I haven’t written anything here for a while because I’ve been away at the International Musicians’ Seminar ‘Open Chamber Music’ in Prussia Cove, Cornwall. We had a week of rehearsals in Prussia Cove (see photo), and then eight of us did a week of touring, giving five concerts around the south of England: Truro, Bristol, Wimborne St Giles, Cambridge and finally Wigmore Hall in London. Apart from anything else, the tour allowed us to meet some delightful hosts and to stay in some exceptional private houses. All our concerts were great experiences, particularly the one in Wigmore Hall whose acoustics, piano, audience and sense of heritage combine to make a memorable setting.
A week of IMS chamber music in Prussia Cove is always a special experience, though it also seems to be an astonishing opportunity for the common cold to wreak havoc on a group of musicians working, eating and sleeping in the same place for a week. Every year, people seem to go down like ninepins. This time, when we went on tour, four of the eight people were suffering from ‘the Prussia Cove cold’, which made touring that much more stressful for them. I was impressed by how stoical they were about all the performances and the late dinners and late nights.
When we are in Cornwall I am always fascinated by how the natural environment, plus the company of like-minded musicians, inspires people to wax philosophical. Already on my first day there, as I fell into step with another player walking back after a rehearsal to the cottage where we were staying, my companion spoke about the passage of time, how it affects one’s perception, how valuable its effects can be, how it is expressed in music, and a number of related observations which I very much doubt would have been uttered in our usual urban contexts with their sense of anonymity and hurry.
The whole fortnight was like that. Everyone, including me, seems relieved to be in the kind of company where there are likely to be sympathetic ears for, and good responses to, anything you feel like saying about life or art. In the case of the eight of us who went off on the tour afterwards, the same spirit prevailed. Despite the boxes of tissues and the unpoetic environment of the minibus, we kept talking. This is one of the things I most value about the Prussia Cove experience.