Open almost any collection of traditional fairy tales and you’ll soon find a story in which an underrated youngest son or daughter succeeds where older siblings have failed, and after slaying a seven-headed dragon or two wins the hand of a beautiful princess/handsome prince
It may be a fanciful comparison, but while its neighbour on the other side of Cathedral Square was celebrating its 900th year with high profile attractions like Tim Peake’s spacecraft and the Museum of the Moon, Peterborough’s other grade one listed church, 612-year stripling St John the Baptist Peterborough, was quietly continuing to cement its reputation as an outstanding venue for all types of live performance, particularly of classical music.
During 2018 St John’s hosted around sixty concerts, talks, shows or exhibitions, including over forty organised by a CIC (community interest company) set up in 2011 to promote the use of St John’s as a cultural venue. Its programme manager, Alun Williams, who is also a churchwarden at St John’s, expects that 2019 will continue a trend which has brought St John’s growing audiences and an increasingly diverse portfolio of events over each of the past five years. Music lovers should look out for seasons of ‘Tuesdays Till Two’ lunchtime concerts, which run from 1 to around 1.45pm. Between March and October there will be about twenty mostly classical concerts spread over four seasons.
With performers both young and old, local and international, and a programme that includes both solo concerts and small ensembles such as flute quartets and piano trios, there is something for everyone including even demanding music buffs; the excellent acoustics, superb Steinway piano, and an enthusiastic and appreciative audience have made St John’s a venue which can attract musicians who are used to performing in the most prestigious venues. In the run up to Christmas, ‘Tuesdays Till Two’ has an abrupt personality transplant with five ‘jazz café’ concerts, repeating one of 2018’smost successful innovations.
Admission to all the concerts is free though audience members who can afford it are encouraged to make a donation to help cover the cost of the event. Newcomers should note that it’s ‘Tuesdays Till Two’ and not ‘At Two’, and that although the concerts only begin at 1pm, St John’s is open for an hour beforehand with volunteers running a popup café from twelve noon serving a variety of home-made cakes, scones and quiche as well as hot and cold drinks. For the past few years the café team has supported The Green Backyard, last year donating over £1000 over the course of the year to the charity, but from this year the café profits will help to fund the CIC’s activities.
It’s well worth arriving in plenty of time to sample what’s on offer, and to take time to appreciate the beautiful interior of the church – almost every week there’ll be someone who’ll admit to having lived in Peterborough for many years but never having entered the church before. St John’s is also the venue for Piccolo, a regular concert for preschool age children. Piccolos take place at 10.30am on the first Thursday of each month (except January and August).
Now in its fourth year, the Piccolo audience has grown inmore ways than one, and often includes children who’ve been coming since they were only bumps accompanying their mothers and an older brother or sister. Music at St John’s is always a very intimate affair, with performers only a few feet away from the audience, but at Piccolo it is even more so, with both adults and children often on floor cushions around the musicians.
● Full details of all events coming up in St John’s can be found on the ‘Events At St John’s’ Facebook page or on the St John’s CIC website stjohnscic.wordpress.com
Performers booked so far
● 12 March: Dolce Flute Quartet
● 19 March: Estevao Devides (Brazilian classical guitarist)
● 26 March: Eleanor Turner (Harp)
● 2 April: Adam Heron (Piano) (Adam was a finalist in 2018 BBC Young Musician of the Year)
● 9 April: Kate Risdon (Piano+Flute)
● (date TBC): Latino Sound