Craig Ogden & Judith Hall: Two Concerts In One

I'd known Judy Hall for a few years before knowing who she was and what she did. 

It so happens she lives about a hundred yards down the road from where I work - The Cheese Shed - so hers was a face I knew, and I'd seen her around. Then one day I went to a concert up at the Town Hall. Bach's Musical Offering and one of the Brandenburg Concertos. It was a great gig, and I thought ... that flautist's good ... no, she's really good, and ... she looks sort-of-familiar ... and then the penny dropped. I found out later that Judy was a really very experienced musician with an incredible CV to her name - performing with all sorts of top ensembles, plus a list of highly-regarded recordings too. So I'd been working just across the road from this top musician all that time and not really it.

After Nourish started, in 2014, I got to know her a little. She was keen on the fact that we were putting on such good concerts in the town, and came along whenever she could. I got to know a bit of her story: how she'd had an earlier, non-musical, career in her native Australia before being 'spotted' by the great French flautist Jean-Pierre Ramphal, who insisted she should go professional. So she moved to Paris to begin her musical career, later being invited to London by Sir Colin Davis to become Principal Flute at the Royal Opera House. Not bad for a late starter!

Somewhere along the line the idea came up that perhaps she should play at Nourish, and she suggested perhaps her duo with Craig Ogden would be the thing. Craig - also Australian - is one of this country's top classical guitarists, and the two of them have now been working together for about 12 years. This idea really appealed to me. It was a musical pairing we'd not had before, and I thought that - if the first half was solo guitar, with the duo after the interval - this would be very attractive for an audience. Two concerts for the price of one, if you like. I put that to Judy and was very pleased when she agreed.

We had a great time planning the programme around Judy's kitchen table, and I'm really excited by what we came up with. There's just a huge amount of variety - different styles, music from three continents and spanning about 400 years. The duo will be doing some Poulenc (which is always fun), sultry rhythmic Latin American music by Piazzolla and Villa-Lobos, plus a couple of new pieces commissioned by these two. Craig came up with an equally lively selection which puts music by C17 lutenist John Dowland alongside a piece by French jazz great Django Reinhardt and a pair of classic Spanish tunes. He also agreed to one request of mine: Lennox Berkeley's beautiful Sonatina, written in 1958. 

Some concerts are very focussed and single-minded. Think of Steven Isserlis last year, which was practically all Bach. I like that! It's good, sometimes, to just immerse yourself in one musical world. Also, though, it can be great to have a programme which starts in one place, then zings off to a madly different music, and then off to somewhere else again. The Brodsky Quartet in June was a bit like that: lively, quirky contemporary music from Mexico followed by 1918 Elgar followed by Shostakovich ... and it worked. Craig and Judy's gig will be a bit like that, only more so - and I'm really looking forward to it. I hope to see you there!