In the heart of Marylebone lies Harley Street, a row of handsome Georgian buildings recognisable to all in London for their iconic black railings and W1 postcode. Since the 19th century, Harley Street and the surrounding areas have become synonymous with world-class medical care across all specialities, including fertility. This area of Marylebone draws patients from around the country, and across the globe, who are seeking the excellent healthcare treatment found here.
However, it may come as a surprise to learn that in the mid-1800s, alongside its reputation for medical and surgical specialities, Harley Street was also home to a vibrant musical scene. Physicians lived above their practices and, in the grand salon rooms that now exist as consultation rooms, doctors’ offices, or theatres, musicians would gather for intimate concerts of the highest level. Such famous composers as Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Berlioz were making names for themselves performing on this street.
Providing Opportunities to All
Medicine and music have long gone hand in hand as each relate profoundly to the human condition and our wellbeing. Harley Street Concerts will seek to resurrect this rich cohabitation in the very street where it began. This charitable enterprise emanating from London Women’s Clinic will serve to reunite the medical, patient, and musical communities in this unique area for the benefit of our patients, staff, and musicians alike.
Through a series of regular performances in 112 Harley Street, Harley Street Concerts will also provide a platform for emerging musical talent of the highest order. Established musicians, alongside graduates from the top London music conservatoires, will be invited to perform.
What’s more, Harley Street Concerts will not only provide a unique platform to perform but also offer financial support to emerging musicians as they embark on their professional careers. Thanks to several scholarships being formulated in association with participating local music conservatoires, selected musicians will be awarded bursaries to support their advanced training as they transition to professional performer.
The inaugural concerts took place on Wednesday 1st December and Thursday 2nd December, and saw performances from wonderful musical talents. Soprano Claire Lees, winner of the 2019 Wil Keune Mozart Prize; and Orpheus Sinfonia, a young and vibrant group of orchestral musicians; gave sparkling and memorable performances of a programme of Christmas music ranging from arias from Handel’s Messiah and a Strauss opera to Christmas carols, including a new carol, ‘Baby Sleeping’ possibly destined to become our official in-house LWC Christmas Carol!
The performances took place in the Salon room at 112 Harley Street, one of the largest rooms in the building, whose high ceilings are adorned with ornate cornicing, and from which hangs a candle chandelier in the centre. Whilst this room is usually occupied by personnel at London Women’s Clinic for meetings or hosting educational seminars for patients, it’s likely that the very same room was used in the past for musical performances similar to the ones that took place this month. Indeed, when listening to Antonio Vivaldi’s Largo, from Winter from The Four Seasons, the audience could not help reflecting on the similarities between the fireplace in front of them, with the rain outside falling on the windows; and the fireplace thought to be keeping Vivaldi warm on an equally rainy night many years ago as he wrote this work.
Following these performances, the night transitioned as the audience moved to the ground floor and congregated in the hallways. At this point, Claire and the musicians found the stairway to be their stage. Perched on various points of the staircase and landings, their final performance of O Holy Night proved to be the most memorable. Their positioning was perfect, as the sound of Claire’s voice, the trumpet, and the violins flooded the hallways and filled the building with music for everyone to hear. The night ended in an impressive round of applause for all who took part.
Moving forward, Harley Street Concerts, supported by its sponsors (which include the London Women’s Clinic Foundation, Fertility Plus and Ferring Pharmaceuticals) aim to provide regular performances in the medical heart of Marylebone. It is the hope of the co-founders, Nick Macklon, Anna Gustafson, and Grace Cook, along with their benefactors and supporters, that both music and medicine will continue to be celebrated alongside each other. As Professor Macklon, Medical Director of London Women’s Clinic, said in his speech on opening night, “Medicine and music are closely interlinked at the heart of many of our lives, each providing solace, hope and joy. Harley Street Concerts will bring them together again’.
To find out more about Harley Street Concerts, please visit their website.