This summer our Great Hall was filled with music performed by musicians who took inspiration from our collections.
The lunchtime concerts have been an integral part of Bishopsgate Institute since the 1940s. They were inspired by Myra Hess, who in 1939 played her piano at the National Gallery to give Londoners a boost during the Second World War. She understood that during difficult times music was needed more than ever, a sentiment we have certainly felt over the past year or so. Now, as then, people need to be lifted up by music. Because of this, for the first time, we made the decision to extend our free lunchtime concerts into the summer months. Additionally, as movement is restricted and capacities are greatly reduced, we streamed these concerts online via Facebook Live. This allowed even more people to pause, settle down, and be carried away for an hour.
As has become customary, each of the artists explored our collections in advance of their performance, delving into our archives to find materials that inspired the music they chose to play, or created specifically for the occasion. Often, the inspiration for the pieces were presented with them on stage, creating a fusion of music and history that was wholly unique to the Institute.
The artists and their inspiration
Below is a list of the performers, including links to our In Conversation videos where they speak of their inspiration, as well as links to their performances.
Kwake Bass is a drummer who has played with Joey Bada$$, Kae Tempest, and Sampha. The oral histories we hold in our archives, as well as the notion of Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park, inspired his concert on Friday 11 June.
Violin and cello duo Balladeste, who have a 10 year writing partnership, were inspired by photographs from the Women’s Co-operative Guild Archive for their performance on Friday 18 June.
Pianist Maya-Leigh Rosenwasser explored our LGBTQ+ Collections, including the John Dalby Archive, which inspired her lunchtime concert. On Friday 25 June she performed contemporary classical piano music.
Viola and viola d’amore player Clifton Harrison found inspiration for his concert in the LAMAS Glass Slide Collection. He was especially inspired by an image of industrial Greenwich, and based his performance on Friday 16 July on the elements of darkness, wind, and stillness.
Electro-acoustic classical duo Stranger Strings look at the novelty of electricity in the 20th century and the invention of the theremin, which inspired their lunchtime concert on Friday 30 July.
Our summer season may be over, but we will be bringing you 10 new performances from a wide variety of musicians. Our autumn season kicks off on Friday 1 October with a performance by Hannah Catherine Jones. Get details on this performance and all others in the season here.