THERE is a very special concert in March when celebrated pianist Libby Burgess performs at the Old School in Stoke Climsland, writes Sarah Pitt.
Libby will be treating her audience to her passionate interpretation of an epic piece of music by the great 18th century German composer Johann Bach.
The Saturday morning concert at the Tamar Valley venue on March 10 is part of Libby’s tour Bach 48, which sees her play Bach’s famous Well-Tempered Clavier in all 48 counties of England.
This famous piece of music is composed of 48 preludes and fugues which between them take the listener on a musical journey through the whole gamut of human emotions, both joys and sorrows.
This stunning piece of music, the first part of which was published by Bach in 1722, is only rarely performed in its entirety.
Libby brings it to Cornwall over a long weekend in March, notching up her 20th county on her Bach 48 pilgrimage, starting at Chycara House near Carnon Downs on Friday evening, March 10 then visiting the Old School in Stoke Climsland to give a performance at 11am on the Saturday, March 11.
Her Cornish odyssey continues with a further performance on Saturday, March 11 at Lavethan Barn at Blisland near Bodmin and there will be a final performance at Chapel Street Methodist Church in Penzance on Sunday afternoon, March 12, at 3pm.
Libby, whose high profile career has seen her perform on stages nationwide and on Radio 3, explained how the project came about.
‘The tours have been going on for a year and a half and they are ongoing,’ she said.
‘I started in May 2021 when we came out of that long lockdown and live performance had been able to start up again. This is the Cornwall bit of it.
‘The project is built around this selection of music Bach 48. I discovered that there are 48 counties in England and so that felt like there was a project waiting to happen.
‘I play 48 in each of the counties, which is about four and a half hours of music in total. That is why I split it across different venues. I’m doing the whole of Cornwall over the weekend of Friday, Saturday and Sunday, March 10 to 12.
‘If people want to hear the whole thing they can, and spend the weekend driving around Cornwall, or they could just come along to the part near them.’
Libby has for a long-time made the piano her instrument, but she in fact started off playing the organ – and has the distinction of being the first-ever female organ scholar at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford, where she read music, graduating in 2005.
After this, she focused on piano, she particularly likes to collaborate with other musicans and singers, although the current project sees her tickle the ivories with just the audience for company.
‘I love the music of Bach,’ she said.
‘I think it has got everything; some of it is so exuberant and uplifting while the reflective stuff can be peaceful so there is something for every mood. He set out to write something for every major and minor key, and what that means is everything has a different mood to it.’
Bach himself envisaged young people performing the music and with this in mind, Libby’s Bach 48 tour is raising money for charities which work with young people, including Help Musicians, Live Music Now, Future Talent and Youth Music, which between them help hundreds of thousands of musicians every year. Her tour has raised £28,000 so far. ‘I’m about half way round, so it should continue to have an impact,’ says Libby.
She said she had particularly enjoyed visiting different areas of the country, and interpreting Bach live for fresh audiences each time.
‘It is like a pilgrimage, living so closely with it.
Every time I perform it feels so different because the venues are so different, sometimes it is houses, sometimes gardens, some formal, some informal, and that is the whole point of live music.’Spending so much time performing Bach had been had been a special treat. ‘I love all kinds of music, but if I could only pick one composer it would be Bach.’
Bach at the Old School, Stoke Climsland takes place on Saturday, March 11 at 11am. Doors open at 10am for coffee tea and cake. See bachproject48.co.uk/about for full details and more about Libby at