Ferio Saxophone Quartet, St John’s Smith Square, 8 December 2016

Slightly scruffy look for SJSS, even at lunchtime

You don’t see a lot of all saxophone combos. So much so, that when I saw the Ferio Saxophone Quartet concert listed for Thursday lunchtime on a day that I had kept clear for a client meeting that had been deferred until the new year, I thought, “I’ll give that a try”.

Naturally, I cut things a bit fine, trying to finish off some work before heading off for SJSS and then realising that I hadn’t really allowed much margin for error on timing.

Fortunately a Circle Line train came quite quickly. Then, at South Kensington, all of a sudden I could hear a Saxophone combo on the train, playing Hit The Road Jack very well indeed. I looked along the carriage and there indeed were several saxophonists giving it plenty. I managed to snap a couple of them with my smart phone camera.

“Perhaps the Ferio lot are also cutting it a bit fine for the gig,” I thought, “although they look a bit scruffy for SJSS, even at lunchtime.”

Between Sloane Square and Victoria, the combo played Blue Moon very well indeed. But clearly they weren’t the Ferio lot, as the “Anonymous Saxtet” got off the tube at Victoria, after relieving me and others of our small change (voluntarily I hasten to add).

I concluded that saxophone combos are like buses and tubes. You wait what seems like a lifetime for one, then two come along one after the other.

In the end I got to SJSS just a tiny bit late, but in true lunchtime concert fashion they let us latecomers slide in at the back of the hall and then move forward after the first piece. The first piece was a Bach Prelude and Fugue and I reckon I caught most of the Prelude as well as the Fugue.

When I moved forward between pieces, a kindly couple made extra space for me so I could remove my hat and coat quickly, take up an excellent seat and then they also gave me a look at their programme (I picked up my own copy at the end). I’m sure that nice couple would even have shared their sandwiches with me had they brought sandwiches, but they hadn’t. SJSS lunchtime concerts are not really “eat your sandwiches in the concert” type lunchtime concerts.

This was the Ferio String Quartet Concert I heard – link to SJSS site here.

Just in case SJSS archiving isn’t up to snuff, here is the same page saved on Ogblog.

They were very good indeed, the Ferio Saxophone Quartet. I especially enjoyed their arrangement of Grieg’s Holberg Suite, which was the centrepiece of the concert really.

The concert was very well attended – 150+ people, I’d guess, perhaps even 200 if you count the sniffly but very attentive outing of schoolkids.

The Ferios are doing a short residency at SJSS and there are a couple more gigs to go next spring. Here is a link to a short vid the quartet made about the concert I heard and their residency.

The next concert, on 23 April 2017, is all British music entitled Best of British, which seems to me a wasted opportunity. Left up to me, that concert would have been named:

Yes, Sax Please, We’re British…

…but unfortunately such marketing matters never seem to be left up to me. I can’t imagine why not.

Laura Snowden, Lunchtime Concert, St John’s Smith Square, 1 December 2016

A planned, much needed break in the middle of a busy day in a busy week.

First stop, Lock and Co. to replace my sorely missed Vermont hat. No blame attached to whatever happened during our Royal Academy evening a few weeks ago; merely to say that Daisy should stick to driving duties and avoid hat-stand duties; while I should retain full responsibility for my own hats whatever other duties I am undertaking.

Then on to St John’s Smith Square for the lunchtime concert.

Selfie With New Hat and Enormous Organ

I messaged Daisy with the above picture and caption, to let her know that I had replaced the hat and to show off the fact that I was taking a substantial enough break to take in a lunchtime concert on my tod. The reply:

What the…?

The concert was lovely. We saw Laura Snowden at SJSS a couple of years ago; a very talented young guitarist who comes across very nicely.

The centrepiece of this concert was a new work by Wally Gunn, an American composer who seems to have written this piece especially for Laura under commission of a young composers/performers scheme.

Laura show-pieced the new work by framing it with works by better-known composers, although not especially well-known works. A beautiful Dowland to start. Then Villa-Lobos’s preludes; I realised I knew the first well but had never heard the others before.

I enjoyed the Wally Gunn piece; it was based on Darwin diaries and had some very evocative passages, although the whispered words didn’t really float my Beagle, as it were.

Then a couple of Barrios waltzes and finally a short piece by Rodrigo.

Here is a link to the SJSS site page for the concert…

…and in case SJSS isn’t archiving as it should, here is my permanent link of that page.

Perfect way to set myself up for an afternoon of grind and also for an evening of jamming with DJ on my baritone baroq-ulele. Although, after listening to a virtuoso like Laura Snowden, my own pluckings and strummings are brought into perspective.


La Nuova Musica, St John’s Smith Square, 20 March 2015

This was a lovely concert at St John’s Smith Square, on a Friday evening. Just what the doctor ordered.

