King’s College is celebrating the 500th anniversary of the completion of the Chapel stonework. Having just had the builders in myself I’m a little doubtful about marking such a date – builders might start on a certain day, but they never seem to leave. Neverthless, a whole year of Chapel-themed activities has been happening, and it’s great that a music festival, Epiphany through Music was organised (by former Kings students John Wallace and Andrew Powell) just in time for the last term of 2015.
Much King’s music was celebrated, its now wide-ranging choral activities of course, and its famous composers, notably George Benjamin and Tom Ades. But it was particularly good to see the college’s experimental heritage marked with a concert remembering Roger Smalley and Tim Souster, both composers-in-residence in the late 1960’s and alas both no longer with us (I was shocked when I checked, to see that Tim’s death was already 20 years ago). I have wonderful memories of concerts by their live electronics group Intermodulation. In those days everything had to be wired together, with innumerable reasons for the setup to stop working for maybe quite a while. We attendees spent so much enjoyable time chatting, drinking, waiting for the music to start up again, if and when it did. Everything today, however hipster-ish or industrial the venue, seems manicured by comparison.
Other festivals I was attending this week (!) meant that I could only slightly sample the offerings in King’s, including a fine performance of my orchestral piece Heroic Strokes of the Bow, unexpectedly audible in a performance under Stephen Cleobury, the person who knows most about the Chapel’s acoustics and what to do about them. My favourite hearing was Robin Holloway’s Fanfare and Double Helix for two trumpets (one of whom was John Wallace himself) - marking the unveiling of a DNA-discovery monument at Caius College. Starting out fairly recognisably as a fanfare, this music ended some time later in a very distant place thanks to the corkscrew-like musical figures, always twisting further away from home. Another experimentally minded 1960’s King’s composer !