Renowned conductor and Boris Johnson’s music champion to stage carol concert for Hampstead
PUBLISHED: 09:00 24 November 2013
Nathalie Raffrayprofiles the two maestros behind Hampstead’s first A Christmas Celebration, which the hope will become a festive fixture for years to come
One is an internationally renowned conductor and the other has been tasked with helping the capital’s young musicians realise their potential by none other than London Mayor Boris Johnson.
But busy day jobs have not stopped two of Hampstead’s musical heavyweights ploughing their energies into a community carol concert on their “home turf”.
Conductor George Vass, who has worked with top ensembles from across Europe, and Virginia “Ginny” Greenwood, chief executive of the Mayor of London’s Fund for Young Musicians, are the esteemed duo behind A Christmas Celebration, the carol concert taking place for the first time on Saturday, December 7, at Hampstead Parish Church in Church Row.
The friends met more than a decade ago when working together on the Hampstead and Highgate Festival, founded by Mrs Greenwood.
Mr Vass was an administrator at first before rising to become the festival’s artistic director.
“We had a great time,” he said.
“Ginny is a fine amateur singer and we have stayed good friends ever since then.”
Theirs is a friendship that has outlived any association with the festival that brought them together, and has since become known as the Hampstead Arts Festival.
Mr Vass, of Parliament Hill, Hampstead, is now an in-demand touring conductor, the founder and artistic director of his own company of musicians, Nova Music, vice chairman of the British Arts Festival Association and artistic director of the Presteigne Festival in Wales.
Mrs Greenwood, of Mill Lane, West Hampstead, went on to become development director at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn before starting her music charity in January 2011 and gaining the mayor’s backing.
In less than three years, the fund has raised £1.2million and helped nearly 15,000 disadvantaged children to access music scholarships.
Reflecting on their decision to take on further commitment with the carol concert, Mrs Greenwood said they hatched the plan while enjoying a drink in the summer.
She said: “We were sitting in the pub, catching up and I said ‘how about we do something for the local community’ and he said ‘good idea’. It was as simple as that.
“We’re both plugged into the community, so I said ‘You take charge of musical content and I’ll find money and people to come’. That’s our division of labour!”
On the night Mr Vass will conduct the Heath Singers, who will be accompanied by organist Edward Kemp-Luck.
The audience are actively encouraged to bellow out carols and, in between musical segments, will be treated to “Chrismassy readings” delivered by students from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in Eton Avenue, Swiss Cottage.
Mrs Greenwood is currently seeking sixth-formers from local schools to sell tickets, show people to their seats and help serve refreshments after the event.
All the proceeds are going to two charities close to the organisers’ hearts: The Marie Curie Hospice in Lyndhurst Gardens, Hampstead, and the Consortium for Street Children, an international body celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, of which Mrs Greenwood is a trustee.
“The more involvement there is from people, the more community feeling you get, the more uplifted you feel,” she said.
Mr Vass added: “We’re very excited. It’s nice to do something on home turf, as we don’t often get the chance.”
* To book go to www.december7.eventbrite.com. Tickets are £4 for children, £10 for adults and £24 for family tickets.
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