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Fanfare Contributor Bio

Mark Valencia

Brittle, cheap Gala Records (“a division of Musical & Plastics Industries Limited”) from the market stall were my introduction to classical music in the early 1960s. They mainly offered standard repertoire like Peer Gynt, Scheherazade, and the 1812 Overture, and thus a lifelong passion with music was awakened by a succession of anonymous orchestras under pseudonymous conductors. By my teens I was searching out recordings on my own and blew my pocket money on discounted 10-inch albums from The Great Musicians, a Fabbri publication that drew heavily on the Vox catalog. At three for £1 I quickly built a large collection: a goldmine that helped me develop my knowledge and experience through the magic of vinyl.

A charismatic choirmaster helped me on my way, although formal music training would forever elude me, as would any useful level of instrumental proficiency (a skill that my daughters possess in spades, much to my delight). Instead I became a voracious consumer of music and in so doing developed a certain amount of passive expertise. The pieces fell into place gradually, over many years, and continue to do so even today. As a drama-obsessed teenager I staged Britten’s The Golden Vanity and thereby discovered the composer I have loved the longest; in my 50s I finally heard Parsifal and began a late-life obsession with Wagner. In between came Fauré, Debussy, Sibelius, Mahler, and pretty much the entire panoply of classical music.

If I couldn’t play music, I decided, the next best thing was to write for it. At 25 I penned my first libretto, for a children’s opera based on Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant (music: Christopher Steel), and taught myself the skills of dramaturgy and singability. Many more librettos and lyrics were to follow. Alongside my day job as a teacher of French and drama I also began to dabble in journalism, first in arts radio for my local station, then in print for Music & Musicians and Choir & Organ. When the Internet burst upon us with its new opportunities I felt ready and waiting to grab them and, well, I got lucky. Now I am busier than ever, freelancing for various publications and specializing in opera.

 

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