Churches have always been musical environments – the ambience, acoustics and atmosphere within are capable of incubating magnificent melodies that can make a congregation soar. In London, many churches utilise their spaces outside of the religious calendar, often to host musical concerts and shows. St. Giles Church is no exception – regular concerts, usually for good causes, have entertained believers and laymen alike.
Having converted its crypt into a vibrant and successful jazz club, and having raised over £190,000 in the process, it’s fair to say that there’s a great demand for sound beneath the steeple. I made the journey to witness violist Adam Gibbs and accompanying pianist Richard Louis Gillies one chilly afternoon in January, and found myself asking, ‘Why don’t I do this more often?’
Beginning with Paul Hindermith’s Trauermusik, a brooding piece composed in mourning of the passing of King George V in 1936, progressing through Robert Schumann’s Marchenbilder and ending with Dmitri Shostakovich’s celebrated Viola Sonata in C, Op.147, Gibbs and Gillies played with a subtlety and sensitivity which summoned the full force of each composition.
From the lilting, drifting first movement of Trauermusic, to the playful merriment of Schumann’s intricate fairy-tale, there was a clarity and force to each piece, which brought out the distinctiveness of the composers and contrasted their musical styles.
Best of all, Gibbs’ mastery of the viola was a joy to behold. Tentatively, but with increasing showmanship and grace, Gibbs – a graduate of the prestigious Royal Academy of Music – grew into his instrument to the extent that by the second movement of the Shostakovich it was functioning as a celestial limb, attached to his body and moving in harmony with it.
Indeed, it was the Viola Sonata in C which impressed me most, reminiscent in its more intense moments of a twisted altercation between piano and viola: the interplay between the two voices is extremely nuanced, enhancing the polyphony of the movement. It was a mesmerising performance, accompanied by the assured and accomplished pianist Gillies, who is studying for his MA in Piano Performance under the tutelage of acclaimed recitalist Raymond Clarke at the University of Bristol.
On this evidence, both Gibbs and Gillies have the potential to dazzle and delight many more audiences. And, with all the proceeds going to charity, what’s not to like?
St. Giles Church
81 Camberwell Church Street