Tonight’s concert was basically a recital by Howard Skempton of his own works. All the works were very short miniatures, and it must be quite a challenge to compile a complete concert from them. That is, as opposed to including a smaller number of Skempton’s works in a mixed concert, as we have done in the past.
I find his music quite hard to place. The most famous influences he spoke of include Britten (who encouraged the young Skempton in the 1970s) and Cage, but neither of them seems to have been more than a minor influence on the musical style. The flavour overall was quite spartan, and put me in mind of Philip Glass minimalism, for which I don’t much care. Webern also sprang to mind in the context of such miniatures. But some of the pieces were also quite fascinating, and overall it was an interesting evening.
One overriding criticism: the church was an utterly unsuitable venue for such a concert. A formal setting is not what it needed, and horribly uncomfortable pews only make it worse. It works well for more conventional concerts such as Wednesday’s and tomorrow’s, but not for this. Skempton’s evening would have been ideally set in a piano bar. Or, here in Tavistock, in the big ballroom of the old town hall, which is available for such functions. Then we, the audience, could have sat around tables with glasses of wine while Skempton performed for us, for a really great evening.
As on Wednesday, I went there alone. But today I wasn’t amongst strangers; Harold (formerly of Opera SouthWest) was already there, so I sat down and started to natter with him. Then John joined us (sans Helena, who was working). And after the concert, John and I adjourned to the Market Inn for a couple of pints.