Tuesday, 24 April 2012

A straightforward choice

I have been granted permission to photograph the Holywell Rooms, I had the choice of either paying the hire charge or allowing them to use any photograph I take - I didn't investigate the hire charge! Handel and Haydn have both played at this venue which has a seating capacity of 250.
I have been surprised at the level of access I have been allowed to all of the venues I have requested, so far I haven't been refused anything that I've asked for. However this place has surprised me more than the others; to gain access I thought I would have to report to the entrance (or somewhere similar) and would then be accompanied around the building, not so. I am to report to Wadham College Lodge, where I will be given the key that I will be asked to return after I have finished. What was it Blanche duBois said? "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers".

In the summer of 1998, the Holywell Music Room celebrated its 250th anniversary. The oldest custom-built concert hall in Europe, it opened its doors to the public for the first time in 1748. Designed by Thomas Camplin, Vice-Principal of St. Edmund Hall, the building was probably the brainchild of William Hayes, then Professor of Music at the University. The project was funded by public subscription (established in 1742). The room continued as a concert venue throughout the eighteenth century and until 1836, from which time it was used for a number of other events, including auctions and exhibitions. By the 1870s, it was being used for weekly rehearsals by the Oxford Philharmonic Society and its future as a musical venue was further secured after 1910 when the Oxford University Musical Union obtained a lease on the building. The Holywell was restored and refitted in 1959-60 and since that time has been the location for many hundreds of recitals and concert series featuring prestigious visiting musicians as well as many local groups and student performers.
While Wadham College owns the Holywell Music Room, the use of this room is divided between the Faculty of Music and the College. The Faculty makes use of the room during University Term Time and Wadham during vacations, with each using its own discretion regarding policy and charges.  – source University web-site here 
Reprinted by kind permission of the Oxford University music faculty

The Holywell is a very nice place to listen to music, though the range is limited to chamber and small ensemble pieces. I have been to many concerts here mainly piano music as well as jazz, there is a resident Steinway and harpsichord.
The entrance is designed on classical lines is another shot to help situate the feeling of the place. The box office is appositely named, it is small and the perspective here of the entrance will be worth a look. The view into the auditorium from the Hall entrance is very balanced and I will look from the back of the Hall which is raked at a significant angle. As with other performance venues that I am looking at the perspective from the stage - an elevated platform - of the Hall is one that will try and capture. I have never been in the "Green Room"and that will provide another perspective.
My overriding memory of the Holywell is one of contemplative calm, despite the passion of the music, which I would expect to able to convey in what I suspect will be an empty facility for my purposes.

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