A string quartet in your house – my latest Angel column
Ever had a string quartet play in your home? I started to notice something odd in our neighbourhood when I was bringing my daughter back from Brownies. Every Tuesday evening I would see people lugging large intstrument cases into my neighbour Anna’s house. I was intrigued. I didn’t really think that Anna, a journalist and formidable gardener, was tied up with the Mafia, but in Islington you never know. One week, we arrived back a bit later than usual and discovered the answer. The most amazing chamber music was pouring out into the evening air. Thus I found out about the London String Players.The London String Players is a long-established group of rather brilliant amateur musicians who come from across the capital in order to play chamber music together. There are quite a number of them, and a large proportion play chez Anna (she plays too, on viola). In fact, there were so many of them at hers that the noise produced was slightly counter-productive. “Why don’t some of them come over to our house?” I said. Hence for the last year, we have been plunged into the world of string quartets. Every week, the routine is thus. The doorbell rings and in troop members of the LSP;sometimes eight, sometimes more. Four, sometimes six, set up in the sitting room, four set up in our bedroom. They bring their own stands, instruments and biscuits. They spend five minutes walking around the house collecting chairs. Then the music begins. From 7.30pm to lOpm, it’s non-stop.
For anyone who wants to know what having a string quartet play in their house is like, it is LOUD.
Really loud. Once we popped a foursome in the kitchen, but we had to abandon that when it was clear that nobody would be able to eat, talk or get on with the evening, alongside Brahms at aircraft-decibelleveL
The arrangement now is thrilling. You walk past Mozart downstairs, and Schumann upstairs. Beautiful music pours through the entire house. At first, the children and Mr Millard did quite a lot of eye-rolling; now they accept it as something that happens every Tuesday night. “It’s inspirational,” I tell them; particularly as all the children suffer nightly whipping from yours truly, to practise their own instruments. Here they can witness how music
can be carried on into adult life, without the need to do it professionally. Sometimes a tutor arrives to give special lessons. Sometimes we hear members of the LSP being told off by the tutor for not playing properly.
The players who come to our house every Tuesday are musical devotees. Nobody is paying them, nobody is giving them acclaim, album deals, fancy instruments or giant concert halls. They just love to play, and they play beautifully, even in someone’s bedroom. Sometimes I remember to tidy up; occasionally however, a quartet has had to experience playing Mozart alongside a discarded bra. At the end of every term, they very generously give us a present, but the real gift is having them to play in our home.
If you’re keen, there are always quartets who need housing – but you can also hear them at their annual public concert, on 15 July at The Nave, Nl (the church on the comer of Ball’s Pond Road and Essex Road). If you like chamber music, go along. You won’t be disappointed.
http://www.london-string-players. co. uk