As part of our commitment to supporting the arts – needed more than ever because of the pandemic – we’re sponsoring a concert in this October’s Canterbury Festival.
Called Timeless Classics, it features the Canterbury-based Festival Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Stephen Barlow.
Orchestra founder, principal oboist Ian Crowther, told us more about the Festival concert and why sponsorship from local companies such as Hearbase was so vital.
“Despite the difficulties of the Covid-19 pandemic, we staged a concert last year for the Festival which went really well so I decided to do a mini series of concerts this year.
“Stephen and I had a chat because we wanted to do something to provide live music and we put together the mini series. We worked with lots of top musicians, including Iain Bellamy, David Rees Williams, Polly Gibbons and Ian Shaw.
“We produced some very interesting concerts in May and June this year, reflecting our ethos of providing programmes which were innovative, entertaining and enjoyable.”
Ian set up the Festival Chamber Orchestra to work with people he enjoyed playing with and to perform a repertoire which everyone would enjoy.
“I am lucky to perform with some great musicians such as John Harle and soprano Felicity Lott,” he said. “I’m in the process of planning a series of concerts for next year on the last Sunday of April, May and June and they will be both classical and jazz.”
Although still in the planning stage the April concert, called from Bach to Bird, will feature the FCO, with pianist David Rees Williams and saxophonist Iain Bellamy with music from Bach to Charlie Parker.
The pandemic has had a terrible effect on live music and musicians. Ian said: “I decided after our Festival concert last year that we had to do something this year, we just had to try to produce a series of concerts and we managed it.
“It was so great to play again with friends and colleagues. Because of social distancing we gave two performances of each concert on the same day which worked well as we had to make sure people felt comfortable and safe.
“Our Festival concert this year will feature a programme of well-known and not so well-known pieces of music, evoking different moods.
“My ethos is that the concert starts the moment the audience walks through the doors, not when the first note sounds. That is why everyone gets a programme included with each ticket.
“We can do that because we get such great support from local businesses which keeps us going. It is very difficult to get funding for the arts and we are always looking for new people to support us.”
The FCO is the orchestra in residence at Kent College, Canterbury and stages all its concerts at its Great Hall, a wonderful space in which to perform. The musicians hold master classes with the pupils, which Ian says has worked well.
The FCO also has a strong partnership with its conductor Stephen Barlow, an ex-Canterbury Cathedral chorister and former King’s School, Canterbury pupil.
“Stephen is a fantastic musician and knows exactly what he wants from us – and he gets it,” said Ian. “But he does this in a jovial way and never gets harassed or stressed. All the orchestra love playing for him.
“We have performed so many events together and it has been fantastic. The musicians really respect his musical expertise and the reward is a marvellous concert for the audience.”
The perfect balance
Ian chooses all the music for each programme and spends hours creating the perfect balance and links between the works being performed.
“It takes a lot of planning, but it is important to keep on doing different things since I believe the right repertoire is the key to a great concert,” Ian said.
Timeless Classics, the concert we’re sponsoring, takes place at 8pm on Wednesday, October 20, in the Great Hall at Kent College, Canterbury. The programme includes works by Mozart, Handel and Haydn. Find out more and book tickets here from Monday, August 16.