On Sunday 22nd February a full house gathered at Temple Lodge Church, a beautifully peaceful oasis amidst the bustle of Hammersmith, for the first event in the Messiaen 2015 series. Peter van Breda’s pre-concert talk, looking at Messiaen’s childhood, artistic influences and musical aims, gave a wonderful introduction to the performance and project.
The talk was followed by half an hour of tea, scones, cake and an exhibition of the nine commissioned paintings so far completed by Sophie Hacker.
Left to right: First Communion of the Virgin, The Exchange, I Sleep but my Heart Wakes, Gaze of the Spirit of Joy.
Left to right: Kiss of the Infant Jesus, Gaze of the Star, Gaze of the Heights, Christmas.
The concert that we returned to was a wonderful collaboration between Cordelia Williams and Sophie Hacker. After giving a short introduction to the Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus, Cordelia performed the nine movements corresponding to the paintings on display. Preceding each movement, Sophie spoke about the answering painting and about which elements of the music and of Messiaen’s theology had particularly reached out to her. One listener described the evening as ‘utterly sublime'; it was quite magical to hear the music in conjunction with this new art, and vice versa, as each shed new light on the other. We came away feeling illuminated and uplifted.