Travellers Tales at St Mary’s
On Saturday evening (after performing at a wedding in Hertfordshire during the afternoon), we gave our first concert in the 13th century Church of St Mary the Virgin, in Eaton Bray – Bedfordshire. The church had previously hosted a jazz event and has a choral concert planned for later in the year, but it was the first time they’d put on a classical recital so we all had no idea whether it would prove popular or not. The performers were myself and Louise Bevan on violins, Adrian Smith on viola and Tony Woollard on cello.
As this was a much needed church fundraiser as well as an opportunity for us to play locally, we had agreed a reduced fee with the church in order to make putting on a concert possible, make some money for the church and enable the amazing building to be used to host a village event. Publicity took the form of thousands of leaflets distributed via the village magazine, a web presence on the church site, local newspapers, radio stations and some online advertising through classical concert websites. Ticket sales were handled by local residents Joan and Robert Calder who even diverted their phone to a mobile so that they could take ticket orders whilst away on holiday! At one point, we were a little worried when we discovered that the Eaton Bray Beer Festival was taking place on the same weekend in the adjacent village hall but hoped that it would not adversely affect audience size too much. We need not have worried! By the start of the concert, it was clear that there were around 95 people attending which is excellent for a first concert in a church.Perhaps unusually we also had an unexpected support act – with a team of bell ringers from Eaton Bray and surrounding villages giving everyone a warm welcome on the six church bells, some of which had just had their clappers replaced and needed to be rung in celebration! The bells were rung for 20 minutes before the concert and it just goes to show that they are not just to announce services but are a musical performance in their own right.
As the concert was called ‘Travellers Tales’ we kept the programme extremely popular, with each country represented by a different piece of music. We did use a little artistic licence with some countries, for example representing Denmark by playing ‘the Prince of Denmark’s March’ by English composer Jeremiah Clarke and ‘Hungarian Dance no. 5′ by German composer Brahms – but we wanted to keep the majority of the music well known so that the music would have wide appeal. As usual, we stood up between pieces and talked a little bit about the composer or piece, so the recital was presented in an informal way that includes the audience.During the interval, wine and canape’s were served so the audience were fully refreshed for the second half.
We finished with a rousing performance of Holsts ‘St Paul’s Suite’ and gave two encores. The group received some lovely enthusiastic comments from the audience and several people signed up for our mailing list or took a leaflet about our next local string quartet recital in Haddenham on the 16th of July which will be on a theme of ‘Dances’ and again contain many popular classics.
Best of all, we have just learned that the church made a net profit of around £560 (including profits from wine donations and a raffle) which is very much needed to keep the historic building open and they are keen to have us back next year for another event which will hopefully be equally as successful. The church has an absolutely beautiful acoustic and is an ideal venue for performances of chamber music so we are very keen to return and play in Eaton Bray again.