This newsletter is likely to be something of an oldsletter since I feel this is a good moment to look back at the Autumn and all we acheived, as well as anticipate the exciting developments of 2017.
THE RETROSPECTIVE BIT.
Back in November, IT&T was about to embark on its busiest patch ever, which included our London debut and first appearance on national radio.
But first, to rewind just over three years, when we initially broached the idea of starting an orchestra with Edward, I have to confess my heart sank slightly at his enthusiastic mention of French baroque, not least because little of the repertoire includes the double bass. Fast forward to November 25th 2016 when I found myself, as a direct result of this enthusiasm, a redundant bass player in the audience at King’s Place. Not only could I not remember the last time I had been to a concert, but, I’m ashamed to say, watching ‘Tous les Matins du Monde’ was probably the full extent of my exposure to French baroque music.
I found myself, a sceptic, reluctantly being seduced by this unfamiliar sound world and enchanted by the melifluous playing and singing. Add to this the persuasive combination of wit and scholarship which is the trademark of Edward’s commentaries and I gradually discovered what a wonderfully enjoyable experience it is to go to a concert. As a musician myself, part of me was able to observe the players on stage and know the effort of concentration and the force of will that goes into any performance: a bit like walking a tightrope, it’s all about focus and self-belief (and lots of practice), yet, miraculously, none of this is apparent. In King’s Place, it was subtly metamorphosed into a seamless and hypnotic performance of this extraordinary music. It totally reinforced my faith in the effect of classical music on the human psyche and the validity of our efforts at IT&T.
It was extremely heartening that the previous week’s performance at the Holywell yielded audience numbers as great as those in London - testament to our evolving reputation in Oxford and the crucial role you all play in that as regular supporters. I listened to In Tune with a combination of nerves and pride, again knowing what an outer-body experience it is playing in a sound-proofed box above Langham Place, yet knowing your performance is being listened to by thousands, probably battling home through rush-hour traffic. Nerve-wracking stuff, but again presented with the shiny veneer of accomplished performers. A great milestone for IT&T. Hopefully, next time, Sean Rafferty will have been prepped by the BBC pronunciation dept in the matter of Bojan’s name!
Far from resting on our laurels, the following day saw IT&T occupying our annual slot in the Wotton Concert Series, which now feels like the start of Christmas. There’s something incredibly special about the combination of Cotswold stone, twinkly lights and the promise of an open fire at that time of year. Working with both Ben Hoffnung and Sir Martin Smith (in our Tetbury Messiah on Dec 11th) is like revisiting friends and has a familiarity that enhances the music - the hospitality we received on both occasions being, literally, the icing on the cake. Thank you Elise and Margie! Both thoroughly enjoyable occasions for orchestra and audience alike.
Sandwiched amongst all this was our first Friends’ Evening at Bruern Abbey which included a chamber concert followed by dinner and was a huge success. As the number of our Friends increases, we are conscious of fulfilling our promise to them of providing unique events and opportunities and are optimistic this will become a regular series.
Our final concert of the year was, of course, our sell-out Messiah in the University Church. This was the first time we have completely sold out since our debut concert in the Holywell and this time, in a venue twice the size. Far from the usual nail-biting scrutiny of ticket sales, this time our worry was the dwindling number of seats available compared to the deluge of requests we were getting. Eventually we released 50 unsighted tickets in the Chancel with mixed results - probably an experiment we would not repeat. However, rather sadly, University Church has decided hosting a concert that close to Christmas is not for them, so our vision of the IT&T candlelit Messiah as an Oxford institution is currently stalled. However, we have other ideas of which I will keep you informed.
Finally, to the Present. Our next concert, on February 4th in St Andrew’s, Linton Rd, is the conclusion of the Christmas Oratorio embarked upon last year with the Summertown Choral Society. This is a wonderful community event with astounding music, so do come along (although SCS has a significant following of its own!)
This is closely followed by a Valentine - inspired concert entitled, ‘The Food of Love’, in the Holywell Music Room on Friday, February 10th. This programme of Handel and Bach includes elements from the current Edexcel GCSE syllabus on which we are presenting two workshops in St Edward’s School on 6th February. This educational collaboration enables us to subsidise rehearsals for the concert whilst providing us with rehearsal space and is exactly the sort of joined-up thinking needed to survive in the 21st century. We get to play in St Edward’s wonderful new concert hall and, for the first time, Chris Bucknall, who has co-ordinated our tertiary level education work so far, will direct the group in the Holywell. Chris has a wealth of experience in education work through his involvement with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, so his workshops should be inspiring to all participants, both on and off-stage. The Holywell programme is inspired by this repertoire, but broadened and promises to be delighful for any audience.
KEBLE EARLY MUSIC FESTIVAL
This brings us to Matthew Martin’s first Keble Early Music Festival. Matthew has been indefatigable in his efforts to raise both money and the profile of this Festival culminating in five days of events from 21st to 25th February. IT&Tis privileged to have been invited to present two concerts: the first, Abendmusik in Lubeck, on the 21st, directed by Edward; and the second, the finale of the Festival, a performance of Bach’s B minor Mass on Saturday 25th. This is a very ambitious project combining the choirs of Keble, Merton and St Peter’s colleges with Voices and Instruments of Time and Truth. Conducted by Matthew himself, Edward will make an appearance at the keyboard!
ST JOHN PASSION WITH NEW COLLEGE CHOIR
Sunday March 12th is the date of this year’s performance of the St John Passion with New College Choir under Robert Quinney. There is a limited number of tickets available exclusively to Friends, so please send your requests to firstname.lastname@example.org . If you would like to come, but are not a Friend, this could be your opportunity to become one for little more than the price of a pair of concert tickets!
We are very excited to be collaborating with Ben Nicholas and the Choir of Merton College for the first time, as an ensemble, in a Music at Oxford concert on Saturday, May 6th. This programme includes my all-time favourite Bach cantata, ‘Christ lag in Todesbanden’. Exquisitely gloomy!
Gabriel and I are meeting today with Edward to discuss future plans. I am pleased to say we ended 2016 sufficiently in the black to start planning our next Sheldonian concert. We are working on the details of our first Spanish tour next December, which I hope will segue into another Messiah on December 23rd somewhere in Oxford which will possibly involve a new approach more favoured by the Arts Council! We are also in discussion with an amateur choir in Oxford which I hope will produce a new collaboration.
All that remains is for me to offer my heartfelt thanks to you for supporting our endeavours. There is no denying running an orchestra is a slog, day in, day out. But it is a slog punctuated by exhilarating performances and profound fulfilment. it is only having you, the audience, that makes any of it possible. So, thank you, Happy 2017 and see you soon.