Malcolm Miller writes... Kind, caring and radiating a refined, cultured charm, Audrey Ellison, who has died aged ninety, after a short illness, will be sorely missed by many colleagues and friends, the present writer included, who were enriched by her warmth and always helpful, supportive attitude.
Audrey’s remarkably effective management skills in the field of arts administration furthered the careers of numerous international artists and groups, some visiting the UK for the first time, and contributed to the success of many musical societies and organisations, notably the Liszt Society, the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe (BPSE) and the International Ernest Bloch Society (IEBS).
Prior to nearly three decades of artistic management, Audrey was known as an expert in the field of nutrition. She initially trained as a chemist and food scientist and her first work was with Kent-Jones & Amos Consultant Chemists (Head of Microbiology). Following that, four years were spent lecturing at KCHSS/QEH Kings College, University of London (1950-1954). From 1974-1978, Audrey was head of the nutrition department, Flour Advisory Bureau, London, and from 1979-1981, Secretary General, Royal Society of Health, London. Audrey authored a number of cookery books including: Colman's book of Traditional British Cookery (1980) and translated from Swedish, the Great Scandinavian Cookbook (1966).
From the late-1980s Audrey turned to concert management, forming J Audrey Ellison International Artists in September 1988, and was long-standing member of the British Association of Concert Agents and then IAMA. In 2012 Audrey partnered with Gunnar Strømsholm, who also runs the annual summer festival, Casa dei Mezzo on Crete, creating Ellison & Strømsholm International Artists' Management.
Audrey’s calm, quiet manner belied her determined and precisely calculated approach to the business. She knew her trade, developed and nurtured contacts in many spheres, and was successful in bringing many artists to the attention of the wider UK public. At one time she represented in the UK several artists and groups (choirs and orchestras) from far afield as Japan, Australia and Eastern Europe. Audrey also specialised in concert management and all it entailed, publicity, bookings of spaces, arranging radio and press interviews and critics. It was in the relation to those activities that I often came into her purview, either writing programme notes or previews and reviews for recitals or recordings by her artists, helping to organise lecture-masterclasses, some for the BPSE. With her many roles and organisations on which she participated it was salutary to know that in John Morgan she had a long standing assistant on whom she could rely.
Audrey shared her wisdom gained from years of professional experience as concert manager and artist agent, in her work with so many music and cultural societies and organisations. From her work with the Liszt Society, as Secretary and journal editor for some years, she was a close friend of the great Liszt authority Alan Walker and virtuoso pianist Valerie Tryon, smoothing the way for their UK appearances during the latter years as they were based in Ontario. Other distinguished artists whom she represented included Malcolm Williamson AO CBE (Master of the Queen’s Music), Inessa Galante (soprano), Dmitry Markevitch (cello), pianists Risto Lauriala, Sequeira Costa, Hiromi Okada, Vesselin Stanev, Christopher Czaja Sager, Angela Lear, Barbara Nissman, and various choirs and ensembles such as the award-winning London Adventist Chorale with conductor/composer Ken Burton, The Vasari Singers, the Ashdod Chamber Orchestra with conductor Omri Hadari, the Martinů and Rasumovsky Quartets and many others.
Several significant music societies benefitted greatly from her experience and abilities. One of her most active roles was as a founder member of the BPSE since 1993, and also its UK Vice-President. Audrey contributed greatly to the development of the Society, helping to organise concerts, competitions and other events, bringing patrons and members, and most importantly persuading artists, including several virtuosos whom she managed, to become involved either giving recitals or acting on Juries for society competitions. Audrey also applied her own managerial skills in organising larger events for the Society.
More recently Audrey was a prime mover in the re-launch of the International Ernst Bloch Society in 2008, part of the organising team for the Cambridge University Bloch conference in 2007, and attracting distinguished musicians to become patrons including as President, Sir Charles Mackerras, and latterly Steven Isserlis. Audrey’s contribution reached its zenith at the Bloch anniversary in 2009 when she organised two Wigmore Hall concerts featuring Piers Lane and the Goldner Quartet, and Jack Liebeck and Bengt Forsberg, and facilitated the UK premiere of Bloch’s only opera, Macbeth, conducted by Charles Peebles.
Well spoken, calm, very civil, yet always astute, focused, Audrey made things happen, and managed her committees with genial humour, and a discreet understanding of people’s foibles and characters. Audrey declined the limelight, yet deserves our honour and respect for lighting the ways of others, the many musicians, and the countless audiences, who benefited from her efforts. Audrey often was to be contacted at her home in Fulham, from which she took breaks to the north of England with her family. We extend our deepest sympathies to her son Anthony and Lucy Ellison. Audrey will be fondly remembered. She was one in a million.