St Mary’s, Tuddenham
The following Saturday I had a concert in Tuddenham – near Bury St Edmunds rather than Ipswich. This concert had been booked over a year in advance. I had never booked anything this far ahead before: I usually don’t get round to buying a new diary until midway through December. Serendipity stepped in, however, as a couple of weeks earlier I had been given a 2019 calendar as a present, and had been wondering what use I could possibly make of it.
I picked up Tim on my way – my friend Penny’s son who had kindly agreed to turn pages for my accompanist, James. As at Rede the previous weekend, having familiar, smiley faces in the audience made a huge difference to my feelings about the concert: not only Tim, but also Christopher, who was to accompany me the following weekend in Brundish and wanted to hear how one of the pieces should go. There the similarities ended: the church and the audience were significantly larger, and the acoustic wasn’t nearly as rewarding as at Rede – though I am aware this judgement was entirely relative. There was nothing objectively wrong with the acoustic, it is simply that I have been spoilt so often.
I was sharing the concert with a wind group, which led to the danger of the concert overrunning. I did all I could to avoid this, but it turned out to be beyond my control. Perhaps the audience didn’t mind – it was still over within two hours – but I have an extreme horror of long concerts. This probably goes back to school days when, in the Head of Music’s effort to allow every half-musical pupil and music group their chance to perform, concerts ended up lasting hours. I am sure no one ever added up the timings of the pieces then, nor took into account the time it took to change the stage setting between, or introduce, every three-minute piece. I knew every school concert would be like this, and I would be trapped for the duration. As a result, I now avoid such concerts like the plague, and I am perhaps obsessively precise in my own programme timings.
A musical friend told me I’d once said to him that concerts of more than one hour should be banned. I laughed: I didn’t remember saying it. On reflection, however, I decided I must be more sensible than I give myself credit for. Even pieces or operas that are in themselves very long cause me great problems.. That is probably the reason I have never played in, or listened to (live), Bach’s Matthew Passion, even though it is a remarkable piece of music.
Therefore, I became increasingly jittery as the concert progressed; and I resolved to be more cautious about concert sharing in future. I thought I had become fairly relaxed about concerts, but I realised in that moment that I still needed to be completely in control of their length.
Still, the audience seemed to enjoy it, and I enjoyed being amongst friends. Tuddenham was a beautiful church, despite the very odd decision to put red bar heaters directly in front of the angels on the roof. I managed to take some photos of the exterior in beautiful early evening sunshine, but I decided to go back another time to take photos indoors: the red light made it impossible.
St Peter’s, Yoxford
I realised I hadn’t been to the Suffolk coast all summer and I had to put this right. My first opportunity to do so was, conveniently, the week after schools had gone back, in early September. It would be quiet, and I would have a good chance of pleasant weather.
For the first time, I managed to find reasonably priced accommodation in Walberswick, and booked myself a few nights there after my last summer B&B booking. I was excited at the prospect of sea air, and walks in the huge variety of habitats and landscapes in the area: woodland, heath, marsh, river and beach.
I set off late. It took me all morning to sort out the necessaries at home: animals, washing up, laundry, packing, to name just a few. Tiredness had caught up with me the previous week and I didn’t want to arrive back home to a mess and a pile of chores. And then I spontaneously decided to pay my friend Mark a visit in Kersey before heading eastwards, so I didn’t arrive at Yoxford church until after 3pm. I was happy with that, though: one church visit was enough for this afternoon. This was to be a relaxing holiday as much as a church visiting trip.
I had tried to visit Yoxford once before, in February, only to find it closed for building works. Strangely, though, I had ticked it off my church map long before that, which caused me confusion for a while: had I visited, in fact, and forgotten about it? Why would I have ticked it off if I hadn’t? But I went through my numbered list, and Yoxford definitely wasn’t on it.
Entering the church, I was glad to confirm to myself that I had never been inside it before – at least not in my adult life. It was a large church, rather Victorian, but it surprised me by not being dull, and not possessing a dull acoustic. There were plenty of interesting features in the form of brasses, graffiti and a beautiful little shield of medieval glass. I was amused by a memorial to Sir Charles Blois, who was ‘… ever feelingly alive/ to the duties of his station/ faithful and earnest in the discharge of them/ he closed a long and useful life/ on the 21st of August 1850’. About his wife, however, no one had much to say.
I thoroughly enjoyed playing there, practising some pretty pieces by Frank Bridge that I was due to perform in Brundish the following weekend, and getting out once more the Bach E flat major suite which I had made a New Year’s resolution to learn properly. Despite the fact I wasn’t particularly out of practice, after just a few minutes of Bach I had agonising cramp in my left hand. My sister told me via text message that it was because of all the first position extensions in the piece: one’s left hand is near the scroll of the instrument where all the notes are furthest apart, and the notes of E flat major involve the largest distances between fingers. That was a relief to hear: it wasn’t just my inadequacy. I’d never really thought about that before, but it was true: E flat major requires one’s left hand to be almost permanently stretched, and the suite takes this uncomfortable position to the extreme.
I was glad to get to my accommodation in the early evening. It was bright and spacious, located exactly on the meeting point between 3 nature reserves, so that I barely needed to leave the driveway to find a footpath that would lead me in any direction I wished, and all the way back again via a different route.
Header photo: Tuddenham church