Becky Knight – On Tour with CLS

Posted on: October 17, 2016 in: Great British Choral Anthems

Cellist Becky Knight writes about what it’s like to tour some of the country’s finest cathedrals performing works by Bach, Handel and MacMillan.

I’m a cellist working with CLS for part of their Great British Choral Anthems tour of cathedrals around the country this Autumn, and I performed in the concerts at Lichfield, Southwell and York.

I don’t drive, which can make getting about the country on a big tour like this difficult but it does also have some advantages – the main one being that it provides some quality reading time! And as I am currently halfway through the 3rd of Proust’s 6 volumes of ‘In Search of Lost Time’ I need more of this. You can barely get through one of his ridiculous page-long sentences between Edgware Rd and Kings Cross.

Let’s see if I can write a Proustian blog…

… Once at the site of the tall spire that has worked its power to direct my path towards it, the building, especially if unfamiliar, can feel like a bastion, a sort of impenetrable castle that I surely don’t have the right, let alone the means to enter. Surely a person without title or rank, especially carrying such an imposing instrument, cannot simply wander into its realm. 

On finding an entry point, lifting the latch of a dauntingly tall, ancient wooden door gives me the notion of being a character in a Lewis Carroll fantasy. Inside, stepping onto the hallowed stones, I am disorientated by contrasts of light, refracted through monumental patterns of stained glass, echoing footsteps and shards of violin notes hanging in the air…

Ok – enough!

But in all seriousness (and without trying to parrot any famous French writers!) – what I love about playing Bach and Handel in such beautiful architecture is that the music and the stones echo each other. In acoustic and in form – phrases like graceful arches punctuated by beautiful vaulting pillars.

At the concert in Lichfield Cathedral, I also had the treat of being able to play the cello duet featured in the delicious first movement of Handel’s op. 7 Organ Concerto (HWV 309) with the very marvellous Joely Koos. It’s full of the sort of perfectly crafted dissonances only Mr George Frideric can conjure – where the notes disagree somehow poetically. Yummy!

And we finish with the Zadok the Priest which has to be the most splendidly regal music I can think of. On a lighter note – if you want a giggle – try this ‘shred’ of Zadok as re-performed by the Trans-Siberian March Band which seeks to make it – how can we say? – slightly less regal… (with apologies forever to the very fine Academy of Ancient Music!)


The final concert of the Great British Choral Anthems tour is on Friday 21 October at Chester Cathedral