Hilary Eldridge first came across Armonico Consort thanks to Dame Emma Kirkby and has been a loyal friend and supporter ever since, most recently enabling us to put on our first post-lockdown concert, Dido and Aeneas. Our Relationship Manager, Patrons and Sponsors, Eva Williams, chatted to the Conductor’s Circle member.
During lockdown you have been ‘shielding’ – I’m interested to know how you felt when you attended AC’s live recording of Dido & Aeneas… your first experience of the ‘new normal’?
It was a lovely way to start going out – most enjoyable. Good to be with friends again. The emotion of the singers and musicians was infectious. Thank you for inviting me to join you – what a privilege!
You very generously sponsored our Dido and Aeneas concert, which has been viewed on our social media platforms over 42,500 times, I’m curious to know what sponsoring a concert means to you?
It’s a great way to support your work and to see and hear one’s own favourites performed. During the lockdown, I just wanted to support the musicians and singers at such a difficult time. I’m delighted about Dido.
How did you first come across Armonico Consort and why did you become a Patron?
It is Emma Kirkby’s fault! We came to the first concert where she launched you properly. We had loved Emma for many years so we came to hear her and then became addicted to your wonderful playing and singing so close to our home. I love Baroque music, especially Purcell. We came as often as possible, especially to your local performances. It made sense to us to support you on a regular basis – lucky to have you.
Part of Armonico Consort’s mission is to get Renaissance and Baroque music to more people – of different ages and backgrounds – and in different places. Could you share your ideas on how we could reach more people in the future?
Outside concerts would be great, especially in our present situation.
You are doing great work engaging young people via AC Academy so how about continuing online concerts, events and advertising with and for young people, and maybe more on Spotify; increasing online presence. Maybe have some more short online concerts. Keep going with the creative titles!
I would love to see more online interviews and performances by the Academy Scholars thereby promoting real life concerts. The unusual Baroque instruments may engage young people, so maybe showcase them online.
Maybe more quirky Baroque performances involving acting, circus skills as well as music and singing.
I loved your African Medley so maybe more active engagement with BAME communities; engaging with BAME singers, musicians and community leaders. How about asking cellist, Sheku Kanneh-Mason for help!
To attract people with disabilities maybe advertise hearing loops at concert venues and special assistance for people with sight loss or in wheelchairs.
I’m aware of the OHMI Trust, a charity that develops musical instruments for people with disabilities, perhaps a partnership with the OHMI might be worth exploring… it’s incredible what they do and very exciting.
I know you have a passion for the arts especially period music and Shakespeare – what is it about the arts that you value?
The arts are life enhancing. Life would be very dull without them. For me, theatre, music and paintings take me to another place. Sound and vision combined are particularly important to me when going to a performance. Of course, I have always loved Shakespeare since I was a child – my father’s fault! I have never forgotten my first visit to Stratford-upon-Avon with my school when I was 16. Henry IV Part II with Ian Holm playing Prince Hal – wonderful!
During lockdown many arts organisations have seen the value of using technology for engaging with audiences – do you think there may be any negative impacts of social media on audiences? For example, a negative impact on their attention span for live performances?
Virtual has been great. You have been extremely enterprising. The talks with Christopher Monks have been great as well as the virtual performances.
I think social media may have attracted a younger audience who may then want to hear live performances. For me, shorter virtual performances are better at keeping attention than longer virtual performances.
Live performances will always be best at keeping my attention and so if they are long that’s fine by me. The whole experience makes me want it to continue – so long as the seats are OK!
I have wonderful memories of attending a performance of St Matthew Passion in Leiden (the Netherlands) – half before lunch and half after. Splitting longer performances across a day…what a great way to spend a day!
And finally, what would you say was your most memorable AC concert and why?
The Fairy Queen at the Dream Factory in Warwick. It had everything – wonderful music, singers, dancers, actors, even contortionists!! Lots of humour. Fantastic fun. Loved it.
There’s more information on the many ways in which you can support Armonico Consort’s performance and education work (AC Academy) on our Get Involved page.
Header image courtesy Steve Marshall