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2015 season ends

NEW-SLIDER-9With the Cavaleri Quartet and Bart LaFollette cello playing the Schubert String quintet in C D956, the 2015 season of Concerts at Cratfield ended on a rainy afternoon on Sunday 13 September.  For our outline plans for the 2016 season, click here.

Over the season, we sold (to the nearest whole number) 82% of all available seats – an average of 180 concertgoers at each concert.  The top price nave seats sold at 99% of capacity and the middle price chancel and side aisles at 81% of capacity.  The best attended concert was the lecture-recital by the Badke Quartet and Professor Roger Parker, with Gallicantus and the final concert not far behind.  For reviews of all the 2015 concerts, click here.

Edited extracts follow from the Chairman’s opening words at the church, before the final concert began:

I’m sorry ever to delay the start of our music, but this is my only opportunity to thank you collectively for your enthusiasm and support over the last twelve weeks.  Special thanks go to my Committee, to Pauline Graham as our Box Office, to Jeremy Greenwood for all his help with print and to our front-of-house volunteers.  Also – of course – to the teams from the church who quench both thirst and hunger so well at every concert interval.  To those of you who are at our concerts for the first time, a special welcome, and a fervent hope that we shall see you again next year.

One of the puzzles that confront every organisation like ours is how to reach and encourage new audience members.  Enthusiasts for chamber music are often passionate in their love of this music, but they are also specialists and spread thinly, so money spent on publicity to the world at large is almost completely wasted.  What we learnt from the Audience Survey last year was that most of those who were new concertgoers here had found us through a recommendation from a friend or acquaintance. You’ll have seen that we’re asking you to complete a slightly different survey today; your responses may well confirm some of the impressions we already have.

But my message to you is clear: to keep music live – and alive – please share your pleasure in our concerts with anyone whom you think might be open to discovering Cratfield.  We’re not a club, keen to stop outsiders muscling in.  And if you’re not already supporting us with a regular subscription, please consider doing so.  These bridge the gap between ticket sales and our costs; they also give us greater certainty of annual income, essential for planning ahead. And there could be the benefit for us of Gift Aid on top.  To be a Member or Patron gives you a period of priority booking for the next season, as well as a vote at the AGM.  Pauline at the Box Office table has the form [or just click here].

Morbid though it may seem, we have been enormously helped this year by donations in memory of those who have passed on, so when you’re next drafting or reviewing your will….

We always start each season with irrational trepidation about whether tickets will sell in numbers enough to cover our costs. Will as many regulars book season tickets as last year? Will people be attracted by the performers and by the works on offer? Will those concerts which we think are out of the mainstream get an audience at all?  This year, we need not have worried; you voted with your feet for innovation and experiment, both in relation to Gallicantus and Tudor polyphony and to Roger Parker talking about Haydn and Beethoven.  In that last connection, we have learnt that it is harder than we thought to make speech audible in this space, especially for those whose hearing is no longer tip-top.  But that would not put us off a similar attempt in the future.

As for that future, this is the moment when we go public with a summary of the dates and our plans for next season [for 2016, click here].  You’ll notice three concerts whose performers we think of as already old friends, plus three, some or all of whose players haven’t been here before. If you can, please block the dates out in your diaries or calendars now; and tell your grandchildren, if you have any, that you’re going to be busy on all six weekends.

Before next season arrives, there’s a ‘first’ for Cratfield which should not pass unnoticed.  It will be the release by Harmonia Mundi USA of the first commercial CD of works by Russian-born living composer Lena Langer.  The central work is the song-cycle Landscape with Three People, which was our commission from her in 2013 – the first time any work we have commissioned has had a commercial recording and release.  Many of you helped Tom Southern to make the recording happen, so you’ll be pleased to know how well the project turned out.  I’m sure we’ll have copies of the CD for sale next season, by the way.

Much more immediately, you’ve received, inserted into your programme, a leaflet about the Carducci Quartet’s Shostakovich cycle. This takes place at the Jubilee Hall in Aldeburgh in just under two weeks’ time. You’ll probably know of that extraordinary weekend in 1999 when the Sorrel Quartet performed all fifteen quartets in this church. It was perhaps the greatest achievement of our much lamented Founder Patrons, David and Linda Holmes.  The Carducci are bringing this richly evocative and personal music to Suffolk again over four concerts. They’ve already performed the cycle to unqualified praise all over the world.  So I encourage you to allow yourself at least a sample of these unique works [for more, click here].

You’ve also information inserted into your programme about this year’s Alwyn Festival, which offers four varied days of music – and other things – in Blythburgh, Southwold and Orford in early October. It was at this festival in 2011 that I first heard the Cavaleri String Quartet.  I immediately asked them to come and play for us, first in 2013.  I’m delighted that they are back with us again today, joined after the interval by Bart LaFollette. So to open their concert with Mozart, please welcome the Cavaleri String Quartet…

Philip Britton