Julian Lloyd Webber Interview - Webber in Yarmouth tonight

Caroline CulotWorld-renowned cellist Julian Lloyd Webber is at the Yarmouth Hippodrome tonight playing in a sell-out Royal gala performance with the Russian State Philharmonic Orchestra. CAROLINE CULOT spoke to him on his love of the music of Elgar, a new children's project he has launched in the county and of course, his famous brother.

Caroline Culot

Tonight sees the second in the marvellous series of three Symphonies by the Sea, the first such event at Yarmouth Hippodrome, with Julian Lloyd Webber playing for the first time with the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra. His performance of Sir Edward Elgar's Cello Concerto promises to be the big attraction - perhaps because of the cellist's profound musical relationship with this composer. Elgar started the concerto just before the death of his wife and after the end of the First World War and it is described as a 'great elegiac melody' and lament for all that the war had cost in the lives of young soldiers. In one of Mr Lloyd Webber's witty and amusing columns which he writes for the Daily Telegraph - which reveals another side of the musician's personality - he told of how he had lived with the music of Elgar for more than 35 years. He stated it had been a 'constant, significant presence in my life - the slow movement in particular carries a spiritual depth beyond tears which has been of great comfort to me during troubled times'. He also went on to more amusing detail about Elgar - such as the fact the name is an anagram of lager but let's not dwell on that!

Mr Lloyd Webber's first real encounter with Elgar goes back to when he was aged 16 and his godfather, the composer Herbert Howells, presented him with a score of the concerto 'to whom Elgar once said of this work - it's just an old man's darling'.

In our interview, Mr Lloyd Webber, said: 'Old man's darling - that sums the concerto up - it is a very personal work for Elgar. What you often find with cello concertos is that the composition is their last or a very late work and they have saved something for that personal voice of the cello. Elgar is a profound piece - I've said it is beyond tears and is very, very deep and in some ways it is very calming music, it is spiritual and I think when you are playing something, you can draw an awful lot from it. And in times of difficulty, it has something there for you - that is what is so interesting about Elgar's work. Every time you play it, it is different - I haven't worked with the Russian Philharmonic before and quite possibly they won't be as familiar with Elgar as the British orchestras are, so it is going to be quite a challenge, and it interested me to do that.'

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Tonight's concert, being performed in front of HRH the Duke of Kent, and which also features music from Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov, marks the second in the musical series at the Yarmouth Hippodrome, promoted by the SeaChange art project. Last November saw the Munich Orchestra play with John Lill and next month will see the Berlin Symphony Orchestra playing Beethoven, Haydn and Mendelssohn with Ernst Kovacic. For Mr Lloyd Webber, the concert brings him to Norfolk where he has just helped launch a special new project. In Harmony is a community development project aimed at using music to change the lives for the better of very young children in deprived areas around the UK.

In December, the three winning areas of the UK were selected after national bids were submitted and Mr Lloyd Webber chose Norwich, Liverpool and London. Last month, the pilot scheme started targeting children as young as four in the Mile Cross, Catton Grove and Bowthorpe wards of the city. The youngsters will be given free musical instruments and tuition with the hope they will be able to work towards playing in orchestras. Mr Lloyd Webber said: 'All three projects are very exciting and I felt very close to the Norwich one. I am looking forward to coming up and seeing it in action, it is very early days but it has started and needs support. In London, Boris Johnson is holding a musical instrument amnesty, getting people to donate instruments because a lot of people have instruments at home they don't play anymore and it would be a huge help.

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'In Harmony is not really a music education project but more a social project - we do need to produce good musicians, but this is to do with the whole community and where there have been problems, using music as a way to look at that.' Coincidentally, Mr Lloyd Webber said there had been a bid from Yarmouth.

'I want to mention that out of the shortlist of eight we had to interview, there was a strong bid from Yarmouth and they were very unlucky not to have a project there but we are all hopeful that it will take place - we were very impressed by the young musicians you have got in Norfolk.' As for coming to Yarmouth, Mr Lloyd Webber said: 'I don't know Yarmouth that well, so it is going to be an eye opener. But I do think Norfolk is one of the most peaceful counties - as a child I used to go on holiday in Burnham Market and I loved it. However, I find when I'm on these kinds of tours I don't do much sightseeing.'

As a result, he said he probably won't be able to fit in a visit to Carrow Road to see Norwich City. Mr Lloyd Webber is an avid footie fan, supporting Leyton Orient, just like his famous brother Andrew Lloyd Webber.

'I do sometimes try and catch football matches when I'm on tour because I like going to different grounds, but I don't think I am going to have time. I actually saw Andrew yesterday - we do keep in touch but we usually talk much more about football than music.

'It is great collaborating with Andrew but we don't really move in the same areas, as far as his TV work goes, these shows show what talent there is around and gives people a chance and I agree with that. Television is a strong medium with young people and I am very much in favour of doing something myself on the classical side, but I'm not sure how it could be done.'

So Simon Cowell, watch out!

t Tickets are sold out for tonight's performance, but for next month's event contact the Yarmouth Hippodrome on 01493 844172.


t Julian Lloyd Webber was born in April 1951, son of the composer William Lloyd Webber and younger brother of Andrew Lloyd Webber.

t He won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music aged 16 and went on to study in Geneva with the acclaimed French cellist, Pierre Fournier. Since then, he has collaborated with an extraordinary array of musicians, from Yehudi Menuhin to Elton John.

t As a cellist, he has made many outstanding recordings, including his Brit-Award winning Elgar Concerto which was conducted by Yehudi Menuhin.

t He has also recorded several hugely successful CDs of short pieces, premiered over 50 new works and inspired new compositions from composers such as Malcolm Arnold, Joaquin Rodrigo and Philip Glass.

t His latest recordings include Phantasia, a work based on Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera.

t He was the first official busker on the London tube network.

t He plays the 'Barjansky' Stradivarius cello.

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