Geoff: Nigel, as I knew him in 2001!
Geoff: as narrated in July 2008
I would just like to pass on my experience of working with Kennedy which may be of interest.
I worked for a number of years behind the scenes at the City of Canterbury Symphony Orchestra which sadly no longer exists. At one time Kennedy was getting into deep water with the London classical musical establishment for his informal approach and efforts to break down the artificial barriers between performers and audience. We in the CCSO in our own way were endeavouring to do the same with our own audiences. More in hope than expectation we wrote to Kennedy explaining this and if he was looking for a congenial musical partner to play with, why not us? Shortly after he contacted us and said he would play three concerts with us three months hence, performing the Elgar concerto. We then had an exceptionally busy time arranging three venues in Kent (the Orchard Theatre, Dartford, the Mote, Maidstone, and Canterbury Cathedral), getting the orchestra together, marketing and publicity, and rehearsing with Kennedy in London. The experience of working with Kennedy over that period, and seeing him at work, his commitment to his own art, his rapport with and encouragement to other younger and less experienced musicians, and his commitment to the audience has left me with an indelible feeling of admiration for the guy. I've even started looking at Aston Villa in a new light.
Just a few examples:
- Most of our musicians were young students from the London music schools. He gave them great encouragement, knuckle raps for all as they went on stage, and ensuring they played a part in his encores. The experience for a young bass player of jamming with Kennedy before an enthusiastic full house must be incredibly motivating.
- For traffic and weather reasons he arrived too late at the Dartford venue to do his acclimatisation and warm up exercises.
He simply walked out on stage, apologised to the audience for the circumstances, and asked if they would mind if he did his exercises there and then, on stage, before the Elgar. There then followed ten minutes of the most spectacular virtuoso solo violin playing. The audience responded with the most enthusiastic ovation, before the Elgar and after.
- He stayed at each venue as long as it took to sign all autographs and talk to fans.
Just a brief insight into why I consider Kennedy a true role model in the musical world - not just the inspirational quality of his playing, but his encouragement and commitment to other musicians and non-playing music lovers like myself.