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Michael White’s classical & jazz news: St John’s Smith Square; Bloomsbury Festival; Sara Dowling

23 October, 2020 — By Michael White

Sarah Dowling

THERE aren’t too many reasons to be cheerful right now, but one is that the government’s Culture Recovery Fund has awarded £227k to St John’s Smith Square – enabling its director Richard Heason to maintain a concert series through to December, with an audience. There are 60+ events in all – par for the course in olden times, but admirable in the current circumstances. And coming up are Beethoven quartets this weekend, pianist Joseph Havlat playing Dvorak on Wednesday, and musicians from the Chineke orchestra playing Vaughan Williams on October 31. Full programme at www.sjss.org.uk, and I urge you to support it. Smith Square is a stunning venue, but God knows it’s struggling.

Also struggling is this year’s Bloomsbury Festival, which isn’t quite the presence on the streets it’s previously been although there are things happening through to Sunday: see www.bloomsburyfestival.org – One is a concert called Music & Renewal on Friday at Holy Cross, Cromer Street, that intriguingly programmes string quartets by Mozart and Ravel alongside Indian ragas. Whether they’ll establish any meaningful connection is debatable. But there should be a small, socially distanced audience present to find out – random policy announcements scribbled by B Johnson on the backs of envelopes allowing. Otherwise, it’s livestreamed: www.nwlivemusic.co.uk/concerts

• There hasn’t been much live jazz happening of late but Sara Dowling, winner of Best Vocalist in last year’s Jazz Awards, is at Brasserie Zedel, off Piccadilly on Tuesday, 6.30pm (note the early start) – joined by bassist Dario di Lecce from Ronnie Scott’s Hard Bob quartet: www.brasseriezedel.com And if Ronnie Scott’s is your passion, look out for a new feature film – Ronnie’s – about the club’s 60-year history that’s playing across London’s Everyman cinemas from Friday. www.everymancinema.com

The youthful readership of this newspaper won’t remember Dame Myra Hess’s wartime concerts at the National Gallery, but they helped maintain public morale while the Nazis blitzed us. And they’ve been revived, after a fashion, in a new collaboration between the gallery and the London Philharmonic Orchestra for a filmed series of concerts that take place exactly where the dame used to perform. The results are being fed online this month, with music/picture pairings that are unexpected if not downright odd, but interesting. Accessible at www.nationalgallery.org.uk

• Meanwhile, don’t forget the concerts running with restricted audience at Wigmore Hall – which got a nice round £million out of the Cultural Recovery Fund, as it should, given the heroic efforts its director John Gilhooly has taken to get music back on the platform. This Saturday has violinist Jennifer Pike – fresh from playing to the crowds at rallies in support of destitute musicians. It’s streamed with free access by visiting www.wigmore-hall.org.uk

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