September will see the launch of Get Classical, a new bi-monthly magazine covering classical music in Suffolk. In an exclusive interview for Grapevine, Tony Bell spoke to the magazine’s editor Fiona Jessica Wilson.
Welcome to Suffolk – how are you getting on here?
Well, apparently it takes 25 years to be accepted into this county so I’m not holding my breath! Although I’m originally from London, I’ve spent most of my performing life travelling and a bit rootless so wherever I lay my hat that’s my home has been my motto for life. The hat is firmly on the stand now in Suffolk as I’ve married a born and bred Ipswich boy so I’m loving getting to know the county and taking our dog Pickle for walks in the gorgeous countryside.
You started the Get Classical brand back in January – what was your motivation behind it?
Classical music has always been the second character in my life which has accompanied me through it. If I’m happy I’ll listen to Mozart, if I’m sad I’ll put on Beethoven and if I need a good cleanse I’ll immerse myself in Bach. I firmly believe that it is good for you, probably because to truly appreciate it, you have to switch off, become a little bit more peaceful and really listen, feel and connect. What could be more healthy than that?
So I decided to share my passion for the music by starting my own classical radio show Get Classical with FJ on ICR 105.7FM and I was asked by Grapevine to write a monthly classical column in which I highlight certain concerts and talk about the industry. I think classical music is in a bit of trouble at the moment and certainly being marginalised in the school curriculum so in a way I’m feel I’m sort of ‘doing my bit’ however small that may be. The biggest pleasure for me is when teenagers tune into the show and find it ‘cool’ (their words not mine!)
You come from a performing background, don’t you?
Yes, my parents are both classical musicians and I started on the piano at 5, the cello at 7 and the voice at 16. After my first singing lesson I just knew that was want I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I think most professional musicians will say that, though. The business can be so tough at times that you need a major driving force to see you through the down moments.
Things have been going quite well recently, though?
I know! It’s crackers. I’m going to be 45 on Saturday and I had to wait until now to be a chart topper! A piece that was written for me, In Paradisum by Ben Robbins, was used in the second episode of the BBC drama Broken starring Sean Bean. I watched the episode on June 6th, thought ‘oh how nice’ and then went to bed. The following day I got a phone call to say it was number one in the iTunes vocal charts! And I just heard yesterday that the BBC have nominated it for the Music Week Synch Awards 2017. V exciting.
So why the magazine Get Classical?
I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of classical music going on in the county. Absolutely overwhelmed by it. Every week Grapevine receives emails from music societies highlighting their concerts and events and wanting to place adverts to bring more attention to them. So we sat down and decided to start a sister publication to Grapevine, purely devoted to classical music for all the lovers of the art form in the county.
There’s going to be a comprehensive What’s On Guide so if you fancy a bit of classical at the weekend or during a lunch hour, you can pick up the mag and easily find out what’s on where. Plus there will be all sorts of features about musical personalities, talented teenagers and the current state of the biz. Having worked in the commercial side of the industry for the past ten years, and having started out singing straight baroque music with my harpsichordist Bridget Cunningham (who used to play in Suffolk Youth Orchestra I recently discovered!), I have quite a good bird’s eye view of what is happening. I want the magazine to be informative, entertaining and above all, inclusive, covering many aspects of the industry. I’ve just had confirmation of our headline personality feature for the inaugural issue and we couldn’t have a more perfect expression of the Get Classical brand – that’s all I’m saying! Oh, and she’s a Dame!
So busy times!
Yep. We’ve cancelled our holiday and are working flat out all summer. It’s a massive labour of love right now. Instead of having a flash wedding last year, we had an intimate ceremony and spent the rest of the money on buying a narrow boat, so that’s how we’ll be relaxing over the next couple of months. Work, work, work during the week and then we’ll chug down to Ely for the weekends to recharge. And maybe do a spot of busking!
Bringing music to the people. That’s what it’s all about!
- Original composition Sung by Get Classical’s editor Fiona Jessica Wilson, composed by Ben Robbins.