The 11:38 at Tiverton Parkway

Jeremy Pound heads to Devon for a concert with a difference

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The 11:38 at Tiverton Parkway
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As someone who has commuted on a daily basis between Cheltenham and Bristol for ten years now, I’ve never really thought of Britain’s train stations as the most musical of places. Yes, there’s a terrific troupe of carol singers who bring a little jollity to Platform 3 at Bristol Temple Meads come Christmas-time, but that’s about it – unless, of course, you count that descending major third ‘bing bong’ that announces that the 6:00 to Leeds is delayed by approximately 17 minutes, or advises us not to leave our bags unattended, feed the pigeons or fall into the gap between the train and the platform.

But then, I’ve never been to one of the solo recitals at Tiverton Parkway Station before. This series of concerts, which takes place from September to October and is now in its third year, sees solo musicians performing in the station’s ticket office each Friday morning for exactly 31 minutes – between the 11:38 and 12:09 departures to London Paddington. Performers so far have ranged from well-known names to young amateurs at the beginning of their careers. I’ve come down to this corner of east Devon, by train of course, to have a listen.

Usually, I associate ‘Parkway’ stations – Didcot, Bristol, you name it – as places of functional, windswept grimness. Leafy, tucked-away Tiverton, in contrast, is peaceful loveliness itself, and its bright, welcoming ticket office feels like a very nice place for a concert. More to the point, I am told by Penny Adie, artistic director of the Two Moors Festival and the person whose brainchild this series is, the ticket office’s sound is absolutely ideal too – she tells me how it was hearing the wheels of a suitcase running across the floor that alerted her to the acoustic potential of the place (only festival artistic directors would notice this sort of thing…).

For our concert, we enjoy a range of works for cornet played by Andrew Wingham. Aged just 15, Wingham was one of the winners of the Two Moors Festival Young Musicians Platform competition earlier this year, and will also be appearing in the Festival itself when it begins later this month. His audience today consists of about 30 people who have come here for the sole purpose of hearing him play, plus a handful of others who stop for a listen on their way to the platform.

If, at the start, Wingham looks a little nervous about playing solo in such unlikely surroundings, he soon warms to his task. Favourites such as the Largo of Dvorák’s New World Symphony and Puccini’s ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’ are mixed with lesser known items like the very jolly Buster Strikes Back by Alan Morrison, and the half hour rattles by in no time – as, at one point, does a train heading rapidly through the station on its way to somewhere north. He clearly enjoys himself, as do we.

 

Afterwards, Adie tells me about one or two of those who have previously played here. The lutenist Eilzabeth Kenny, for instance, was delighted that the same non-stop service just happened to whizz by just as her recital reached a particularly tricky bit – if she’d messed it up, no-one would have been any the wiser. And cellist Guy Johnston, I learn, had to finish just a couple of minutes early so he could pack up his instrument and nip onto the 12:09 train.

As for my train home, it leaves at 12:37. Or, rather, it should do. This being a British train, it is, of course, late. On this occasion, however, I don’t particularly mind. I really rather like it here.

 

This year’s Two Moors Festival begins on 15 October. Visit: www.thetwomoorsfestival.co.uk for more information

 

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