Stephen Hussey and Anthony Inglis: When two conductors collide
- Credit: Archant
We sat down with renowned conductors Stephen Hussey and Anthony Inglis who will be conducting the proceedings at the upcoming Classic Ibiza and The Great British Prom respectively held at Bowood House, Bolesworth and Knebworth House
As part of the build up to the Bowood, Bolesworth and Knebworth Proms this summer we sat down with Stephen Hussey and Anthony Inglis, who are conducting proceedings at Classic Ibiza and The Great British Prom, respectively. These two very different concerts cater for tastes at the opposite end of the musical spectrum and we were expecting that this would be reflected in both their personalities and in the answers that they gave to our questions.
First impressions of both men are what you would expect. Anthony, who has performed more times at The Albert Hall than any other living artist, was born in the 50s into a high-ranking RAF family and was educated at some of our country’s most well known public schools. Well spoken and well healed, you could easily mistake him for a lawyer or a doctor. Stephen, who has performed with artists such as Groove Armada, Soul II Soul, Robert Miles and Jamiroquai, on the other hand appears different. He was born in Camden Town in the late 60s and lived on the same street as Suggs from Madness. His parents were teachers - his mother from Liverpool, his father a black Zimbabwean. Comprehensive school educated and maintaining his North London accent, he’s casually dressed and full of energy. He looks like the type of guy you’d meet in your local and enjoy a pint with.
We start by asking Anthony and Stephen more about their family and whether they were musical.
Anthony comments, “No, my father was tone deaf. When I came back from boarding school I liked to sleep in, but he didn’t want any of that. There was a piano outside of my room and in order to get me up he used to play God Save the Queen on the piano in F major without a B flat.” Anthony proceeds to hum The National Anthem in the style of Les Dawson. “This made me get out of my bed and close the piano lid because I could not take it!” he adds.
Stephen’s response couldn’t have been more different. He recalls, “There were lots of musical influences coming into the house - house parties and weddings where African music was played. But also my mother was a recorder teacher so I spent every Saturday and every school holiday going to music courses in Camden. I started playing the violin at seven.”
Continuing to explore their formative years, we ask about their earliest musical memory.
Anthony responds, “My earliest musical memory was when I first realised that I wanted to be a conductor at the age of six. It was a life defining moment and I remember absolutely everything about it. It was at my pre-prep school and we were doing a concert and they needed a conductor. From that moment on, I thought I like this. This is what I am going to do.”
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Stephen adds, “My Dad took me to a Ravi Shankar concert when I was also about six. I was really fascinated by it. From that concert I have always been interested in music from other cultures. That influence has always been there and I think it’s from that concert.”
By this stage of the interview both conductors have started to strike up a rapport with each other and it was evident that they had a lot more similarities than you might expect. When we ask about their memories of school, it was clear that neither of them had an academic bent, but shared a passion for music at an early age.
Anthony comments, “I had a very expensive education. I went to a lot of well-known schools, but I told my father that it was a complete waste of money because I was going to be a conductor. I had to leave school early because Marlborough could see what direction I was going in and I wasn’t going to do their stats much good. So they suggested that I leave a little early – I didn’t get to A Level.”
Stephen adds, “I was at Pimlico Comprehensive School in South London, which had a special music department in the 70s and 80s. It was quite competitive and you’d meet likeminded musicians. At every school concert all of the sins of that year were absolved!”
We then ask them about their biggest musical influences, a difficult question for any artist to answer.
After much deliberation Anthony says, “I suppose mine was Sir Malcolm Sargent at the very beginning because he was at the height of his powers when I was six. I liked the way he wore a carnation in his button-hole and that he lived just by The Albert Hall, so he just walked across the road to the stage door.”
