Plymouth’s former Polytechnic was awarded university status in 1992, prompting a name change to The University of Plymouth, In 2000, the Peninsula Medical School, managed jointly with the University of Exeter, was designated to the University of Plymouth, which provided a much sought-after boost to the latter’s status. A cosmetic change occurred 11 years later, when the university underwent a rebranding exercise, reinventing itself as Plymouth University – before finally reverting to its original name of ‘University of Plymouth’ in 2018.
These changes, over the last 30 or so years, have had a tremendous impact on Plymouth itself, not only in academic, cultural and social spheres, but in the way that the burgeoning student population, drawn to the city not only because of the university’s ever-increasing prowess in so many areas, but equally down to the city’s attractive geographical location itself.
The Arts Institute, according to its mission statement, is ‘the curated public arts programme of the University of Plymouth and plays a pivotal role in building culture and art in the city and the wider South West region, supporting established, new and emerging artists from around the world’.
Dr Robert Taub (Bob) has been its Director of Music since 2018, and, through the medium of the Musica Viva Concert Series, which he initiated, not only has he succeeded in bringing internationally-acclaimed performers to the city, since 2019, but, together with his recommissioning of a large lecture theatre, which is now known as Levinsky Hall, he has established the university as the go-to venue for music in the city, and its environs.
The acoustic adaptations are still a work in progress, but Bob has already made great strides in turning things around, which was so very much needed because of the lack of comfort and facilities at Plymouth Guildhall, and its essentially unsuitable acoustics, where anything other than large-scale choral performances are concerned. Furthermore, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra used to be regular visitors to the city, but this has definitely dwindled over the last few years, for whatever reason, so that we’re lucky now to get more than one visit annually.
The latest Musica Viva event features the London Gershwin Players, conducted by Mark Forkgen, with Bob Taub taking the solo-piano part in Gershwin’s much-loved Rhapsody in Blue, heard in the original jazz-band version for the Paul Whiteman Band. Not only did the evening have a real party feel throughout, but it had also been a sell-out for some weeks prior, which is not only good news for the university, the performers and the musical life of the city, but most importantly for the man behind it all – our own ‘American in Plymouth’, Robert Taub.
Meanwhile, you can read my full review at Seen and Heard International.
top image: Robert Taub with London Gershwin Players
Philip R Buttall
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