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Kettle’s Yard Music Associate Deborah Carnwath tells us more about the Maxwell Quartet’s recent performance at Kettle’s Yard, which you can watch online until 25 March 2021.

“Imagine once more sitting at Kettle’s Yard gazing into space, your eyes passing lightly over those familiar friends, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Ben Nicholson, Christopher Wood, the strains of Haydn in your ears. While we can’t yet welcome you back in person for this experience, we can offer the next best thing. The film we made a few weeks ago of the Maxwell Quartet enlivening an all-but-empty Kettle’s Yard is now available for you to enjoy online for a limited period, until 25 March 2021. Watch the film here.

The film was devised to mark 50 years of music at Kettle’s Yard. We are enormously grateful to those who responded to our invitation to donate to this project. We are keen to invite any of you who may have missed the premiere of the film to catch it while you can and donate if you are able to.

The response to the film has been heart-warming. ‘A perfect blend of music and art. As it should be.’ ‘Terrific, absolutely brilliant, I’m buzzing both with the superb performance and being back in Kettle’s Yard.’ ‘..balm for the soul… I was grinning through the tears all the way through.’ And many more – I think we hit a chord – or two.

It’s worth pointing out that our video is different from the video performances music-lovers have grown used to this year – from full-blown concerts in empty halls to enterprising musicians serenading their kitchen sinks. Two things set ours apart, over and above the wonderful music-making. One is the aesthetic wonder of Kettle’s Yard itself – few venues enjoy a setting so rich in visual delight. The other is the skill of the filmmaker. We were lucky to engage the services of music filmmaker Patrick Allen of Opera Omnia – a true professional from his six cameras and countless subtle lights, to the quiet confidence with which he appreciated and recorded his surroundings. The result is a tribute to the joy of listening to music at Kettle’s Yard.

The Maxwell Quartet were clearly the ones to ask when the idea of filming a concert took hold last year as the chance of live concerts receded. No strangers to Kettle’s Yard, we knew they would bring the right blend of skill, enthusiasm and originality to the performance. Organising such a thing in times like these was never going to be straightforward and the following months threw many obstacles at us. In addition to long-distance travel (two of the band are from north of Edinburgh), there was the late summer arrival of two mini-Maxwells, unexpected quarantines and repeated lockdowns. But in mid-December we pulled it off. Four Maxwells, the filmmaker of our choice and an empty Kettle’s Yard for a whole day. It could not have been more fun and I think it shows.

The Maxwell Quartet, photo: Rich Watson

The Maxwells are known for their vivid blending of Haydn with Scottish folk music which tempts even the most sedate heads and toes to nod. By happy accident our film coincides with the release of their latest CD for which they’ve received glowing reviews including on BBC Radio 3 and in The Times. It includes much of the music played for us here – Haydn String Quartets alongside their ‘intoxicating arrangements of Scottish reels, fiddle dances and pipe tunes’ (Geoff Brown in The Times). In the Maxwells’ hands, Haydn’s music reflects, dances and uplifts – and shares its mischievous jokes. To quote Geoff Brown again, ‘Every winter day… requires a dose of Haydn: he’s music’s vitamin C.’

The group’s devotion to Scottish music is not surprising given that three of them come from north of the border and ‘grew up with the traditional folk music of Scotland ringing in our ears’. (Elliott’s from Surrey – he says his beard got him the job). They feel that their love of folk music is ‘intrinsically connected’ to their passion for the string quartet repertoire. With Elliott equally committed, they have developed a distinct voice in folk music. ‘We believe ‘Folk’ music is the root, the fundament of classical music, and our approach aims to marry the two together in a unique, free, and meaningful way. For us, every melody is a song, every rhythm a dance.’

The Maxwell Quartet playing at Kettle’s Yard, photo: Deborah Carnwath

We hope you will watch and enjoy the film and find it a fitting celebration of 50 years of music at Kettle’s Yard, a reminder of the joy of listening to music here and a tonic for the spirits. Please do keep in touch with us as we plan concerts for 2021, and to support us as we look to the next 50 years of music in this special place.”

Deborah Carnwath

Watch the full filmed performance with the Maxwell Quartet here.

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