Grace Notes: Travelling back in time to a harpsichord and lute-filled weekend!

Last week a huge annual event took place in and around the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College (which houses Trinity Laban and Greenwich University). Yes, the Early Music Festival had returned. Once again, I was stewarding on the main desk and in the Chapel for some of the concerts. I always enjoy this three day festival because all of the staff are lovely and most of the customers are too. The EMF includes exhibitors (where you can buy anything from sheet music, to a clavichord, to an electric recorder), makers demonstrations and concerts (normally 3 or 4 a day in various locations). It’s very action-packed and there is always something going on.

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(I do not own this photo)

I’m lucky that as a student, I can work at this festival and get paid to see so many interesting exhibits and concerts. Every year we always grumble that the hours are long, it’s going to be cold and can we really cope with any more Baroque bagpipes. But, every year we enjoy seeing some of the same faces from previous years and watching some incredible performances. One of those moments was the final concert. It was Brecon Baroque, an ensemble created by the phenomenal baroque violinist Rachel Podger. They played a program of Bach, including Brandenburg 5 and some pieces  from ‘A Musical Offering’. I had never heard Bach played with such life and vigour, and this performance  gave me a new appreciation for the music. It’s going to help me change the way I play and practice the Bach solo sonata I am currently learning.

(This is not a recording from the concert, just an example of their playing. I don’t own this)

Overall the festival is a fun experience  but it doesn’t come without its challenges. There are always a few characters who can make our job as stewards challenging (for instance, people who ask  if they actually need a ticket if they’re only going in for 5 minutes, or complaining bitterly about the lack of a cloakroom which we have no control over, or huffing and puffing as we ask them to reshow their ticket when they come back after leaving for lunch) but overall the guests are nice and it’s always fun getting to talk to them. There was one lady in particular  who  was telling us all about how she loved the festival this year (and all of the other music she was interested in and the history of the site) and although she’d never been before she’d love to come back.

So if you’re free next November I’d seriously recommend a trip to Greenwich to visit this festival. Even if you’re not sure that early music is your ‘thing’, I can almost guarantee there will be something that will interest and amaze you. I’ll see you on Friday for my next post.

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