Mid Sussex Sinfonia return to the concert platform
New musical director Ian McCrae is relishing Mid Sussex Sinfonia’s return to the concert platform.
They have a busy programme coming up, starting with a programme of English composers on October 9 in Holy Trinity Church, Hurstpierpoint as they celebrate their 50th anniversary.
Other concerts in the season are: St Wilfred’s Church, Haywards Heath, on December 18; The Dolphin Centre, Haywards Heath, on February 13; and Holy Trinity Church, Hurstpierpoint on June 25.
“Formally I took over in March 2020,” says Ian.
“But I did a concert with them in October 2019.
“I think they were trying out a few people and I did that and a few other rehearsals.
“The leader is a friend of mine, and he approached me. I have known him for years and I know a lot of people associated with the sinfonia. I have been a conductor in the area for years and I am a known entity.”
And Ian was delighted to accept the position: “There is a real sense of adventure with them which I love.
“Music is an art form which is quite controlled.
“You have 70 or 60 or 50 people that are playing together, that have to exercise skills on their own while also following one person that controls it and disseminates their leadership, and I think sometimes you can have a culture that is too controlled, that can be repressive, even oppressive.
“But the great thing about Mid Sussex is that they have a really healthy attitude that challenges that.
“Everyone is very enthusiastic about bringing whatever they can to the music.
“It is not all about playing in the most controlled way; it is about bringing the music to life, and I love working in that way.
“Music is generally written by perverts and drug addicts and sex addicts. If your daughter or son brought one of them home, you would say ‘Get out of the house!’ And yet these are people who wrote the most beautiful music.
“And so you get that dichotomy between these incredibly wild people and the way that their music is played in such a controlled way.
“But I am actually a great believer in finding the spirit of these composers as well.”
And it is great to get back to business.
“It has been very frustrating, but because of the great enthusiasm of the players we were constantly talking.
“But it was frustrating.
“For a lot of musicians, their income relied on it, but for a lot of amateur musicians it is their well-being that relies on it, and they have been hit really quite heavily by it.”
The point is that music-making as a collective is a great release, a chance to put your stamp on a piece: “It is almost unique – and we have missed that.”
However, they are now hoping they can put the frustrations behind them: “We got back together to start rehearsing in mid-September, and it was superb. The sense of excitement was really palpable.”
And the curious thing is that at a time when so many people were unable to go out to work or to go out to play, so many of them took their extra time at home to work on their instrument and to practise.
“You would have thought there would have been a dip in standard after so long away.
“But there really wasn’t, and actually in a way, the frustrations of not being able to play together was offset by the fact that so many had taken the time to practise and that the standard was so high.
“And that is what is so attractive about playing with the Mid Sussex Sinfonia. That kind of enthusiasm just jumps out at you.”