NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017 NEWSLETTER
Since my last newsletter, ‘The Road to Romanticism’ launched IT&T’s 2017/18 Season on October 6th in the Sheldonian Theatre. As IT&T's first sortie into nineteenth century repertoire, this concert was a bit of a leap in the dark: would we be able to uphold standards with more technically demanding repertoire, given extremely limited rehearsal time? Would our audience even be interested in hearing later repertoire on period instruments and what would they make of a well-known violin concerto played on gut strings? Despite a nail-biting few weeks when it looked as if IT&T was facing financial ruin, all came good at the eleventh hour and from a personal and professional point of view, the concert was a huge success. Which means a loss of only £8,000!
On the day, Gay was elsewhere and both Aliye and I were playing, so there was more than the usual amount of extraneous pressure, including a photo shoot outside the Sheldonian and a period of about half an hour when no one knew where Bojan had got to! But during the Hebrides overture I found myself marvelling at the colours conjured by the period winds and experiencing something of the awe the nineteenth century audience must have felt towards what was new and extraordinary music of its time. I love those moments that validate what we do - Wordsworth’s ‘spots of time’, or Joyce’s ‘epiphanies’- a moment of intense focus in which you simultaneously participate but also observe yourself and understand that this is what life is about.
The one aspect of that evening I was most proud of was creating the opportunity for Bojan to play the Mendelssohn. As we all know, our society is intrigued by ‘celebrity’ and orchestras rely heavily on ‘names’ to sell tickets. But what makes a name and how do you get one? The most obvious way would seem to be by exposing the most talented performers to audiences. But this is more easily said than done, as I recently had underlined in an exchange I had with an orchestral manager. Both Bojan and I play in the Academy of Ancient Music. Following ‘The Road to Romanticism’, I suggested they should programme the Mendelssohn, but the reply was that the financial loss would be too great: to get the equation of musicians’ fees and ticket sales to balance, given the overheads of an established orchestra, you need a huge hall and a ‘name’ to fill it. This is the bottom line, literally, and it governs so much of modern life.
But if established groups won’t risk inviting an emerging soloist, then how is a soloist to emerge? At IT&T, our mission is a bit different. Because we manage the group voluntarily in order to create excellent regional work and a genuine community resource, it means we can be a bit more adventurous and actually increase the profile of emerging soloists. Bojan often describes himself as ‘a musician’s musician’, by which he means he thinks his performing lacks showmanship and is esoteric. But I think Bojan underestimates himself. There is something tremendously compelling about his performing, his sense of rhythm is irrepressible and the thoroughgoing nature of his musicianship gives a sense of rightness to his every nuance of phrasing. The Mendelssohn with minimal vibrato obviously sounds very different from the flamboyance and overt passion of some modern interpretations, but reports of the first performance indicate that it was, in fact, given without vibrato. Bojan’s performing is like a Jane Austen novel: the passion is implicit and, to my mind, more intense for being so. Indeed, one member of the audience at the Sheldonian was overheard to say Bojan’s was the most beautiful rendition of the concerto she had ever experienced. So it is not only musicians who think Bojan worthy of being celebrated.
But this catch 22 situation of a soloist having to be known to an audience before he or she can become a soloist interests me, because it means you, the members of our audience, have a great deal of power and influence.
I recently attended a conference on ‘Charity Futures’ in London, at the invitation of Jonathan Smith of Woodford Investment Management, one of IT&T’s corporate sponsors. There were three compelling speakers who presented possible versions of the world in the near future. The first, Mark Stevenson, provided a mind-boggling glimpse at the current technological advances that will become familiar to us all within the next 15 years: driverless cars; 3-d printers;energy extracted from thin air. But whatever the specifics, one thing is certain: artificial intelligence will govern much of everyday life. And that will bring fundamental change, because it will no longer be Logic that is most prized (because it will be everywhere), but Creativity, or, to put it another way, that uniquely human attribute - the Imagination.
And suddenly, our work at IT&T seemed more profound - less of a personal passion and more of a legacy for the future. We have always sought to provide for the future, with our GCSE projects, free tickets for schools, side-by-sides with undergraduates and, more recently with school-aged children, but at that conference in London, the future appeared knowable and very close and I felt optimistic that we, at IT&T, are doing exactly what we should be doing as musicians and ensuring that the future world is based on the very best of human capabilities and not on the worst.
And you, members of IT&T’s audience, have the power to make this happen. As the second speaker at ‘Charity Futures’ argued, Economics is nothing more than human nature: we are social animals and when we see our neighbour buy something, our instinct is to follow. That’s how clothes become fashionable, how kitchens all start to look the same, how recycling has become accepted and how Bojan becomes a name and IT&T endures. All you have to do is be the social animals you are: come to concerts, bring your family and friends and tell your acquaintances. If you prefer the modern version of gossip, then apply that most powerful of tools: social media. Human nature will do the rest, but if you’re lucky enough to be wealthy, then a donation would be great too.
My mother complained that the last IT&T Newsletter wasn’t personal enough, so I’m just doing what I’m told. If you are similarly biddable, there are going to be a lot of exciting concerts in the future. Thank you for your support.
Judith Evans, Concerts Manager
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 www.timeandtruth.co.uk since our activities have become almost too numerous to mention here!
JUNE 2017 NEWS
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.
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 www.bojancicic.com .
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.
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.
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.