On Friday 2 February, I attended my first BSO ensemble concert in Kingsdon, a beautiful village in South Somerset. This concert was in partnership with Take Art, Somerset’s rural touring arts charity, and saw BSO ensemble Resonate Strings perform to a full house in Kingsdon’s All Saints Church.
Resonate Strings is a BSO ensemble consisting of five musicians representing the different string sections of the Orchestra.
The ensemble’s musicians are Penny Tweed (violin), Vicky Berry (violin), Judith Preston (viola), Philippa Stevens (cello) and Andy Baker (double bass).
This concert formed a part of the BSO’s small-scale concert activities in Somerset which gives rural communities throughout the county the opportunity to experience high quality arts events in their own village or town.
I arrived at All Saints Church at around 4:30pm, just in time to catch the end of Resonate Strings’ rehearsal and to properly introduce myself to all of the musicians before the concert later. Before I had even entered the church, I was struck by the setting for tonight’s concert. It’s not your usual setting for a classical music concert, being in the middle of the countryside, and it wasn’t your usual concert hall. The church offered a different kind of concert, one that was more intimate and accessible.The church’s interior was as stunning as its exterior, with ornate stained glass windows and stone arches. The musicians were in the middle of a piece when I came into the church, so I took the opportunity to take a few photos of them while they were rehearsing (and to figure out where the best photography spots were, so I knew for the concert later).
The village of Kingsdon did more than just hosting this concert, one house-hold hosted the Resonate Strings musicians. Between rehearsal and the concert the musicians had a lovely home-cooked meal and could prepare for the concert later in the evening (apparently the trifle was particularly good!)
When I came back to the Church just after 7pm it was already starting to fill with people. Walking up the path I could hear several people all saying what a treat it was to have BSO musicians come to their village Church to perform. By 7:30pm there were 115 people in the audience, all wrapped up in coats excited for an evening of classical music from world-class musicians.
The concert opened with Bach’s Suite No.3 in D Major. This piece is divided into four movements, each of which has a different tempo and feel. My personal favourite of the movements (and perhaps the most famous) was Air. Played on the lower string of the violin, I found Air extremely emotive. Andy explained before the piece that Gavotte and Bouree were types of French dances and Gigue was a very fast movement, so the slowness of Air in comparison also made this movement stand out for me.
Before each of the pieces a member of the ensemble gave a quick description of the music: who the composer was, what the piece was inspired by and things to listen out for. These introductions added to the intimacy and accessibility of the concert; it definitely helped me to understand the pieces they were playing better and to appreciate aspects of the music I might have missed otherwise. The repertoire the ensemble compiled showcased their versatility with the variety of pieces being played, as well as highlighting their talents as a individuals and as a group.
The concert programme featured well known pieces, such as Vivaldi’s Spring from Four Seasons and Elgar’s Chanson de Matin, as well as lesser known pieces including Turina’s La oracion del torero. One of my favourite pieces, and one I was not familiar with before this concert, was Wirén’s Marcia from his Serenade for Strings.
Dag Wirén is a Swedish composer who lived from 1905 until 1986 and once commented that his first desire was to entertain and please, and compose listener friendly modern music. The piece was predominantly happy with its childlike march but the threatening intrusions woven in rounded the music- highlighting the light and shade.
In terms of entertainment, the highlight of the evening had to be the encore! Before they started Andy informed the audience they would be playing Tico Tico which opens with one of the most challenging cello solos in the repertoire, which Philippa played flawlessly. After Philippa’s solo, Andy stopped playing and placed his double bass on the floor before going through a door at the back of the church. I had assumed something wasn’t quite right, hoped that Andy was ok and admired the rest of the ensemble for remaining professional by continuing to play. I was correct that something wasn’t quite right and also that I was right to admire the rest of the ensemble for carrying on as if nothing was amiss, but there wasn’t anything wrong with Andy. He soon appeared with maracas in hand wearing a vibrant floral lei and rejoined the ensemble for the end of the piece.
The encore just rounded off what was a truly wonderful evening. This concert showcased the musicians’ talents as individuals as well as collectively. I would highly recommend attending one of the BSO small-scale concerts, to experience world-class classical music in a completely different way.