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.

The real reason Father Andrew resigned

Last Sunday Father Andrew announced that he was retiring as priest of St. Mary’s with All Souls, Kilburn and St. James, West Hampstead. The story was picked up by the Sunday Times, Independent and Guardian.

You can even hear it in his own words on Radio 4’s Sunday programme (skip to 7:23).

Father Andrew and his husband Stephen

Father Andrew and his husband Stephen

As Stephen, Father Andrew’s husband tweeted, although they gave fair accounts of the situation, they didn’t quite capture the exact reason.

Father Andrew arrived at St. James nearly 20 years ago in November 2017, became priest in charge in April 1998 and was appointed vicar in 2001. For any of us this quite a long time to be one place. At around this time he first met his partner, Stephen.

Since his arrival in NW6 the law relating to same sex partnerships has changed with, first civil partnerships in December 2005, and same-sex marriage in Mar 2014. He married Stephen in June 2014.

Last year, post-Brexit, Stephen lost his job but luckily found a new one as head of digital for the Co-op, however, based in Manchester. For any couple juggling two careers living apart for a short period is manageable, but not sustainable long term. Time had come to make a decision.

“In the normal course of things I would look for a job in the (Manchester) area,” Father Andew said. “But I am on a blacklist. I can’t carry on being a priest because the institutional homophobia of the church makes it impossible”.

In a letter to parishioners, he explained: “When we married I was told that if I left here then an active ministry officially in the Church of England would be over, and that is likely to be the case.” He said the current leadership, “whilst willing to allow me to continue here, is unwilling to license me to a ministry elsewhere”.

Father Andrew Cain and Sherriff Centre project manager Jane Edwards (photo via @churchnw6)

Father Andrew Cain and Sherriff Centre project manager Jane Edwards (photo via @churchnw6)

For most of us in West Hampstead Father Andrew is best known for his work converting St. James Church into the Sheriff Centre.  This encompasses the Post office, Hullabaloo soft play for kids and the Sanctuary Cafe (which was again listed on TimeOut’s list of top coffee shops in North London). And it is still a Church on Sundays. Little known fact; as well as being vicar he is also the official postmaster.

Although he will leave as priest in July, it could take from six months to a year to appoint a new vicar.  So Father Andrew will continue to be involved with centre, which is set up independent from the church, at least until the new vicar is settled in.

Father Andrew said that he will miss living in West Hampstead, which has been his home for such a long time, plus he will miss it being a couple of degrees warmer here down South. Being a priest informs every aspect of his job and life so leaving West Hampstead will meaning carving out a whole new role for himself in a new community. But he is looking forward to getting his weekends back, being able to enjoy a good brunch and having a lie-in on Sundays.