Gillian Keith Soprano

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Remembering Roderick Lakin

Remembering Roderick Lakin, MBEUnknown


During my first few months as a student in London, many unexpected things happened to me – such as meeting The Queen after a concert given by Royal Academy of Music students at the Royal Festival Hall, and flying to Malta for a weekend to present a private concert for an influential RAM patron’s birthday party. There were less dramatic, but equally marvellous events, like spending a week at the Britten-Pears School in Aldeburgh and discovering the glorious beauty of the Suffolk coast, or the first time I walked down Brook Street and saw Handel’s house.


When I entered the Royal Over-Seas League Annual Music Competition in the winter of 1998, I had little idea what the organisation was about, or that it would play such a significant part in my musical life in the UK.  So what is ROSL, and what does it do? It is a non-profit Commonwealth organisation which supports and facilitates relationships through social, musical, and artistic activities. And why did it become so important to me? Not only did I win the top singing prize, but I received a scholarship from an associated Canadian organisation, both awards being key to funding my second year of study in London.


But it wasn’t all about winning awards and impressing the judges on the night. In the case of ROSL competitors and artists, winning the competition is not a requirement for continued association with the organisation. Its importance in my own career continued well beyond the prize-giving ceremony.


I can’t continue any further in this story without mentioning the former Director of ROSL Arts, Roderick Lakin. Some of you reading this piece will have known Roderick, and will, like me, have benefitted from his guidance and support during and after your studies. What a great shock then, when were heard the news that he died in August after a terrible accident involving a bus on a busy Edinburgh street corner.  Roderick was in the middle of running a packed 3 week programme of concerts and literary events at ROSL’s Scottish headquarters as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and I was due to arrive only a few days later to give 5 recitals in the final week of the series. I could hardly believe that, after all the discussions and planning we’d been through, he would not be there to hear those performances.


Since his death, many people have paid tribute to Roderick and his impressive and influential career. The words of ROSL’s Director General are perhaps more eloquent than my own: “Roderick was held in great respect and affection by the multitude of musicians from all corners of the globe whose careers have benefited from his tireless efforts on their behalf. He was admired throughout the arts and music worlds for his professionalism and inspirational work.”.


I believe I speak for many fellow artists when I say that in his position as Director of ROSL Arts, Roderick Lakin was more than an administrator, producer, concert programmer, promoter, adjudicator, and all the other roles he fulfilled within the job. He was also a teacher, mentor, counsellor, friend, and advisor, and he gave his help, guidance and support in such thoughtful and caring ways, whilst always remaining professional.


Roderick was a dignified leader who, although never putting himself in the foreground, possessed the strength and capability which allowed him to step in and out of a variety of roles with ease and assurance.  His instinct was always to help, to guide, and to facilitate opportunities for artists, whether at the beginning of their careers, or further down the line. He never made me feel shy to ask for help – “Could I use the recital hall for a rehearsal?”, “Would you listen to a run-through of my programme before I take it into the recording studio?”, “Would ROSL host a concert for an invited audience of a new programme I am preparing?, “What do you think of the repertoire I have chosen?”.  And the final thing I asked of Roderick was if I could perform a series of recitals of Words and Music with pianist, Simon Lepper in Edinburgh, a full 15 years after our very first appearance there together.


I am grateful to Roderick for so many memorable events and opportunities – my association with The Maple Leaf Trust during my studies, the countless joyful performances of Schubert’s ‘Shepherd on the Rock’ with clarinettist Stuart King and pianist Simon Lepper at Musical Society concerts up and down the country, and recitals in auspicious locations such as Kensington Palace. There was tea and shortbread, wine and delicious food, and drams of whisky to liven each event, and an ever-present feeling that the music we were making and discovering was both noble and nourishing.


With the shock of the accident still fresh in our minds, it was strange and unsettling being at ROSL Edinburgh this summer without Roderick; but it is wonderful news that their concert space will soon be renovated and renamed The Lakin Room. Many ROSL musicians will also be giving a memorial concert on 16th November at Marylebone Parish Church in London to remember and honour him with some of the music we most associate with our ROSL experiences.


It continues to feel odd that he’s no longer at the end of the telephone line, or an email away, and I am reminded what an important resource he was for me, and for so many other musicians around the world. All of us who were privileged to know him will feel his loss in different ways. The students who have yet to begin their relationship with ROSL won’t have a chance to meet Roderick, but his legacy and influence will undoubtedly continue in countless ways.




“The man that hath no music in himself,

Nor is not mov’d with concord of sweet sounds,

Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils.”

William Shakespeare