Page 26 - Church Music Quarterly June 2019
P. 26

 An interview with
 Our interviewee this issue is Brian Kay, broadcaster, conductor, former King’s Singer and Vice President of the RSCM.
CMQ Brian, one little-known fact about you is that you feature in the Academy Award-winning film Amadeus where you provided the singing voice for actor Simon Callow in his role as Papageno (The Magic Flute). How did that come about? Did you get to meet any of the cast?
BK My good friend the late Sir Neville Marriner, who was in charge
of the music for Amadeus, asked if I would like to sing the part of Papageno, along with my wife (soprano Gillian Fisher) as Papagena. I was, of course, delighted to be asked, though a little surprised, as I had recently (this was in 1983) ‘retired’ from the King’s Singers and thought a young up- and-coming singer might have been preferred. ‘Oh no,’ he replied, ‘we want it to sound like an actor trying to sing’! We had great fun recording the music and even having a meal with Peter Schaffer, though we didn’t manage
to meet any of the cast – apart from Simon Callow who was there for the recording sessions. It’s a wonderful film and we were both thrilled to be
a very small part of it.
CMQ You’ve been involved for many years with The Really Big Chorus which, for those who don’t know, is the UK’s largest choral society. Every year you invite thousands of singers from all across the world to turn up at
the Royal Albert Hall and sing –
no rehearsal, and no previous experience required! How on earth do you go about conducting up to 3,000 unrehearsed strangers?
BK This is one of the most exciting parts of my working life. To conduct
a cast of thousands in the Royal Albert Hall in several of the greatest choral and orchestral works (Handel’s Messiah, Requiems by Fauré, Mozart and Verdi, The Armed Man, Vivaldi’s Gloria, etc.) is a huge excitement, every time. I was lucky enough to succeed Sir David Willcocks as principal conductor and, as well as the Albert Hall concerts, we take members of TRBC to many exotic locations around the world, along with singing cruises and a summer school each year. But the ‘big one’ is always the annual Messiah, where up to 4,000 singers turn up and sing their hearts out. It’s a glorious sound and thrills me to bits every year. I need to make very large gestures so that the singers – many of whom are sitting a long way away from me! – can actually see me.
Sir Neville Marriner asked if I would like to sing the part of Papageno, along with my wife (Gillian Fisher) as Papagena.
I was, of course, delighted!
Left: Still from the film Amadeus. Opposite: Brian Kay conducting.
Even without rehearsal it just gets better every year and I am constantly amazed at how wonderfully together
it is – most of the time! So many of the singers come back year after year and great friendships (and even marriages) have resulted from these events.
CMQ You must have a favourite piece of choral music? But what is it and why? And is it also your favourite piece to conduct?
BK This is like asking me to choose ten records for that famous desert island! – almost impossible
to choose. Messiah is right up there at the top and it is always a joy to conduct. But if you believe, as I do, that Bach was the greatest composer who ever lived, then the two Passions – St Matthew and St John – have
to take the top slot, musically, emotionally and spiritually. I’m not

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