All around us was a violent storm brewing, yet inside was perfect tranquility. Sneaton Castle at Whitby, North Yorkshire, is home to St Hilda’s Priory, an Anglican monastic community celebrating its centenary in 2015. The Chapel was the perfect setting for our fundraising concert for Lythe Chamber Music 2016 and we are so grateful to the Sisters of St Hilda’s not just for allowing us to use their beautiful space for this event, but for the warmth of their welcome. It was great that a handful of them came to the concert too, taking a break for a couple of hours from hosting the Archbishop of York who is presently based there during a pilgrimage of the North York Moors.
Despite the storm, a good sized audience revelled in the wonderful acoustic which was a joy to perform in. (How fortunate the Sisters are to enjoy that every day in their sung services!) Jane and I purloined a couple of Handel Op.1 recorder sonatas for baroque clarinet, which she played on a new instrument by Guy Cowley whose tonal qualities were described by one audience member during the interval as a cross between a flute and a trumpet! Its sweetness, clarity and agility were partnered by a magnificent Flemish harpsichord by Johannes Secker (2007). I’ve performed on this machine several times now, and it just goes from strength to strength. It is surely one of the finest instruments available presently in the North of England and in the intimate acoustic of St Hilda’s, it took us on quite a journey through Bach’s French Suites nos.4, 1 and 6.
Thanks to the generosity of house present, we raised enough to support a couple of bursaries for student’s on next summer’s course which will be the third incarnation of Lythe chamber music, 31 July – 4 August 2016, in which, for the first time, we extend the remit to include classical string repertoire, c.1770-1820.
And just to cap it all, when Jane and I arrived home, we discovered that we had each been nominated as Community Heroes in the BBC Surrey/BBC Sussex Arts and Music 2015 awards!