John Amis

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John Amis
John Amis.JPG
John Amis at a Critics' Circle luncheon, April 2010
BornJohn Preston Amis
(1922-06-17)17 June 1922
Dulwich, London
Died1 August 2013(2013-08-01) (aged 91)
Occupation Music critic
Nationality British
GenreMusic criticism

John Preston Amis (17 June 1922 – 1 August 2013) was a British broadcaster, classical music critic, music administrator, and writer. He was a frequent contributor for The Guardian and to BBC radio and television music programming.

<i>The Guardian</i> British national daily newspaper

The Guardian is a British daily newspaper. It was founded in 1821 as The Manchester Guardian, and changed its name in 1959. Along with its sister papers The Observer and The Guardian Weekly, the Guardian is part of the Guardian Media Group, owned by the Scott Trust. The trust was created in 1936 to "secure the financial and editorial independence of the Guardian in perpetuity and to safeguard the journalistic freedom and liberal values of the Guardian free from commercial or political interference". The trust was converted into a limited company in 2008, with a constitution written so as to maintain for The Guardian the same protections as were built into the structure of the Scott Trust by its creators. Profits are reinvested in journalism rather than distributed to owners or shareholders.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters are at Broadcasting House in Westminster, London, and it is the world's oldest national broadcasting organisation and the largest broadcaster in the world by number of employees. It employs over 20,950 staff in total, 16,672 of whom are in public sector broadcasting. The total number of staff is 35,402 when part-time, flexible, and fixed-contract staff are included.


Life and career

Born in Dulwich, London to a banking family, and a cousin of the novelist Kingsley Amis, Amis was educated at Dulwich College, where he began a lifelong friendship with his contemporary, Donald Swann. A serious bout of mastoiditis as a child left him deaf in his left ear. He began his career working in a bank for five and a half weeks before leaving to earn a living in music. Amis had a number of roles, including gramophone record salesman, and orchestra manager (at one point turning pages for Dame Myra Hess during the wartime concerts at the National Gallery. [1] ), before becoming a music critic, initially with The Scotsman in 1946. He was for several years manager for Sir Thomas Beecham, and also worked for the London Philharmonic Orchestra. [2]

Dulwich district in the London Borough of Southwark, England

Dulwich is an area of south London, England. The settlement is mostly in the London Borough of Southwark, with parts in the London Borough of Lambeth, and consists of Dulwich Village, East Dulwich, West Dulwich and the Southwark half of Herne Hill. Dulwich lies in a valley between the neighbouring districts of Camberwell, Crystal Palace, Denmark Hill, Forest Hill, Peckham, Sydenham Hill and Tulse Hill and was in Surrey until 1889, when the County of London was set up.

Kingsley Amis English novelist, poet, critic, teacher

Sir Kingsley William Amis, was an English novelist, poet, critic, and teacher. He wrote more than 20 novels, six volumes of poetry, a memoir, various short stories, radio and television scripts, along with works of social and literary criticism. According to his biographer, Zachary Leader, Amis was "the finest English comic novelist of the second half of the twentieth century." He is the father of British novelist Martin Amis. In 2008, The Times ranked him ninth on a list of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945.

Dulwich College Independent, day and boarding school in London

Dulwich College is a 2–19 independent, day and boarding school for boys in Dulwich, London, England. It was founded in 1619 by Edward Alleyn, an Elizabethan actor, with the original purpose of educating 12 poor scholars as the foundation of 'God's Gift'.

In 1948, William Glock invited Amis to run a summer school for musicians at Bryanston School, Dorset. The summer school moved to Dartington in 1953. Amis remained administrative director until 1981, during which time he brought to the school a long line of international musicians, amongst them Paul Hindemith, Igor Stravinsky, and Sir Michael Tippett.

Sir William Frederick Glock, CBE was a British music critic and musical administrator who enlivened Britain's post-war musical life by introducing the Continental avant-garde, notably promoting the career of Pierre Boulez.

Bryanston School Public school independent school in Blandford Forum, Dorset, England

Bryanston School is a co-educational independent school for both day and boarding pupils, located next to the village of Bryanston, and near the town of Blandford Forum, in Dorset in South West England. It was founded in 1928. It occupies a palatial country house designed and built in 1889–94 by Richard Norman Shaw, the champion of a renewed academic tradition, for Viscount Portman, the owner of large tracts in the West End of London, in the early version of neo-Georgian style that Sir Edwin Lutyens called "Wrenaissance", to replace an earlier house, and is set in 400 acres (1.6 km2).

Dartington International Summer School is a summer school and festival of music held on the medieval estate of Dartington Hall and is a department of the Dartington Hall Trust. First established at Bryanston School in 1948, the summer school moved to Dartington in 1953. It caters for anyone who wants to enjoy music from conservatoire students and young professionals to enthusiastic amateurs and late starters. Internationally renowned musicians teach and direct the courses and perform concerts in the evenings, with some courses working towards student performances at the end of the week. The summer school is unique in catering for young professionals and amateurs alongside each other in such a large range of courses. Although predominantly classical music, from early through to contemporary, other genres such as digital, world, jazz and folk are also covered. Artists and participants stay in accommodation on the Dartington Estate, with concerts taking place mainly in the old medieval banqueting hall now known as the Great Hall, and classes being taught around the medieval courtyard and in the studio buildings that used to be part of Dartington College of Arts.

