Thu, 17 Sept 2020
John with Gyles Brandreth, Hilary Finzi and cellist Mary Harvey at the Royal Albert Hall
IN the run-up to the weekend’s BBC Last Night of the Proms, last Tuesday night the One Show broadcast a moving special feature, presented by Gyles Brandreth. Newbury conductor John Heritage was invited to conduct the MS Orchestra, created specifically to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the birth of Jacqueline du Pre.
Despite her short career, Jacqueline is regarded as one of the greatest cellists of all time, known for her expressiveness and fearlessness. Her career was cut short by multiple sclerosis, which forced her to stop performing at the age of 28. She died, aged 42, in 1987.
John and Mary in rehearsal
In front of Jacqueline’s sister Hilary Finzi, from Newbury, John conducted the Zoom MS Orchestra in Sir Edward Elgar’s Nimrod from the stage at the Royal Albert Hall with solo cellist Mary Harvey alongside him. All the musicians, like John, are affected by the condition which affects the central nervous system.
Hilary was visibly moved by this tribute to her ‘genius’ sister and her reaction as the piece ended was: “Fantastic, fantastic. Wow. Wow.” She said that Jacqueline would have been thrilled by the idea of One Show’s MS Orchestra, and would have “absolutely loved it”.
Jacqueline was renowned for her interpretation of Elgar’s Cello Concerto, which she played for the first time when she was barely 17 years old, at London’s Royal Festival Hall in 1962. It became her favourite piece. Elgar’s Nimrod, played by the MS Orchestra, is a Proms favourite.
John said that he had been honoured and delighted by the experience and it had been a great thrill to be allocated the
conductor’s dressing room and to walk out on to the most famous stage in the world, especially during the 2020 Proms season.
You can watch the performance on the One Show on BBC iPlayer for the next three weeks.