Judith Evans - Instruments of Time and Truth: A Period Instrument Orchestra for the Community, Supported by the Community.
Instruments of Time and Truth was founded three years ago to provide a platform for internationally-performing musicians resident in and around Oxford, many of whom hold principal positions in orchestras such as the Academy of Ancient Music, the English Baroque Soloists, and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. The ensemble was envisaged by its founders as a community resource and was to be managed voluntarily to make it affordable for all: college and amateur choirs, schools and entrepreneurs alike.
Three years on, is IT&T realising its ambitions? A tour through this Season’s brochure reveals that the group is not only realising its goals, but creating ever new challenges to increase the vibrancy of Oxford’s musical scene.
IT&T’s 17/18 Season opens on Friday, October 6th with a Sheldonian concert entitled ‘The Road to Romanticism’. Promoted by the orchestra itself, this concert is the first in what will ultimately become an annual series of four concerts presented in Oxford’s historic venues. Already pushing the boundaries of its initial aim - that of presenting world-class performances of baroque and classical repertoire - IT&T will embark on a journey into romantic repertoire with inspirational Director Edward Higginbottom leading the way. Higginbottom, who for 38 years was Director of New College Choir, is an internationally renowned Oxford musician who firmly established that choir on the world map. With mesmeric violinist Bojan Cicic appearing as soloist in the Mendelssohn violin concerto for the first time, Instruments of Time and Truth fulfills its commitment to promoting Oxford musicians and to celebrating the amazing wealth of talent available to us in this city. More widely known for his quixotic interpretation of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century music, Bojan has recently released his first solo CD of Carbonelli sonatas which was awarded 5 stars by the BBC Music magazine.
It should also be mentioned here that IT&T recently recorded its own CDs - one, a collection of music by Oxford’s own William Hayes with Keble Choir and the other, early English vocal music by Pelham Humfrey. Both CDs should be released in 2018.
IT&T’s second self-promotion is a candlelit performance of the Messiah in University Church on December 16th. The third successive year for this slick, upbeat rendition of the ultimate Christmas programme, this concert is rapidly becoming an Oxford institution.
Whilst these two concerts represent some of the purely artistic ambitions of the orchestra, elsewhere events testify to the realisation of IT&T’s aim to become a community resource. Within the last three years, IT&T has collaborated with the choirs of New, Keble, Merton, St Peter’s and The Queen’s colleges. November 4th will see IT&T performing with Magdalen College Consort of Voices for the first time in Bach’s cantata ‘Mache Dich mein Geist bereit’, in Magdalen College Chapel. In February, IT&T will return to the Keble Early Music Festival for the second year running, with an intimate Abendmusik on the 22nd and the larger scale Mozart Requiem and Jupiter Symphony on the 24th with the Keble College Choir. There are further concerts with the Choir of The Queen’s College on November 25th and with New College Choir on March 11th. IT&T not only works with Oxford college choirs, but it has assumed a central position in underpinning the tradition of choral excellence in Oxford.
In terms of the wider community, IT&T has become a regular collaborator with the Summertown Choral Society (February 3rd and May 19th) and this Season (June 9th) will add the Oxford Bach Choir to a list of local choirs which already includes the Oxford Pro Musica Singers and the Oxford Girls’ Choir.
Nor has IT&T neglected its educational ambitions. Dedicated to fostering the audience of the future, the orchestra regularly presents GCSE workshops to local schoolchildren. This year’s day of workshops will take place on February 6th at Headington School. Schools from across the county will be invited to take part and for some, it will certainly be the first time they will have experienced live music.
IT&T has already presented several masterclasses through the University, but, in addition, this October half-term will see the first Baroque course for school-aged children. Amongst the first of its kind in this country, this is a rare opportunity for children to experience the differences in technique and instruments between the baroque period and the modern day, through which we hope to inspire the musicians of the future.
The final thread in this Season’s activities for Instruments of Time and Truth is its inclusion in the University’s Bach Project on January 27th and April 27th. This is indeed a privilege for IT&T and is testament to the reputation the orchestra has already established over its brief existence.
The extent and breadth of IT&T’s activities this Season would suggest that the orchestra has already gone beyond what it set out to acheive, indeed it is almost as if it has not so much carved out a niche, but uncovered a pre-existing niche that was ready to welcome and celebrate the excellence and expertise belonging to this unique city of Oxford.