Great Hastings Philharmonic concert - Battleaxe gets up close and personal...

An absolutely great night last night at St Mary in the Castle with the Hastings Philharmonic - The Elgar Cello Concerto and Tchaikovsky Symphony 5.  The Elgar is one of Battleaxe’s favourite pieces ever, and I had been looking forward to the concert for months. I loved every second of it.

Richard Lester and Marcio da Silva
The acoustics at that venue are fabulous and you can get really close to the orchestra if you sit at the front. So we did.
  A friend asked me last night why on earth we wanted to sit so close - the sound would be unbalanced etc., but I really don’t care. I’ve spent a lifetime sitting in concert halls where it is like looking at the orchestra through the wrong end of a telescope, and the music is an elegant, distant blur...  The sheer volume of the music at St Mary’s, the sharpness of the sound, and the immersive excitement of almost being embedded with the musicians is exhilarating, and just simply great fun. Last night we were sitting in the very front row, between the first violin and Marcio da Silva, the conductor,  and immediately in front of Richard Lester, the cello soloist - he could easily have touched us with his bow.
Just about close enough....
     Battleaxe used to play the cello - very badly. I started as an adult beginner in my late 20s and despite having quite a distinguished teacher - he was called Alexander Kok (Bobby) former lead cellist of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, I could never do it well. Here is the link to his obituary. I see he even had lessons with Casals... It is sad to see that he fell on hard times - must have been just after the first Mr Battleaxe and I moved to Birmingham. Playing the cello is as much about confidence and faith as about technique - you have to hear the note in your head then swoop down that long fingerboard to zap exactly the right spot on the string - while simultaneously doing difficult things with the bow in the other hand...  My ear was just not good enough. Never mind hitting the notes, I even struggled to tune the thing up.... I got as far as scraping away (or pretending to scrape when I couldn't play the notes) in the back row of Bobby’s beginners orchestra at his Cheltenham Music School but it was all stress and no pleasure.... aargh... all that counting.... aargh.... remember the day when the other two cellists didn’t turn up and it was only me - no pretend playing possible.... But I still love the cello....
     Last night Richard Lester played the Elgar really well - and I was anticipating every note, all eyes and ears. I literally felt quite faint and almost weepy with the emotion of it.  It was wonderful. As Philosopher said, I don’t suppose I’ll get to experience the like again.... it was like having your own personal performance.
     After the interval, the Tchaikovsky was great - and fantastic fun as well. That symphony consists of a series of well-known emotion-stirring tunes played extremely loudly and with much brio - totally ideal when you are practically sharing a chair with the first violin.... our ears were ringing....
Sharing a chair with the first violin....
      The orchestra consists of mostly very young, committed, enthusiastic - and very skilled - players, and the multi-talented Marcio da Silva really brings out the best in them.
       Battleaxe totally recommends those St Mary's concerts - even if you don’t habitually go to classical music gigs, believe me, it is far better than yer average rock band.... Last night was well attended but there was still plenty of space on the upper tiers.....
Marcio da Silva



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