Composer’s new work inspired by West Berkshire’s real life giants
There’s a rather special event taking place in Aldworth at the end of the month, with the string musicians of the Adderbury Ensemble.
St Mary’s Church is famous for its Aldworth Giants, stone effigies of nine members of the de la Beche family that lie in stately splendor. The Norman knights and their ladies were reputedly around seven feet tall.
These inspired Tilehurst composer John Whittaker to write one of the movements in his String Quartet. He takes up the story:
“The String Quartet, which I wrote in the difficult circumstances of the pandemic, came about as, having initially written a first movement, I was stuck for a while as to what should come next.
“However a visit to Aldworth Church with all its history gave me the inspiration for a contrasting second movement – which is meant to transport the listener back into the past.
“The other movements soon followed, with a lighthearted intermezzo and a finale which then returns to the mood of the first movement.”
Once completed John then contacted the Adderbury Ensemble who “despite me being an unknown composer were kind enough to take my music on, and despite it being much work to learn something new”.
He then contacted the vicar of St Mary’s Church and subsequently the church committee who, he said, have all been very supportive in his natural desire to have his music performed in the place that played a part in how the music came about.
“I consider myself so fortunate to have a top professional quartet play my music in the unique venue of the centuries-old Aldworth Church.”
The Adderbury Quartet will premiere John Whittaker’s Quartet with the movement effigies at the church on Saturday 30th July at 7pm, along with Mozart’s Quartet in C and Dvorak’s Quartet in F (The American).
The evening will include a brief talk by historian Chris Paterson on the 14th-century Aldworth Giants.
The Adderbury Ensemble brings together some of the UK’s top musicians to perform the world’s finest chamber music. Formed in 1986 by a group of the UK’s finest young freelance musicians, the Adderbury Ensemble have a flexible line-up, mixing and matching different players to deliver performances primarily as quartets, quintets or small chamber groups and occasionally adding further instruments to play symphonies and concertos by the likes of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn or Brahms – with or without a conductor. Everyone who performs as part of the Adderbury Ensemble is an eminent instrumentalist, usually a principal player with one or more of the leading orchestras of Europe.
John Whittaker, a former teacher, has written small-scale vocal and choral works and has had two one-act operas performed. His Quartet was written in the Covid lockdown and much of the music reflects the unsettling times we have all experienced. During the Effigies movement, the listener is invited to imagine a journey back in time, perhaps imagining the people represented by the stone sculptures coming back to life. – perhaps at the end of the movement the vision fades and once again the effigies are lifeless as they are today.
Refreshments provided. Tickets £ 17 in advance from 01635 578936 or 578239