By a whisker and a bit of a technicality, my first performance to a live audience since lockdown was a week ago today, Wednesday 12th August.
I say ‘to a live audience’ because it wasn’t public; in fact it was the locus classicus of a ‘private function’, a literal garden party. Goldsmith’s Community Centre had been approached for a classical performance at the 87th (I think) birthday party of the wonderfully named Belita Childs, by her daughter Sophie, as part of their ‘Give a Song’ project. They didn’t have any classical musicians on their books, but managed to find me through Lindsay Ryan (thank you again Linz!), conductor of Harmony Sinfonia, who I played with pre-pandemic to keep my social life going and remind myself I didn’t initially take up playing music to make money from it …
Sophie’s budget was sufficient to make an appreciative and appreciated donation to Give a Song and pay me to supply a duo at a rate that certainly made us happy after so long of no live playing! So I tapped serial collaborator Alleya Weibel to play violin, played viola myself, and we did a collective endeavour of digging through archives, basic arranging, downloading suitable or near-enough suitable arrangements and busking off lead sheets.
(Incidentally, I’m been doing so many of these scratch function chamber groups lately that I’m seriously considering giving them a brand, page of this website and email address for potential extra bookings. What do you think?)
I had been sent a very extensive list of possibilities / suggestions, and almost everything we played came from it. The resulting set list (we were only asked for up to 40 minutes of music) is interesting enough to be worth reading I think (I’ll forebear to share the original ‘inspiration list’, so called!):
The Girl from Ipanema
Vivaldi concerto for lute, 2 vlns & continuo, slow mvt
Bach Air from Orchestral Suite in D
You are my Sunshine
Because you still can’t quite take the classical musician out of me on function jobs, I’d said ‘take these violin-viola duos to sight-read a movement of if we need an encore’. ‘You are my Sunshine’ evidently had personal significance to the family as most of the small audience were in tears by the end of it; we really couldn’t leave it there and played a minuet from Carl Stamitz’s op 18 no 1, which wasn’t quite as straightforward as I remembered that set being!
The audience and clients were certainly appreciative (and full of nuggets of information; I am definitely saving the guest of honour’s insight that there was a musicians’ campaign (sadly unsuccessful) to make (classic tango number) ‘La Cumparsita’ the national anthem of Uruguay, for future quizzing and/or between-number chat.
And so were we! It is a rarely considerate gig, function or otherwise, that supplies a gazebo for shade, finger food, prosecco and two dogs willing to pretend to love me as long as I didn’t make it too obvious they weren’t getting any of my sandwiches.
So thank you Sophie, Belita, Give a Song and Alleya for a great restart to live performing. Read my next post to find out about my first public performance post-lockdown, and numerous other firsts!