After months apart, five members of Southbank Sinfonia were finally able to tune up and play their first post-lockdown notes together. Armed with tape measures and several litres of hand sanitizer, they faced the unfamiliar experience of safely performing music together in the era of COVID-19 – and we documented it all on camera.
To mark our first reunited performance in this ‘new normal’, our socially-distanced chamber group played a piece that is too rarely performed, and too often held in the shadow of comparison to other composers.
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Clarinet Quintet is joyful and festive. It ties together passionate melodies, hymn-like harmony and English folksong influences in the perfect piece to celebrate being able to make music together again.
After attending a seminal performance of Johannes Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet in 1895, the young Coleridge-Taylor was challenged by his composition teacher to write a piece that escaped the influence of the ‘grand old man’ of chamber music. Within two months, Coleridge-Taylor did just that. The talented young composer from Croydon wrote the piece that raised him to the top of his class at the Royal College of Music (no mean feat, as his classmates were none other than Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst).