In times of lunch & learns and al desko dining it is important for anyone employed to reclaim your lunch break – you are entitled to this to give your eyes a rest from screens, enjoy your food, get fresh air and not check your phone and to a certain degree you are also responsible to prevent yourself from stress or burn-out. The bitter reality is though that for most office workers this is often not realistic, weather- and deadline-depending, ironically as well on one’s personal well-being.
Whenever I can, I pretend I am a tourist in the square mile and walk down routes I have not taken before: I learned about Wesley’s Chapel & Leysian Mission first during a lunchtime stroll aiming for the Bunnhill Fields cemetery opposite – what caught my eye was a poster advertising a Taizé-style service. Having visited this ecumenical abbey in Central France twice as a teenager, I returned (admittedly months later) to the display cabinet and read about Tuesday’s lunchtime recitals. My work calendar did not allow a visit too soon, so I joined my first recital only weeks later. It was balm for my soul. Now I have a reoccurring blocker in my calendar, and these classical music sessions are sometimes my only motivation to get out of bed and come into the office. I remember to take cash with me for the donation box (recently I discovered a machine allowing donations by card) as I embrace this generous offer rather with a pay-what-you-can than a free-concert attitude. Colleagues, carefully approached and then quickly converted, now joyfully join and recognize other regulars in the audience.
Together and alone we have enjoyed piano concerts, solo and accompanied by flute and violin – Mozart, Chopin, Beethoven and Debussy among less-known composers, often from the artists countries of origin. Last month graduate Katherine Clarke introduced us to the singing viola while taking us with Orpheus down to the Hades in search for Eurydice; we were all amazed to learn that you can sing and play the viola at the same time. Her set list that day included two world premieres and the composer joined her on stage for the applause. It was half-term as you could tell by the number of children in the audience.
This week’s gig has taken me back to Barcelona which I visited years ago and on that trip I went to a Spanish guitar concert by the Maestros de la Guitarra trio near the Rambla. In the leaflet we learn about guitarist Joan Furio Vivas (born in 1999) and his achievements and awards so far. The lifetimes of the composers picked by him spans between 1778 and 1955, it is music for the guitar from Catalonia, Brazil and elsewhere. One interpretation for solo guitar of The Beatles’ Yesterday has been an especially unexpected gem.
Next Tuesday a cellist and a pianist will play together, programme to be confirmed. I hope I can make it. And on another day I’ll visit Wesley’s House and Museum of Methodism during my lunchtime. There is only one unwritten rule: Please do not eat during the performance (anywhere anytime) – that is highly annoying for performance and your fellow audience members.
***** out of 5 stars
The Lunchtime Recitals return most Tuesdays from 1.05 to 1.50pm
Your donation is appreciated