Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

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Fri Sep 20 2013

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Now time for some music by Felix Mendelssohn's good friend, Prince Albert (i.e. Queen Victoria's husband).… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…


Until now, OAE tours to the USA have always been virtual for me, experienced through reviews, player blogs and the accounts of staff and players. However last week I was fortunate enough to hear the OAE in New York first hand.

As avid readers of our blog may know (hopefully there are some of you…), I recently took a sabbatical in the USA, staying in Washington DC for nine months to complete the Fellowship Programme at the Kennedy Center, to more finely hone my skills as an Arts Manager. Having left DC back in June, a holiday centred around our August performance in New York seemed like an excellent reason to return – that and the fact that I still had an alarming number of possessions in DC that I needed to pick up, as well as visiting new found friends.

I flew out a couple of hours ahead of the OAE and caught up with them the next day, rehearsing at Alice Tully hall. I was very excited to hear them there. I have previously been to just one other concert there, by the Julliard School of Music’s period performance group, and was impressed by the visual and aural warmth of the hall. After having found stage door and then negotiated a rabbit warren of backstage passages I stumbled upon the OAE on stage, and headed out into the auditorium to hear things.

It was immediately apparent that this is a really superb place for the OAE to pay. At around 1,100 seats it’s the perfect size for us and the modestly sized band sounded fantastic. Indeed a player later remarked that they wished we could take the hall home with us! Being responsible for ticket income I certainly could do with a venue that has a couple hundred more seats than our usual London base

For one OAE musician this was an especially poignant trip. Katherine Hart (often known by her nickname of ‘Koggy’), was playing in her last OAE concert stateside – and asked me to take some pictures of her and colleagues on stage, which I gladly did. I hope they came out ok!

Fast forward to 7.20pm and it’s almost time for the show. I had sadly missed the pre-concert recital, as I had been catching up with friends, but had heard glowing reports. Now time for the main event though.

The Orchestra was greeted incredibly warmly, as if they were old friends of the audience here, and we got under way. Mezzo-soprano Renata Pokupic was recovering from illness but her stage presence and charisma shone through during her first half arias – sadly she was too unwell to carry on in the second half, but the evening’s other star, Anna Stephany stepped up for her and sang Doppo Notte with almost no notice – and brought the house down. Later, disaster was averted just in the nick of time when leader Kati noticed the wrong music on director Laurence Cummings’ music stand just before they all started off on one of Handel’s Concerto Grossi! While it feels wrong of me to ‘review’ an OAE show, as ever the musicians joy in playing this music shone through – this being picked up in a glowing New York Times review.

This being what is affectionately known by the band as a ‘smash and grab’ concert (fly in, do the concert, fly out again), the Orchestra was on its way home by 6am the next day. I however had several more days to enjoy in the US, so thought of them while I laid in bed the next morning, and enjoyed the lingering memories of the concert.

William Norris
Communications Director

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