The success of Music at Leamington Hastings over the past years stems from two happy events. The first was the wisdom of Sir Gilbert Scott, in around 1887, who installed the oak panelled ceiling in the nave; this is the principle reason for the superb acoustics in the church, ideal for chamber music, which arouse comment from many visiting musicians. The other event was the arrival of Ray Law, who single-handedly started a concert series in 1971.
Starting from small beginnings, the concerts became a major project for Ray and Brenda, and are now firmly established on the international circuit for many performers. Six times a year this small rural church transforms into a concert hall and hosts some 200 to 400 people to hear wonderful music. From early days, Ray built up a tradition of friendly hospitality to both musicians and audience, and the village has aimed to continue this; in summer local gardens are opened for interval strawberries and cream, while at Christmas mulled wine is enjoyed in church.
A long and happy relationship with the Yehudi Menuhin School has been a feature; the orchestra has visited every two years – we enjoy entertaining them, and their brilliant and exuberant performances always ensure a large audience. Many of their past pupils such as Tasmin Little, have continued to return here, after becoming international stars. Past programmes include a wealth of top chamber groups, such as the Borodin, Endellion and Maggini String Quartets, the Schubert Ensemble, and many others. Amongst the virtuoso pianists who have played here, John LillCBE must take pride of place, and we are honoured that he is now our President.
Ray and Brenda Law retired sic years ago, and Mary-Grace and Peter Ogilvie have kept the standard going, with lots of help from the village ‘team’. They too are now retiring at the end of 2010 and David Potts will be taking charge for the next few years. In recent years Music at Leamington Hastings has become a registered charity, and is grateful to the many supporters who have become Patrons and provide support and encouragement.
The 2009 season was marred at the end by the activities of an intruder, who succeeded in setting alight the south aisle, which burnt overnight just before the 2009 Christmas concert. The new kitchen, installed during our millennium project, and the organ were casualties of the fire. We were able to move to St Marks Bilton, by kind permission of the vicar, Tim Cockell. 2010 saw the concerts continuing in the tenmporary venue, until a return to All Saints' Church for the Christmas concert. A tremendous effort by all those responsible succeeded in getting the Church completely ready for 2011 (though a new permanent organ is still being sought).