I’m enjoying having good reasons (most directly, though not solely: paid concerts!) to do some classical playing at the moment. The pattern I’ve observed in the past holds particularly true at the moment, that outside the classical world, almost all my work is playing violin, and inside it the viola tends to dominate – not that either is clear-cut. To some extent I’m deliberately swimming with the tide on the latter, choosing to emphasise or play viola where there’s any element of choice in the matter (not that that’s very often – any gig at all is precious enough, let’s be honest!). It at least serves to rebalance the amount of time I spend with the lower instrument, which at one point looked like getting thoroughly neglected through pressures of band gigging on violin.
The medium-term art music project of the moment, very freshly begun, is studying with Marie de Bry (Google the name) towards a performance diploma – Trinity’s ATCL, to be specific. But there isn’t much to see of that yet, or really at all until (and assuming) I come out with the certificate and the letters after my name. So I’ll focus more on the gigs I’ve managed to pick up in the foreseeable future.
Amateur orchestras can, counter-intuitively, be a valuable source of work for players of instruments where demand for players relatively often exceeds supply – percussion (particularly if you own your own timpani … ) for instance, double bass – and on occasion viola. The pay is variable but many ensembles will find profitable cash to plug gaps in their sections, only a final rehearsal on the day is usually actually compulsory, and the atmosphere is usually a little more informal (or professionalism a little scanter, depending on your outlook) than an all-paid group. Not needing to turn a profit on concerts in the same sense can lead to a more exploratory choice of repertoire too, though this can cut both ways.
I have two of this type of concert coming up this month, and another in July. In between, in May, there is another classic lower part of professional classical engagement – the orchestra, all paid but with little (or more often, though not this time, no) independent existence as an ensemble, to accompany choral society on one rehearsal. So here’s how the classical sub-schedule looks, for anyone bored of constant rock gig plugs:
Saturday 4 March
St Catherine’s church New Cross, 7:30, Harmony Sinfonia: a concert celebrating women in classical music, with female composers, conductor and soloist. More or less as a result of the concept, you are likely not to have heard of the pieces or composers involved – having been doing some research and practice for this I would describe that as a shame and an unjust one in most cases. For the record it will be: Grace Williams – Penillion; Nancy Dalberg – Capriccio; Cecile Chaminade – Concertino for Flute; Debbie Wiseman – two movements from the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations; Amy Beach – Gaelic Symphony. If you can’t make it and are interested in (particularly) late Romantic and more accessible modernist music, have a listen online. If you can make it, do.
Saturday 11 March
St James’ church Piccadilly, 7:30, London Repertoire Orchestra: a more mainstream programme here, with an orchestra I’ve bumped a couple of times in the past and know to be of excellent standard. We were rehearsing with the concerto soloist last night and I assure you as far as she is concerned you lose nothing by not seeing a pro orchestra. This is also a charity fundraiser (and no, my fee is not being deducted from the money raised!). Beethoven – Leonora overture no. 3; Grieg – Piano Concerto; Brahms – Symphony no. 4.
Saturday 13 May
St Mary & St Nicholas Spalding, 7:30, South Holland Singers and the Lincolnshire Chamber Orchestra: Mendelssohn – Elijah. Speaks for itself really, if you don’t know this Romantic take on the Handelian oratorio concept (with occasional glances, this being Mendelssohn, at the Bach Passions) then I recommend getting to know it. I need to sort out the logistics of this trip into Lincolnshire at some point!
Saturday 15 July
Challow Park Studios, nr Wantage, 7:30, The Challow Chamber Players with Sarah Barnett: returning to old stamping-ground around Oxford for a string orchestra concert that will definitely be staying on my CV for quite a while. Tippett – Concerto for Double String Orchestra; Britten – Les Illuminations (I am very much given to understand these are works that are always implicitly followed by exclamation marks!).
Meanwhile, tomorrow night I’ll be about as far from classical concert environment as possible, playing a Filthy Spectacula set at 1am during ‘Europe’s biggest Fetish / Alternative / Crossover event’, as club night plus live entertainment of all (not necessarily definable) sorts Club Antichrist bills itself. But that’s already sold out so I don’t need to plug it and will write about it after the event – if I make it out with functioning vestiges of sanity …