Local musicians perform in historic English venues

Local musicians perform in historic English venues
Nick Curry, Annie Morris, Ellen, Eric and Gina Olson, Les Roettges at Salisbury Cathedral

To perform at New York City’s Carnegie Hall is to “arrive,” but for six local musicians the chance to perform in oldest purpose-built concert hall in Europe where 18th century composers Joseph Hayden and George Handel played was the opportunity of a lifetime.

“Performing in the same location that Haydn played in about 250 years ago was a highlight of the trip,” said Eric Olson, principal oboist of the Jacksonville Symphony and co-founder of the San Marco Chamber Music Society. “The Holywell Music Room was a favorite, because of the fine acoustics, full hall, and history of the Room. To play in a place that Haydn and Handel performed in was really special.”

In June, the San Marco resident, along with his wife, Ellen, a violist with the Jacksonville Symphony and co-founder of the San Marco Chamber Music Society, spent 10 days in England performing four concerts and taking in some historic sites with four other musicians and a small entourage.

Also on the trip were Les Roettges, principal flutist of the symphony; Aurelia Duca, principal second violin of the symphony; Clinton Dewing, a violinist with the symphony, and Nick Curry, professor of cello at the University of North Florida; fundraising chair Rod and Annie Morris, the Olsons’ daughter, Gina, and Dewing and Duca’s daughter, Siena.

The society’s tour was well publicized, thanks to efforts by Morris and his friends, Juliet and Roger Curry of Witney, England.

“There was press about us everywhere in Oxford and in Witney. There were fliers with our pictures on them in bathrooms, on the streets, in restaurants, in hotels, basically everywhere,” said Nick Curry. “It felt really nice to have our concerts promoted to this level.”

The idea to send the San Marco group to England to perform “grew into a more ambitious plan to create a cultural exchange between our two cities, with each sending some of their finest talent to perform for the other,” said Morris.

Together, Morris and the Currys put together a “trade agreement” and the Adderbury Ensemble came to Jacksonville in April to perform four concerts. The Jacksonville musicians’ trip to England was financed, in large measure, by donations from Stellar Group and many supporters.

In addition to performing in the Holywell Music Room at Oxford University, the San Marco Chamber Music Society played to audiences in churches in Oxford, Witney and Adderbury. The British promoters had requested a program consisting of American music by American composers, said Morris. “I know this created considerable additional work by the musicians.”

“My favorite [venue] was Holywell, where the audience was so close and seemed to really enjoy it. There was a minute and a half ovation at the end of the concert,” said Ellen Olson. “That’s also the concert that was reviewed [in the Oxford Times]. I was thrilled to be mentioned in the review!”

Despite a few mishaps – Ellen got airsick on the flight over and Clinton Dewing and Aurelia Duca had luggage misplaced for two days – the group had a wonderful experience abroad and spread the word about Jacksonville while they were at it.

“Visit Jacksonville provided 500 colorful stick-on labels that we used to promote Northeast Florida as a tourist destination,” said Morris.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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