“Roll on October!”: Interview with Alexandra Wood and Jane Carwardine on UK Cathedrals Tour

Posted on: September 25, 2019 in: Comment & Media, Programmes>2019-20 Season>2019 Cathedrals Tour

The Fruit of Silence invites audiences to experience incredible music and stunning architecture in intimate and immersive concerts at nine cathedrals around the UK in October 2019. To give us a flavour of what to expect, we asked our Creative Director and Leader, Alexandra Wood and CLS Principal Second Violin, Jane Carwardine to talk about our upcoming Cathedrals Tour and tell us about the music, concert programmes and their experience performing in the cathedrals.

We’re embarking on another Cathedrals Tour this October, and we’re happily heading to two cathedrals that we performed in on our 2016 tour – Truro and Lichfield. Can you tell us about your experiences of performing in these cathedrals? Have you performed in or visited any of the other cathedrals in this tour before?

Alexandra Wood: I am very excited about our visit to Truro! It was in the Hall for Cornwall that I first performed a concerto with CLS, many years ago, so it feels quite special to be going back with them. My family also used to holiday in Cornwall when I was younger. As we couldn’t all fit in our car (plus cases, beach paraphernalia, dogs, etc), my mum, sister and I would take the train. It felt like such an adventure, and I still feel that childish excitement when we cross the river Tamar.

Jane Carwardine: I was not able to come to Truro and Lichfield in our last cathedrals tour, but I have played in both venues in the past. I was still a student when I first visited Truro and played in a performance of Brahms’ German Requiem with our founder and original chief conductor, Richard Hickox, and made other visits later as a member of CLS. Exeter Cathedral was in our 2013 tour. We played Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis after the Cathedral Choir performed the original anthem by Thomas Tallis out of sight of the audience—it was a magical effect.

Last time our orchestra performed this ‘The Fruit of Silence’ programme was at Southwark Cathedral as part of our Modern Mystics series in November 2017 – what do you recall about the performance?

Jane Carwardine: Our original performance in Southwark Cathedral was remarkable in that there was a bar open in the Cathedral for drinks throughout the performance (for the audience, that is) and I recall seeing audience members lying down on the cushions while listening and others walking around. I really enjoy this use of these beautiful buildings and giving people the chance to listen in an informal way. It is liberating for the performers to be outside the usual conventions of classical music concerts. I especially like performing standing up as it gives a more physical freedom to playing. As we are in different chamber formations throughout this programme, the audience can have a closer relationship with different players and see how we interact with each other, which can often be a revelation.

Alexandra Wood: What I remember the most is the amazing atmosphere around the Cathedral. It was like a kind of meditation during the performance, and then a great buzz amongst players and the audience afterwards.

CLS Wilton's Music Hall

You’re performing a lot of music by present-day composers in this Tour – is it refreshing to perform newer music, or would you describe it in another way?

Alexandra Wood: I am very passionate about performing current music. Mainly because a lot of it is simply wonderful, but also, we should be mindful that it needs to be performed in order for it to live. All music was new once! It is also lovely to play the music of composers you know: I have been lucky enough to work with Dobrinka Tabakova a few times, and I believe it does add something to your preparation and interpretation if you have a sense of what the composer is like, and their intentions.

Jane Carwardine: The new music we are playing in The Fruit of Silence (music by Arvo Pärt, Pēteris Vasks, Dobrinka Tabakova) has a similarity to choral writing in that it works well with the building’s acoustics and connects with the audience in a direct way. Whether consciously or not, I think these present-day composers want to break down barriers between the audience and the music, just as we do as performers. There is a meditative theme to all the music, something that we all need in this fast and busy world.

Not only are you guys performing some beautiful, meditative chamber music, you’re also combining with the cathedral choirs at the end of each concert for Dobrinka Tabakova’s Centuries of Meditations. What is going to be so special about this?

Alexandra Wood: It is hard not to be swept along by the enthusiasm and joy for music-making when you perform with a fabulous choir. Our musicians have the greatest respect for the hard work and dedication necessary to sing regular services (and practices), and it is nice to feel a part of that for a little snippet of the evening in such a magnificent piece of music.

Jane Carwardine: It’s the marriage of calm and connection that therefore makes Dobrinka Tabakova’s Centuries of Meditations the perfect piece to end on, with the whole orchestra and choir performing together in this spiritual place.

Jane Carwardine

What are you are most looking forward to about our Cathedrals Tour?

Alexandra Wood: I am looking forward to so many things about this tour! In no particular order:

  1. Some nice long, picturesque train journeys.
  2. Visiting the wonderful cathedrals in such different cities.
  3. Playing chamber music with my colleagues.
  4. The sense of growth and development that tours like these encourage amongst the players, and within the music.
  5. Meeting the different choirs and audiences.

Jane Carwardine: I am really looking forward to visiting the various cities and cathedrals. Hopefully I can climb up a few of the towers, adding to my collection from the first tour of Durham, Ely and Exeter back in 2013 – there was always time in the afternoon rehearsal to make the climb! I’ll also be able to catch up with an old friend and make new ones as I have booked a few Airbnbs, so I can make some of the travel by train. The host in Llandaff has even kindly offered to chauffeur me from the cathedral!

I am, of course, also looking forward to performing and spending time with my colleagues. Performing the pieces several times in rehearsals and during the Tour gives the sound time to mature and develop. Roll on October!

CLS Southwark Cathedral

Dates and venues

You can view all tour dates on the CLS Cathedrals Tour page. You can also stay up to date via #CLSCathedrals on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, or sign up to our mailing list. The Fruit of Silence is being performed at:

The Fruit of Silence Cathedrals Tour is presented in partnership with Friends of Cathedral Music and is supported by the John Ellerman Foundation and using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. Centuries of Meditations (Dobrinka Tabakova) is championed by Resonate, a PRS Foundation initiative in partnership with Association of British Orchestras, BBC Radio 3 and Boltini Trust.

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