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Concert series in Tunbridge Wells

PUBLISHED: 10:17 23 August 2010 | UPDATED: 17:45 20 February 2013

Concert series in Tunbridge Wells

Concert series in Tunbridge Wells

With its 2010 season about to begin, the Music at King Charles concert series in Tunbridge Wells promises international-league performances

Concert series in Tunbridge Wells


With its 2010 season about to begin, the Music at King Charles concert series in Tunbridge Wells promises international-league performances


The oldest permanent structure in Tunbridge Wells is inconspicuous to the passer-by. But enter through the modest red doors into an oasis of calm and beauty, and you begin to appreciate why this unassuming 17th-century building has become the venue for concerts, the quality of which Londons leading venues would be proud. You can also understand why so many artists at the top of their game are keen to play here.


The Parish Church of King Charles the Martyr started life in 1676 as a small chapel, dedicated to its royal patron as a penance for his beheading less than 30 years before.


The chapel proved too small and before the 17th century was out had been doubled in width, which is why it is essentially square perfect for chamber music, both acoustically and for the way in which it brings audience and performers closer together.


Oak galleries run the full length of the church, providing a special aural and visual vantage point. The ornate, slaked-lime plasterwork ceilings decorated by John Wetherell, who had worked with Christopher Wren, help provide sufficient resonance to enhance the performance without swallowing up the detail in overlapping echoes.


With the 2010 season of Music at King Charles about to start, the building is ready to resound to the playing of some distinguished, internationally recognised performers in a series of four concerts, followed by a finale fifth concert featuring some of Kents aspiring young musicians.


With a fine organ (and several talented organists), a chamber choir (The King Charles Singers), adult choir and junior choir, and a musically literate congregation, as director of music Rupert Preston Bell puts it, King Charles the Martyr has a rich musical life, to which the annual concert series is a natural extension.


We are trying to keep high standards of music as a contribution to our worship and to the wider community, explains Rupert.


Vicar Robert Avery adds: We recognise the aesthetic part of worship, and like many churches we understand that music enables us to express our faith. King Charles is the home to a worshiping community, but its architectural and cultural significance means we dont feel we should have exclusive use of it. Providing a home to high-quality music seems an appropriate way of sharing the building.


The concert series is not a fundraising exercise. We value music in worship but music in its own right as well, says Robert. We are keen to support and encourage musicians and music in the town its part of our mission.


The opportunity to perform at King Charles has helped many a young performer on their way. Tunbridge Wells violinist and BBC Young Musician of the Year finalist Callum Smart performed at King Charles last year, and many of the musicians who perform at the church have local connections.


Charles Wiffen, whose piano recital will open the series, has lived in Tunbridge Wells for several years: I love the church the wooden paneling provides some resonance but not too much. The plasterwork is extraordinarily beautiful and actually complements the baroque detail of Bachs Goldberg Variations, one of the greatest keyboard works of the 18th century, with which I shall start my programme.


2010 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frdric Chopin, and I shall be playing Chopins Polonaise-Fantasie, several Mazurkas and two of his Scherzi, which are very virtuosic musical jokes.


The second concert will feature a clarinet, cello and piano trio. Pianist Daniel Tong, who performed at the church last year, says: King Charles the Martyr provides an atmosphere which is just right for chamber music; beautiful surroundings and a friendly, appreciative audience. The trio will begin with Brahms and end with the pure Hollywood of Godfather theme writer Nino Rota.


Violinist Katie Stillman accompanied by Simon Lane on the piano is next is the series, a duo capable of wistful nostalgia and red-blooded passion, according to the Daily Telegraph.


The local pairing of harpsichordist Steven Devine and soprano Kate Semmens from Marden combined with the Decimus Consort of Voices, will then offer a Baroque programme. Steven is director of education at the Finchcocks collection near Goudhurst, as well as being harpsichordist with the London Baroque.


The series wraps up with a medley of different groups of young musicians from Kent brought together by Kent Music Schools Association (KEMSA), which is run by parents of young instrumentalists to offer performance opportunities.


Chamber music is very rewarding as well as dramatic, says Rupert Preston Bell, because you see the performers interacting very intimately with each other. A season ticket for our series would pay for one concert in London, and for the elderly and commuters in particular who dont relish a weekend trip back to the capital, Music at King Charles is a great opportunity.


Music at King Charles 2010


4 September, 7.30pm


Charles Wiffen, Piano


Music by Chopin, in celebration of his double-centenary, and J S Bach, including the Goldberg Variations



25 September, 7.30pm


Timothy Orpen (clarinet), Victoria Simonsen (cello) and Daniel Tong (piano)


Including music by Brahms and Beethoven



9 October, 7.30pm


Katie Stillman (violin) and Simon Lane (piano)


Including Elgar's violin sonata in A minor



23 October, 7.30pm


Steven Devine directs Finchcocks Baroque and the Decimus Consort of Voices


Bach: Christ Lag in Todesbanden and other works



14 November, 7.30pm


KEMSA Young Performers


A showcase of youth talent from Kent Music



Tickets


By post to 59 St James Park, Tunbridge Wells TN1 2LQ indicating the concert(s) you wish to attend and a cheque for the appropriate sum payable to King Charles the Martyr


In person: Halls Bookshop (next to the church)


Tickets also available on the door. The church is at the junction of the A26 and A267, near The Pantiles

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