Classical concert kicks off the new year at the Sherriff Centre

Church, post office, play venue and … concert hall. The multi-faceted Sherriff Centre added another string to its bow on Friday with the first of a series of classical music concerts, which had got some advance coverage on Radio 3.

The driving force behind them is a local resident (and pianist) Yehuda Inbar who approached centre manager Jane Edwards with the idea last year. It’s one thing to have the idea, but quite another to make it happen and Yehuda admitted he was ‘quite stressed’ as the first concert was about to begin. However, stress levels dropped when it became clear that all the tickets had been sold and there was a good audience ready for the concert to start.

Mark Padmore recital at the Sherriff Centre, including audience in the comfy sofas!

The concert, a recital of Lieder (songs) by well-known tenor Mark Padmore accompanied by Andrew West on piano. And not just any piano it was a Bechstein grand piano, brought in specially for the concert (thanks to the support of Bechstein).

The atmosphere was informal, somewhere between a private recital and regular concert. Mark was quite relaxed and admitted that singing recitals can be ‘hard work’ for the audience. So, to help guide us he gave some background to the works and explained it was loosely based on a Greek theme. He also suggested referring to the text and translations to help follow the music.

The first section was some of Schumann’s songs based on poems on Greek themes by German greats such as Goethe and Schiller. This was followed by Britten’s ‘Hoelderlin’ fragments (Hoelderlin being another German poet).

After the interval when the audience was able to refortify itself with wine, Andrew suggested we ‘lie down on the comfy sofas’ for the most challenging part of the concert; Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s ‘Songs from the same Earth. In fact, like all the works that evening Mark sang them excellently. This was no surprise, particularly for the Birtwistle songs, as they had been written especially for Mark and he had premiered them (accompanied by Andrew) at the Aldeburgh Festival in 2013. They have since played them several times since (and now in West Hampstead).

And next Wednesday they will be playing them and the other works again, in the Cologne Philharmonic Hall no less!

Mark ended by saying he ‘loved performing here, as it was a wonderful way to listen to music’. It achieved the aim of hearing top musicians in a relaxed atmosphere. If you missed it there will be more chances as the concerts continue monthly; next up is the Heath Quartet and in April there will a jazz concert. Also playing later in the series is Yehuda himself, who is an excellent pianist himself we have heard.