Monday, March 23, 2015
Bach in the Subways 2015 at Tottenham Court Road Tube Station
It's funny how I'll make jokes like, "I'd love to perform at Cadogan Hall!" or "I'd love to busk in London!" and so far, both of those jokes have come true. Though technically we weren't "busking" ... read on.
Bach's 330th birthday was on Saturday and to celebrate, hundreds of musicians performed Bach (for free!) in hundreds of subway stations around the world as part of Bach in the Subways 2015. Founded by NYC-based cellist, Dale Henderson, Bach in the Subways was originally envisioned as an opportunity for people to experience classical music live - without paying a single cent/pence.
So, on Saturday morning, a few of us from The Royal Orchestral Society gathered at Somerset House for a quick rehearsal before heading to Tottenham Court Road station to perform Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #3 (you definitely know it: it features in most weddings/office parties/events - I seriously never want to hear it again, after playing it five times in a row!).
If you haven't been, the station has recently been refurbished - it looks amazingly shiny and new. There were more of us than anticipated (16, I think) and we played on the "mid-concourse" level i.e. the bit where everyone filters into when they step off the tube, so we got a lot of traffic. I mean, a lot.
I was surprised at how quickly crowds gathered and how many people stopped to listen! At first, it was just a group of young Italian tourists with cameras at the ready, but then more and more people stopped to watch. It was amazing. Before we started, I thought most people would walk past and ignore us, but the opposite was the case: station staff had to keep the area clear because people were standing directly in front of the escalators!
I think it was during our third performance of the concerto that I saw - out of the corner of my eye (when I wasn't wrestling with an intensely difficult passage played at breakneck speed!) - a couple of kids with their parents rushing past, when the dad tapped his small child on the shoulder and waved him over to stop and listen for a while. I loved that.
While I didn't catch everyone's reactions, seeing the looks on peoples' faces when we finished a movement to applause was wonderful. Smiles all around, cheering, and lots of "Bravos!" shouted at us. It was very sweet and encouraging.
I love this photo because you can see the people craning their necks to watch us as they go up the escalator. Watching/hearing classical music performed live is such a powerful thing - the mathematical precision and harmonies of Bach's compositions have a wide appeal.
It's funny - though I've performed with this orchestra a number of times (whose members are a mix of professional, ex-professional, conservatory students and amateur musicians), I don't know how we sound to the audience, so I usually rely on John to tell me ("The brass sounded amazing in the beginning!" or "The violins were a little shaky in the last bit of the Mendelssohn."). So when I watched a replay of our performance that someone had posted on Facebook, my initial reaction was, "Ha! Someone dubbed a recording of Brandenburg over this, how funny!" until I realized, "Oh wow, that's us - and we don't sound too bad!"
(This is me trying not to fail.)
Two of my friends showed up, which was a lovely surprise, but unfortunately, John missed us because we started earlier than we'd originally anticipated! Also: right after we packed up, Tom and Cristy arrived with little Dorothy in a sling ... they'd also just missed us by a few minutes. But funny story: Tom and Cristy's friend Mary was also performing with us, but we didn't know each other until we were introduced by them!
Afterwards, we went out for a burger at Byron (which tasted so good after playing while standing for two hours) and I slept for like, two hours when I got home. I'm such a baby.
So, that was fun. And something I'd never expected to do! That's another thing ticked off my bucket list, then.
Do you like classical music? How often do you go to concerts? If you live in London and have yet to see a classical music performance, I'd suggest forgoing some of the bigger venues like the Barbican or Royal Festival Hall for King's Place - a super cool, new(ish) and small classical music venue near King's Cross. They do fantastic concerts for low prices and I think it's a fun, accessible venue. I went recently to see a young, Finnish quartet perform Shostakovich and they were fabulous.
Photo of me taken by Yannick Pucci. Awaiting photo credit for other images.