These lectures are normally presented to members of The Arts Society and are fully illustrated with audio and video materials.   A PDF version is downloadable here.

        COVID19 : these lectures can all be presented online          

         TANTRUMS & TIARAS        

This lecture is a look at backstage life at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and the pressures faced by performers, be they singer, dancer, conductor or musician.  We see how the building copes with the demands of modern productions and examine audience expectations both inside the theatre and out. We also look at some of the highs and try to understand some of the lows that have been the fortune of this world-class performing venue over the years.

This lecture can expand into a two-part Study Day.

        IT'S NOT JUST TCHAIKOVSKY      

A wide-ranging exploration of the music chosen by ballet choreographers through the years, proving that the right composition with the addition of the right moves and the right designs can create modern masterpieces and timeless classics.  We move from the grandness of Imperial Russia with the creation of Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and other established and popular works through to the current modern repertoire of the Royal Ballet, exploring the challenges met by both composers and choreographers.

This lecture can expand into a two-part Study Day

        THEY MAKE NO NOISE       

What is it that conductors do that makes orchestras respond in so many different ways?  Is it a good baton technique?  A strong personality?   The way they look?  Why are there relatively few women found on the podium?   And why are the conductors paid so much more than anyone else on the concert platform?  Drawing on history and his own musical experiences from well over six thousand performances and recordings, Nigel seeks out some answers.  This lecture contains some rare video footage of conductors in rehearsal and performance.

This lecture can combine with "Tantrums & Tiaras" for a two or three part Study Day

        PERCUSSION USE & ABUSE          

From calling ancient armies to battle to signalling the audience to stand for the National Anthem, drums and percussion have been a part of history well over and above their musical contributions.  Often the icing on the cake and alas sometimes the bottom of the dustbin, we explore how the design, sound and awareness of percussion instruments and the demands of modern composers have developed almost out of all recognition in the last hundred years.    In addition to performance clips, this lecture contains rare video footage from the orchestra pit at the Royal Opera House.

       IN THE KINGDOM OF THE SWEETS - The Nutcracker      

The Nutcracker ballet has delighted audiences at Christmas for many decades yet it was deemed a failure at its initial performances. Based upon the current Royal Ballet production by Sir Peter Wright, this lecture takes a close look at how this well-loved ballet now takes its rightful place on stage and how the music of Tchaikovsky along with story-telling, design, dance and a little bit of stage ingenuity all come together to make the most magical escape for young and old alike.

This lecture can combine with "It's Not Just Tchaikovsky" for a two-part Study Day.


       The ROYAL OPERA HOUSE Covent Garden - an Inside View      

FULL OR PART STUDY DAY (two or three sessions)

The day commences with in-depth looks at the history and architecture of the building.  We then discover the way that daily performances and rehearsals of opera and ballet and much else besides all fit into this elegant Victorian theatre – the flagship of the British arts world and the workplace of more than a thousand people.  Includes several performance video clips with additional focus on costume and set design, production values and how the digital age has been embraced by the opera and ballet worlds.


       SADLER'S WELLS - The Theatrical Mothership       

For more than three centuries Sadler's Wells has been a place of entertainment and a part of London's theatrical history with a reputation known across the world.  Surviving many highs, lows and rebuildings, the theatre has hosted and nurtured an impressive array of performing companies over the years. We follow the unique story of The Wells  which includes pony racing, naval warfare, Shakespeare with Sir John Gielgud as well as the strongest connections with the worlds of opera and dance and the roots of today's Royal Ballet companies.


        WIDOR & HIS MIGHTY TOCCATA        

One of the most popular organ pieces in the world and one which has accompanied many just-married couples down the aisle, the Toccata in F Major by Charles-Marie Widor presents performers with the challenge of delivering over three thousand notes in around six minutes.  A renowned organist and composer in his time, Widor brought the standard of 19th-century French organ music and performance to new heights.  We follow his illustrious career before examining in detail the Toccata itself, concluding with a full rendition of this special piece.

[Please note that this lecture can be given without an organ being present!]


        THE MUSICAL MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS        

A vast range of sacred and secular music has been inspired by and created for Christmas and there is surely no other musical circumstance where melodies from the Middle Ages sit happily side by side with modern pop numbers.  The lecture takes a most enjoyable look at contributions both old and new to the festive season and examines the work of contributors such as Ralph Vaughan Williams, Sir David Willcocks and John Rutter.  We will also discover how some of our best-loved carols have come into existence almost by accident as well as exploring the creativity that goes into making a lasting Christmas Hit.  Fully illustrated with musical examples.



        Lectures in preparation        

The Crystal Palace : its place in music history

Pageantry & Ceremonial : Music for Occasions of State