Do they still call the Beeb ‘Auntie’? Assuming they still call it the Beeb, that is.
Anyway, day 6 at the LSO St Luke’s 10th birthday festival is all about the very early days of the building’s reincarnation as part education centre, part performance venue. Later this afternoon we’ll meet the LSO Community Choir, also celebrating its 10th birthday this year. Before then, however, there’s a recreation of the first BBC Radio 3 lunchtime concert to be broadcast from LSO St Luke’s.
I say recreation, but it’s not like this is the Water Music or some similar extravaganza. But it does feature the ensemble who took part, the Wihan Quartet, playing the same programme of Mozart and Dvorak, and it is being broadcast live on R3 so you can hear it for yourself.
Adam Gatehouse is live music editor at the radio station and was involved in bringing R3 lunchtime recitals to the venue. Here he tells me how it came about:
I’d heard that Clive Gillinson [then managing director of the LSO] had been walking past this church and wondered if he’d like to use it as a venue for the LSO to rehearse as well as do outreach and give concerts. I saw the plans, then I went to see the building. It has a very light, open, accessible, warm, welcoming feel to it, just from an audience perspective.
At the time I was looking for an alternative venue – because we do lunchtime concerts at the Wigmore Hall – in a different part of London. This just seemed to me to be the right size, the right place, the right time. I went and talked to Clive and the LSO people and we quickly agreed that we could try out a lunchtime series there and try how it worked. That’s how it started.
Wigmore Hall is the iconic hall in London, and indeed in the UK, for chamber music. It’s a wonderful building and has a fantastic history. In a way what was wonderful about St Luke’s is it didn’t come with a history. It was something that was new and nobody had heard of, so it wasn’t as if there were associations with it.
There was a great eagerness to hear what it sounded like for chamber music. And indeed we did experiment. The lovely thing about the hall is you can bring down acoustic screens to deaden or liven up the acoustic as necessary. We did experiment so that we got the best sort of acoustic for a particular string quartet and those sort of small forces – very different from when they have a full orchestra in there when they have to dampen the sound. For chamber music you don’t need them, it deadens it too much.
The artists loved it from the word go. I think that also from their perspective, to have a lot of daylight in there, to be able to sit there and have sunlight streaming in, was a huge advantage. And from the audience’s perspective to sit and listen to music with those beautiful plane trees outside, it’s a very inspiring place to work. And also the fact they’ve kept the wonkiness – the building’s got all these wonky bits because Hawksmoor built it on the cheap and didn’t put proper foundations in. The history that goes with it too, up to and including the last war and the fact it had become derelict – it all added to the sort of atmosphere of the place.