Saturday night saw us back at a live concert – the first since we tried a previous return to live music back in September 2020, and the first time since the pandemic began that we felt even vaguely normal. It was the Hastings Philharmonic, playing in ChristChurch St Leonard’s.
The church was surprisingly full, even though the seats were socially distanced, partly because there was also a full orchestra in there. The players all wore masks – well, not the brass and woodwind players, you fool – I did wonder if it is difficult playing a musical instrument with a mask on – whether it is a bit muffly.
We went with our friends Jenny and Peter Wiles, and I think we all told ourselves that we’d all just have to get used to going out and mixing with others… Looking at the post I wrote about the last concert, it is clear that back in September, Battleaxe’s levels of Covid anxiety/general anger/confusion were much, much higher. It is quite reassuring to read how things have changed. In addition to Battleaxe’s mood, the general behaviour of others has also changed for the better. Clearly, we are all now reconciled to our Covid-conscious lifestyle. Unlike last time, people sat quietly in their places, there was no unmasked shouting across the aisles, pinging masks on their elastic etc.
The music was mainstream but satisfying – Grieg’s Peer Gynt, then Prokoviev’s Piano Concerto No 3 with the very talented Yuanfan Yang. It feels like looking back at another world to remember him playing in the finals of the Hastings Piano Concerto Competition in 2019. Indeed, it was another world. After the interval, Tchaikovsky Symphony No 4. It was all conducted by the endlessly exuberant Marcio da Silva. (Marcio, if you are reading this, honest, as I said on my way out on Saturday, it was all fine and Battleaxe has nothing negative to say this time – I think he was a bit taken aback by my comments about the Covidacous nature of the concert back in September.)
The pianist played an encore where he asked a member of the audience to come up and play a couple of notes, and then he would improvise around it. A bloke played a few chords, and then a few bars of chopsticks, so he used that – clever.
The orchestra seems to be getting better and better – we are very lucky to have it here in Hastings. According to the programme, it will be making a new home for itself at the White Rock Theatre shortly – I guess a better venue for what is now a professional orchestra, but I admit I’ll quite miss the concerts at St Mary in the Castle with the players jammed in so close to the audience that we were practically sitting on the violinists laps.
Only one small thing interfered – a strange continuous high-pitched whine from some machine or other – Air-con? Generator? Fortunately much of the music was quite loud which covered it up, but it was noticeable in the quieter passages.
Afterwards, we went to a little drinks reception in one of the church rooms for members/supporters of the Hastings Phil. Battleaxe spoke a bit to the pianist – a really nice bloke. Then returned home in the dark – we had not been out so late for months!
Busy week this week – a first meeting of the WI book club at the Sea Anglers’ Club on the Stade, meeting daughter Clara in London… life is getting busy again. Next week we are off to Birmingham, Wales for a few days, back to Bristol to stay with Anna and Gareth – crikey.