Friday 9 March 2018

Concert at Huntingdon

A few days ago, Christine discovered that there was to be a concert tonight given by Peter Knight and John Spiers. It was to be held in the Huntingdon Hall in the centre of Worcester starting at 7.30. As Christine was still in search of a small scarf - having failed to find anything in Hereford - we opted to take a train early afternoon. Even at this time the train was pretty much full with just enough seats to avoid standing. In any case it is only ten minutes to Foregate Station.

Eventually, after scouring all of the potential scarf sources, with very limited provision along thew way, she found one that might fit the purpose. As it was from M&S, if it subsequently turns out not to match then she can at least seek return it in Truro.

We checked out where the concert venue was (actually very convenient at the side of the Crowngate shopping centre) and then looked for eating places - we had planned that we would eat out given the timings.

There was still a little while before it would be a suitable time to eat so we wandered around the side of the cathedral and along the narrow College Precincts.

One of the houses has plaques that recall that Edward Elgar lived there for a couple of years when he was a small boy, aged 4 -6. He father was a professional standard violinist and also earned money as a piano tuner. He was also the organist at the Catholic church for many years.

Although music figured extensively in Edward's upbringing, he was largely self-taught. His father could not afford to send him to Leipzig Conservatory as Edward had hoped so he initially sought work in a solicitor's office. This way of life did not suit him so he concentrated on music, both as a composer, performer and director.

We continued along the narrow street to the large gateway into the cathedral green. The gateway is currently in need of extensive work, which does seem to have at least begun. The rooms above still form part of the adjoining cathedral school.

Time then to walk back to the shopping area where we went to a splendid oriental restaurant which serves in a buffet style. It proclaims a menu of over 150 dishes and that, whilst part of a national brand, this is its flagship location.

The food was excellent, the service as expected and we thoroughly enjoyed our meal. The style of main course dishes ranged from Chinese, Thai, oriental in general through to a small sushi bar. Although we could not possible taste everything - we had a good attempt between us! Unusually, there was an interesting selection of desserts to follow.

Feeling rather replete, we managed to wander back to Huntingdon Hall - alas we failed to take a photo earlier whilst it was still light enough. The building was once one of the chapels established by the Countess of Hungtindon in her once famous Connexion. Constructed in the style adopted by most nonconformist churches especially the Methodist churches with which her denomination became closely associated, it has a large gallery surrounding an substantial and somewhat ornate pulpit.

Whilst it was at one time so well attended that people had to sit in the aisles (no fire regulations then!) during the pot-war period it suffered rapid decline, as did many like it, until it closed in the 1970's. At that point the local council wanted to demolish it to make way for a car park but a local trust was formed to save the building and convert it to a music centre and concert venue. Much of the work is today done by a dedicated group of volunteers. The conversion has retained much of the original features - this means that the seating, apart from a block of chairs in the middle, is still the original pews, including a few boxed pews. These were, of course, designed for a different purpose and for differently sized and proportioned people!

The concert was given by Peter Knight and John Spiers, both excellent folk musicians who teamed up about 18 months ago. Peter was one of the longest serving ,members of Steeleye Span, whom we have seen in concert a small number of times, and is an amazing violin player who also arranged quite a bit of the music for bands in which he has played. John is a melodeon player and who writes music especially for this instrument which he, by chance, picked up whilst an undergraduate at Cambridge.

The concert was almost entirely instrumental - voice only came into one item, Peter's solo. Some pieces were energetic, often starting gently but working up to a more frenetic pace with an original tune developed into numerous different interpretations. Others were quite haunting in their melodic style, clearly benefiting from Peter's original classical training. We were very pleased to have been able to go to this concert and, overall, felt that we had had a really good day out!

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