A viola squawks at sainted Kate Bush

A viola squawks at sainted Kate Bush


norman lebrecht

September 01, 2014

Over the past week, the comeback singer has won five-star reviews and general beatification in the British press.

With one exception.

The viola player Bill Hawkes wrote this sour note to the Guardian:

bill hawkes

I played viola on Kate Bush’s last LP, and laughed myself silly at her nonsensical lyrics about snowmen. The obsequious, unquestioning critical acclaim heaped upon this manifestly overrated singer is rather depressing, and summed up by your reviewer (Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo, 27 August) when he describes an audience who “spend the first part of the show clapping everything; no gesture is too insignificant to warrant applause”. Enough said.

Bill Hawkes

Such slights do not go unanswered. Five subsequent letters in the Guardian heap (mostly) scorn on the ‘curmudgeonly’ Mr Hawkes.

And the composer Michael Nyman adds a gloss on his Facebook page:

My one experience of working with Kate Bush – a string sextet arrangement of Reaching Out on the Sensual World album – would, I thought be pretty brief. I told the players, who I believe may have included Bill Hawkes, that they would probably be out of the studio in 25 minutes or so as the arrangement was quite simple and would be lost in a rich texture that had already been recorded. Instead of which Kate impressively used the whole 3 hour session to micromanage the arrangement, the performance, the recording and the mix with scrupulous attention to detail than I have ever given to recording my own music.


  • Peter says:

    Do the session, take the money, then bitch about it. Let’s hope the fixer scrubs his name out of the book and offers future work to other players who doubtless will be more appreciative. At least Kate Bush is employing British musicians.

    • Anne says:

      Well said.

    • CS says:

      …because employing foreign musicians is bad. They’re stealing our jobs!

      My symphathies are with Hawkes. He didn’t like something and – oh horror – he openly said so. So what? Is pointing the finger and scorning just inadmissible when it comes from the bottom up?

      Maybe some people think it’s never ok. In that case, we’d just pretend everything is delightful and dread any sort of conflict. And the status quo would remain unquestioned.

  • Michael Volpe says:

    He sounds like a complete twat.

  • Halldor says:

    Exactly: basic professionalism / courtesy issue here. You might think it, but if you took the money, you sure as heck don’t say it.

  • Paul Mann says:

    A great artist like Kate Bush, whatever one may think of her, deserves better than the scorn and finger-pointing of someone like him. Considered criticism is always fine, but this was a long way from that, and it’s not her fault if he didn’t understand her work. In any case, I don’t imagine she cares one way or the other what he thinks. I look forward to his 22-concert residency at the Hammersmith Apollo.

  • Dave T says:

    Bill, you’ll never do lunch in this town again!

  • Chris Squires says:

    Darn it and I was just going to pay £750 for a ticket to the next Bill Hawkes gig. For whom I think the saying “Who?” was invented. Goodbye Bill and don’t bang your face on the way out.

    I was there, opening night, been to a LOT of concerts and this was EPIC. In construction and delivery.

  • Mark says:

    I’m sure lots of session musicians don’t like pieces they’ve worked on and think its fair enough to have an opinion about that. Its not his personal taste in music and that’s understandable. You cant please everyone.
    On the other hand I think its highly unprofessional and really petty to actually bother to write a letter to the Guardian newspaper to express that opinion.
    Who cares what he thinks?
    He has been paid to do a job and that should be the end of it!
    Had he have been ill treated in some way during the session I could understand a certain amount of dislike but there is no mention of this so it just seems to be an out an out attack on her music which is, at the end of the day, subjective and makes him seem bitter and resentful at her success. I personally wouldn’t hire him after those comments that he felt so resentful at her success he resorted to write the Guardian to whine about it. Pathetic!. There are plenty of other talented viola players out there to hire. Its a small world in the entertainment business.