Hayes disc released
Definitely the most exciting moment so far in the journey that is IT&T was hearing the opening bars of ‘Ceremonial Oxford’ for the first time - our own tiny claim on immortality! Details of the release later in this Newsletter - do order your copies online and support an Oxford choir and orchestra performing the music of an Oxford composer which, together, we made happen.
I remember, about this time last year, looking at the IT&T diary and marvelling at the orchestra’s rate of development since 2014. I thought that, possibly, novelty was playing its part and the level of sustainable activity would settle after a couple of years. On the contrary, it continues to increase apace and I am literally in awe of IT&T’s success. As I have said before, the feeling is less that we have carved out a niche and more that we have uncovered a pre-existing niche in this extraordinary city.
It was a great moment when Aliye produced our 2017/18 brochure - evidence of increased financial resilience bringing with it the potential for forward planning. I knew one or two dates would come in after publication, but in fact, the orchestra’s season has increased beyond all expectations with a breadth of activity which has resulted in an inspiring and fulfilling work environment for the many musicians we have been able to employ. I hope our existence has also enhanced the lives of our audience, participants in our workshops, worshippers at evensong in various colleges and aspiring professionals who have played alongside us.
2018 so far...
Since our Season brochure has been overtaken by events, you will be updated in this Newsletter, but, before that, a quick recap of the last few weeks.
January and February are traditionally ‘resting’ months for freelance musicians following the flurry of Christmas concerts, but not so for IT&T. Early January saw a four-day project with the University baroque ensemble, ‘The Bate Players’, culminating with a side by-side concert in New College Chapel on January 12th. Led by IT&T’s leader, Bojan Cicic, this was a fascinating exploration of seventeenth and eighteenth century string music - Bojan’s area of expertise. As a double bass is not generally used in this repertoire, but the Bate Players include a double bass player, I was exposed to this music myself for the first time. I definitely learned as much as any of the students and felt there was a tangible exhilaration in the concluding performance. This is the sort of experience I would have loved to have had as a music student - to play alongside seasoned professionals on the same desk, but for me now, as that seasoned professional, the experience was equally valuable. It is a wonderful thing to perform beside a burgeoning musician. The professionals bring a well-honed instinct for timing, musical function and ensemble, which is combined with the students’ youthful energy and passion. The result is always stimulating and at its best you even get a sense of that elusive elixir which is Creativity.
In contrast, The Bach Project part II: the Concerto, found us playing a very different role. IT&T’s Dan Edgar performed alongside predominantly ‘modern’ violinist Alexander Janiczek in Bach’s Concerto for two violins, we also accompanied James Boyd in what some think is a spurious concerto for viola and were then joined by Natalie Clein for a performance of the Sixth Brandenburg Concerto, featuring IT&T’s Rachel Byrt alongside James Boyd as the two viola soloists. This idea of combining modern musicians and those dedicated to historically-informed performance is a controversial one, but again, as in the collaboration with the Bate Players, at its best both parties learn from and inspire the other.
On February 6th, Headington School hosted ‘A Day with IT&T’, for GCSE and A level students presented by Jeremy Summerly of St Peter’s College. The initiative of Headington’s new Head of Music, Aimee Bassett, students sang, played, listened and hopefully learned. Feedback from the day was extremely positive.
Then followed IT&T’s two appearances at the Keble Early Music Festival: Edward Higginbottom’s Abendmusik on February 22nd with a programme of his favoured French baroque music; and on the 24th a concert of Mozart’s Jupiter symphony and Requiem. This was a real highlight for me. It is rare these days for an early music group to perform this repertoire except with a choral society because the cost of the brass instruments can be prohibitive. While accompanying amateur choirs is a valued part of IT&T’s work, playing the Requiem with Keble College Choir again had the same appeal as playing alongside the Bate Players. To be immersed in the sound of those young voices, many of whom are performing the Requiem for the first time, is extremely moving.
That brings us to March and the busiest time in the baroque musician’s diary: Easter. March 4th saw a trio of IT&T musicians performing in Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu Nostri at evensong in St Edmund Hall, then the 6th was the first of IT&T’s three performances of Bach’s St John Passion, this one in Somerville College Chapel, conducted by William Dawes. This is followed by another performance of the St John on Saturday in Peterborough Cathedral conducted by Steven Grahl, who has just been appointed Director of Music at Christ Church. Our third St John Passion is on Sunday, with New College Choir under Robert Quinney (tickets available only to Friends of IT&T). We hope to see many of you there.
Our final concert in March is with the Merton College Choir under Ben Nicholas in Bach’s B minor Mass on the 25th. Please see the website for booking information.
Following a break for Easter, IT&T will next be appearing in the Holywell Music Room on April 27th in the third instalment of the Bach Project. With eminent soloists Claire Booth and Ian Bostridge this promises to be a treat for both players and audience alike.
Looking ahead, another treat for Friends of IT&T is Jonathan Rees’s performance at Worton Organic Garden on Saturday, June 2nd which forms the second part of our series, ‘All Roads Lead to Bach’. This recital will be accompanied by a delicious meal of organic produce from the garden and I know it will be a very special evening.
IT&T is looking forward to our new collaboration with the Oxford Bach Choir in the Sheldonian on June 9th, followed by another new collaboration, this time with Magdalen College Choir on July 1st.
Perhaps I should apologise for this Newsletter being so long, but hopefully, even if you don’t read it, you will enjoy with us this evidence of Oxford having taken IT&T to its heart.