Tuesday 11 August 2020

Come on outside, the weather's lovely: with restrictions still in place, performers are taking music outside to re-connect with audiences.

The Orchard Tea Garden in Grantchester
The Orchard Tea Garden in Grantchester
venue for concerts by Eboracum Baroque
With the advent of the Summer weather and lockdown restrictions continuing to cause uncertainty for performers, groups are starting to go outside to create performance opportunities. Of course, it helps if you have an outdoor space already that can be used. Opera Holland Park showed the way, with its season of concerts which finished on Saturday, and next weekend (13-15 August 2020) Waterperry Opera Festival is holding its mini-festival with performances of Jonathan Dove and Mozart's Cosi fan tutte in a socially distanced manner.

At the Grange Festival they are premiering an out-door promenade piece Precipice (21-23 August 2020) which promises to utilise many of the site's interesting spaces and a wide range performers from singers Sir John Tomlinson, Claire Barnett Jones, Kiandra Howarth to the Grange Festival Chorus, conductor John Andrews, to choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh, directed by Sinéad O’Neill (full details from The Grange Festival website). Nevill Holt Opera has already had musical events in the lovely gardens at Nevill Holt, and there are further concerts (29 August to 12 September) with music provided by Nevill Holt Opera Young Artists performing everything from Monteverdi, Palestrina and Gabrieli to Percy Grainger, Elgar and Parry, to John Rutter and George Shearing (full details from the Nevill Holt Opera website). West Green House is doing something similar, with a programme of concerts inviting people to come and picnic in the garden and listen to young artists performing, here the music ranges from Operas Villains to In an English Country Garden to Mozart in Love, with performers including young artist Chloe Morgan, and soprano Kirsty Hopkins (full details from West Green House website).

But other spaces are being re-invented as concert venues. On Sunday we heard the Corran Quartet in a courtyard in Islington [see my review], and London Concertante's Secret Garden concerts are using the garden of the artistic director, Chris Grist's house in Streatham as a venue for Sunday concerts featuring everything from baroque through classical to jazz (see the London Concertante's website for details).

That enterprising group Eboracum Baroque, artistic director Chris Parsons, having given us their on-line Heroic Handel concert [see my interview with Chris] is venturing outside for a pair of concerts at the Orchard Tea Garden in Grantchester (28 August and 4 September), which has been frequented by generations of Cambridge students from Alan Turing to Stephen Hawkin. Here there will be a chance to hear Vivaldi's The Four Seasons (in the version for recorder), Purcell's King Arthur and The Fairy Queen, and Handel arias from Charlotte Bowden (soprano), Jamie Woollard (bass) and an instrumental ensemble (full details from the Eboracum Baroque website)

An entirely new event is The Vache Baroque Festival which will be staging Purcell's Dido and Aeneas in the grounds of a 17th century house in Chalfont St Giles with a fine cast including Katie Bray as Dido, directed by Thomas Guthrie and conducted by Jonathan Darbourne (who co-founded the festival, and my interview with Jonathan will be published on Saturday), further details from the festival website.

Waterperry Opera is already sold out, and the first of Eboracum Baroque's dates is sold out, and tickets for Opera Holland Park sold remarkably quickly, so there is clearly a need for such events. Not only do they give performers the chance to perform in front of live audiences again, about it allows audience members to experience the delights of music performed by real (as opposed to virtual) performers despite the vagaries of the English weather and the limitations of outdoor performance.

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