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This position, funded by Sir Martin Smith and Lady Smith OBE through The Martin Smith Foundation, will be the first endowed Chair of Historical Performance at a UK conservatoire. The Chair is named for Lady Smith’s mother Elise Granbery Becket, who was a musician. Martin and Elise have both served on the Academy’s Governing Body and are members of the Regents’ Court of Benefactors, a select group of the Academy’s most generous donors.
Elise has made an important contribution to the understanding and experience of period instruments over the last 25 years. In 1998, inspired by her and her husband’s long relationship with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and its deep links with the Academy, she began the creation of the Becket Collection of period instruments, working with the Academy’s Curator of Instruments, David Rattray. She donated the Collection (also named in honour of her mother) to the Academy in 2012, where it continues to play a vital role in the education and training of students. Graduates who have benefitted from the Becket Collection are now members of all the major UK period ensembles. The Collection supports the exploration and restoration of historical musical repertoires and their performance practices. It comprises a complete orchestra of 25 Classical-period British stringed instruments, woodwind, brass and percussion, and a Baroque ensemble of 13 stringed instruments which are copies of instruments made by the great luthiers of early 18th century Venice.
The Becket Chair will further enhance the Academy’s vibrant Historical Performance department and use and understanding of the Becket Collection. Professor Faultless, the Head of Historical Performance at the Academy since 2012, has been named to the Chair.
Margaret Faultless is an internationally renowned specialist in historical performance practice and has dedicated her career to the field. For over twelve years Margaret led the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, and since 1989 has been a co-leader of The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. In 2018 she was conferred a Professor of the University of London.
Professor Faultless comments: 'The creation of the Becket Chair of Historical Performance is a significant moment for the Academy, and one that will resonate for years to come across the historical performance profession. This Chair will enable the delights of period instrument playing, and inspired approaches to music-making, to be shared with even more students who will, in turn, take these experiences into the wider profession.'
Professor Jonathan Freeman-Attwood CBE, Principal of the Royal Academy of Music, added: 'The vision of Sir Martin and Lady Smith in securing the future of historically informed performance through the establishment of the Becket Chair is not only generous but reflects the ambition of the Academy to future-proof the skills, disciplines and artistry of period performance in its curriculum. The Academy is truly grateful for this extraordinary gift from Martin and Elise. Funded chairs allow us to cement the values which have defined our work since 1822, and make them durable for our third century'.
As the first UK conservatoire to create fully-funded Chairs, the creation of the Becket Chair is the fifth of its kind at the Academy. In 2022, with the launch of its Bicentenary campaign and the generosity of donors, the Academy established the Gatsby Chair of Musical Theatre, the Dame Myra Hess Chair of Piano, the William Lawes Chair of Chamber Music and the Fernside Chair of Choral Conducting.
Image 1: Margaret Faultless rehearsing Purcell's The Fairy Queen with Historical Performance students
Image 2: Sir Martin Smith and Lady Smith OBE at the Academy