Kudos to Proms supremo David Pickard for inventing the ‘Proms at…’ series, thanks to which we concertgoers travel to interesting London spots for daytime events, and can give Cadogan Hall a miss. This BBC Singers’ concert on Saturday afternoon brought a full house to St Sepulchre’s, just up from Old Bailey, in a building known as the Musicians’ Church, especially for its memorial to Sir Henry Wood, who first picked up music here as a child.
In a neat programming idea, the Singers, under wonderful Sofi Jeannin, began with a setting by Walton of a poem written by John Masefield in memory of Sir Henry. The concert closed with a setting, by super-talented Joanna Lee, of more Masefield lines inscribed in a memorial window for Wood, who died in 1944 after 50 years running the Proms. It gave me, for the first time really, some idea of what a musical titan he was, and what kind of a personality. I recalled from my teens that an elderly neighbour who had played the cello for Wood had named his house ‘Timbers’ ,after the conductor’s punning nickname amongst the musicians. Much as I love and revere them, I can’t for instance imagine calling my home "Brabbins" or “Sakari”.
In the midst of this nice little idea was a great deal of other music. I was thrilled with the performance of my own Missa del Cid, and have never heard better renderings of two other extended works from the 1970s, Rorate Coeli (Musgrave) and Sacred and Profane (Britten). But there should be a time limit on church-based concerts with no interval, and as a reminder of that, I’m posting this picture of the rather hard chairs in which we sat for I think 105 minutes non-stop. But of course, admiring throughout the vocal energy of the great BBC Singers who found the strength to sing faultlessly and beautifully all through that length of time.