A Chamber of Musical Secrets…
Kings Place plays host to a unique chamber music coaching project, which welcomes eavesdroppers every Sunday afternoon. Helen Wallace listened in:
Drop by the Limehouse or Wenlock Room (Level -2) on a Sunday afternoon and you’re in for a musical treat. There you will witness – free of charge – some of the UK’s finest young ensembles being coached and inspired by legendary chamber musicians. The scheme is the idea of Richard Ireland, formerly violinist in the Chilingirian Quartet, who felt there was a real need for accessible
and affordable coaching for young groups who have left the confines of a conservatoire. But the idea only became a reality when he met Peter Millican, who offered him two practice rooms between 2pm and 6pm on a Sunday. A long-time supporter of chamber music and string masterclasses, Millican immediately saw the value of this project to the young players and to his own arts venue: ‘From the beginning, we were clear that we wanted Kings Place to provide a resource for London and the local community which encompassed visual arts, and music, both performances and outreach at many levels. ChamberStudio is an important part of our programme, offering support to talented young musicians at an international standard.’
Chamber music had always played a significant part in Richard’s life. ‘My father Patrick was in theAllegri Quartet, my mother was in the Loveday/Fleming/Day Trio, while my eldest brother Robin was a member of the Lindsays. I was lucky enough to have been taught by Sheila Nelson, who hosted marathon sessions of chamber music on Sunday afternoons.’ He went on to study with Shmuel Ashkenasi of the Vermeer Quartet, whose assistant he became in the States, and then became a close colleague of the inspirational Chris Rowland at the Royal Northern College. He knows how hard it can be for recent graduates: ‘The first few years of trying to build a chamber music career when you’ve left college can feel very isolated and fragile, and I was keen to set up a scheme where groups at that stage could get support and further coaching from really experienced professionals’. As the Greenwich Trio put it: ‘After graduating, when you are left on your own, you suddenly realise how important it is to constantly receive knowledge and guidance…
ChamberStudio has made that possible for us. Ireland approached the Cavatina Chamber Music Trust, whose mission is to take chamber music to young people, and who subsidise tickets for 8-25s in venues throughout the country. The Trust agreed to provide support, advice and administration of donations from third parties. Chamber groups can book up a session for just £60 between them.Ireland is amazed by how quickly word spread. Clearly, there had been a great need: ‘We only launched in October 2010, and already we are seeing the calendar booking up as soon as it goes out. It’s been fantastic. We started off with about 10 or 11 groups that I knew about, and we now have 26 post-college ensembles regularly booking up.’ These include the Wu, Finzi and Piatti Quartets; Fournier, Greenwich, Erato and Lawson Trios; the Solstice Quartet, who won the Royal Overseas League Competition, and whose leader Jamie Campbell says: ‘ChamberStudio has offered us a lifeline – a chance to work with world-class coaches in London for an amazingly good price’; and the Lawson Trio, who have got through to the finals of the 2011 Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition. Their violinist, Fenella Humphreys, says the trio appreciates the holistic approach of the tutors: ‘We have been able to talk to the professors more informally than would
normally be possible, receiving invaluable advice about career-related questions.’ ChamberStudio also offers groups expert advice before a recording (the Erato Trio are coming in to work with several coaches prior to a Haydn recording) and is linking some groups up to music societies. ‘We’ve linked up with Music in theRound in Sheffield’ says Ireland, ‘which has a network of 12-14music societies’. The scheme selects two of its most promising groups each year to recommend for such music society concerts (this year the Wu Quartet and Lawson Trio).
The roster of coaches includes Krysia Osostowicz, Levon Chilingirian, Peter Cropper, Christoph Richter, Paul Watkins, Simon Rowland-Jones, Susan Tomes, David Waterman and Shmuel Ashkenasi. Inspired by the response, Ireland has begun looking ahead to the next generation: ‘Two or three times a year I’ll invite ensembles formed at schools to come down on a Sunday for45 minutes’ coaching, and the opportunity to see the senior groups being coached too.’ So if you’re coming to a London Chamber Music Society concert on a Sunday, turn up early and you’ll glimpse the inner workings of a masterclass on the chamber repertoire – and be first to hear stars of the future.
ChamberStudio Sundays 2pm-6pm Limehouse and Wenlock Rooms
To see how to donate, go to www.chamberstudio.org