The last few years have been a time of great change for Wiltshire Music Centre. My responsibilities cover everything from the building to the staff and the fundraising. One of the main things I’ve been focussed on has been developing the environment of the building so that the quality of experience outside the auditorium matches the quality of the experience inside.
Over 16 years the Centre has developed an amazing professional programme of live music attracting artists like Courtney Pine, Jacquie Dankworth, Kathryn Tickell, Martin Carthy, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Doric String Quartet to name but a few. The building itself was built with one of the first Arts Council grants of lottery funds in 1997. It’s utilitarian and fairly stark but the auditorium has a wonderful acoustic with a two second reverberation – perfect for live acoustic music. The challenge was to vary the acoustic in the auditorium to make amplified music sound even better and to make the foyer more welcoming – we also needed a staff office.
We were lucky that the Arts Council announced a small capital grants scheme and we had a basic plan for an office extension drawn up several years previously. We worked with some of the best acoustic designers (Gillieron Scott) in the country on a scheme of roller banners in the auditorium and a local interior designer (Steve Brewer) on the foyer. We also wanted a piece of public art to ‘put the building on its pedestal’. Several of us had seen Bruce Munro’s work in Bath and Salisbury and I was persuaded by staff members to call him and see if he might be interested. I did and he was – he came to see the building and was instantly inspired by the foyer space and the concept of connecting the foyer with the auditorium. The result was ‘Rhythm and Blues’ – a light installation that fills the foyer with floating candle-like lights reflected in a huge mirror, giving the impression that it goes right through to the auditorium.
It’s been a huge job to get these improvements in place over the last 2 summers but everything is finished now and our new season has just started. One of the highlights this season is a residency by jazz pianist Jason Rebello, just nominated for a MOBO award for best jazz act, with 2 concerts featuring Jason with jazz group Empirical and soul singer Ola Onabule. More details at www.wiltshiremusic.org.uk
Clare Jack – Executive Director, Wiltshire Music Centre