4th October: to Mansion House for the Glovers’ Banquet. It was good to see John and Mary Spanner there looking very splendid. We took Joanna’s young niece, Georgia, and her boyfriend, Nick, who had never been to the Mansion House and they loved every aspect of it, being particularly keen to know about the traditions and the history.
8th October: the LSO Livery Concert. This was one of the first concerts being conducted by Sir Antonio Pappano and it was spectacular. Ravel’s La Valse was electrifying as was the amazing violinist, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, who played the solo violin in Fazıl Say’s Violin Concerto (1001 Nights in the Harem). In the second half we had a spectacular performance of Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances Over one hundred liverymen attended along with the Lord Mayor and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. My thanks to all the many Arts Scholars who turned out to support this event.
9th October: to Mansion House (again!) with Joanna for the Gala Dinner in honour of Sir Antonio Pappano returning to the LSO. Spectacular music, wonderful food and wine and the irrepressible Sir Andrew Parmley in charge as Lord Mayor locum tenens.
11th October: with the Clerk in the afternoon for tasting at Brewer’s Hall for the Livery Dinner on 30th October – the things I have to suffer for the sake of the Arts Scholars ! As well as very enjoyable tasting session it was a very useful ‘catch’up’ session with our hard-working Clerk.
In the afternoon, Joanna and I donned our glad rags to attend the splendour of the Swan Dinner as guests of the Clerk of the Worshipful Company of Dyers. This was held at Merchant Taylors Hall which is magnificent. The Watermen were much in evidence complete with oars as the Dyers and Watermen are principally responsible for swan-upping - the ancient ceremony of a census of swans o the river Thames. Half way through the meal a swan (apparently entirely artificial) was paraded around the hall, accompanied by the singing of an ancient swan madrigal. We were then served with ‘cygnet pie’ (though no cygnet or part of a cygnet was involved in its production!). It was a thoroughly splendid evening (note to future Masters: having a tasting of two alternative meals with wines on the same day as a major Banquet should be avoided, if possible, but sometimes you just have to do your duty whatever the effect on your waistline!).
12th October: Joanna attended a lunch for lady Masters at Trinity House, as the guest of past Master Arts Scholar Georgina Gough. As well as Georgina, Arts Scholar Wendy Joseph was there as Master Pewterer.
That evening I went to St Paul’s Cathedral for a special evensong where Alderman Alison Gowman, and others, were installed as members of the Chapter. The Lady Mayoress, Felicity Lyons was in attendance. At the invitation of the Dean, I was invited to sit in the choir stalls where you can appreciate at first hand the wonderful quality of the choir. I was especially pleased to hear two pieces by the great Herbert Sumsion whom I had met as a boy when growing up in Gloucestershire.
17th October: Arts Scholars’ special private tour of the Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers' 400th anniversary exhibition at the Guildhall Library. This is an incredible exhibition full of wonderful surprises including the Bacton Altar cloth which is the only known surviving fabric from a dress worn by Elizabeth I. Wonderful exhibits included an elaborate uniform of a State trumpeter, the Burse of the Great Seal of Charles II, Elizabeth II’s Coronation Glove, and the fantastic funeral pall of the Fishmongers which dates from the early 16th century; this is a rare surviving example of Opus Anglicanum. Our very own Mark Dennis took the floor to explain the wonderful Royal masonic items on display – Apron Collar and Gauntlets worn by the Duke of Clarence (later George IV) and – Apron Collar Jewel and Gauntlets of George VI. Afterwards we repaired to a nearby Wine Bar to marvel at the exhibition highlights.
18th October: a very special white tie Royal occasion where I represented the Arts Scholars at a Mansion House Banquet to mark the contributions of the City to the Coronation. It was wonderful to see the Annointing Screen on display - towards which the Arts Scholars had made a financial contribution. Thanks to an introduction by the Master Broderer, Sean Bonnington, I had recently visited the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court and had seen at first hand the incredible work that went into preparing for and creating this Annointing Screen as well the fabulous designs for the embroidery of the Royal Coronation Robes. If you have never visited the Royal School of Needlework I urge to go if you have an opportunity.
