September 2017 Newsletter

I think the education system engenders in us a deep-seated feeling of renewal or reinvention indelibly associated with the month of September. As I write this, I glance up, periodically, at the Dorset coastline, the day before me a blank canvas of choice and potential, but increasingly aware that next week will bring with it a sea-change: days where obligations are measured by the minute hands on my watch and link together precisely like a well-constructed jigsaw with no missing pieces. In short, my children go back to school, I go back to work and we resume ‘real life’!

As ever, writing the IT&T newsletter provides the opportunity to take stock and never more so, therefore, than the September newsletter: in it we can review our progress so far; establish an idea of where we are, where we want to be and how to get there. Instruments of Time and Truth is now three years old and about to enter its fourth season. Crucially we have weathered the two year period within which most new enterprises fail - the time when novelty no longer acts as a turbo prop coinciding with a decline in energy as you raise your eyes and understand it was not one mountain you had to climb but an endless range of mountains extending to the horizon and beyond.

I think we reached that point somewhere in our second year. I remember saying to Gay, ‘I’ve got one more year in me and then I’ve got to shed this burden of responsibility’. Yet here I am still and despite my stressful commuting as a freelance musician, my neglected house and overgrown garden my faith in what IT&T is doing is stronger than ever and my determination to see it survive and flourish, intact.

Instruments of Time and Truth has in many ways achieved its own momentum - proof of a pre-existing niche into which we have settled in this unique city and testament to its high artistic standard. In fact I find this the most gratifying part of my role - responding to unprompted enquiries about the orchestra which tells me we have a following and an increasing reputation. Chief amongst these this season are exciting new collaborations with the Oxford Bach Choir (June 9th) and Magdalen College Choir (Nov 4th and dates in March tbc), our concert at The Grange on September 15th and our increasing touring activity which will subsidise our ambition of establishing a regular concert series in Oxford. Alongside this novelty we have the satisfaction of recurring associations: our annual St John Passion open to Friends at New College on March 11th; our second appearance in two concerts of the Keble Early Music Festival in February; collaborating with the Summertown Choral Society in February and in May; and returning to the Wotton Concert Series in November.
On the education side, Headington School is looking into hosting a repeat of theGCSE workshop we presented to Oxfordshire students at St Edward’s School in February this year and IT&T will appear on the next two phases of Natalie Clein’s Bach Project at the University (January and April). In addition we are launching our first baroque orchestral course for school-aged children in October half-term.

The area in which IT&T still has most ground to cover is in establishing an Oxford concert series. This is to be expected. A self-promoted orchestral concert will routinely sustain a loss of five thousand pounds at the box office even with good ticket sales, so fund-raising is a significant element of our activity. We have recently had considerable success in this direction with donations from Dustscan, Woodford Investments and the Pye Charitable Foundation, but there is always more to do as we face each new ascent in that endless mountain range. I am convinced that a large number of small donors is achievable and would secure our future and I hope everyone reading this will feel inspired to spread the word and help us towards that goal. For just £60 a year a donor becomes part of our ever-increasing group of Friends, is invited to drinks receptions at self-promoted concerts and to special Friends’ events (this year the St John Passion and a magical evening of lute music and convivial dining at Worton Organic Garden). The financial resilience resulting from having a large number of supporters would enable us to do the necessary planning to establish an annual series and also to sell these programmes to other venues which would bring in further revenue. If we could achieve a regular concert series that to me would be the fulfilment of our mission to become a community resource, supported and enjoyed by the community in which we all live.
Having said that, it is already a tremendous achievement that our 17/18 season opens with the impressive ‘Road to Romanticism’ on Friday, October 6th in the Sheldonian Theatre. I am so looking forward to working with Bojan in his capacity as soloist in the Mendelssohn violin concerto (a new departure for both him and IT&T) and to being conducted by Edward Higginbottom, a musician who justifies our choice in struggling to be musicians with his profound understanding and interpretation of whatever music he undertakes to perform.

This inspiration, to me, is nowhere more evident than in what has become our annual performance of the Messiah in University Church, this year on Saturday, December 16th at 5pm. Edward brings this music to life as no other conductor in my experience - swift, fresh and uplifting, his interpretation is a million miles away from stodgy renditions of the past. Booking opens imminently and last year we sold out a month before, so don’t put it off or you risk being disappointed.

Administratively, Instruments of Time and Truth is also evolving! For the first time, Aliye is producing a pamphlet of the entire season which will be available at all concerts to enable you to plan your own concert-going and I hope, to reinforce your commitment to supporting us. 

It never goes without saying how grateful we are for your support - there is nothing formulaic or cliched about it - no orchestra would exist without its audience. Please be involved to whatever extent you like, whether simply as a concert-goer, by requesting programmes or suggesting improvements, or even by volunteering your skills - fundraising help particularly welcomed!

We very much hope to see you on October 6th and throughout our 17/18 season, highlights of which will appear in conjunction with this newsletter and on our website since our activities have become almost too numerous to mention here!




