Ipswich: Classical music is cool, La Serenissima open this year’s Ipswich School Festival of Music

La Serenissima, who opened this year's Ipswich School Festival of Music. Photo: Benjamin Harte

La Serenissima, who opened this year's Ipswich School Festival of Music. Photo: Benjamin Harte - Credit: Archant

Classical musicians have to fight their corner, to believe in themselves the whole time that classical musica can be, well, cool says Kathryn Parry, part of Ipswich School Festival of Music headliners La Serenissima.

La Serenissima, who opened this year's Ipswich School Festival of Music. Photo: Benjamin Harte

La Serenissima, who opened this year's Ipswich School Festival of Music. Photo: Benjamin Harte - Credit: Archant

Honestly, I don’t know my Vivaldi from my Bach. What I do know is it’s a genre that can make you feel things in a way others don’t.

“That’s what it’s all about,” says Parry, who’s no stranger to the festival, having played it several times before. She’s no stranger to the school either, having taught violin and viola there for the last six years.

“I’m moved to tears when I walk into the art rooms for example and see some of the incredible things the kids produce... Even if they don’t play an instrument, the fact they hear it live and to such an incredible level it (hopefully) reaches them like watching Andy Murray or Bradley Wiggins - it’s that level of connection.

“It’s not a pressure (playing in front of her students), it’s fascinating... When they see us play and particularly see Adrian (Chandler, violinist and La Serenissima’s director) play their jaws literally drop to the floor - they’re astounded to see this live incredible music making. It’s got incredible rhythmic energy and the music is very accessible, that’s why it’s so popular.”

Formed in 1994, the Gramaphone Award winning chamber orchestra ensemble specialises in the music of Venetian baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi and his contemporaries using period instruments.

Their October 2 concert will feature both The Four Seasons and, as a nice contrast, a collection of music intended to be played during church services. The Vivaldi you know and the one you don’t.

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It’s always a challenge to bring the music to life, says Parry. Chandler himself describes The Four Seasons as a big play that needs a lot of stamina total concentration if you’re going to get through the 40-minute long piece.

“Adrian’s one of the biggest exponents in the world of Vivaldi’s music and he always goes back to the original sources and does his own additions. Although we try to replicate, I suppose, what they might have sounded like in the 18th Century a lot of these pieces he’s bringing out into the open again have been obscure or dormant... What he says is he wants to prove Vivaldi didn’t write the same piece 400 times.”

The Four Seasons is probably the most famous, most popular, piece of string music ever written. There’s a good reason for that says Parry.

“It’s an absolutely fantastic piece. Adrian won’t me saying he does absolutely incredible things with it. He’s like the Nigel Kennedy of this century. He brings magic to it, brings the piece to life.”

This year’s programme (see right) has plenty for everybody as usual.

“It’s really great. I’m thrilled for Ipswich that it’s got it’s own momentum now. People have worked tirelessly to put the programme together and it’s still difficult to get the audiences in. There’s a huge variety (of music) and it might introduce people to a style of music they haven’t really been aware of before or hadn’t thought they’d enjoy - and to have it all in Ipswich.”

It’s a big year for La Serenissima, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

“We decided we’re going to celebrate coming of age, 21, next year,” says Chandler, who lets me in on one way they’re going to mark the occassion.

“We’re reconstructing an instrument called a violin in tromba marina, which has never been done before, to play some obscure Vivaldi’s concerts on that instrument. I’m working with a guy called David Rattray in London, who is scratching his head at the minute trying to work out how to make this thing.”

There’s very little to go on, with tantalising bits here and there as to how they were converted from a normal violin. Vivaldi’s scores offer helpful glimpses too.

“It looks like a violin, will have three strings, we expect it to be very loud... Other than that I can’t tell you because we haven’t finished it yet. It’s very much a work in progress but it’s very exciting. This hasn’t been done since 1740 or thereabouts so we’re the first people to be doing it.”

The group are looking forward to opening this year’s festival.

“You don’t have to know anything about Vivaldi’s or classical music to enjoy this. So if you’re feeling inquisitive just pop along,” adds Chandler.

For who’s playing when at this year’s festival visit www.ipswich.suffolk.sch.uk

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