Annual General Meeting 2012-13 Agenda

STRINGS ATTACHED: Brighton and Hove Chamber Music Society

ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

The second Annual General Meeting was held on Sunday 17 February 2013 at 1300 in the Founders’ Room at Brighton Dome

AGENDA

  1. Chair’s welcome
  2. To receive the minutes of the first Annual General Meeting held on 19 February 2012
  3. To consider the Annual Report of the Committee of Strings Attached
  4. To receive the audited financial accounts for the year ended 31 December 2012
  5. To appoint members to the Committee
  6. To reflect on the activity of Strings Attached including the coffee concert series and outcomes of the recent survey
  7.  To receive ideas for the future development of Strings Attached
  8. Any further issues for consideration

Report of the Committee for 2012

This annual report is the second from Strings Attached and summarises our activity during 2012.

2012 was the first year in which we were able to seek feedback from members about the Coffee Concerts run by the Brighton Dome and Festival. We did this by means of a questionnaire survey and an open discussion session at the Annual General Meeting in February. Our aim, in so doing, has been to develop and maintain a productive dialogue with Andrew Comben, Director of the Brighton Dome and Festival, and his team, with a view to ensuring that the Coffee Concert Series builds on the excellent start made in 2011 and becomes a secure part of the Brighton and Hove concert calendar. Strings Attached seeks to help with this by ensuring it has a supportive audience who appreciate the concerts, feel that their opinion is valued, and thus continue to come.

The Survey and annual general meeting discussion covered a number of key issues which we have subsequently taken up with Andrew and his team. They are:

  1. In general, we significantly prefer concerts in the Corn Exchange to the Dome Stage (some concerts took place on the Dome Stage in 2011/12 for practical reasons). In response to this, all concerts in 2012/13 are taking place in the Corn Exchange.
  2. We also prefer some raked seating to an ‘all flat’ arrangement in the Corn Exchange. In response, some raked seating is now available at all concerts.
  3. We also like performers to talk about themselves and the pieces. However, not all performers feel confident talking to the audience so progress on this has been patchy. All groups are encouraged to talk if possible.
  4. We would also like to see more 20th century music (alongside classical/romantic). In response to this, concerts in 2012/13 include works by Britten, Richard Rodney Bennett, Gerald Barry and Philip Venables.
  5. We prefer it when musicians move round between pieces. This is now routinely done.
  6. We were not entirely convinced that the social aspect of the coffee concerts was working as well as it might. In response to this, intervals have been introduced in 2012/13 with coffee served either in the Corn Exchange or the Foyer Bar.
  7. We were divided on whether we preferred 2 or 3 pieces at each concert. However, some who travelled some considerable distance felt that a total concert length of an hour or less was too short. All concerts this year consist of three pieces and an interval, which makes for a longer concert and considerably more music and social interaction.
  8. Various other points were raised including dissatisfaction with parking costs (there is now an arrrangement in place with the NCP on Church Street which reduces these).

This represents a considerable achievement in terms of representing the interests of our members and has been brought about as a result of a continuing and strengthening relationship with the Brighton Dome and Festival team. Andrew Comben’s personal role in leading the team is vital and we are very fortunate that he is a lover of chamber music. Happily now there are others in the team who take great care to ensure that everything from the printed programmes to the practical arrangements on the day work well. We are consulted about arrangements for each concert before it takes place which helps enormously. We value this relationship greatly and appreciate the efforts of the Brighton Dome and Festival staff to build this productive relationship.

The Strings Attached annual launch concert for the coffee concert season 2012 – 2013 was given by the Castalian Quartet, a young quartet mentored by Levon Chilingirian, our president. We would like to continue the ‘launch concert and reception’ tradition as it provides a good start for the season and gives concert goers an opportunity to join Strings Attached just before the new season begins.

Our website has continued to develop strongly during 2012 including details and programme notes for the coffee concerts (as well as excellent and thoughtful reviews by Andrew Polmear and Richard Amey), a hyperlinked calendar of chamber music events and a register of local musicians seeking others with whom to work. We owe special thanks to Chris Darwin who has continued to support Strings Attached both by producing excellent programme notes for every concert and also maintaining the Calendar, Music Providers and Local Players pages on the website, and to David Botibol for maintaining the whole Strings Attached website.