Following much huffing and puffing, Stephen adds, “I can’t tell you one influence because my whole musical life has been so varied. My favourite recording as a child was Oistrakh’s recording of The Beethoven Concerto, but I equally liked ACDC’s Back In Black, Deep Purple’s Burn and Bob Marley. Suggs from Madness used to live in our road, so My Girl was the first single I bought. Music for me is like food. I like lots of different kinds of food and I like lots of different types of music. Bob Marley albums have the same relevance to me musically as Mozart.”
Surprisingly, both Stephen and Anthony rarely listen to music now as a way of relaxing, “because I work with it and need the silence,” says Stephen.
“You do need the silence and it sounds like a terribly pompous thing to say, but I also don’t listen to music because I don’t think that anyone does it better than me,” adds Anthony with a chuckle.
Initially both conductors refuse to answer the next question about which one record they would take with them if they were marooned on a desert island. However, after a bit of cajoling Anthony says, “I’m trying to think of a piece of music that I associate with my wife, but we have such different tastes in music. I think I’d take Siegfried Idyll by Richard Wagner and only because the story behind it is so good. He wrote it for his wife’s birthday and grouped the musicians round the staircase of their house and woke her up with this piece of music in the morning. I think that’s wonderful. In fact, for my wife’s 50th birthday I wrote a piece for violin and piano, which ended with Happy Birthday To You and we woke her up with that.”
Stephen adds, “One piece of music on a desert island would drive me mad! If I had to say it would be Beethoven’s Quartets. I grew up listening to him, as my grandfather was deeply passionate about Beethoven. For me as an arranger it has so much interest. Every time I listen to it I hear something new.”
We went on to ask them about their biggest musical achievement to date. This was like asking them to name their favourite child.
Anthony finally gives his answer, “Some people would say that I have achieved a lot, that’s for others to say. I have done some very high profile concerts. One single concert? No, I’ve had many. Phantom’s 25th anniversary at The Albert Hall, The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee at Buckingham Palace, there have been a lot of extraordinary concerts, but none have been above the other.”
Stephen adds, “The things that I look back on that I’m most proud of are the first time I conducted The Albert Hall for a Nitin Sawhney Prom. I completely loved that. Also, some of the records that I’ve made, such as Soul II Soul’s Keep On Moving and Back To Life. They are still being played to this day. Also, creating The Urban Soul Orchestra, which is an orchestra that crosses over lots of different worlds and is a reflection of my expression of music.”
We then asked them what is the one skill that is essential to become a successful conductor. By this stage the interview had broken down into a chat between two friends.
Stephen comments, “I think confidence is very important for a conductor.”
Anthony agrees, “They say that an orchestra can tell whether a conductor can do his job from his walk from the side of the stage to the podium. That’s all to do with confidence. It is extraordinary how you can get an orchestra to do what you want them to do. By thought process, through osmosis, there is some sort of connectivity between you and an orchestra when it goes really well. You know that they are thinking exactly the same as you are. How that happens, I’ve no idea.”
Stephen adds, “It’s like when a flock of birds turns in the air.”
So how would both conductors describe their conducting style?
Anthony responds with a grin, “Wonderful! I don’t know about Stephen.”
Ignoring Anthony’s jibe, Stephen adds, “I think it’s very precise, because I’m used to working with precise parameters. It’s precise, but it’s also quite fee. You’ll see during the show that I sometimes stop conducting because the orchestra is working to the beat and I’ll use my left hand purely for expression.”
Finally, we ask them what the audience expect from their performances at Classic Ibiza and Great British Prom.
Stephen gets in there first, “A big party and a great night! In Ibiza, it’s the big party and then the chill-out. It’s the other way round with us. The first half starts quite chilled and you can come along and enjoy a picnic with the family. The music then steadily builds to the big party at the end.”
Anthony adds, “What they can expect from us is a big party, chilling and a great night. It’s virtually the same actually!”
So, is it a case of never the musical twain shall meet? None of it. During the course of the interview Anthony invited Stephen to play violin at The Great British Prom. Look out for Anthony playing maracas in the style of Bez at Classic Ibiza.
For full event details and tickets visit the website or call the event box office on 01630 674342.