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Thomas Bowes review

As part of our centenary celebrations - and as a first fundraiser - we welcomed Thomas Bowes to Holy Spirit. Here, Elliot Henderson shares with us his experience as one of the audience.

On Thursday 9 May 2013 a number of us turned up to hear Mr Thomas Bowes in a concert of J S Bach on the solo violin. There was a good turnout, including some visitors who happened to be in town.

Apart from one or two aficionados, not all of us were attuned to the idea of listening to an entire evening of solo violin. I, personally, would tend to choose violin and orchestra, or violin and piano.

As the evening progressed, I was happy to have my preconceptions well and truly overturned.

As we gathered, and took our seats, there was a real sense of excitement and anticipation. Ruth Burge-Thomas captured the mood well with a finely-crafted speech of introduction. Her words set the tone for the evening which was one of glowing and growing pleasure as the evening and the music unfolded.

Mr Bowes took his place near the altar and spoke a little about J S Bach and the pieces he was going to play, which were, as it happened, the Bach Sonata in G minor, the Partita in B minor and the Sonata in C major.

We learned, for example, that one of the pieces he played was composed by Bach shortly after his wife died. Mr Bowes’ explanations gave us something to look for as he played.

I found the music utterly riveting. I was quite stunned that so much passion and versatility could emerge from one instrument. As with all great musicians Mr Bowes instilled in his audience a sense that we were in the presence of a master craftsman in complete and assured command of his instrument. We simply gave ourselves over to making a journey with him  through the riches of Bach’s music. I would say, in passing, that we tend to see Bach’s music as controlled by a rigorous and unyielding counterpoint. Perhaps we see romantic passion as emerging in later composers such as Beethoven, Schumann and Brahms. It occurred to me, as I was listening to Bach’s music, that he owed nothing to later composers in the expression of passion and beauty. This was a revelation to me, and I thank Mr Thomas Bowes for that.

At the interval, Ruth announced that the bar was open. We were able to enjoy a glass of wine and talk about the wonders that we had just heard. One of our visitors, Mr Michael Spingler, a disaffected American via Paris, could not believe his luck that he was in a church in England, listening to wondrous music, and able to enhance it all with a glass of wine.

After the second half of the concert, Nick Jenni summed up the evening with some thoughtful and appropriate words on our shared experience. He caught the mood well, I thought. Another glass or two of wine, under the careful aegis of Chris Jones, rounded off a remarkable and memorable evening.

Elliott Henderson