Our programme on the night included the beautiful and technically complex works of both Frédéric Chopin and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky; not that Sophia left anyone aware that these held any complexity for her. "Spellbinding” was how one of our guests described her playing, and that sums up the mood in the room as we listened to harmonies of music with just a few words.
But let's go back to the beginning …
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As our guests arrived, found old friends, and fortified themselves with a drink from the bar, the joined forces of Kings College London's BioResource and Charlotte's Helix volunteers were on hand to meet and greet. The bar was run for us, once again, by the folks from ExCellar wine, gifting their time and their expertise in stocking and running it with extreme professionalism, and with the help of our fabulous young volunteer “crew". Ed from ExCellar also offered instruction in the various niceties of barwork - notably checking that all volunteers had the requisite skill with a corkscrew (it turns out they are all very well practiced in this art!) AND took responsibility for all the clearing up afterward.
An original oil painting was created especially for our event by the artist Brian Shepherd. A street scene of Covent Garden at night, painted by this lover of urban architecture, is hugely evocative for anyone who has ever been to Covent Garden and approached its piazza from the neon lit theatreland that runs alongside it, and was much perused on the night by our concert goers.
On the opposite side of the aisle was a signed print by Sir Quentin Blake - an illustrator whose “national treasure” status may be shared by more than one nation via his work with Roald Dahl, if there is such a thing as a “nation state” of childhood.
The Main Event:
The poetic works of Chopin made up our first half - three Nocturnes and a Barcarolle*: romantic, expressive, and beautiful! Words simply can't do justice to describe the music - I'm afraid you really had to be there!
Our second half was dedicated to the seasons of the year via Tchaikovsky; each month of the year manifested in music with dedicated epigraphs read to introduce each one, and each one evoking a particular rhythm of the year; appropriately for our own season, we ended with December - a charming, waltzing, Russian, dreamlike one.
Amber stepped up to the lectern to do the honours and read the poetic dedications designed to harmonise with the music.
In spite of trying to contain ourselves until the end of December (so as not to unsettle the perfect timings of our artist and reader), the Barcarolle of June proved irresistible for a spontaneous burst of hearty applause from amongst the audience - long known to be one of the most popular in the set, the melody proved too much not to acknowledge!
*(Our programme notes with detail on the works can be found below.)
- KCL's BioResource, our partners; demonstrating collaboration and talking detailed science to all those interested in finding out "more" - Henry, Gursharan and their lead Dr Gerome Breen, worked the room and illuminated many on what genetic research is all about.
- Dani Trew, who created our poster and programme art (Sophia was spotted later in the evening clutching a neatly rolled poster from the church for her personal collection).
- All of our volunteers who helped on the night: Amber and her crew of Tom, Flo, Hannah, and Dan who ably manned our bar; Zac and Libby, reprising their roles from last year, managing our tokens of appreciation, manning the technical and welcome desks, and anything else that was asked of them.
- Lili Panagi at Panmedia, Sophia’s charming manager who helped make everything run smoothly and offered us the benefit of her professional experience and advice.
- Colin Hart, our photographer, who created such wonderful images for us last year too. All the photographic images on this page are Colin’s work, generously gifted to us to help us remember and share another very special evening.
- St Paul's Church, for allowing us use of their magnificent venue and for all the support that they gave before and on the night. Especially Charles Grant, Concert Director for the church, and Chris Crickmore, for his practical assistance on the night - including the ability to "solve all problems", and for great kindness in looking after us.