Times are definitely changing. Take a recent music concert in which I was expected to say, after a brief initiatory prayer, ‘amen’.
The fact that I was in a church may have had something to do with the religious angle but I was holding a glass of Pino Grigio that I’d bought at the bar – yes, bar – on the way in. And being required to pray for the “gift of music” (that had cost a very reasonable £12.00 a ticket) seemed, well, a bit odd.
And that wasn’t the only oddness. Either side of our seats three pews back from the crossing I could see women engrossed in knitting; one in a black sweater with the word believe embroidered across the front.
I was at St.Endellion Church, the home of Endelienta Arts, a north coast crucible of music, literature and visual arts. And what a sublime venue it is too. Built in the 15th century, lofty and grand with carved stone pillars and arches, and tall ceiling buttresses the elegance and grace further enhanced by subtle spot lighting. A measured grandness and perfect acoustics augmented by medieval paintings in both transepts of the church and clerics in what at first glance appear to be golden Russian icons. In some ways St.Endellion feels more like an elaborate and ancient theatre than a church.
Apart from smatterings of Beethoven and Elgar I confess I know little about classical music beyond things I’ve picked up from movie soundtracks and that doesn’t extend much further than Ennio Morricone. Thus when handed a programme of what to expect from flautist Jenny Dyson & Friends (pianist Freddie Brown and cellist Bethan Lloyd) I didn’t, in truth, know what to expect. The three musicians have played with many of the the world’s very best, from the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic to London Chamber Orchestra, St.Martins in the Fields, and Klosters. Only when Dyson explained the theme of the event was to be passion did I glean something of what to expect.
The first half began with an exuberant Flute Sonata No4 in C Major by Johann Sebastian Bach in complete contrast to the much lower and soulful next piece, Etude No4 from Argentinian Astor Piazzolla, a composer and bandoneon player perhaps better known for his jazz interpretations of tango. Bethan Lloyd stepped up to the microphone to explain that in her rush to drive down from London for the concert she had forgotten her shoes thence introducing a strangely angular piece for cello written by her father also a cellist. The half closed with the challenging Jet Whistle for Flute and Cello by Heitor Villa-Lobos that in its most pastural moments reminded me of those mesmerising Morricone orchestrations deployed just before someone dies. Dyson told us to listen out for the Jet Whistle when it came as if anyone could have missed it. Imagine a classical locomotive whistle – only louder and harsher.
The second half began with Debussy’s Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune featuring Dyson and Brown. Think of those mysterious and swirling passages of music in Hitchcock’s 1940 classic Rebecca when Joan Fontaine steps tremulously down to the waterfront. Brown played solo piano for my favourite piece of the evening, Johannes Brahms Intermezzo, op, 118, no.2 a slow, delicate, tender and romantic piece that more than any other lived up to the the event’s promise of ‘passion’. And it could have ended there for me but did in fact come to a close with a sprightly three way affair from Phillippe Gaubert, 3 Aquarelles for Flute, Cello and Piano.
The skill, enthusiasm and charm of those young musicians combined with an off-the-wall choice of music and loveliness of the ecclesiastical stage made for a memorable evening.
Endelienta Arts, St.Endellion Church, PL29 3TP.