Friday, April 11, 1986

Two excellent exhibitions

Chelmsford Then and Now 
The World of Fred Spalding

The face of Chelmsford is changing faster than most.
Salutary, then, to take stock of two excellent exhibitions that chart some of the developments of the last hundred years.
At the Museum, until May 11, “Chelmsford Then and Now”, paintings by members of the Chelmsford Art Society, inspired by Bennett Bamford’s watercolours of a century ago.
Some locations are still recognizable – the Stone Bridge, caught nicely by Phil Kyffin, Springfield Wharf, atmospherically captured by Bob Vasey, whose Mildmay Almshouses [just down the road from the Museum in Oaklands Park] featured a prominent yellow van instead of Bamford’s distant pony trap.
New Street has altered more than most – who now remembers Eli Bacon’s store where the police station now stands ? - and Charlie Tait’s recent study is already out of date, the Snip’s weather-boards replaced by the new Crown Court. There was a lively collage of the Wheatsheaf, which happily still survives.
Although there was some beautiful work inspired by the obviously picturesque, I suspect that a hundred years hence the transient town centre will be of more interest, like Ann Snow’s view of soul-less Tindal Street, with ghostly motorbikes in the foreground.

In the Cathedral until April 30, an equally intriguing glimpse into the world of Fred Spalding, alderman and photographer extraordinaire, whose studio can be seen in his 1860 study of Tindal Square. Hylands House stands “smart and self-confident” in the Edwardian sunshine, a charabanc leaves the Griffin in 1906, Marconi meets the Mayor in 1912, and the Cathedral interior looks very Victorian in 1905.
Both these exhibitions are free. Do try to see them; you cannot fail to be fascinated.

Friday, April 04, 1986

Agreeable evening down at the Mill

The Vanbrugh Quartet – The Mill at Roxwell

A uniquely agreeable evening at the Mill in Roxwell last week: the Vanbrugh Quartet playing to raise funds for the new Essex Chamber Orchestra.
Jim and Pat Smith have a lovely house, with the new “barn” attached – in fact a tiny concert hall, with a good acoustic and a view of the garden. It is a rare pleasure to hear chamber music in such an ideal setting.
Violinist Gregory Ellis – who played the Brahms concerto with the ESO last month – met Elizabeth Charleson [violin] and Simon Aspell [viola] when they were all studying at the Royal Academy. Cellist Christopher Marwood joined them last November.
They have just secured a two-year contract with RTE [the equivalent of the BBC in Eire], before they go off to Canada for an international competition. The tape they submitted to qualify included the three works that made up the substantial but well-balanced programme we heard at the Mill.
Mozart’s Quartet in C [K465], with its beautiful Andante Cantabile and exhilrating Allegro Molto finale, is often dubbed the Dissonance Quartet, since its opening sounded harsh to eighteenth-century ears. What would they have made of the Prokofiev which followed ? Rhythmically exciting, including references to many Russian Jewish themes.
To conclude, the Vanbrughs gave us a fresh, enthusiastic account of one of the peaks of the repertoire – Beethoven’s B flat Quartet opus 130.