Editor’s note: The following remembrance of critics Francis L. Church and Andrew Patner was written and delivered by Lawrence B. Johnson, editor of ChicagoOntheAisle.com, on June 13 at the Music Critics Association of North America convention in San Francisco.
Francis L. Church,the longtime music critic for the Richmond News Leader, died last August at age 87.
I loved this obit lead from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, or anyway this is my reading of it: As a boy, Francis Church took piano lessons long enough to lose interest.
But then the writer explains that one day Francis picked up a cello, and never put it down.
Francis was a musician-critic. He loved the adventure of contemporary music and, tellingly, spent a stretch of time as second-chair cello with the modernist-oriented Louisville Symphony.
He arrived at The Richmond News Leader in 1976 as classical music critic and multi-tasking editor, roles he continued to play until his retirement in 1991. But even after retirement he basically just kept on keeping on, working as a freelance writer until very near the end of his life.
Francis was an authentic man of parts. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard – in government. But his heart beat for music.
A former editor at the News Leader described Francis’ body of critical work as highly respected throughout the greater Richmond area for its thoughtfulness and craft.
“He strived to increase interest in and appreciation of Richmond’s vibrant and varied classical music offerings while still recognizing the occasional off notes among the many high notes,” the editor said.
Colleagues recalled Francis’s encyclopedic knowledge of classical music, the humor he typically delivered with a deadpan expression, and his heart-on-sleeve caring nature.
I barely knew Francis, except to see him at these conventions and to accept his ever-radiant greeting. But I always enjoyed a chat with him. He was an instantly endearing man.
Andrew Patnerwas my colleague in Chicago. He died quite suddenly on Feb. 3 of this year at age 55.
To put it too succinctly, Andrew was critic at large for WFMT radio and contributing music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times. It is more expressive of the achievement and import of this native Chicagoan that his passing was mourned by the city’s entire classical music community. Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra dedicated performances of the Mozart Requiem to his memory. The Lyric Opera of Chicago hosted a memorial celebration of Andrew’s life.
Andrew was known for his intellectual range and curiosity. His critical realm extended well beyond classical music to theater and dance, art and architecture, cabaret, books and film.
With his love of the arts came very strong opinions, and great enthusiasm for engaging his many followers in discourse about anything and everything.
As John von Rhein wrote in the Chicago Tribune:
“Patner regarded his radio, print and Internet following rather as an extended family of friends (and even foes) with whom he could trade opinions and stir up discussion of just about any hot-button issue in the arts world. He relished the role of cultural arbiter, the voice of taste and experience at the center of the fray. And he played that role to the hilt.”
But it took a Brit to capture Andrew with precise brevity: Anthony Freud, the Lyric Opera’s general director, said: “He was a profoundly intelligent man of great wisdom.”
(A moment of silence followed this reading.)
San Francisco has been selected as the site of MCANA’s 2015 Annual Meeting. The meeting dates are June 11 – June 13. The San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Opera are our hosts.
Some of the highlights of the meeting are scheduled to include a semi-staged version of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, led by Michael Tilson Thomas; the world premiere of Two Women, by Marco Tutino, which stars soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci, and is directed by Francesca Zambello; and Les Troyens, which stars Antonacci and Susan Graham, in a new production by David McVicar. Donald Runnicles conducts.
John Rockwell will moderate a panel about the world premiere performance of “Two Women,” with members of its cast and creative staff.
Joshua Kosman will do the “MCANA interview” with Michael Tilson Thomas over lunch. He’s also set up a visit for us to the San Francisco Conservatory, now located in a new facility near Davies Hall, where we will hear what David Stull (formerly of Oberlin, became president of SFC in 2013) is doing to transform this institution.
Nancy Malitz will moderate a panel with Anne Midgette, Paul Hyde and others about how to best promote your reviews and articles on social media.
Mini-tour of SoundBox, the new, club-like, state-of-the-art performance/rehearsal space in Davies Hall, and possible demo of its Meyer Constellation sound system, plus filmed excerpts from the inaugural concerts there.
MCAMA MEMBERS REGISTERED TO ATTEND:
- Bash, James
- Brodie, Susan
- Dicks, Roy
- Dunn, Jeff
- Fleming, John
- French, Gil
- Gelfand, Janelle
- Ginell, Richard
- Gooding, Wayne
- Greenberg, Mike
- Gurewitsch, Matthew
- Hertelendy, Paul
- Hyde, Paul
- Jepson, Barbara
- Johnson, Lawrence B.
- Kandell, Leslie
- Kaptainis, Arthur
- Keaton, Ken
- Kosman, Joshua
- Lambert, John
- Kennelly, Laura
- Lavassi, Chuck
- Littler, William
- Loney, Glenn
- Malitz, Nancy
- Midgette, Anne
- Moon, Robert
- Paulk, James
- Perret, Peter J.
- Rockwell, John
- Smith, Ken
- Van Vlasselaer, Jean Jacques
- Wright, David