3 October 2017
On the last Wednesday of September, a group of 21 musicians attended Schools Concert, of the Oxford Chamber Music Festival, at the Sheldonian Theatre. The concert featured high profile international musicians, including Dame Evelyn Glennie, one of the world’s finest percussionists, and ensembles.
At the start of the concert, Dame Evelyn gave a short introduction on how we were meant to listen to the pieces being played that afternoon. She described that by “painting sound” around the venue (the Sheldonian Theatre), performers are actually using the surrounding space as their instrument. She also advised us to immerse ourselves in the various different “sound worlds” that were about to be created.
Dame Evelyn played, “Prim”, a solo for snare drum by Icelandic composer, Askell Másson. It was truly mesmerising to see the immense rhythmic capabilities of such an overlooked instrument.
Then we had an intriguing, short interlude where a string ensemble improvised by listening out to each other, and by using the sound created by the audience to do so.
Next we all encountered a new instrument, which is the only instrument that can be played without being touched: the theremin. We heard the piece upon which the theme of the festival was based, “Fata Morgana”, or “Mirage” which was played by its composer, Lydia Kavina, who had been taught by Leon Theremin himself.
We ended on a more native note, as we heard the sounds of the English countryside echoing across Vaughan Williams’: Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis. This was a magical performance by a chamber orchestra comprised of International players.
After the concert, we had just enough time to stop by at the Ashmolean museum, where we saw a vast array of early string instruments, all of which were of course dwarfed by the jewel to crown off the collection, a violin nicknamed “The Messiah”, the only Stradivarius violin in the world to be considered to still be intact in “new” condition.
All in all, everyone was fascinated by the new dimensions of music discussed, and we enjoyed such a unique experience.
Mohsen Ansari, Lower Sixth