Nominate a concert venue!
We invite you to choose somewhere for Matthew Barley to play
In 2013, cellist Matthew Barley will be devoting himself to Benjamin Britten. Or, more precisely to a solo tour around the UK that celebrates the centenary of the composer’s birth.
As we explore in the October issue of BBC Music Magazine, Matthew will be performing in a wide range of venues, including churches, concert halls and even a patch of woodland in Devon.
And now, here’s the exciting bit – Matthew has left three of the tour dates open for BBC Music Magazine readers to choose the venue. We want to hear your suggestions which can, frankly, be wherever you like within the UK. All we ask is that they are big enough to hold a cellist and small audience, don’t present a health hazard (!) and have the ability to be connected to an electricity supply.
Send your ideas to us at email@example.com by 31 October. Matthew will then choose the three best, which we will announce in our January 2013 issue.
In the meantime, to inspire you, the BBC Music Magazine team has come up with our own ideas…:
A around nine years ago, a disused Victorian swimming pool in Manchester was awarded over £3m as a result of winning the BBC’s Restoration series. The programme, that pitched historic but disused or derelict buildings against each other to win valuable funding for restoration, highlighted just how many of these glorious 19th-century pools lay unused, unloved and crumbling – all over Britain. They all have rich acoustics (if a trifle echoey, admittedly). But imagine the scene – Matthew Barley sitting in the centre of an empty pool with his audience perched around the edge, the rich sound of his cello rising, as it were, from the depths, filling the cavernous space, bouncing off the glorious decorative tiling. And we wouldn’t even have to get changed in front of each other.
The very word ‘Barley’ turns my mind (in worryingly Pavlovian fashion) towards the subject of whisky. Where better to hold an atmospheric, intimate concert than a distillery warehouse? Time stands still in these places, with barrels left untouched as their contents mature over 10, 20 even 30 years or more – the very requirements of the aging process ensure that life goes more or less undisturbed, year after year. It’s between the rows of barrels that I can picture Matthew playing, say, Bach, in the gloomy half-light of a single bulb and amid that faint, pungent but evocative whisky vapour smell. Of the distilleries I have visited, most would do nicely for this purpose, but for the full experience, I’d want one of the more remote, spectacularly located ones. Built alongside the waters of Loch Harport against the brooding backdrop of the Cuillin hills, it has to be Talisker on the island of Skye.
One side of Nelson Street in Bristol is a riot of colour, home of perhaps the UK’s largest street art project. On the other stands the only remaining city gate and the attached 14th-century church of St John the Baptist. For four years I walked past it every day on my way to work, and always wondered what was behind a small wooden door in the church’s wall. One day it was open, a warm glow inviting me in. I found myself in a street-level crypt (see picture at top of page) – an intimate space, with a vaulted ceiling – into which a solo cellist and his audience would just fit nicely. Travellers to this port city were welcomed into the church above to pray, and in the crypt itself an alabaster tomb depicts a merchant and his large family, a mark of Bristol’s past trading wealth. Would a sense of these people long gone and stories once told enrich a concert? I like to think so.
From the age of ten I spent my summers in the impossibly beautiful and ramshackle Cornish town of St Ives. The whole region is scattered with charming, matter-of-fact granite churches, hunkered down in the landscape to shelter from tempests and gales. But there’s something particularly special about the fishermen’s chapel in St Ives. The one-room St Nicholas’s chapel sits on the top of a grassy promontory known in the town as ‘The Island’ (and there are local stories that the hill was indeed once surrounded by water) and although no one knows exactly when the chapel was built there are records of its existence as far back as the 15th century. It has been used as a lookout for smugglers, as a store by the War Office and is dedicated to fishermen. There are even tiles inside created by the renowned local potter Bernard Leach. I can’t think of a more enchanting and intimate place to hear classical music.
I’d like to hear Matthew play these magnificent Suites in the small church of All Saints, Tudeley, Kent, all 12 of whose windows were created by Marc Chagall. These blazing, figurative jewels were being made in Reims around the same time that Britten was writing his own Suites for Rostropovich. Their illuminated visions of humanity have a tenderness and broken quality reflected in Britten’s heart-searching pieces, and are a memorial to the death of a young girl in a sailing accident. They bring a bold Russian sensibility into an English 18th-century church – what better resonance for Britten's own Suites, with their Baroque, Christian roots and their soaring, rebellious spirituality?
This idea might seem a bit barking, but a few years ago I went to a concert at Bath Cats and Dogs home. Bear with me here. I’d nominate this as a potential, if slightly unusual, venue for Matthew Barley to perform, as it’s in the open air, on top of the hillside of this great World Heritage City – and the animals seemed to really enjoy having live music playing (well, they didn’t howl!). Indeed, they’ve previously survived the antics of The Wurzels without complaint, so an audience with cellist Matthew Barley would, I’m sure, be an extremely welcome move for them. It could even be timed to coincide with Bath's excellent annual classical music festival (in June) and the audience could be encouraged to bring their pets along for a unique outdoor sunset concert.
Where in the UK would you like to hear Matthew Barley perform a solo cello recital? Send your ideas to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, get in touch with us on Twitter or Facebook and you can also add your photos to our Pinterest page.