Euan Murdoch is travelling Around the World in 60 Days and blogging about it…
Splashing back down Bond Street from Wigmore Hall to Over-Seas House in the freezing cold heavy rain with a hopelessly inadequate mini umbrella, I felt privileged. Day one of my two-month sabbattical was a perfect combination of attending a BBC lunchtime concert and having a series of productive meetings about artist and audience development.
It was a thrill to experience one of my favourite groups the St Lawrence String Quartet perform in this glorious room. I love the way that they breathe new life in to well-known masterworks as if the ink isn’t quite dry on the manuscript. They performed works by Haydn and Beethoven for this live broadcast, both were surprising and fresh. The Trio movement of Opus 59 no 3 was a real highlight and the last movement was simply breathtaking! Meeting with them afterwards in the atmospheric Green Room surrounded by dozens of famous faces made me realise how this environment draws the best out of performers. They can’t help but be inspired!
My Churchill Fellowship offers me the opportunity to explore a broad range of possibilities and new initiatives for artists and audiences in the UK and USA. Wigmore Hall is considered to be a mecca of chamber music in the world presenting over 400 high-quality concerts every year in a near-perfect setting in Central London. Meeting with the director of Wigmore Learning revealed just how many extra layers of programmes they offer in addition to their concert season for engaging with diverse audiences. All ages are catered for, from concerts for mothers and babies, families and toddlers, For crying out loud and Chamber tots, to Music for Life, a participatory programme for elderly patients with dementia. A rich offering of study groups and pre-concert talks cater for the existing audience by deepening their understanding and enjoyment of the genre. Programmes for schools and residencies in local schools, Chamber Zone, a free ticket scheme for specific concerts and the comprehensive list goes on. One recent initiative is the resident ensemble Ignite. This ensemble was formed to respond to informal community settings and needs, and specialises in improvisation.
The level of investment in all these programmes is staggering, and the impact on the wider community goes well beyond their concert hall. There are long term spin-offs for artists and audiences although many of the dividends will not be reaped for some time. Having said that, audiences for the concert season continue to grow and are close to capacity. I was given a sneak preview of next year’s line-up by their director John Gilhooly. Wow! Any day of any week you are guaranteed to hear wonderful music performed by the world’s best. If you are planning a trip to London, I recommend that you get in fast as Wigmore’s concerts do sell out.
So, that’s day one done and other than a few wobbly moments with jetlag and the shock of springtime in London after such a glorious autumn in New Zealand, I can’t wait for what tomorrow has to offer. Tune in again for my thoughts on competitions and professional development opportunities for emerging musicians.
– Euan, 18.03.13