High on my list of “How do they manage that?” is St Paul’s Sinfonia, who operate out of beautiful St Alfege Church, Greenwich. This extremely able chamber orchestra mounts a 10-concert series through the year which includes classics, concertos with leading young soloists (fantastic violinist Joo Yeon Sir during my visit) commissions (a new oboe concerto by Robert Saxton is coming up in May) and knotty revivals (my own Heroic Strokes of the Bow on this occasion.)
Conductor Andrew Morley told me that the ensemble can only manage to assemble for two rehearsals per concert, but (so he said!) the players relish wrestling with difficult scores. The Sinfonia have a Patrons group and clearly, judging from my visit, a loyal local audience who are thoroughly up for this sort of thing. Having heard some of the same repertoire in a Prom the week before (Sibelius 5th – is it “the new Beethoven’s 5th”?) I felt that the music was speaking to me in a different way thanks to its more home-made context here.
I relish the chance to visit Greenwich, and will anyway soon be returning to hear two more of my own scores in the current St Paul’s season. Looking round this splendid town, with its fabulous Thames-side setting, Park and historic buildings by many famous architects including Wren and Inigo Jones, I will stick my neck out and choose the former Greenwich Town Hall (pictured - now Meridian House) as my current favourite Greenwich sight. I’ve read that it was influenced by Hilversum Town Hall, and indeed I’ve seen many similar if smaller buildings, often protestant churches, in that part of the Netherlands. What confidence to put up such a mighty civic building at that time (1939) and where did they find all the bricks ?