Wednesday, March 12: After a final morning’s rehearsal at Greg Rose’s house with Suré for the concert tomorrow at St Mary-le-Bow, I returned to the hotel to meet Marge and Grace. Today was our day to visit the museum with the greatest collection of British artwork, especially painters, and that would be the Tate. Actually, the “Tate” is a network of four museums housing the UK’s collection of British art from 1500 to the present: 1) the Tate Britain [our goal], 2) the Tate Modern, both in London, plus 3) the Tate Liverpool and 4) Tate St Ives, in Cornwall.
The main reason we were going to the Tate Britain was that it contains world-class collections of three of British artists: Joseph Mallard William Turner (1775-1851), or JMW Turner as he’s most often known, England’s most famous seascape artist; Henry Moore (1898-1986), one of Britain’s pre-eminent sculptors, and the mystic artist William Blake (1757-1827). Each of these three had a special relationship with the Tate Britain, and so each is allocated a dedicated space in it. A room of works by Turner’s great rival and contemporary, John Constable, is also on display. Marge particularly wanted to see the Turners, but it was fun to see works of the others, including John Singer Sargent, Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, and many more. (By the way, the museum café is a particularly good one, and we had a very satisfying meal there before attacking the collection!)
After the museum closed at 6:00, we hopped on a double-decker bus and headed up to Parliament Square to view the icons of ground-zero London: Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, all within a stone’s throw of each other. Discovered not only the famous statue of Churchill in the prime position on the corner, but also a newly-added statue to Nelson Mandela on the diametrically opposite side of the square. By now we were REALLY hungry so on the way home [typically a 30-minute train ride from either Waterloo East or Charing Cross stations to our village of Blackheath in the SE of London), we stopped at the local iteration of the Café Rouge restaurant chain for a very satisfying meal. Fun, successful day.
Thursday, March 13: the day Suré and I had been working toward since making London airline reservations on October 25, 2013 was finally here! The concert at St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside, London. Our plan was to meet separately at the church at 11:00, when we could set up, test the acoustics and balance of the space, and warm-up, before the concert at 1:05. That’s exactly what happened. Marge, Grace and I appeared at the church at 11:00 and were greeted by two things: 1) a largish color poster hanging on the door to the sanctuary announcing today’s concert with Suré’s and my name on it; and 2) the church secretary, Mr. Matthew Power, who was very polite, receptive and gracious. He and I moved the piano [a good Leipzig-made Blüthner grand) from its corner position in the sanctuary to the center of the altar rail. Suré and I then tested the “hall’s” sound – which naturally was VERY resonant and echoic, with maybe a 3-second reverb, which made it hard to hear her, esp. the consonants. So we adjusted a few spots, started and ended each of the songs, and even agreed in one location that I would just play straight-ahead rhythm and she would follow and match me, which of course is just the opposite of what normally should happen. Mr Power was quick to warn us that there might only be a few people (5-10, he said) in attendance at these concerts, since they’re in the middle of the day and there’s no way of knowing who might come. As it turned out, when the 1:05 event began Marge counted ca. 30 people, so it was a quite nice surprise to have even that big an audience. Greg’s wife Helen Ireland was there, plus there were a number of friends and/or colleagues of Greg or Suré, quite a number were just interested passerbys, and one person WE could claim credit for bringing: Mr John Heath, the gentleman we had met at the All Saints Church service in Blackheath the previous Sunday, a lawyer for the Bank of England who worked in the St Mary-le-Bow district and said he might come! I told him, “See, I wasn’t fibbing to you about this event!”
The concert itself [Barber Hermit Songs and Gregory Rose’s Avebury Stone Circles] went very well – in fact as well as it ever had, though I’m not entirely sure from her perspective that Suré agrees with me. Anyway, our 45-minute presentation elicited an encore option, so we took it: Alban Berg’s Vielgeliebte schöne Frau (“much-loved beautiful woman”). The whole affair seemed to be over almost as soon as it began, and after visits with various audience members and thanks to Mr Power, we were on our way! Since it was less than 5 blocks from St Paul’s Cathedral from here, we decided to spend the rest of our day there, though not before refueling at a lovely place called EAT, from which the dome of St Paul’s filled the window!
In St Paul’s we probed the gift shop at length, bought our few selections, and then headed back upstairs to attend Evensong. Just as at Canterbury, we were allowed to sit in the Quire section at St Paul’s– that area of high-backed benches, stalls and stands where the “choir” sings from – in order to observe the ceremony at close quarters. I have to say that the musical experience at St Paul’s was NOT as impressive as at Canterbury Cathedral. For one thing, there were no boys singing at St Paul’s, since [Helen told us later] Thursday’s their one day off a week. Instead, the singers were all adult men, and though good, they and the music itself just weren’t as good as Canterbury’s. We were a little surprised, but maybe shouldn’t have been?
Anyway, after being duly edified by the whole St Paul experience, we finished off the day by sightseeing from the top of a double decker bus up to Oxford Circus, and then taking the tube and SE national rail home from there. An exceptional day!