It was a scheme supporting a string quartet to visit several universities on a regular basis for a week at a time: give concerts, illustrate lectures, teach talented students, read through student compositions or anything else the Professor thought would help his students.
The Allegri were lucky enough to be chosen to start this venture and I’m proud to say that we maintained the connection for some thirty five years. It was a very imaginative idea and gave a great deal to both the universities and the quartet.
For the universities the benefits were obvious (as mentioned above) but for the Allegri there were immense advantages not all immediately apparent, a certain security of income not being the least;
The ability to plan one’s repertoire knowing that one had at least six universities where one could be sure of it being accepted, meaning that one could program unusual works (often in collaboration with the faculty) without the fear of not being able to persuade music clubs to accept them and therefore wasting a lot of time learning a work for just one performance;
The chance to work with some of the world’s leading academics, illustrating lectures and learning a great deal about the works and the composers which would not happen in a normal professional touring life.
We were lucky enough to work with great academics: Brian Newbould (Schubert/Hull), Robert Pascall (Brahms/Nottingham), Peter Evans (Britten/Southampton) Denis Arnold (just about everything/Oxford), David Brown (Tchaikovsky/Southampton), Robert Hanson (Haydn/Dartington), Julian Rushton (Mozart/Leeds) among many.
I remember many wonderful, insightful lectures that had us spellbound and feeling privileged to be associated with such people. Whether we played any better for all this knowledge is another question but our lives were certainly enriched.
As indeed they were by our decision to accept the hospitality offered by each university of staying with members of the academic staff rather than at the local hotel which at first seemed a rather more attractive option. Over years we built up relations with our hosts that are still important to this day and in retirement seem more memorable than many of the more glamorous occasions we experienced traveling the world.