The Friday Factoid – Bands and Orchestras have always had conductors, correct?

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Bands and orchestras have always had a Conductors. Correct? Sorry, not so!

Nowadays, we are used to seeing conductors, standing in front of their ensemble waving their baton enthusiastically and leading their musicians, hopefully with the common goal of delivering a first-rate performance, but historically they have been a relatively new introduction to the musical world.

In time gone by, it was commonplace for an ensemble to be led or directed by the Leader of the orchestra, who would give all the necessary cues whilst playing and the same would apply when soloists played concertos and they would also lead from the front.

The next stage in the evolution of conductors came with the use of a staff or rod, that was hit on the floor to mark time. This was particularly popular during the 17th Century, but had its drawbacks! Take for instance the case of French Composer, Jean Baptiste Lully, who died from gangrene, having struck his foot with his long conducting staff during a performance of his “Te Deum“. Who could have imagined that being a conductor was so dangerous? 

Believe it not, it wasn’t until 1820 when the use of a baton by a conductor in the British Isles was first recorded. This honour fell to the German musician Louis (Ludwig) Spohr, who in his own words stated:

“Quite alarmed at such novel procedure some of the Directors would have protested against it; but when I besought them to grant me at least one trial, they became pacified. The triumph of the baton as a time-giver was decisive, and no one was seen again seated at the pianoforte during the performance of Symphonies and Overtures”.

There are many musicians that might argue, that they play better without a conductor, however the like of Gergiev, Abbado and Karajan have inspired some of the greatest performances ever heard, so they must be doing something right!

For more information about Andrew Jones as a Conductor, please visit www.andrewjonesmusic.com 

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