Thames Concerts series begins in Surbiton as Tier 2 lockdown sets in

The annual Thames Concerts series began on Saturday evening with a live performance and socially distanced audience at St Andrew’s Church, Surbiton.

Despite the start of Tier 2 restrictions of Covid-19, the 2020/21 recital series kicked off as planned with a duo in-person performance by classical saxophonist Jonathan Radford and pianist Ashley Fripp.

The series’ artistic director Benjamin Costello said: “I think people have been starved of live performance for so many months now.

“You can’t take away from that energy and that magic of being in the space and hearing a performance in the flesh.”

The hosting venue, St Andrew’s Church, had been risk assessed and its capacity reduced from around 200 to only 50 attendees who were required to sit socially distanced and wear face coverings throughout the performance.

The church was filled on Saturday to just under this reduced capacity and the audience’s enjoyment of the performance did not seem hampered by the new circumstances.

Concert attendee Ann Page, a regular at the series for the past couple of years, said: “I think it was the most amazing start to the season and will be one of the best concerts in the series.”

Jazz saxophone enthusiast Jean Gardner was glad to see people had turned out to support the performers despite the restrictions.

“If they can turn out to play, I can turn out to listen,” she said.

Live concerts during Covid

Given that a lot of the entertainment and arts industry has had to move their work and performances online during the pandemic, Saturday’s live concert was a rare event.

Performer Jonathan Radford said there was something special about the night and that it meant a lot more to be playing for a live audience.

“Everyone breathes together and shares the emotion.

“When you’re online, even if it’s live online, you don’t get that same interaction,” he said.

This premier performance was the first of six live concerts which are spread across the next four months.

Artistic director Costello said it was important that the concert series go ahead but in a controlled and safe way.

“This is the balancing act between protecting people from the virus but also allowing them to keep their mental health and that’s where music and events like this are great,” he said.

Thames Concerts is a charitable foundation with an almost 60-year history of presenting this annual series of live concerts in the Kingston borough.

The next concert is a performance by The Behn String Quartet, scheduled for November 14.

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