Academy of Ancient Music in France

The Academy of Ancient Music very kindly let us take a peek at their tour diary and we found the following post about their recent trip to France to perform The Devotional Year programme which they shall be bringing to Christ Church Spitalfields this summer. Read on to find out about the highlights of their trip:

Early starts are not an unusual thing for the Academy of Ancient Music (AAM), an orchestra who’s international activity has stretched as far afield as the Perth Festival in Western Australia this season, but 7.30am on a bank holiday Sunday morning was a strain even for the seasoned traveller. Still as the AAM boarded the Eurostar from St. Pancras we acknowledged that the day could only get better – and it certainly did! Trains and coach journeys and small delay under the Channel itself later and we arrived in Gerberoy in the Picardie region of northern France. The French Tourist Board has invented a category called the 100 most beautiful villages in France and Gerberoy is very close to the top of that list – the phrase picture-book was specifically invented to describe it! Our coach had a bit of problem negotiating the ancient, narrow, cobbled streets of the village but as we stepped off the coach we were ushered into a beamed house and offered warm, lemon crêpes and fresh tea and it was then that I knew this would be a rather special day.

Our programme for the concert was devised by the cellist David Watkin, he had chosen a mix of baroque repertoire that depicted three different church seasons. There was the familiar: Corelli’s Concerto Grosso Op.6 no.8 ‘the Christmas Concerto’; the virtuosic Vivaldi Concerto for 2 cellos in G minor and the unusual Wassenaer Concerto Armonico in G – a characteristically perfect mix for the AAM: revealing unfamiliar repertoire and reviving well-known pieces, all played to the highest possible standard – yet with a slight quirk (on this occasion the AAM being directed, not from the keyboard, the violin nor by a conductor but from the ‘cello) that makes us all stop and reconsider our opinion of what ‘ancient music’ is: that’s what the AAM is all about.

La Collégiale Saint-Pierre de Gerberoy is a medieval church with a wooden roof that was packed to those wooden rafters for our performance, some of the audience had travelled from as far away as Paris (a good two hour drive) to hear us perform and they weren’t disappointed. Marcus Farnsworth, one of the UK’s most promising young baritones, gave fabulous performances of JS Bach’s cantata ich habe genug and Zelenka’s second Lamentation for Good Friday and by the end of the concert our new French friends were demanding more. But we had to leave them with that demand, not even an encore, because the coach driver was pressing us to get back on and return home – we had a train to catch and more performances to give – next up is at Spitalfields Music’s Summer Festival and we can’t wait to play this repertoire together again and show a new audience how exciting it can be. It was a long day, the musicians of the AAM are used to that and the AAM’s audiences are used to the exceptional performance that they hear from us, but that doesn’t make it any less exciting each time we perform, this special occasion was no exception and neither will the next one be.

Catch the Academy of Ancient Music on Thursday 16 June at 6.30pm & 8.30pm. For more information on their programme and to book click here.

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