A period of consolidation
We are currently enjoying a lull in musical activities at IT&T since the larger scale of our performances next season has effectively prevented our putting on our usual May concert in the Sheldonian. This has provided a much-needed opportunity to concentrate on fundraising and we are delighted to have received significant contributions from Woodford Investments and the Pye Charitable Settlement. Alongside this, of course, we are constantly working to expand the number of Friends and smaller donors who are invaluable in oiling the daily cogs of the orchestra and to whom we owe our very existence. If you enjoy our concerts, do introduce us to your friends and help us put our unique stamp on Oxford musical life.

Music at Oxford debut
Instead of agonising over a self-promotion, May provided us with the much less stressful experience of making our debut for Music at Oxford with Merton College Choir and Ben Nicholas. I enjoy these concerts the most, where another organisation bears financial responsibility and my role is merely to book the players and enjoy the music, without having to worry about ticket sales. The concert, on May 6th, was a sell-out (no ticket worries after all) and featured some of my favourite choral music - Handel’s Dixit Dominus and Bach’s Cantata no 4 ‘Christ lag in todesbanden’. As ever, it was great to see our regular Friends and supporters and to be exposed to another concert-going public in Oxford - those who subscribe to MAO - and who will now know who we are.

CD recordings
A tremendous boost will be given to our profile by our forthcoming recordings; a collection of works by William Hayes with Keble College Choir under Matthew Martin in June and vocal music by Pelham Humfrey with Edward, in France, in July. The Keble disc particularly, with its Oxford college choir and period-instrument orchestra and composer feels like a real statement of what we are hoping to achieve in and for Oxford. Obviously it will be some time before the discs become commercially available, but we will definitely keep you posted. (I am rereading this having just completed this recording. What a discovery William Hayes turned out to be! A devotee of Handel, Hayes was the man who persuaded Handel to visit Oxford. The keyboard concerto we recorded, interestingly, was an improvement on many of the concertos Handel himself churned out at times. We also recorded extracts from ‘The Passions’ and ‘The Fall of Jericho’: exciting stuff!)

A musical soirée at magical Worton Organic Garden
I am thrilled to announce there will be another Friends’ evening at Worton Organic Garden this summer, on Saturday July 15th at 6pm. This year IT&T will be presenting David Miller in a programme entitled ‘Masters of the Lute and Guitar’. David will perform on an assortment of instruments in this ravishing setting and the evening will include organic pizza, salad and wine, all produced from the garden itself. (Maybe not the wine!) IT&T has exclusive access to a small number of tickets for Friends only at a cost of £35 per head. Please see the website for details.

Sheldonian concert opens 17/18 Season
IT&T’s next big promotion will be our Sheldonian concert on Friday, October 6th at 7.30pm. This concert will be a new departure for both the orchestra and the soloist, with IT&T taking ‘The Road to Romanticism’ and Bojan Čičič performing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto for the first time with an orchestra. For those of us familiar with Bojan as a great exponent of seventeenth and eighteenth century music, it will be fascinating to hear his unique take on this well-known piece, especially in combination with Edward Higginbottom’s fluidity and originality as a conductor.

Bojan Cicic: solo CD
I’d also like to take this opportunity to plug Bojan’s own newly-released CD. It is a recording of 6 wonderful Sonate da Camera by the little-known composer Giovanni Stefano Carbonelli. I am a huge fan of Bojan’s and can only say this disc is a joy, both in discovering the composer and in Bojan’s exhuberant interpretation. The recording is on the Delphian label, to find out more, please visit .
Annual events: Wotton Concert Series and Messiah at University Church
Autumn once more sees IT&T in Wotton-under-Edge on November 18th as part of their concert series and we are very pleased to say we have secured a date for our candlelit Messiah in the University Church again this year. It will take place on Saturday, December 16th, at 5pm. Tickets will go on sale in early Autumn and we highly recommend early booking. Last year we sold out a month before the date, even after having created extra seating, which we won’t be doing this year since the experience was rather less than satisfactory for those sitting near the church’s generator! As usual, there will be an advance booking period for Friends.

European profile
This performance of the Messiah is sandwiched between two trips to Spain, the first to Santander and the second to Las Palmas, Barcelona and Alicante. It is a heartening affirmation of our work at IT&T to receive this return invitation.

Ongoing collaborations
Collaborations in 17/18 continue to develop: IT&T will appear in the next two instalments of Natalie Clein’s Bach Project through the University’s Music Faculty on January 27th and April 27th; we are reunited with the Summertown Choral Society on February 3rd; Instruments of Time and Truth will once again occupy a prominent role in the Keble Early Music Festival February 20 -24 2018; Friends can attend our St John Passion in New College on March 11th at 3pm (no confusion re the start time in 2018!) ; and we begin a new collaboration with the Oxford Bach Choir at the Sheldonian on June 9th 2018.
As you can see, Instruments of Time and Truth goes from strength to strength and I relish the opportunity for reflection these newsletters provide. I look forward to seeing you in the Sheldonian on October 6th.