#3: Richard Thorn

Stalwart of the cello section, Richard Thorn, gives us his unashamedly frank assessment of Beckenham, SELO and our recent concert…

The first thing I’m going to write is “apologies for the lack of a professional headshot”. As I was finishing this, it occurred to me that I didn’t have any kind of close-up photo with my cello, so I’m afraid you’re going to have to put up with a picture I originally had taken to enhance my online dating profile. Ah well, at least someone might see it here…!

By way of a quick introduction, I’m Richard and I think I first considered joining an orchestra around the time SELO was formed, and I came to one of its earliest performances in the summer of 2013. But it was a couple more years until I eventually found my way into its ranks. Luckily for me, I live almost comically close to our rehearsal venue and, as I told a couple of my colleagues when I first joined, if the wind is right, I’m still connected to my Wi-Fi whilst we play!

A larger part of its appeal is the fact that I feel like I’m contributing to community life here in Beckenham. I grew up in this area and, over the last few years, the benefits of a sense of community have really become apparent. For example, around the time I joined SELO, I also began doing some voluntary work with the SVP in Beckenham and more recently, I’ve been exploring Beckenham Theatre, Beckenham Comedy Club and the Bromley Symphony Orchestra. The breadth and quality of culture and entertainment right on my doorstep is amazing and I’d hope that readers agree with me that we at SELO also provide a genuine opportunity for the community to experience a regular, diverse and high quality set of concerts. I’m even more excited at some of the plans we have to enhance our outreach further over the next few years.

With regards our latest concert, I think I’ve got a relatively easy job here, as both our conductor Dave and leader Alan have said they think this was one of SELO’s best ever performances! Personally, I remember being in the odd position of feeling relatively comfortable a couple of weeks before the big day; we then had our traditional mildly ropey final rehearsal, but as usual, it appears we were just saving ourselves for the concert.

Our fabulous flautist Jennifer must have made good on the promise she made in the last blog, as the Debussy was flawless. The cello section was dangerously exposed at the beginning of the Wagner, but I think we pulled it off, and the originality of the Ives came through – the audience seemed to “get it” (or at least my dad said he did!). Finally, the Strauss was epic, and not just because of the faces Dave was pulling towards the end.

Something the audience may not realise is that we rarely, if ever, play our pieces all the way through until the concert itself. This makes performing them extra special, because not only do we get the thrill of the performance, we also get to hear and appreciate the music in all its glory for the first time. I won’t attempt to emulate the depth that Dave’s musicology degree enabled him to go into for our programme, so instead I have some more light-hearted reflections on our rehearsals:

  1. This was the first time for quite a while that a small group of us routinely went for drinks after the Thursday rehearsals – more benefits of the local community – long may it continue!
  2. Our conductor continued to show why he was J.K. Rowling’s inspiration, with his patented ‘Harry Potter’ stance.
  3. My desk partner confirmed her ability to reduce every piece of musical direction from Dave or Alan, no matter how complicated or subtle, to either an arrow or squiggle in our part.
  4. For a particular chord in the Wagner, we were asked to be “submissive to the dominant”. I’ll leave this to your imagination.

Rehearsals for the next concert are already underway and I’m looking forward to both the concert and the regular get-togethers which the cellos hold, contrary to popular belief, not to get a head-start on the music, but as an opportunity to play some ensemble music we otherwise wouldn’t get the chance to. I understand we may be seeing more SELO-branded chamber music coming to the fore in the not too distant future, which will be fantastic.

Anyway, the July concert promises to be as good as the May one and so, in the style of Shostakovich, and in tribute to the friend who took my photo – onwards comrade!