Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Cello and Nightingale duets: a la mode Beatrice Harrison

I shall clarify and explain how  I became involved in what  resulted in a wonderfully aesthetic experience.
It was the most extraordinary situation..My late mother sent to me an article written in a daily paper, which discussed the memorable Beatrice Harrison recordings with Nightingales in her garden in Oxted in  the 20's and 30's.The newspaper article displayed twentieth and twenty first century cynicism, for the reason that there were certain persons who had tried  to cast doubt on the genuineness of the Nightingale's singing  with Beatrice's cello playing.However, Beatrice's violinist sister May, also an eminent performer, readily dismissed the doubts, describing them as 'tosh!'.
    Following on from this and  just three years ago, I  read an article about Beatrice on the BBC blog. quite by chance and  felt compelled to recount the cynics viewpoint in the paper  that my mother had sent to  me.
Of course, I intended by this to put the record straight.The BBC's first live outside broadcast was of this very phenomenon, Beatrice's cello and the  nightingale.One can also read in great detail in the autobiography of Beatrice written by Patricia Cleveland-Peck, documenting just how many performances were given in the family  garden.Through her wanting others to share the experience 'The Nightingale Concerts', as they became known, were open to the public with coaches full of children  arriving coming from as far away as  Stepney and other parts of the East End of London..Many composers attended the concerts to include Sir Arnold Bax, Master of the King's Music,Roger Quilter, Delius,York Bowen and others. .
   Beatrice has been one of my cello heroines and especially  as I was fascinated by her profile photograph as she was seated with her cello with Elgar playing the piano that I saw  when I visited  Elgars Birthplace in Broadheath Worcs. (before it became a visitor centre).I thought it was a 'good look' and had taken a publicity profile photo of myself as a sort of homage which has remained one of my favourite publicity photographs..
I have been interviewed twice about the first experience on both internet radio and for the BBC Oxford. Both of these interviews can be found on my website in the audio and video section.
The feature film made about Beatrice in which I took part can be seen on You Tube.I shall provide a link for anyone reading this to see the second programme it is as follows.


In  my part of the film for The One Show there was a lot of filming done.Having seen the film I realise what an artistic skill is involved in the editing of such a lot of film footage. I did see another film the crew made again with television  presenter John Sargeant in the Outer Hebrides and once again it was magnificent.Just the colours of sea, flora, etc and yes the poetry of the narrative, and a concise piece of information which was  incisive but  laid back, but that is John Sargeant exercising his distinctive and exceptional interviewing ability alongside the production and editing team collaboratively showing the beauty of the surroundings.
      For the film that I was involved with which related to Beatrice Harrison and the nightingales, we had hoped to film at Beatrice's house, where the nightingale recordings had been made, indeed, the current owners were very keen to meet me and have me play my cello there. I have an invitation to visit (I shall take my cello, too) The film makers thought that sadly there would not be any nightingales there any longer in Beatrice's beloved wood and garden.
   You will see in the film that there was an  exceptionally blustery wind, and of course we were right on the Thames Estuary there.A very 'old' part of the UK; a region that Dickens used as one of his settings in his great novel Great Expectations.
       The  RSPB reserve is an amazing place,with such perfect trees as  nesting sites there for the birds that return year upon year.The specifications for a nightingale are fascinating. Their song is magnificent and yet they are shy birds.They nest in what appear to be extra large bushes and that is why for some of the filming I was right up close to the bush and the bird was singing  very loudly in my left ear. We did not include that part in the film.I don't know whether I was more touched or amused at the power this small creature was putting into making himself heard along with my cello.Probably  a combination of both, however I was obliged to keep my chuckles inside in secret so as not to spoil the film.
   This year 2013 the BBC SE Re-creation of the first BBC outside broadcast came as a result of the resourcefulness of the Communications Officer at the Reserve. Mr Rolf Williams. I had no idea that this would be happening as I  was simply initially going to be part of  The Walking  Festival taking place in North Kent, playing my cello to nightingales for the public to witness the phenomenon.However things moved on a pace and this re-creation of the Broadcast took place with presenter Caroline Feraday. The siting for the filming was magical and I sat in the crown of a massive fallen oak tree that was alive and still green and lush and it was a perfect back drop for a 'natural' concert hall. The bird sang too.
    It was magical, and I should add that the television appearance has been seen by hundreds of thousands of people and close to my heart it was approved and commended by none other than Norman Lebrecht the foremost arts critic who speaks about Beatrice and mentions me on his blog 'slipped disc' saying this about BBC SE Re-creation of the First Outside Broadcast.
                                          'Watch this.........Just lovely'

       WOW!!.(that is my response)
You can view this too, just Google Clare Deniz cellist.Then scroll down to:
                    BBC SE Nightingales Featuring Cellist Clare Deniz

.I was delighted when I saw the finished product of the BBC SE broadcast film and by my arriving having travelled some considerable distance by train and  then simply unpacking my cello,tuning and playing, that the pitching matched Beatrice's exactly. Of course you would expect this  in normal circumstances except that it should be considered  that her archive recordings have most  probably changed the sound she produced, What pleased me even more was the perfect  tempo match between Beatrice's performance and my performance  making it  possible for the film editors to simply connect them up.It really appears seamless and I can put my hand on my heart and say I had not listened intently to her playing before this particular broadcast, as I wanted to be me and not be influenced unduly.There are schools of playing which seek to resurrect earlier styles of recorded  performance of the thirties and earlier.However,you can hear my playing is very much of today .Even if I say so myself, I am SO proud of how it all worked out.and everyone involved loved my playing and my the programme....
   I should  mention St Marys House Bramber in my newsletter but I should add that this dream of a house near Steyning has a wonderful concert series in which I was priviledged to  have been asked to perform  a Celebrity concert.It was a dream,as I have said, and the accoustics were perfect and not only that but the promoters put on nightingale song in the interval.I included two salon pieces not heard today  which Beatrice performed, and spoke about her and my television appearances. Every one was captivated and transported.I could have performed a bigger un accompanied  work such as the Bax Rhapsodic Ballad but it would not have worked as well in the programme.I shall keep you informed of any other nightingale duets I am playing.