Amis' short career as a tenor began with the role of Ishmael in the 1967 recording of Bernard Herrmann's cantata Moby-Dick . He made his operatic debut in 1990 as the Emperor in Turandot . [3] Amis had started singing in earnest after 1959: in that year he attended Professor Frederick Husler's s singing class at Dartington 'just for fun', and was told not only that he had the makings of a Heldentenor , but that he ought to go to Germany to study. [4]

A tenor is a type of classical male singing voice whose vocal range lies between the countertenor and baritone voice types. It is one of the highest of the male voice types. The tenor's vocal range extends up to C5. The low extreme for tenors is roughly A2 (two As below middle C). At the highest extreme, some tenors can sing up to the second F above middle C (F5). The tenor voice type is generally divided into the leggero tenor, lyric tenor, spinto tenor, dramatic tenor, heldentenor, and tenor buffo or spieltenor.

Bernard Herrmann American film score composer, conductor

Bernard Herrmann was an American composer best known for his work in composing for motion pictures. As a conductor, he championed the music of lesser-known composers.

A cantata is a vocal composition with an instrumental accompaniment, typically in several movements, often involving a choir.

From the 1950s onwards, Amis became a regular contributor to BBC Radio's music output, and worked on BBC Television from 1961, producing and presenting documentaries, and introducing the BBC2 magazine programme Music Now. As a broadcaster, he is probably best known for his appearances as a team member, from 1974 to 1994, on the BBC Radio 4 panel show, My Music , also appearing in the television version. It was on this show that he disclosed an unexpected talent as a skilled siffleur. His own radio show on Radio 3 interviewed musicians and contemporary witnesses such as Sir Isaiah Berlin. [5] For many years he wrote a column on music in The Tablet, England's best-known Catholic magazine.

BBC Radio division and service of the British Broadcasting Corporation

BBC Radio is an operational business division and service of the British Broadcasting Corporation. The service provides national radio stations covering the majority of musical genres, as well as local radio stations covering local news, affairs and interests. It also oversees online audio content.

BBC Radio 4 British domestic radio station, owned and operated by the BBC

BBC Radio 4 is a radio station owned and operated by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is Gwyneth Williams, and the station is part of BBC Radio and the BBC Radio department. The station is broadcast from the BBC's headquarters at Broadcasting House, London. On 21 January 2019 Williams announced she was quitting the role. There are no details of when or who will be her replacement.

BBC Radio 3 British national radio station

BBC Radio 3 is a British radio station operated by the BBC. Its output centres on classical music and opera, but jazz, world music, drama, culture and the arts also feature. The station describes itself as 'the world's most significant commissioner of new music', and through its New Generation Artists scheme promotes young musicians of all nationalities. The station broadcasts the BBC Proms concerts, live and in full, each summer in addition to performances by the BBC Orchestras and Singers. There are regular productions of both classic plays and newly commissioned drama.

His friends in the music industry included Noel Mewton-Wood and Felix Aprahamian, for whom he wrote a tribute following Aprahamian's death in January 2005. [6] He was also closely associated with Gerard Hoffnung and organized many of Hoffnung's concerts until the latter's death in 1959; he performed a comic duet from The Barber of Darmstadt with Owen Brannigan at the 1961 Hoffnung Festival.

Noel Mewton-Wood was an Australian-born concert pianist who achieved international fame on the basis of many distinguished concerto recordings during his short life.

Felix Aprahamian English music critic, writer, concert promoter, publishers adviser

Felix Aprahamian, born Apraham Felix Bartev Aprahamian, was an English music critic, writer, concert promoter, publisher's adviser, supporter of young musicians, and friend to some of the last century's most notable musicians. Aprahamian, however, usually described himself as a music critic.

Gerard Hoffnung German-born British musical humourist

Gerard Hoffnung was an artist and musician, best known for his humorous works.

Amis wrote a number of books, on his own Amiscellany imprint, [7] with titles including My Music in London: 1945-2000. Amis spent much of his time giving talks and one-man shows, after dinner speeches and concert works. [8] Amis was a patron of the Music Libraries Trust [9] and the Tait Memorial Trust, [10] and a vice-president of the Putney Music society. [11]

In June 1948, Amis married the violinist Olive Zorian, [12] founder of the Zorian String Quartet. The marriage was dissolved in 1955 and Zorian died in 1965. [13] He was survived by his partner for his last six years, Isla Baring OAM, Chairman of the Tait Memorial Trust of which he was a Patron. [14] He once said that she gave him his "Indian summer". [15] His funeral was held on 20 August 2013 at the Musicians' Church, St Sepulchre-without-Newgate in London.

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  1. Celebration of Dame Myra Hess Archived 1 November 2006 at the Wayback Machine from the National Gallery (London)|National Gallery. Accessed 20 December 2006.
  2. Dennis Barker (2 August 2013). "John Amis obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  3. John Amis biography on Accessed 20 December 2006.
  4. 'The Biter Bit', Radio Times, 6 May 1960, p. 5.
  5. List of Isaiah Berlin interviews from Oxford University. Accessed 20 December 2006.
  6. Amis' obituary for Felix Aprahamian, The Guardian . Accessed 20 December 2006.
  7. Amiscellany details on Accessed 20 December 2006.
  8. "Speaker's Agency page on Amis". Archived from the original on 19 August 2001. Retrieved 20 December 2006.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link), dated 21 January 2001, accessed via Internet Archive 20 December 2006.
  9. Music Libraries Trust list of patrons Archived 23 August 2006 at the Wayback Machine . Accessed 20 December 2006.
  10. Tait Memorial Trust Archived 24 July 2016 at the Wayback Machine . Accessed 7 September 2010.
  11. Putney Music society Archived 23 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine . Accessed 20 December 2006.
  12. England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1916-2005.
  13. Olive Zorian Biography. Accessed 7 September 2010.
  14. "Tait Memorial Trust". Tait Memorial Trust. 9 August 2013. Archived from the original on 11 August 2013. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  15. 2 August 2013 (2 August 2013). "John Amis". Telegraph. Retrieved 13 August 2013.