An Interview with Charles Hazelwood

1 January 2012

Which event has been your favourite and why?

My favourite event is always my most recent one!

How did the corporate speaking start?

I needed to restore my beautiful old Somerset cider barn for recording and rehearsal purposes. I was wracking my brains at how to raise the cash when I was introduced to a senior exec in PWC who is a big music fan. When I started talking about my plans, he immediately said he thought PWC might pay for it, in return for some inspirational sessions with me and his senior management. I spent a delightful day with them, the upshot being they became a giant rhythm orchestra, and I got my barn sorted!

Can you remember your first speaking engagement?

That was my first speaking engagement, although, bear in mind I have been talking to audiences at my concerts, and doing radio and TV gigs through my entire career, so it didn’t feel like the first engagement. I love talking to people!

And your most recent event?

Most recent event was persuading 40 jaded intellectuals, corporates and journalists to sing a complex Welsh round (which they did magnificently in the end) on a 'trust' themed conference at Portmeirion.

If you could speak at any event, past or future, what would it be?

I would love to have spoken at Mandela's release, the ultimate celebration of the human spirit, riding high on the extraordinary waves of singing which you encounter on a daily basis in South Africa.

Who would you most like to share a platform with?

I'd most like to share a platform with Barack Obama.

Are you as happy speaking to 50 as to 1,000 people?

I am happy speaking to any group large or small. I have addressed 6,000 in the Albert Hall, and 10 at the Wigmore Hall. In my book, anything is possible.

How do you like to be introduced?

I like to be introduced as a conductor. Because everything I do stems from that, conducting is enabling.

Do you always like to do a briefing call before the event?

I always like a briefing call before the event. That way I can really focus in on the needs of an organisation and its people.

What are the most asked for topics?

Trust is a regular topic, as is preserving individuality in a mass world, and risk. These are key areas for any music maker.

Is your speech interactive with audience participation?

My sessions are inevitably interactive. Pure spectatorship has limitations: people engage more meaningfully if they share some of the responsibility. I am all about communication, from me to others, from them back to me.

Do you have any funny/embarrassing speaking anecdotes you care to share?

At my first ever rehearsal with a professional orchestra I was eulogising at the cello section about how stunningly they had just played a phrase, whilst fiddling with my baton. Suddenly I stuck it in my eye. The jaws of 100-odd jaded orchestral musicians fell open. They had never seen this happen before (and it was my first eye stabbing incident as well). I attempted to continue the rehearsal. There was a hole in the white of my eye, and barely suppressed hilarity all around.

Favourite film?

Withnail & I.

Favourite book?

Favourite holiday destination?

Country or townie?

Country!!! I like regular fixes of the city, then I like to escape.

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