Instruments of Time and Truth, the Oxford-based period-instrument orchestra, was the brainchild of cellist, Gabriel Amherst.
Four years ago, as we were chatting in her kitchen, Gay suddenly asked, ‘How would you feel about starting an orchestra?’ ‘Daunted’ would best describe my reaction. Although I had worked for many years as a period musician and held Principal positions with the Academy of Ancient Music, Arcangelo and The Gabrieli Players, I knew absolutely nothing about the financial side of how orchestras work, had always found conductors and soloists unapproachable and recoiled in horror at the idea of networking.
Fast forward four years and things are very different: I have had to take huge financial risks; spend months writing grant applications; take deep breaths while signing on dotted lines; and generally inhabit unchartered territory which, finally, is starting to assume some aspects of familiarity.
Speaking to Stephen Clarke recently, Director of Music at Radley, I was extremely gratified to hear him describe IT&T’s rise as ‘meteoric’ and I often think we have not so much carved a niche for ourselves as uncovered a vacuum that was waiting to be filled, so rapid has been our development.
Much of modern life is based on dissatisfaction: everyday we are subjected to advertising and promotional material which both sells and relies on the idea that life is better elsewhere. IT&T’s ethos is the polar opposite. We are all about celebrating what we have and, in Oxford, that is excellence everywhere we look: the architecture; the culture and learning; the vision; the potential. From Principal director,Edward Higginbottom, who, as Director of New College Choir, put Oxford music on the world map, through emerging artists Guy Cutting or Alexander Chance, to established names like international opera star, Christopher Purves and virtuoso violinist Bojan Cicic, recently appointed leader of the Academy of Ancient Music, IT&T showcases the world-class musicians who call Oxford home.
In my 30 years as a double bass player, I have performed all over the world. (Before IT&T I had more concerts in Australia than Oxford!) Mention I come from Oxford, whether I find myself in Bangkok or Boston, Beijing or Birmingham and the word will be seized upon with immediate recognition for either one of two things: the University or Morse. While unfortunately the world has lost both John Thaw and Colin Dexter, IT&T is hugely privileged to have assumed a significant role in underpinning the 600 year old tradition of choral excellence in the University, collaborating with the choirs of New, Keble, Magdalen, St Peter’s, Somerville and The Queen’s colleges. Our first CD ‘Ceremonial Oxford’, recorded with Keble choir under Matthew Martin epitomises all we represent. This is the music of an Oxford composer, William Hayes, sung by Oxford students about to go out into the world and played by Oxford’s own world-class orchestra. We even tick the ecological box: as musicians we are travelling less which improves the quality of our lives and energy is saved because Oxford music needs fewer imports.
But if IT&T exists in the community, it also exists for the community. We are supported by our local audience but also play a role in others fulfilling their musical ambitions through collaborating with local amateur choirs – the Oxford Bach Choir, the Summertown Choral Society, the Oxford Pro Musica Singers and the Oxford Girls’ Choir. This last group falls within an area of education on which we are focusing. Through a series of GCSE workshops, IT&T uses music as a means of opening the doors of the University to local secondary schoolchildren. These children might walk past porters’ lodges every day of their lives and never have glimpsed what lies within. Every child responds to music and we can capitalise on this response. A GCSE workshop delivered from within the University simultaneously adds value for each child and reveals the potential and opportunity on our doorstep.
IT&T’s Autumn concerts include:
Saturday, September 22nd @ 7.30pm, Holywell Music Room, ‘Digital Spaghetti: the Eighteenth century Italian concerto’.
Renowned baroque virtuoso, Bojan Cicic dazzles with an evening of musical pyrotechnics (Digital meaning ‘fingers’ and Spaghetti referring to the crazy swathes of notes on the manuscripts!)
Sunday, October 7th @ 5.00pm, St Mary’s Church,Tetbury (this is the closing concert of the Tetbury Music Festival).
Friday, 19th October @ 7.30pm, King’s Place, London.
Saturday, 20th October @ 7.30pm, Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford.
Handel’s final oratorio, ‘The Triumph of Time and Truth’ (so that’s where we get our name!). Come and hear this rarely performed work with a stellar line-up of soloists. Mhairi Lawson, Nicholas Pritchard, Matthew Brook and emerging artists, Katherine Crompton and Alexander Chance perform Handel’s final oratorio. Hear how the mature composer revisits and reworks some of the best material from his long career.
Friday, 9th November @ 7.30pm, Sheldonian Theatre, ‘In Memoriam’ some of the most moving and poignant music in the repertoire offered to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armistice: Purcell Funeral Sentences, Pergolesi Stabat Mater and Mozart Requiem. Conducted by Edward Higginbottom.
Saturday, December 22nd @ 5pm, University Church. Messiah by candlelight: Handel’s sublime music, prosecco and the Christmas atmosphere of University church: our very own Oxford institution.
For details of these and other concerts, please visit www.timeandtruth.co.uk