This was the first official visit to the City of their Majesties the King and Queen and so the State trumpeters (one of their splendid tunics had been on display at the Gold and Silver Wyre Drawer exhibition) were present and playing about 4 feet away from where I was sitting on the central sprig ( I think my ears are still ringing!). The first loyal address, by ancient tradition, was by the Grecian orator pupil of Christs Hospital. This tradition stems from the school being a Royal Foundation being founded by King Edward VI. The meal was unbelievably splendid from start the finish. The Lord Mayor gave a brilliant speech, as usual, and His Majesty King gave very thought-provoking speech which was widely reported in the press the next day. What a great privilege to have been there on this historic occasion.
23rd October: The Mithras lecture was held in the Stevenson Lecture Theatre at the British Museum. As well as members of the Arts Scholars, nine Masters and one Prime Warden (from the Fishmongers) attended. The interim Director of the Museum, Sir Mark Jones (liveryman of the Arts Scholars) gave us a very warm welcome and introduced the speaker, Dr Kevin Coates. The title of his lecture was : ‘Apollon Musagète’ in which Dr Coates gave an account of the creation of The Apollo Mace and will reveal its imagery and symbolism, its structure, and the processes of its manufacture.
It was a beautifully crafted lecture informing us of the concepts behind the various different aspects of the design for the Mace. The ancient bronze serpent column at Apollo’s Temple of Delphi was one major inspiration. Dr Coates showed us snapshots showing individual parts of the Mace being made and models which were made to test design features along the way; an incredibly complex production process. After the lecture, we were able to go on to the stage where the Mace was on display. Dr Coates picked up the Mace and demonstrated the gyre mechanism whereby the golden figure of Apollo remains upright at whatever angle the Mace is held. Afterwards we repaired to the magnificent Great Court for a drinks reception at which, appropriately, a harpist played. Her beautiful music was a nod to the musical Muse of Apollo and echoed beautifully around the Great Court.
24th October: Joanna and I were back at Mansion House for a concert for the Lady Mayoress given by young musicians entitled “A Musical Feast.” There was a complete range of ages and a wide selection of music, organised by the pleasantly ubiquitous Sir Andrew Parmley including a stunning soprano, Sofia Kirwin-Baez, who took everyone’s breath away with her magnificent performance of an aria by Puccini. Remember this young lady’s name! A splendid evening at Mansion House.
26th October: to Vintners Hall for the Vintners Livery dinner. It is a magnificent hall with wonderful adjoining panelled rooms. Andrew Parmley (he goes to all the best events!) explained to me over pre-dinner drinks that there is a splendid apartment for the Master which overlooks the river. At the start of the dinner, a Master of Wine explained the many fabulous vintages which would accompany our feast; the wines were indeed truly splendid. After dinner, we were treated to a selection of sixties songs by a group of ladies calling themselves the Crotchets. Then, to general astonishment, the Master, Mr Anthony Fairbank, got up and performed a duet with one of choir – the song “Two Sleepy People” made famous by Bob Hope. The Vintners is one place you never refuse a stirrup cup after which I gently found my way home (although, perhaps, not always travelling in a very straight line!).
Joanna attended a lunch for consorts at Tallow Chandlers Hall. This was hosted by Janie Hill, consort to Master Tallow Chandler and around 80 guests attended this very enjoyable event.
30th October: to Brewers Hall for the Arts Scholars Livery dinner. More than 60 liverymen attended the dinner in the reopened Brewers Hall, which is a perfect venue for this occasion. This is an important event in the Arts scholars calendar and is one of the more relaxed occasions where Liverymen can enjoy each other’s company. We had guests from our three military affiliations: Lt. Colonel Jono Mills from the University of London Officer Training Corps, Padre Charles Williams from the Thames Valley Wing and Captain Clive Cheesman from the Cultural Protection Property Unit; Clive is also York Herald. Our after-dinner speaker was Dr Timothy Schroder who skilfully managed to include in his speech some musings on numismatics and some thought-provoking and highly topical questions on the loss of skills and expertise in the museum world as a result of funding cuts.
It was my very pleasant duty to present the silver salver which goes to the Arts Scholars Liveryman of the year. This year, it was presented to Dr Susan Bracken in recognition of her very dedicated service to the Company in general and as a conscientious Steward in particular. Congratulations to Susan on this well-deserved accolade!