Sunday, 24 November 2013

Loughborough, Lichfield, Lincoln and more!

This week has been extremely exciting for me as I’ve been off gallivanting again!!

Thursday saw me in Lincoln, spending a leisurely day with the other half who’d taken a couple of days off work prior to starting a new job. We had a lovely inexpensive lunch at a great Italian restaurant and spent a happy few hours wandering around the town. We left Lincoln during the rush hour, but still managed to make it back to Loughborough in time for me to go to an event run by the Friends of Charnwood Museum in the evening.

Elgar and friend, courtesy of R&R Hill
The talk at the museum on Thursday evening, was about Elgar’s musical compositions during and after the First World War. It was delivered by Dr Steven Halls, the Chairman of the Elgar Society. You may have heard that in 1923, Edward Elgar wrote a specially commissioned piece of music to be played on the Carillon at its opening in July of that year. After the opening ceremony, for some reason or other, the manuscript disappeared, only to be found last year, 2012, in a cupboard in the Charnwood Borough Council offices.

Earlier this year, in July, the Elgar piece was played on the Loughborough carillon by the borough carilloneur, Caroline Sharpe, to celebrate 90 years since the opening of this stunning war memorial.

During the talk we were shown how Elgar had really reached the pinnacle of his career just prior to WW1, and that the works he created during WW1 were of a more patriotic and straightforward nature – simple, but pleasant tunes.

In 1914 he wrote a piece called Carillon, which was composed as a tribute to soldiers who had already lost their lives, and in celebration of Belgian carillons, many of which had been destroyed. You may already be aware that our own Carillon is modelled on those in Belgium, where there are many of them.

After the war, Elgar moved to the Sussex countryside and here he began composing more traditional works, like the string quartet and the cello concerto. He assigned opus numbers to the works he deemed important or that he thought had the potential to leave a lasting legacy. Interestingly, after these big works, his later output was mostly of smaller pieces, and this included our very own Memorial Chimes for a Carillon, otherwise known as the Loughborough Memorial Chimes, I mentioned earlier. Apparently, Elgar retained the rights to arrange this piece for other instruments, and as such it is more often heard as an organ piece, although I think most arrangements pre-date the finding of the original manuscript.
Elgar died in 1934, and although his popularity comes and goes, he left behind a body of work that is of sufficient quality to ensure that he remains one of Britain’s great, if not greatest, composer.

Jacqueline Du Pre, with Daniel Barenboim
After the talk, I spoke to the Chairman of the Society, enquiring why he preferred the Julian Lloyd Webber version of the cello concerto, to that of Jacqueline du Pre. His answer was simply to do with how the musical interpretation affected us all differently and we were each likely to have our own preferred performers, who spoke directly to us as listeners. 

Sample of Elgar music

As a result of listening to that talk and discussion I decided to join both the national and the East Midlands Elgar Societies. It was only when I got home that I realised that I had actually been to school with, and played in the same orchestra as Steven Halls, the Chairman of the Elgar Society!

The manuscript of Memorial Chimes for a Carillon, and some letters pertaining to its performance are currently on display in the Charnwood Museum: Do pop in and have a look the next time you are in town.

Festival of Britten at Lichfield Cathedral

Sticking with the musical theme - and a British musical theme to boot - Friday saw me watching a performance of Noye’s Fludde, by Benjamin Britten, in Lichfield Cathedral. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the 100th anniversary since Britten’s birth and St Cecilia’s Day! I studied Noye’s Fludde for my music 'O' level, but hadn’t heard a live performance before. This was just under an hour of the wonderful, enthusiastic, energetic Cathy Lamb, joint Music Director of the cathedral, resplendent in a canary-yellow, made-for-the-occasion t-shirt! Fantastic, well-organised children from the three local church schools and some strong adult leads, all sang beautifully, telling the biblical story of Noah and his ark.

Advert for Taylor’s Bellfoundry

Before the performance began, I flipped through the programme, and imagine my surprise upon finding an advert for Taylor’s of Loughborough!! Thinking there must be some Taylor’s bells up there in the bell tower, I asked one of the lay chapters, Bryan Ramsell, about the bells: They had been re-cast in 1686 after being destroyed in the Civil War - a bit early for Taylor’s in Loughborough - but he introduced me to a gentleman in the orchestra who was able to tell me about the Taylor connection to Lichfield.

It was such a long time ago that I listened in earnest to Noye’s Fludde, that I had completely forgotten that some of the music was played on handbells! And this is what I discovered from talking to the gentleman handbell ringer! They had borrowed the handbells from Taylor’s for the event and were returning them on Wednesday! In fact, the gentleman told me that he enjoyed his trips to Loughborough, because, not only did he always visit the bellfoundry, but he also made regular visits to the Great Central Railway, and he often popped into the Carillon for an impromptu practice!!!

One disappointing piece of information, however, was his opinion that the Carillon was in dire need of some serious maintenance, before it becomes unplayable. His admiration for the tenacity of Caroline Sharpe was quite obvious, but he was clearly worried about the condition of the musical instrument in Queen’s Park. I do hope CBC read my blog!

So, one particular highlight of the musical event for me was being able to listen to the glorious sound of some Taylor’s handbells, expertly rung! Having returned home, I did a quick internet search, and discovered that the British Carillon Society has its headquarters in Lichfield!

So much excitement over the two days, but it wasn’t over yet!! Saturday morning I made my way to the Old John car park at Bradgate Park to take part in some fieldwalking for the Charnwood Roots project which I have mentioned to you before. With permission from the Bradgate Park Trust and the tenant farmers, we were allowed to walk one of the recently ploughed fields, looking for evidence of human habitation of the area. Each novice (that would be me, then) was paired up with a more experienced fieldwalker, and we spent three hours traversing the field, eyes down, scouring the field for exciting stones! As a novice, I don’t think I found anything interesting or helpful, but I was certainly pleased to find a complete horseshoe, a couple of bits of pottery, some large chunks of Victorian drains, and several bits of brick!!

Returning home a bit chilly and in need of some sleep, the afternoon passed really quickly, and Sunday morning saw me at Charnwood College for the Leicestershire Brass Band Association contest! Which actually is a bit of a fib, because as I write this, it’s still Saturday!! But I will be there tomorrow!

Hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s blogpost! See you next week!

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