50 years a music critic, still dishing it out

The Guardian yesterday announced the retirement of Michael Billington, its theatre critic for 48 years.

This morning, Christopher Morley clocked up 50 years as music critic of the Birmingham Post, and he’s still going strong.

Aside from keeping the Post in the music picture, Chris runs a regional website and organises the widely-read CBSO100 reviewers group on Slipped Disc.

Happy anniversary, Chris. Here’s a few words from our mutual pal Richard Bratby:

In uncertain times for print journalism he’s maintained the Post’s reputation for the best music coverage on any regional paper, practically single-handed. And he’s recently set up a regional review website, www.MidlandsMusicReviews.com to take his reviews and those of his devoted team of assistants (he calls them his “heroes”, and I’m proud to be one of them) to the global audience he feels Birmingham’s music deserves. And yet when he began writing for the Post, journalism was still in the steam age. Concerts would finish at 9.30pm; and Christopher would have to write his review and dictate it down the telephone for a 10pm deadline. He remembers those days vividly.

“The work of the girls on the copy desk was amazing – they had to take the copy from theatre, music and ballet reviews, copy from the House of Commons, sports results. I mean there used to be times when I’d be in the middle of dictating a review and the copyist would say, ‘Sorry Chris, we’ve got to stop a minute. We’ve just got the results from the Hall Green dog track’! Last thing at night in the Post and Mail building, the atmosphere was just so good – all the lights on, people writing to meet the deadlines, the printer’s ink. The cartoonist would be there at the end of the evening, doing his topical cartoon. And downstairs these huge rolls of newsprint going round and round”.

Read on here.

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  • My good friend Claude Gingras who passed away last December 30 was a music critic for 60 years. He wrote thousands of reviews for the daily “La Presse” in Montréal. He never minced his words, hence the fear he instilled in most musicians whose performances he witnessed. Well in his 80’s he published two books, the first one titled “Notes”, the second one called “Auditions”, both highly recommended.

    “Notes” se veut l’occasion de ramener en scène des événements ou de faire revivre des personnages qui, touchants ou cocasses, ont marqué le monde musical. Sous le ton de la confidence et avec l’humour caustique qui le caractérise, l’auteur se remémore notamment le passage de Maria Callas à Montréal en 1955, l’engagement de Charles Dutoit comme titulaire de l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal en 1978 ou sa prise de bec avec le ténor Luciano Pavarotti en 1982.

    “Auditions”: Product Description
    Dans ce livre unique en son genre, Claude Gingras présente plus de 80 rencontres qu’il a faites avec des artistes majeurs de notre époque. En effet, avant de se consacrer à la musique classique, il a œuvré, au début de sa carrière, dans les domaines les plus variés: chanson, ballet, jazz, etc. Ce qui lui a permis de rencontrer, entre autres, Brel, Béjart, Fernandel et Liberace ainsi que Callas, Bernstein, Rubinstein et Tebaldi.
    Anecdotes savoureuses, traits d’esprit mordants, analyses fines et confessions surprenantes: AUDITIONS est à l’image de son auteur et constitue un témoignage inestimable sur plus d’un demi-siècle de culture.

    We spent hundreds of hours together. We often disagreed on many topics but I was always fascinated by his acute analysis of most of the recordings we listened to in his living room. His collection -more than 150 thousand discs- will be permanently available at Université de Montréal, thanks to a one million dollars grant given by the late benefactor Jacqueline Desmarais.

  • Greetings and felicitations Chris. Congrats on reaching a notable milestone in your role as a writer about performances. Long may you continue to spread the gospel – Best Wishes

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