CANDLES, mulled wine and seasonable classics make the annual Candlelit Christmas Concert Tour a potentially first rate festive treat for music lovers. The first concert is tomorrow in Middlesbrough, but the tour also takes in Hexham, Darlington, Newcastle and Carlisle before Beverley Minster.
David Haslam conducts the English Philharmonic Ensemble alongside Donald Halliday, conducting The Singers, for a programme including Locatelli’s Christmas Concerto, Handel’s Trumpet Suite and Winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.
If the strings seem particularly close- knit this year, it could be because producer Annamaria McCool has hired the youthful Heath Quartet to join their ranks, with founder Oliver Heath as leader of the orchestra.
The hope is that their familiarity with each other will transmit to the other players. It can certainly do no harm.
The cellist in the Heath Quartet is Christopher Murray, 24, from a musical North-East family. Dad David is a pianist who has directed choirs in Sunderland, Hexham and Ryton, and will play harpsichord on the candlelit tour, while mum Jennifer plays clarinet.
“It was a very musical upbringing,” says Christopher, who grew up in Whitley Bay. He went to Newcastle Royal Grammar School until sixth form, when he moved to Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester and then to the same city’s Royal Northern College of Music.
Since college, he has settled in London. He says the Heath Quartet was formed by fellow RNCM graduates and close friends Oliver Heath, from Surrey, and Gary Pomeroy (viola), from South Africa.
There have been a few personnel changes along the way, but Christopher has been with the quartet for three
years. Violinist Rebecca Eves, from Winchester, completes the foursome.
According to Christopher, this is a good time for talented quartets. “There are a lot of very good young groups at the moment. There is a lot of competi-tion but also a lot of opportunities.”
These days, he says, music graduates have to prepare for a “portfolio career”, displaying willingness to perform, teach and publicise what they are doing. It sounds like the survival of the fittest.
Christopher is looking forward to the candlelit tour. Currently working on his own freelance career, he says the Heath Quartet is occupying much of his time.
Joining the English Phil will be a respite and he is particularly looking forward to St Cuthbert’s Church in Carlisle. “It has a really good acoustic, so it’s one of my favourite places to play.”
The tour is: St John the Evangelist, Middlesbrough, December 14, (01642) 729729; Hexham Abbey, Dec 15, (01434) 652477; St Cuthbert’s, Darlington, Dec 16, (01325) 388666; St George’s, Jesmond, Dec 20, (0191 277 8003); St Cuthbert’s, Carlisle, Dec 21, (01228) 534664; Beverley Minster, Dec 22, (01482) 391672. All 8pm. To book, visit www.candlelitconcerts.com .