I’m back from the 26th annual festival of the Gaudier Ensemble in Dorset. Over the years this gathering of chamber music specialists from around Europe has come to feel quite special. As our lives have become increasingly complicated, it feels remarkable that each year the same people are able to find a week to converge on the English countryside to rehearse and give four days of concerts in the lovely old church of Cerne Abbas. (In the photo, some of us are rehearsing one of the Mozart piano concertos which the composer suggested could be done with single strings instead of an orchestra.) I wasn’t there at the very beginning of the festival 26 years ago, but even I have been taking part for 24 years!
It also feels quite special that many members of the audience have been attending our concerts for quarter of a century. They often come up to us and recall individual concerts from years ago, commenting on things that we’d forgotten. ‘The year the lights went out.’ ‘The year we all cried during the late-night concert.’ ‘The year you forgot your concert clothes and had to borrow things from people in the village!’ As I survey the audience from my position on stage I relish seeing the familiar faces of people who’ve made the effort once again to be there. They too sometimes travel from far afield to hear our concerts – not just from other parts of England but from other countries.
Amongst the musicians, the conversation kept circling back to Brexit. The players from outside the UK are still baffled by the UK’s decision. Though we were all gathered together once again from our various nations, we Brits did feel subtly different on this occasion. We were glad to have wonderful European chamber music to unite us.