.

Ian was appointed as a lecturer at Chichester College to help start the new music department in 1972, teaching A Level students, many of whom have achieved successful careers in music. He was later head of school of music at the College, until retirement from full-time work in 1993.

Ian’s greatest legacy to the area, however, will be The Consort of Twelve. The group uses the styles, techniques and instruments of the 17th and 18th centuries. When it began, it was the first amateur/semi-professional group of its kind in the country.

The Consort evolved through Ian – a harpsichordist – getting to know baroque violinist Paul Denley who lived in Bishops Waltham: “We founded it together in 1981. We were setting out to be a period baroque group.

“It was difficult because of the sort of instruments, but Paul was in a unique position as a maker as well as a player.”

Paul led the Consort for fifteen years.

Its first performance was an ambitious project jointly with Opera 70 to perform a staged production of Handel’s opera Alessandro.

“They were based at Bishop Otter College, and asked us to be the orchestra. It was very exciting.

“It was very much a small production with limited staging, but it got some very good reviews, I seem to remember, from some of the Handel scholars that came down.”

The Consort’s first instrumental concert was in January 1982. It was subsequently led for four years by Julia Bishop, violinist in the ensemble Red Priest, before Judy Tarling took over from 2001 to 2012. Choral concerts between 2000 and 2008 were conducted by Paul Esswood.

In all, the Consort has given more than 160 concerts both in the Chichester area and farther afield.

“It has been about getting the people that wanted to do it. We had a very strong core of players when we first started. Some of those players are still with us, though some have retired and sadly some have died.

“We do three or four concerts a year, but we have also joined up with other organisations like Portsmouth Baroque Choir fairly regularly.

“We have also been down to Devon and Cornwall.”

Ian is confident the Consort will continue: “It will go on. No one is indispensable.

“I know they are planning some concerts for next year.”

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