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Michael White’s classical & jazz news: Hampstead Collective; Proms

04 September, 2020 — By Michael White

Anoushka Shankar pays tribute to her father at the Proms

ONE of the long-term consequences of the Covid crisis is a sense of disillusion with the Church. Too many people feel let down and angry that it wasn’t there when it was needed most – its doors closed, services suspended, clergy unavailable. And even now, months after churches have been given the OK to function, some are still not back in business – including Hampstead Parish Church which hasn’t had a central Sunday Mass since March.

It’s an ongoing problem for the choir there, because even if there was a Mass, there’d be no singing. And the Hampstead choir is not your average voluntary group: it’s serious young professionals who earn their living from their voices – which has been impossible of late.

But now the choir has boldly taken matters into its own hands and launched a concert series – running in the church on Monday nights, with audience, observing Covid rules, under the name The Hampstead Collective.

The repertoire will all be “sacred”, which means Bach cantatas, Handel oratorios, and musical meditations devised by Geoffrey Webber, a distinguished former director of music at Caius, Cambridge.

And it’s an ambitious project that will unfold across 17 events through to December.

“Some of the concerts will be very substantial,” says tenor Aidan Coburn, “including full performances of Handel’s Theodora and Messiah with professional orchestra. And we’ve been lucky to get a generous grant from the Hampstead Church Music Trust, which means we can do things properly and don’t have to cut corners.

“We obviously have to be careful about distancing and so on; but we’ve measured everything out and can accommodate a properly spaced audience of around 70, who will have to book tickets in advance.

“Anybody else can watch a free live-streaming on our website, which will stay online for a while.

“And I can’t tell you how excited we are to be doing this, after such a long time of nothing but Zoom performances. There’s no substitute for the physical experience of music.

“And it’s a relief to be bringing music back, at last, into this beautiful building.”

Hampstead Collective concerts run Mondays, 7pm, at St John’s, Church Row, NW3. Booking details/live-stream: www.thehampsteadcollective.com

THE BBC’s pandemic Proms season continues this week, playing to an empty Albert Hall which looks eerie on the TV and iPlayer broadcasts but sounds unusually rich and spacious if you listen on Radio 3.

This Friday has Indian classical-crossover musician Anoushka Shankar paying tribute to her late father Ravi in his centenary year, appearing with the charismatic percussionist Manu Delago who plays the Hang (and if you don’t know what that is, watch on BBC Four at 7.30pm).

Saturday has the always-immaculate Stephen Hough playing Beethoven’s 2nd Piano Concerto, Tuesday brings orchestral works influenced by American jazz, and Wednesday is pianist Benjamin Grosvenor playing

Shostakovich (all at 7.30pm on the iPlayer). Details: www.bbc.co.uk/proms

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