Archive for November, 2009



Welcome to the Dr Marc Blog. 

The idea, here, is to bring together musicians and music lovers in a wide-ranging debate about every aspect of music both live and recorded.  It’s centred around the activities of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and events at Dewan Filharmonik Petronas, but it goes much wider than that.

As do I!

After almost a quarter of a century of living in Malaysia, the last 15 years in and around KL, I moved to Singapore with my family from where I continue to write the concert notes and work closely for the MPO, but also do a similar job with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and for The Esplanade.

And it doesn’t stop there. 

I also write all the notes for the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and occasionally for other orchestras and concert halls, predominantly in Asia, but in the US and UK too. 

And as if that wasn’t enough, I have been a music critic for 30 years, much of that time reviewing discs for Gramophone magazine and, more recently, for the International Record Review too.

So when it comes to knowing about listening to professional music-making and about the history of music, I do know a thing or two.

But there’s an educational aspect to all this as well.  My move to Singapore coincided with my taking on the role of South East Asia Coordinator for Trinity College London’s music and drama examinations, and in this capacity I find myself travelling around the region visiting schools, teachers, private music studios and listening to young musicians as they start out on their path ot musical greatness – or obscurity!  This carries on from a job I’ve been doing (and loving) since 1982; music examining.  I spent almost 20 years as an ABRSM examiner, but then we fell out over issues of (their) credibility and fairness and I was pulled in by Trinity.  I love their very personal approach, with the emphasis on finding the best out of each individual student rather than presenting teachers with an examination template into which all shapes and sizes of candidates must be fitted, and in the past years with Trinity I have listened to thousands of candidates singing, playing and performing on every conceivable instrument and at every level.  In the last 12 months alone I’ve examined in The Maldives Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, China, New Zealand and the UK and even as I write this I’m three weeks into a New Zealand trip which finds me today in Nelson, home of the oldest established music school in New Zealand and the very competent Nelson Symphony Orchestra.

All this biography serves a purpose.  It gives you a bit of background into my scope and range of musical activities which I sum up as being a “Professional Listener”.  I do play – I was once a French Horn player but in recent years have worked as a professional organist – but a growing sense of disillusionment with the organ world coupled to long-standing problems getting anyone involved with the MPO management to take the organ seriously and , finally, a deeply disturbing encounter with an unbelievably crass trombone player with the SSO shortly before a concert, has rather put me off and I’m taking a few months off professional performing to re-group my psyche. 

So this blog is going to look at music from a listener’s point-of-view.  I hope others who listen – especially concert-goers – will put in their tuppen’orth (as we used to say) and I hope those who perform (especially orchestral players) will throw their towels into the ring.  Teachers and students, voice your concerns about the exam system as freely as you like.  This is an INDEPENDENT blog which, as an interface between audience and performer, teacher and examiner, amateur and professional, this should be the place to visit.

It will take a little while to get it all up and running, so if you stumble across this by accident, please take the trouble to add a comment, and if you have been directed here by our publicity or by another site, welcome and I hope you will stay and participate.

In my usual inimitable style I will be throwing up outrageous and controversial thoughts which should get some people going, but in the meantime, let’s just have your thoughts on anything in the above which tickles your fancy.  Can there be such a thing as a Professional Listener? Are concert programme notes of any value?  Who pays any attention to critics?  What’s the state of music exams in the world?  Who do you prefer  – ABRSM or Trinity – and why?  If the Doctor can help, he will; but most of the time he just offers an ear to your thoughts.

Let’s be hearing from you.

Dr Marc

November 2009