November 21st, 2008


The Locrian Ensemble

I've just been to see The Locrian Ensemble at the Theatre Royal. They're a group of classical musicians who have jobs with other orchestras but meet up regularly to play chamber music together while dressed in period costume. They've not been to Winchester for a while so I was delighted to be able to catch them again.

I don't usually go to concerts since I find it difficult to concentrate through long pieces of classical music, although I enjoy ballet and opera which have a story and setting to involve the senses. When I first decided to see the ensemble, I thought the costumes would help to provide the same distraction. They do add to the performance, giving a touch of eccentricity, but also conveying the impression of an 18th century house party where a group of talented friends are entertaining you.

The musicians are skilled (there was a moment where the lady violinist was playing with such lightness and precision that I felt just one string of the bow was touching the strings of her violin) and they have a real enjoyment in playing together which reaches out to the audience. This event was their Christmas programme which is quite light-hearted as you can conclude when I say there was a version of "Twelve Days of Christmas" with audience participation! But they never skimp on the performance, taking the same care over providing the accompaniment to "Walking in the Snow", as they do with a complicated piece of classical playing.

Their leader, Justin Pearson, intersperses the performance with amusing. and often self-deprecating, anecdotes. The quote below provides a flavour of his style, it's taken from a piece he wrote about being an orchestra extra in a period film:
At eight in the evening, we are still sitting in our seats, and have not even mimed a single note. But we are starting to become animated - after eight o'clock we go into overtime, at an enhanced rate. On the half hour, the orchestra all chime "Ker-ching!" together, as we have earned another unit of overtime.