Category Archives: St John’s Smith Square

Fabulous Rachmaninoff Duo at St John’s Smith Square, London

Brilliant Duo

Timothée Botbol (Cello) and Dinara Klinton (Piano) played Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise arranged for cello and piano and his Sonata for Cello and Piano in G Minor. Dinara played his Prelude in D Op 23 No 4  and his Prelude in G minor Op 23 No 5.

Both brilliant performers, I had never heard the cello played with such richness of tone. I was blown away. And Dinara Clinton’s brilliant musicality and technique were amazing.

St John’s have a membership just right for me as I don’t like going out alone to evening concerts. For £45 (£40 with Direct Debit) you can attend 10 of their Thursday lunchtime concerts – only £4 each!!

Timothée’s brilliant performance was a far cry from mine when I learned the cello as a 15-year old and played in a quartet at our school’s prize day.

Memoir Extract

An ex-student, who’d gone on to play second violin in the London Symphonia Orchestra, gave our school a cello. I put my name down to have free lessons, but I wasn’t very hopeful because I was already having piano lessons. I wasn’t altogether pleased when my form mistress stopped me at the end of the week and told me I had been chosen to learn the cello. We always had loads of homework and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to fit in practising the cello as well as the piano.

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The Harmonium in Concert at St John’s, Smith Square

Fun concert with harmonium

Had never been to a classical music concert including a harmonium.

When I was young, some families had a harmonium instead of a piano and churches unable to afford an organ might have a harmonium instead. Piano shops certainly had one or two on display.

I had mixed feelings about the combination of harmonium with piano and strings at the concert at St John’s, Smith Square.

I loved the Cesar  Franck (1822-1890) Prelude, Fugue et Variation Op 18 for the Harmonium and Piano. Written by him for two of his students,  the haunting melodies made the combination of instruments really work.

For the rest, I didn’t feel the harmonium added to the works and for me adding the harmonium in the first piece – Wagner’s (1813-1883)Marsh der Meistersinger arranged by Karg-Elert (1877-1933) – spoiled the music, though I enjoyed two of the five Dvorak’s  (1841-1904) Bagatelles – the two jolly folk tunes.

I was surprised to find that it was Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) who had arranged the Johann Strauss (1825-1899)  waltz medley with which the whole ensemble finished the concert. Fun and making me want to tap my toes, I’m afraid it most reminded me of my youth and cinema organs!!

The four string instrumentalists – 2 violin’s, a viola and the cello – were excellent. Hope to see them in a Chamber Music concert some time.

Lunchtime Concerts at St John’s Smith Square

Programme for Lunchtime Concerts

Just started to feel able to go to the lunchtime concerts at St John’s, Smith Square. I was worried that it might be too cold for me – I had a nasty shivering attack when I went to a residents’ meeting in a cold church – but it was fine.

A fascinating concert by Oliver Wass, Harpist, and Chloe Treharne, Mezzo Soprano, part of the Young Artists’ Series.

Harp and Mezzo Soprano Concert January 12th

I hadn’t heard a male harpist before and he was an excellent – as befits the winner of multiple prizes.

Chloe Treharne has a gorgeous pure voice that filled the church to overflowing. She sang Schumann, Schubert and Mendelsohn Lieder.

Oliver Wass

Besides accompanying Chloe, Oliver Wass played a fascinating new piece by Julian Philips (b. 1969) Winter Music as well as a Prelude by Ravel and a Hindemith Sonata.

It seemed strange watching his graceful hands when I am so used to seeing female harpists.

What a wonderful re-introduction for me to the Lunchtime Concert series.


The entrance to St John's in Smith Squarae Sw1P 3HA
The entrance to St John’s in Smith Square SW1P 3HA

My son Bernard first introduced me to the lunchtime concerts at St John’s Church some years ago. At that time you could buy a membership for only £30 which covered the lunchtime concerts for the whole year for you and a companion. I went regularly, hurrying from or to one of my classes at one of the Further Education colleges. Bernard came when he could.  Bronze Membership is now £35 for vouchers for any 10 lunchtime concert during that year – still very good value.

Built during the years 1713-1728, St John’s was reconstructed in 1742 after a fire,  gutted in 1940 by enemy bombs during WW2 and restored to its present glory during the years 1964-1969.

Advertising the Concert on Thursday April 14th
Advertising the Concert on Thursday April 14th

Sometimes the musicians playing at the Thursday lunchtime concerts are established, like the brilliant organist of Westminster Abbey. Often, like the Attard-Zerafa Duo, who played on Thursday April 14th, they are young musicians starting out on their careers. The virtuosity of these two was amazing. They chose modern pieces by Milhaud, Denisov, Schmitt and Albright – mostly the sort of complex modern classical pieces that you need to hear several times before you can get a handle on it. Two – Brazileira by Milhaud and La Folia Nuovo: a lament for George Cacioppo by Albright – were more lyrical and easier to appreciate at first hearing.