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His musical career started when his dad purchased a guitar to play Skiffle. Now
Eltham’s Gerry Cornelius conducts leading orchestras. JOHN WEBB met him.
Where were you brought up? When did you first conduct? build up a repertoire of pieces over many
Our family house was on the Page I became organist at Holy Trinity years..
Estate at Eltham Green. when I was about 17 years old and
led the choir; when I went to Durham What’s the key to success?
How did your interested in music University on an organ scholarship I won A conductor must do just that; he
begin? an audition to conduct the University must conduct the energy from the
Dad fancied playing skiffl e so bought orchestra. orchestra, the music, the audience and,
himself a guitar. I picked it up and started in opera and ballet,
picking out rock and roll tunes. the singers and
dancers. It all fl ows
Early music influences? through him. Also,
My grandmother had a large classical the conductor’s
music collection and the head at Roper expected to put
Street, Mr Bonds, used to play well- on a performance
known pieces before assembly each day. himself.
First lessons? Do you ever get
At a ballet school in Westmount Road; nervous?
my sister learned dance and I had guitar The whole
lessons upstairs. thing is terrifying,
but playing with
Next steps? top orchestras in
St John’s Church were recruiting venues such as
choristers; they had an inspirational Covent Garden
musical director John Martin; I was really and the Coliseum
impressed by the organ there. is a privilege. Each
performance is
When did you first want to conduct? a negotiation
When I was about eight, I was taken between the various
to a classical music concert at the Royal parties on stage.
Naval College and our seats were on the
stage. In the interval, the conductor sat Your most recent
next to me and at the end gave me his engagements?
baton to keep. I set my mind on it then. I’m a guest
conductor for the
What’s your favourite music? English National
The fi rst piece that made a huge Ballet and this
impression on me was Haydn’s Creation When did you first realise you’d year we did the Nutcracker and the
performed at St John’s, so it’s always achieved your childhood ambition? Snow Queen; before that I conducted
been special. After Durham, I studied conducting the Welsh National Opera in a choral
at the Royal Academy of Music and met symphony about the coal industry called
How did you progress your musical famous people such as Colin Davies, Carbon 12. I have dates in Hong Kong
education? Barenboim, Simon Rattle. Then for three and Germany before touring with ENB.
On Saturday’s, I went to the Centre years at St Petersburg under the great
for Young Music, paid for by an ILEA Ilya Musin. Most embarrassing moment?
scholarship. I was very fortunate to I was conducting an orchestra on a
have two inspirational tutors in Eltham, Is there more to conducting than fairly packed stage in Essex and managed
Vivienne Vere-Dresser for piano and Brian meets the eye? to fall backwards off the stage. It raised
Preston for the organ. Yes; a conductor must study a piece quite a laugh.
for months so that he knows the part of
every instrument. You have to gradually
Take an interest in local events
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