September has brought some wonderful music making not least two wonderful days with members of the Albion Ensemble. Peter Francomb and Helen Cass had the great idea to get the Albion to join the Riverside Quintet to play decets on 8 September and miraculously we managed to bring Philippa Davies, Andrew Marriner, Peter and myself together with Sarah Burnett (bassoon) to make this happen.
At the same time we were approached to provide a surprise performance for Felix Warnock’s retirement from the role of Chair of The Radcliffe Trust on 9 September thus bringing about a two-day festival of wind ensemble playing.
On the 8th, the quintet met to rehearse briefly for the following day and then, after a drink or two, to play decet music by Francaix and Dvorak before being treated to an absolutely superb dinner provided by the Riverside Quintet. So thanks to Richard Austen, Laura Douglas, Roy Simpson, Miles Chapman, and Helen Cass for some hugely enjoyable playing and also amazing cuisine. Roy, your hospitality was perfection itself and the wine still resonates along with the music!
The plan to ambush Felix at the end of his farewell dinner at the In-and-Out Club, St. James’ Square went perfectly. We assembled at Al Duce restaurant in Duke of York Street for our main course whilst the Radcliffe Trust had their dinner and made appropriate speeches. Around 9.30, we were ushered into the dining hall at the Club with Felix visibly surprised. We gave him and the Radcliffe Trustees a 20-minute recital including favourites from Felix’ era with the Albion in the 1980’s including the unforgettable tour of the Far East in 1985: Farkas 17th Century Dances, Bizet Jeux d’Enfants, Reicha Op 88 and Debussy Petite Suite. Bizet and Debussy were, of course, the unbeatable arrangements by Gordon Davies and it was only natural therefore that we finished with his Flight of the Bumble Bee. Having had to ask Gordon to re-send us the music shortly beforehand it was good to know that fingers and coordination still functioned and the bee buzzed itself to the end without incident!
We were able to thank the Radcliffe Trustees for their support for our annual workshops in The Midland Arts Centre, Birmingham all those years ago – weekends that we so enjoyed thanks to great ensembles coming along and the incredible hospitality of Harlan and Delia Walker, musical hosts extraordinary.
But this was a remarkable two days that brought together old colleague-friends who had done so much together……….let’s hope for more reunions like that!