English Sinfonia celebrates the 100th anniversary of The Lark Ascending

  • Live performance at St John’s Smith Square 100 years to the day of The Lark Ascending premiere
  • Also in the programme: Holst String Trio (as yet unrecorded) and Coleridge-Taylor Piano Trio
  • Special family significance of the programme for sisters and English Sinfonia musicians Janice and Julia Graham

Promo video (Frank Bridge Miniatures): https://vimeo.com/481303589/962e1d6037

English Sinfonia musicians celebrate the 100th anniversary of Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending with two live performances at St John’s Smith Square on 15 December 2020, 100 years to the day since the work’s first public performance on 15 December 1920.  The original 1920 performance featured British violinist Marie Hall, accompanied on the piano by Geoffrey Mendham (the work was later orchestrated by Vaughan Williams in 1921). In this 100th anniversary performance, English Sinfonia’s leader and Artistic Director Janice Graham, renowned for her ‘special affinity with English music’ (The Strad), will be accompanied on the piano by Chris Hopkins, the ensemble’s newly-appointed Principal Conductor.

The piece has a particular personal connection to Graham, through the celebrated violinist Frederick Grinke, who taught Graham and also both of Graham’s parents.  Grinke was one of the early exponents of The Lark Ascending and had a close and enduring relationship with Vaughan Williams, including being the dedicatee of Vaughan Williams’ Violin Sonata in A minor. Grinke was born in Winnipeg, as was Graham’s father who was invited to study with Grinke at the Royal Academy of Music.  Graham recalls her time studying with Grinke and the emphasis he placed on creating a ‘special magical Janice Graham sound’. Graham comments, “I still have a copy of Grinke’s score of the Lark, including his note of Vaughan Williams’ instruction at the top of the page – that ‘It mustn’t sound like a nightingale’”.

The family connection continues with the rest of English Sinfonia’s programme of English Miniatures, including lesser-known works of the English chamber repertoire by composers whose works were pioneered by Grinke and his piano trio, which included cellist Florence Hooton.  Hooton taught Graham’s sister and English Sinfonia cellist Julia, who will also be performing in the concerts.

Well-known for their expert and engaging interpretations of British music (including a critically-acclaimed recording of works by Holst), English Sinfonia’s programme follows The Lark Ascending with chamber works by Bax, Bridge and Coleridge-Taylor, plus an – as yet unrecorded – string trio by Holst. English Sinfonia Principal Conductor Chris Hopkins comments: “This concert celebrates some really unjustly neglected repertoire in a very special venue. Whilst Bridge’s Miniatures will be familiar to many piano trio aficionados, Coleridge-Taylor’s brilliant and thrilling Piano Trio may perhaps not be. Likewise, Holst’s String Trio, unrepresented as yet on record, is a piece that should be heard much more often and will sing as never before in the luxurious St John’s acoustic, whilst Bax creates a whole compelling musical universe in his compact but magnificent Quartet in One Movement.”

Tickets must be booked in advance online at sjss.org.uk and booking closes 2 hours before each performance.  St John’s Smith Square invites audiences to book with the confidence that, should circumstances prevent concerts from going ahead, full refunds will be provided.

For those who are unable to attend in person, a digital version will be available to watch on demand on St John Smith Square’s digital platform from January 2021: https://www.sjss.org.uk/video-on-demand