It is a major landmark in any musician’s career to make their London debut at Wigmore Hall, and I made mine in September, performing with the Early Music chamber group, Ensemble Masques.
This gorgeous and storied hall was built in 1901, and opened with performances by no less than pianist Feruccio Busoni and legendary Belgian violinist Eugène Ysayë.
Walking into the green room (which in this case is, in fact, green — or at least the carpet is), that sense of history resounds, as the gazes of legends past and present stare down from photos on the walls. Rubenstein and Caruso, Ax and Fleming; this place has hosted anyone who is anyone in classical music.
From the moment the six of us arrived on that sunny Sunday morning, the backstage staff were remarkably helpful and gracious. This is a crucial factor in the musician’s experience of a venue. When you’re about to play a concert — especially a high-pressure concert — the last thing you want is to have worries about logistical issues. It was a soft-spoken man named Peter who smoothed our way. Older, with white hair to his shoulders, surprisingly funky pink glasses, and a spectacularly vibrant tie, quiet Peter took care of every last detail.
As for the hall itself? Beautiful. As with New York’s Carnegie Hall, the moment you make a sound in Wigmore, the reason for its status becomes immediately clear: it is a gorgeous instrument. Warm, supportive, with the sense that whatever you want to give will be carried effortlessly to every ear, that acoustic combined with heightened focus of the occasion to bring out a special magic in the group. We gave one of the best concerts I’ve ever played in my 6 years with Masques.
Maybe I’m weird, but sense of occasion and beautiful acoustics aside, my favourite thing about playing at Wigmore was the pot of tea that was delivered to us backstage before the show. I’m a long-time tea drinker, and if you are too, then you know how impossible it is to get decent cup of tea when you’re away from home. It usually comes served as a thermos full of semi-hot water with a collection of terrible, dust-filled tea bags on the side. But of course, this was England (and this was Wigmore Hall!) so when that beautifully steeped, proper pot of tea was carried into the green room, complete with an ample supply of milk, I knew I’d arrived in my version of Heaven!