A concert was held on Sunday 27th April in the Church of St Philip Neri in Sydenham to remember the conductor Robert Trory who sadly died last year and who was the driving force behind the creation of the prestigious Sydenham International Music Festival.
The concert was a complete sell out and an unqualified success. The orchestra of top professionals played music by Elgar, Haydn, Albinoni and Mozart with solo performances by Maya Bogdonavich on Cello and John Anderson on Oboe.
In 1998 there was a worldwide call to support Sudan and reduce the levels of starvation. Robert and his wife Nina had the idea of organising a charity concert to raise funds for this and they identified St Bartholomew’s Church in Sydenham as a suitable venue.
Fortunately this area is blessed with substantial numbers of professional musicians among its residents. Robert gathered some of them together into the Orchestra of St Bartholomew, he drew up the programme of music and then rehearsed the orchestra for their first concert which raised over £4,000. Soon afterwards there was Hurricane Mitch which devastated Honduras and so Robert and Nina organised a second, equally successful, charity concert. A third concert at a larger venue, the Broadway Theatre, Catford, raised funds for the Indian people struck by a mighty earthquake.
The success of these fund raising events made Robert realise that there was an inherent demand for classical music in the area. Gradually he was able to raise funds from the Lucille Graham Trust and then from Lewisham Council so that he could engage musicians on a professional basis. Eventually this developed into the Sydenham International Musical Festival which ran for 10 years and which included another charity concert, this time for the Haiti Tsunami in 2010.
Along the way there were over 100 concerts in the Broadway Theatre and St Christopher’s Hospice as well as in St Barts and there were chamber music concerts in the Dolphin Pub. As well as the Festival Orchestra, other concerts involved the RPO, the Philharmonia Orchestra and the London Mozart Players as well as the Endellion String Quartet and the singers Susan Bullock and Willard White. Throughout all these events Robert always insisted on the highest quality of music and he was never prepared to compromise on this.
Robert’s failing health and withdrawal of some funding by the council led to the last concert in 2011 although there may be more may follow. As well as the main concerts Robert was also involved in outreach events in local schools and care homes. Some of these are continuing up to the present time and there will be more in the future.
None of this would have happened without Robert’s enthusiasm and commitment or without his unique skills as a conductor but neither would it have happened without the hard work and support of his wife Nina, herself a violinist with the RPO.
Robert was able to recognise quality when he saw it. In 2004 in Moscow he spotted a young violinist, Sergey Dogadin, at the age of 14 and launched him on his international career by inviting him to the Broadway Theatre, Catford to play the Beethoven violin concerto with the Philharmonia Orchestra. Sergey had great admiration for Robert. He also spotted the talented young cellist, Maya Bogdanovic, when he and Nina heard her playing in France and she was able to play at this concert in memory of Robert.
Robert’s musical skills were crucial to the success of Sydenham International Music Festival but his enthusiasm was also critical and he would turn his hand to anything that needed to be done. We should all remember him with gratitude and affection.
— Nick Cotton