Our intrepid Deputy Director of Development, Harriet Lawrence, followed the Orchestra to Chesterfield. Here she reports back on what she found…
A couple of weeks ago saw me wending my way north to join the Orchestra on a leg of its national Watercycle tour, swapping The Shard for the famous crooked spire and London Pride for Brampton Brewery.
The OAE was beginning the first of a three-day residency in Chesterfield, funded by Arts Council England, and playing a number of gigs to school children, TOTS and the pub-going public.
After disembarking from the train, I made my way up a hill (well, it seemed quite a hike to a soft southerner like myself) towards the imposing crooked spire and straight to the second schools concert of the day at the Pomegranate Theatre. Each of the seven participating schools – 430 kids in total! – had already met members of the Orchestra during preparatory workshop sessions in their schools so the band and presenter James Redwood were greeted to an appreciative and boisterous welcome.
Many of the children had never seen classical music up close so it was a treat to observe the kids evidently so engaged and eager to participate and to see them create and perform their own water-inspired compositions, whether singing, playing recorder or using body percussion. I thought my eardrums would burst when every kid in the room shook water bottles full of pennies they had collected for Water Aid (the tour total is now £3,000!). The hour-long concert ended with the Watercycle song, composed by James Redwood for use by schools on every leg of the tour and I left with ringing ears and a smile on my face.
I now had a few hours to explore the town before the first of three ‘pub gigs’ along famous folk route, the Brampton mile, so set off towards the market, aided and abetted by OAE colleague and resident tour cameraman Zen Grisdale, both keen to sample some northern delicacies and meet the locals…
The King of Hearts made some tarts… only in this case, the beloved Bakewell Pudding which is a very different beast to its cousin the Bakewell Tart. This king of puds consists of a pastry base covered in jam and almond custard and was – at Richard’s suggestion – sampled warm, fresh from the oven, accompanied by half a local ale in a nearby hostelry.
On chatting to Richard about our forthcoming pub gigs, it turns out that his mate Andy was our sound man during the residency. Small world.
After all the pudding excitement, we’d worked up quite a thirst, so decided to meander to the start of the pub crawl taking in a bit of scenery at the same time. The Royal Oak – the oldest pub in Chesterfield – was very scenic and well worth a stop for another half of local stuff and some salty snacks. Reputed to be a rest place for the Knights Templar, the inn consists of two buildings full of character and legend and it was hard not to resist the temptation to step back in time and play Game of Thrones.
However, with no knights to entertain us and feeling well rested, we continued our journey, stopping off for chips and gravy before reaching the Rose and Crown in Brampton – the OAE’s first gig of the crawl.
With the wonderful Brampton Brewery on tap and a lively atmosphere to welcome us, the OAE band, along with Vivaldi and Purcell, went down a treat. And so on to the next boozer – the Tramway Tavern. When the landlord (Mick) offers to buy you and the whole band a drink, what’s not to love? When you tell him to choose and he hands you the strongest ale on tap (in this case the tasty Winter Bock at a mere 6% ABV), you know you’re among friends. A good number of the crowd from the Rose and Crown had followed us up the road so it felt a local affair, and we threw in a sea shanty or two for good measure. With everyone now in good voice and with a couple of beers inside us, it was onto the last gig in the centre of Chesterfield – The Market. The music went down a storm and chatting to the punters afterwards revealed an audience of differing musical tastes but all united in a love of something a bit different in their local and an invitation to come again.
So, after a bit of relaxing with the band including polishing off some green cheese – local speciality Sage Derby – and a couple of games of pool back at the hotel, it was time to say goodnight and farewell to Chesterfield. Thanks to the folk of the town for a fantastic reception and I’m sure we’ll be back. Meanwhile, the thought of pie and mash and a pint of London Pride consoled me on my homeward journey south…
The Watercycle tour has already played Brighton, York, Chesterfield and Bradford on Avon to great audience receptions and continues to King’s Lynn, Plymouth, London, Lowestoft and Southampton.