Alan Hacker – A Celebration

A concert to celebrate the life of Alan Hacker OBE  took place in Winchester Cathedral on 30th September, raising well over £1,000 for Jessie’s Fund. Alan was a ground-breaking clarinettist and conductor who inspired a generation of composers and pioneered historically appropriate performance of classical music. He would have been celebrating his 80th birthday on the day of the concert. Musical colleagues came together to offer a tribute to his life and work, through music that represented some of his significant repertoire. The programme included the first performance of Plainsong, a haunting new piece by Sir Harrison Birtwistle written in memory of Alan. There was also a first public performance of the late Sir John Tavener’s ‘Little Troika for Marianna’.

The audience, seated in the newly restored Quire of Winchester Cathedral, was treated to an eclectic programme from across the centuries, from Purcell through to Birtwistle. A touching and poignant performance of Dido’s ‘Lament’ was given by Alan’s daughter, Katy. Sophie, his other daughter, joined in an arrangement by Alan of Grieg’s ‘Death of Ase’ which created a moving finale. The programme provided plenty of opportunity for the audience to feel surrounded by the love and respect for Alan emanating from the players. At times this was literal as in William Sweeney’s An Og-Mhadainn (The Young Morning), in which performers were positioned around the audience as if to contain the trance-like mood of the piece.

The clarinettists in this concert all studied with Alan and were enormously influenced by his searching approach to performance. His partnership with The Fitzwilliam Quartet began in 1974 and lasted for over 15 years during which time they performed both the Mozart and Brahms quintets featured so beautifully in Sunday’s concert. The  evening’s performers were the Fitzwilliam String Quartet with clarinettists Ian Mitchell, Nicholas Bucknall, Lesley Schatzberger, William Sweeney, and Roger Heaton.

The money raised in memory of Alan will help a 14 year old girl who, tragically, was involved in a car accident as a baby in which she suffered a brain injury.  As well as her resulting physical difficulties and learning disability, she suffers from acute anxiety. Music therapy has helped her to be calm and to express herself, but the family cannot afford to fund it themselves, so this gift in memory of Alan will enable her to have music therapy until next summer: the long-term effect could well be transformative. On behalf of this young girl we’d like to thank Alan’s family, and, of course, Alan himself, for being such an inspiration.