Performing with the BBC Concert Orchestra

There was something slightly surreal about walking on to conduct the BBC Concert Orchestra, Natalie Clein and a massed choir of around 150 people, all assembled in Truro Cathedral primarily to give the premiere of a new work by Dobrinka Tabakova who was sitting in the front row. What a glittering array of musicians, all right here in Cornwall!

Being careful to navigate around the maze of microphones and cables carefully placed by the team of BBC engineers and technicians, I arrived at the rostrum and said a few words to the audience. I wanted to convey something about the partnership with Dobrinka over the past 18 months which has enriched our lives and the cathedral’s worship, and which has brought into being some thirty minutes of truly beautiful new music. She has been a joy to work with and has made an indelible contribution to the music of Truro Cathedral.

Giving the upbeat for the final work of the concert, Dobrinka’s Kynance Cove, felt like a bit of a milestone. The opening bars are particularly difficult for the orchestra, with flowing string writing (representing the Kynance waves) and nowhere to hide for the players – harp and violin at that point. Needless to say, the professionals of the BBC Concert Orchestra took it in their stride, utterly undaunted by the microphones, and they set up beautifully the first choir lead: “Why seek for beauty in the stranger’s clime when Beauty’s stateroom is gay Kynance?”. I was expecting the distance between the choir and me (with the BBC CO in between) to be a problem, but the choir watched and listened so well that it was all beautifully in time. The audience’s reception when the final glorious chord had died away said it all: this was music that had the power to engage and move people on first listening.

We don’t yet have a date for the broadcast to be transmitted, but keep an eye out as we will advertise it when we know.

Christopher Gray, Director of Music at Truro Cathedral.