In addition to our central role in relation to the Coffee Concerts we have also been giving thought to our wider role. The committee has decided that we would like, on occasions, to support performances which would not otherwise take place – perhaps because the performers or repertoire are a little less well known. We cannot afford to do this often and our plans in this respect remain at an early stage, but we would be very interested to hear from members with ideas about this.

On 31 December 2011 we had 126 members.

Current committee:

Mary McKean (Chair) Christine Moon (Treasurer) Margaret Polmear (Secretary)
John Bosowski John McKean

[signed Mary McKean]

Chair

Britten Sinfonia : The fourth Coffee Concert 2012 – 2013, a personal view

The Dome took a risk with this one. Just to get things clear, the Dome chooses and books the players, Strings Attached looks after the audience, and keeps the Dome informed about what that audience wants. That Strings Attached audience, descended as it is from the Old Market Coffee Concert audience, is used, in the main, to string quartets from the 18th and 19th century. Here, on 20th January 2013, they got 20th and 21st century pieces for tenor, horn and piano, the only strings being a cello in the opening piece.

It worked, judging from the buzz in the interval and at the end. It worked because the performers were world class, they related to their audience as though they were comfortable with us and interested in us, and the music was sometimes great and always interesting. Also there was a satisfying logic to the pieces; connections were made between the Richard Rodney Bennett, Britten and Gerald Barry pieces stylistically, between the Poulenc and the Britten via Denis Brain the horn player, between the Walton and the Britten, the words of both written by Edith Sitwell.

The programme began with Richard Rodney Bennett’s Tom O’Bedlam, new I imagine, like much of this programme, to the audience. It’s a powerful setting of a poem from the 17th century, for tenor and cello. It’s stark, uncomfortable music in which the cello and voice intertwine, react with each other, and sometimes go off on their own. Committed performances from Mark Padmore and Caroline Dearnley brought it to life, the cold image of the mad beggar enhanced by the branches of the trees in the Pavilion Gardens, heavy with snow, seen through the Corn Exchange windows behind the performers. An extra excitement was that Caroline played, for the first time, from music on the screen of her iPad rather than from a printed score. There was a practical reason for this: the music doesn’t stop for her to turn the page and there are thirteen pages. However, to the delight of the technophobes in the audience, the foot pedal that should have moved the image on the screen failed, and Caroline had to have the screen changed by an assistant manually.

Poulenc’s Elégie for horn and piano is an easier piece to get a handle on but it’s not the languorous writing of his songs. It’s strangely declamatory, finally resolving into an ending that is quiet and peaceful, the horn part played by Richard Watkins with just about the quietest playing I have ever heard from the horn.

The world premiere of Gerald Barry’s Jabberwocky followed. The words are from the Lewis Carroll poem but sung in French then in German. It was performed with utter conviction by Mark Padmore and Huw Watkins on piano. The performance stays with me still but I’m not sure the music would alone.

After the interval William Walton’s three songs were fun – Mark Padmore convincing again in English, Spanish and American modes. But then everything changed. The opening of Britten’s Canticle III Still Falls the Rain is enough to stop the heart: a plainsong-like refrain moving slowly in semitones and repeated with every verse as Edith Sitwell uses the Crucifixion to describe the fate of mankind. And then in the middle of music of unbearable intensity, the tenor speaks these words from Marlowe’s Dr Faustus:

“ O Ile leap up to my God
Who pulles me doune
See, see where Christ’s blood streames in the firmament”.

It was worth struggling through the snow for this piece alone; worth it for those three spoken lines.

Andrew Polmear

Levon Chilingirian’s Summer Course at West Dean

Levon Chilingirian
Levon Chilingirian

Levon Chilingirian, our president, with his quartet, has again run a Summer Course at West Dean College, with quartet concerts, master classes and student concerts, in July 2012. Levon particularly recommended to us the Castalian Quartet, which has participated in his masterclasses and which studies with him. And so we are extremely pleased that (following their acclaimed recital at the Brighton Festival this May), the Castalian played for our Annual Strings Attached Launch Concert, on 7 October 2012.