THE RAY LAW CONCERTS
||"My first taste of (the) concerts was in 1982 when I started teaching at the village school. What a marvellous 21 years it has been with so many famous and talented musicians coming to the lovely church - a perfect setting in the countryside for these wonderful concerts."
How the Concerts began
Ray Law has planned and run these concerts for 33 years. It started with a question: "Dad, have you any suggestions as to where we might take our College Choir for a concert?" "Well Julie, why not bring it to our little village church?". They did and that was how these concerts began, with a recital by The Choir of Malvern Girls' College in 1971.
The concerts were slow to start, due to Ray's many other commitments in the parish. But in 1980, when he had more free time, he turned his attention to this project. They increased from 2 to 5, in 1981 to 6, in 1983 to 7, and a record in 1995
Support from the Village
The essential characteristics of the concerts were established at the very first performance. The Malvern College magazine commented: "The trip to Leamington Hastings was particularly enjoyable owing to the friendliness of the villagers, who took small groups of the Choir for lunch before the recital." This generous hospitality has remained a central element to the concerts ever since.
"The Villagers" have opened their gardens and the courtyard for the audience to enjoy during the interval, and made the bathrooms in their homes available. They have received an invasion of cars into their lanes and fields, made a rough orchard suitable for car parking and summer and winter have been out in the lanes helping with the parking. The church has seen several versions of the stage built over the years, and hundreds of chairs being carted from the Village Hall and back again, for each concert. Several thousand programmes are sold each year, and wonderful flower arrangements created each time. And finally, the hot dogs and chicken legs provided at the Christmas concerts, are cooked and served with the utmost enthusiasm!
Ray and Brenda's Hospitality
Ray and Brenda's personal attention to every visitor to the concerts, whether performer or audience, is the secret to this sense of community. One member of the audience wrote: "It must be a unique experience to go to a musical event with international artists and be greeted in person."
Ray has gone out of his way to get to know as many people as possible. He sends out thousands of letters a year keeping in touch with the audience, visiting if they are sick, supporting the bereaved and celebrating their joys with them.
His care of the performers is no less, he is always in the church ready to welcome them to rehearsals, taking them back home afterwards for a delicious tea. Some spend the time playing the piano, some lie on the floor, and one, rumour has it, stands on his head in their sitting room! On a number of occasions, when Ray has learnt that one of the performers is to be married, he has produced a wedding present like a 'rabbit out of a hat'. In 1993, there were 3 such events: Mary Wu, Tasmin Little and Evelyn Glennie. Evelyn had won such a unique place in the audience's affections that they contributed to a canteen of cutlery. "I was absolutely speechless to receive such a beautiful gift for our wedding. ...Leamington Hastings is one of those venues that you want to continually appear at. It is unique! The real support of the people and the genuine care and love of the concerts is always projected so profoundly to the musicians, which in the end makes the concerts a celebration Thank you for your warm hospitality, which never wavers." Evelyn Glennie.
International Performers who treasure Leamington Hastings
In 1982 the Yehudi Menuhin School made the first of many visits, bringing among their number Tasmin Little and Mary Wu, who have continued to delight audiences ever since.
"Over the years concerts at Leamington Hastings have had the happy knack of helping young artists on their way tot he top. ...Certainly 2 examples come to mind: violinist Tasmin Little and percussionist Evelyn Glennie, both of whom appeared at Leamington Hastings early in their careers. Tasmin who pays a return visit in 1994 has forced her way the top with some stunning recordings, and Evelyn Glennie's achievements have been well chronicled the world over. But she continues to visit Leamington Hastings.!"
Coventry Evening Telegraph 02.04.1993
In 1983 the Bochmann Quartet played here for the first time. They were so impressed with the acoustics that in 1985 they returned to make a commercial recording. Other performers, who have become 'regulars' include Alan Schiller, Ian Caddy and Mary Hegarty, Clare McFarlane, Philip Smith and Julius Drake. Alan Schiller wrote to Ray: "I want to say that last night's concert was possibly the most enjoyable of my life." Julius Drake added: "I have heard form so many colleagues what an exceptional society you manage and they really were not exaggerating. The Church is exquisite and has a wonderful natural acoustic for chamber music. The piano was first class and you and Brenda were marvellous hosts."
Appropriately, the Borodin Quartet's first visit was in a flurry of snow. Their agent had rung Ray: "please can you put on a Concert for the Borodin Quartet in February 1995 as part of their Golden Jubilee Celebrations?" They must have enjoyed themselves very much, as they returned the following year, giving one of the only 4 performances 4 in the UK (the other 3 being at the Wigmore Hall).
All these performers and more have made Music at Leamington Hastings an adored venue. All thanks to Ray Law's vision and commitment, which we are very pleased to say has been rewarded with an MBE for services to music.
This brief history of the concerts is produced in synopsis from "The Story of 25 years of music making in All Saints Church Leamington Hastings." By the Revd John Stevinson, with grateful thanks.