Birthday bash is part of festival

Distinguished composer Anthony Payne, who has had a home at Tillington for the past 30 years, invites Petworth to share a landmark birthday with him for the Petworth Festival.

Tuesday, 19th July 2011, 8:36 am

Anthony’s 75th Birthday Concert, featuring Jane’s Minstrels, will be on Wednesday, July 20, at St Mary’s Church, Petworth at 7.30pm (ends 9.30pm).

Recognised amongst much else for his re-construction of the fragmentary and unfinished Third Symphony by Elgar, Anthony will also present in the concert the world premiere of a new adaptation of an Elgar miniature, Mina.

The specially-devised programme will be performed by the Jane’s Minstrels, directed by Jane Manning and will be introduced by the composer.

Perhaps surprisingly, given the huge part Elgar has played in his career, it wasn’t Elgar - so famously once a Fittleworth resident - who drew Anthony to West Sussex.

“We acquired the house in 1980 and rather naively, I had forgotten about Fittleworth and Elgar just around the corner. I was not thinking about that in 1980.

“But then something fascinating happened during the interval of a concert in a festival, when I saw the newly-published letters of Elgar to his publisher. I opened it quite at random and the first thing I saw was the word Tillington.”

It seems Elgar had walked into Petworth and then continued to Tillington: “He was about 50 yards from my place!”

Anthony has himself put the programme together for the concert: “I wanted to put in a couple of pieces of mine. You can’t afford to spend too much money on a large ensemble, and in a way it just fell into place with a piano trio and a horn.”

And then he felt it would be wrong not to get the four players together - and so chanced on an excellent combination.

Elgar has long held a fascination for Anthony. To continue Elgar’s work, though, you have to get inside his methods, inside his world which is a strangely melancholic place.

“People think of Elgar as very rumbustious music, marching along with your chest sticking out, but he is not really like that at all. He is the sort of composer that will make a big confident statement and then immediately withdraw. He was a constantly unstable character.”

And yet people look on him as being so typically English - even though that Englishness is considerably less easy to define than it is with, say, Vaughan Williams. Elgar harks back rather to the German composers.

“We feel a sympathy for him for all sorts of psychological reasons which we then somehow think makes him English…”

More details on www.petworthfestival.org.uk.