SJSS is a good setting for all manner of music, but especially sacred music like Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater could have been written for the place.

Janie is especially partial to a bit of Stabat Mater of the Pergolesi variety, which is probably why we booked this one. That and the fact that it was on a Friday evening, a favourite slot of ours for some truly relaxing music.

This concert was a great way to start the weekend after a busy week.

20th Century Masterpieces For Guitar, Laura Snowden, St John’s Smith Square, 26 February 2015

Just a few days after seeing Miloš at The Wig, Janie and I saw another guitar concert, this time Laura Snowden at SJSS.

A bit unfair on Laura, the comparison. She is very good indeed, but clearly not Miloš level; at least not yet.

Her musical choices were a little tougher too.  I really like the Villa-Lobos guitar stuff, but it isn’t everyone’s taste. None of the stuff she performed would be.

But she plays with great clarity and warmth.

We enjoyed our evening and I vowed to return. So far, just the once and alone to a lunchtime concert – click here. But Janie liked her too.

Janie tends to makes a fuss about traipsing to SJSS, then tends to be pleasantly surprised at how near it is and how easily she can park. This evening was no exception.

Passiontide, Academia Musica Choir, St John’s Smith Square, 19 April 2014

Janie is not quite as keen on St John’s Smith Square as she is on the Wigmore Hall. It’s not quite the same sort of warm, intimate space.

But whenever we go there she realises that she likes the bar in the crypt and that we often hear music that sounds great in a church, which is of course exactly what this venue used to be.

Easter weekend and some baroque music suited to that time of year:

Very high quality singing for a semi-professional choir.

It all sounded beautiful.

Telemann And The Gypsies, St John’s Smith Square, 20 May 2011

We didn’t book much of the Lufthansa Festival that year, sadly, as the programme was excellent, but we did book this one superb concert by Ensemble Caprice.

No problem buying CDs of the music we heard at this one:

We also invested in Vivaldi and the Baroque Gypsies from the same stable – click here.

I still listen to these albums quite a lot. The Telemann is the more interesting but both are good.

We miss that Lufthansa Festival now its gone – the scaled down spring baroque festival at SJSS is a very modest affair by comparison. A shame we mostly missed out that year but at least we got to see one good’un in these visitors from Montreal, Ensemble Caprice.

Ensemble La Fenice, A Pilgrimage To Santiago, St John’s Smith Square, 21 May 2007

Wow, we loved this concert.

The last of our visits to the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music that year, this one really inspired us.  It comprises religious baroque music from the places people would visit on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella.

The lovely Arianna Savall sang and played the renaissance harp.  She is the daughter of Jordi Savall and Montserrat Figueras.

So insired by this concert were we, that we made our own “pilgrimage to Santiago” the following spring, after visiting nephew Paul in Barcelona – click here for our pictures of Santiago.

Disappointing though, was the fact that we were unable to buy a recording of the music we heard.  All that was available for purchase on the night was mum and dad’s “Homenatge Al Misteri D’Elx – La Vespra” – interesting music but not the beautiful stuff we heard that night.

Surprised and delighted was I, therefore, to discover just now, while researching this blog piece, Ensemble La Fenice/Arianna Savall released a recording of the very stuff we heard that night, a mere four years after our concert.  I immediately purchased and downloaded the album and am listening to it as I write.  It really is lovely music.

Ensemble La Fenice

La Risonanza, St John’s Smith Square, 11 May 2007

Just two days after our last visit to the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music, we’re back to see another.  Janie is a sucker for a countertenor and we are both suckers for visiting European baroque troupes we haven’t heard before.

Typically of SJSS and its artistes, the fabulously-named Fabio Bonizzoni can only sell us recordings of the Scarlatti stuff we heard performed by other people a couple of days ago.

Still, I buy that CD and some other La Risonanza stuff.  We were neither disappointed by the concert nor by the CDs.

Fabio and La Risonanza rock.  Guest singers Roberta Invernizzi, Emanuela Galli, Xavier Sabata also rock.

Well, they don’t rock, let’s be honest, they are baroque musicians, none of them rock.  But this was a really enjoyable concert.

Here’s the stuff they played us that night:

La Risonanza 11 May 2007

Don Domingo Scarlatti – An Anniversary Celebration (I) and (II), St John’s Smith Square, 9 May 2007

The Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music was a regular “must visit” for us for several years.  Sadly, the sponsorship ended (I think 2014 was the last year) so the festival is now a shadow of its former self.

On this evening, Janie and I attended both concerts; Carole Cerasi on the Harpsichord early evening and then London Baroque later.  Domingo Scarlatti was the theme (how did you guess?).

Both excellent gigs, well worth the long evening at SJSS.  The relevant extracts from the programme so you can see exactly what we heard are shown below.

Carole Cerasi 9 May 2007London Baroque 9 May 2007