John Amis at a Critics' Circle luncheon, April 2010
|Born||John Preston Amis
17 June 1922
|Died||1 August 2013(aged 91)|
John Preston Amis (17 June 1922 – 1 August 2013) was a British broadcaster, classical music critic, music administrator, and writer. He was a frequent contributor for The Guardian and to BBC radio and television music programming.
Born in Dulwich, London, in 1922, he was a cousin of the novelist Kingsley Amis. He was educated at Dulwich College, where he began a lifelong friendship with his contemporary, Donald Swann. A serious bout of mastoiditis as a child left him deaf in his left ear. He began his career working in a bank for five and a half weeks before leaving to earn a living in music. Amis had a number of roles, including gramophone record salesman, and orchestra manager (at one point turning pages for Dame Myra Hess during the wartime concerts at the National Gallery.), before becoming a music critic, initially with The Scotsman in 1946. He was for several years manager for Sir Thomas Beecham.
In 1948, William Glock invited him to run a summer school for musicians at Bryanston School, Dorset. The summer school moved to Dartington in 1953. Amis remained administrative director until 1981, during which time he brought to the school a long line of international musicians, amongst them Paul Hindemith, Igor Stravinsky, and Sir Michael Tippett.
Amis' short career as a tenor began with a minor role in the 1967 recording of Bernard Herrmann's cantata Moby-Dick. He made his operatic debut in 1990 as the Emperor in Turandot. Amis had started singing in earnest after 1959: in that year he attended Frederick Husler's singing class at Dartington 'just for fun', and was told not only that he had the makings of a Heldentenor, but that he ought to go to Germany to study.
From the 1950s onwards, Amis became a regular contributor to BBC Radio's music output, and worked on BBC Television from 1961, producing and presenting documentaries, and introducing the BBC2 magazine programme Music Now. As a broadcaster, he is probably best known for his appearances as a team member, from 1974 to 1994, on the BBC Radio 4 panel show, My Music, replacing David Franklin. It was on this show that he disclosed an unexpected talent as a skilled siffleur. His own radio show on Radio 3 interviewed musicians and contemporary witnesses such as Sir Isaiah Berlin. For many years he wrote a column on music in The Tablet, England's best-known Catholic magazine.
His friends in the music industry included Noel Mewton-Wood and Felix Aprahamian, for whom he wrote a tribute following Aprahamian's death in January 2005. He was also closely associated with Gerard Hoffnung and organized many of Hoffnung's concerts until the latter's death in 1959; he performed a comic duet from The Barber of Darmstadt with Owen Brannigan at the 1961 Hoffnung Festival.
He wrote a number of books, on his own Amiscellany imprint, with titles including My Music in London: 1945-2000. Amis spent much of his time giving talks and one-man shows, after dinner speeches and concert works. Amis was a patron of the Music Libraries Trust and the Tait Memorial Trust, and a vice-president of the Putney Music society.
In 1949, he married the violinist Olive Zorian. The marriage was dissolved in 1955 and Zorian died in 1965.
- "Genial John has died and, with him, a gentle era". Artsjournal.com. 2013-08-02. Retrieved 2013-08-13.
- Celebration of Dame Myra Hess from the National Gallery (London)|National Gallery. Accessed 20 December 2006.
- John Amis biography on easy-speak.com. Accessed 20 December 2006.
- 'The Biter Bit', Radio Times, 6 May 1960, p. 5.
- List of Isaiah Berlin interviews from Oxford University. Accessed 20 December 2006.
- Amis' obituary for Felix Aprahamian, The Guardian. Accessed 20 December 2006.
- Amiscellany details on amolibros.com. Accessed 20 December 2006.
- Speaker's Agency page on Amis at the Wayback Machine (archived August 19, 2001), dated 21 January 2001, accessed via Internet Archive 20 December 2006.
- Music Libraries Trust list of patrons. Accessed 20 December 2006.
- Tait Memorial Trust. Accessed 7 September 2010.
- Putney Music society. Accessed 20 December 2006.
- Olive Zorian Biography. Accessed 7 September 2010.
- "Tait Memorial Trust". Tait Memorial Trust. 2013-08-09. Retrieved 2013-08-13.
- 2 August 2013 (2013-08-02). "John Amis". Telegraph. Retrieved 2013-08-13.