Vestry Hall in Ealing
How often have I cycled to the Vestry Hall to attend an afternoon or evening concert and found more people on stage than in the audience! The London College of Music and Media (LCMM) gives concerts free to the public in this building, which was once part of the refurbished St Mary's Church nearby. Until recently, its concert programmes have not been widely promoted.
LCMM is part of the Thames Valley University (TVU) located in the Ealing, an area of London known as the Queen of the Boroughs. Known as being the greenest borough in London, Ealing is also famous for Ealing Studios, Questors Theatre, and the Pitzhanger Manor House (PM Gallery and House).
Yesterday I cycled there for the 5 pm String Ensemble early evening concert. Unlike previous concerts, it was packed by the time I had arrived. There was only one empty seat I could see -- right in the middle in the second row. As I approached it, I noticed it was next to the Greek composer I had met two weeks before.
The woman on the other side of the empty seat turned towards me as I moved closer. I recognised her. She was the violist in the string quartet I managed to recruit to sightread for fun in the summer. Had she known I was coming to the concert?
Her partner Mike was playing in the ensemble, as it turned out. What a small world it was - to spot two familiar faces in the audience!
There was standing room only by the time the concert commenced. This reminded me of my own concert in May 2003 where I had to make sure no one took the piano stool to sit on. One of my goals then was to make sure there were more people in the audience than on stage. It wasn't difficult because there were at most only two of us (piano guitar duo) at any one time --- except in the beginning when we were introduced to the Mayor of Ealing. Nevertheless, we had to hold two concerts back to back in order to accommodate over 100 people that evening of 30th May.
The Vestry Hall has two Steinways and is free to hire for staff or members of the university. As a result, all concerts are also free. We didn't even break even with our concert with the voluntary ushering, donated printing services, audience donations, programme sales, and my own time. We had to go to another place for the reception where the exotic oriental cuisine was donated by a local restaurant.
Still, the Vestry Hall on Ranelagh Road in Ealing is open to the public. The manager Ieuan Jones is very kind and accessible to let musicians book the hall for rehearsals and performances. Naturally, its schedule is full of rehearsals, recordings, concerts, and master classes.
Not very far away from the Vestry Hall is a venue that is probably even more suitable for a concert reminiscent of the past. Unlike the Vestry Hall, it is hardly accessible. It is prohibitively expensive to hire. I have not been able to get clear instructions on how to hire it for rehearsal or performances. And it will be shut down over the holidays and the early part of next year. It's been rumoured that there's not enough money to keep it open.
11 December 2003 Thursday