|Second Knitting Concert in All Saints Church|
no knitting is not compulsory.....
A couple of years ago I was asked to give a recital in a rather prestigious venue. I started life as a concert pianist but my concertising is now rather more intermittent so I was keen to create a run-through for my programme. Practising pieces by yourself is one thing, but every performer knows how different it feels to have even the smallest audience in attendance. So I rang round a few friends, emailed some others and stuck up a couple of posters advertising, quite shamelessly, for buttocks on pews, didn't mind what they were doing whilst I played my pieces, and would give them a glass of wine for their troubles. About 20 people turned up, some brought books, one brought his computer and did his tax return; another member of the audience brought a sketch pad and drew a rather pretty lady in the front row. I played my pieces, they drank their wine, I said thank you very much and they said thank you very much too and when is the next one.
About a year later I had another slightly frightening concert to do, did the same bit of grapevining, the word spread a bit and about 60 people turned up one summer evening with their children and pets and so I fed them strawberries and wine and the children lay down on the floor and drew pictures and one of them went to loo and fused all the lights and I played and said thank you and again they said when will the next one be.
So last year, having helped Alison Hunka to organise chamber music concerts at All Saints for several years I suggested we called them knitting concerts and invited the audience to bring their kids and their books and their crosswords and jigsaws and do something that they would enjoy doing whilst we played lovely music. One man read love poetry in Arabic, one woman brought her tapestry frame, one lady threatened to bring her ironing.
There are numerous puns to be made of this - crotchets while you crochet, purls before wine - but the basic idea is that of shared endeavour and a desire on my part to break down the traditional divide between performer and audience. In my misspent youth I played at one or two fairly serious places - was a soloist on two occasions at the BBC Proms at the Albert Hall for instance - but always preferred the more informal settings, the small music clubs or someone's front room. For me what is important is that the music-making is of a very high standard but, beyond that, the setting can be utterly humble, and the opportunity to make music in amongst a local community, the possibility to touch the lives of people who you know, rather than an anonymous crowd, is a great privilege.