FESTIVAL OF CHICHESTER: Ensemble Reza play it close to home

The fast-emerging Sussex-based Ensemble Reza will play the concluding concert of this year’s Festival of Chichester.

They will be offering Russian Gems as part of the St John’s Concert Series within the Festival at St John’s Chapel, St John’s Street, Chichester on Sunday, July 13 at 7.30pm. The promise is an evening of sublime Russian music featuring Arensky – String Quartet in A Minor: violin, viola, two cellos; and Tchaikovsky – Souvenir de Florence.

The name Reza is taken from the Greek word ‘roots’ and was suggested by the group’s half-Greek cellist and music director Pavlos Carvalho. With growing family commitments, the group are keen to perform nearer to home and feel a strong commitment to taking outstanding music to local audiences.

As Pavlos explains, the group became official last September, comprising members who had been performing together in various combinations, musicians who already knew each other and had somehow all found themselves in the Haywards Heath area: “We did a concert together just for fun, and it went so well we thought we would do another. It just took off from there.

“The whole idea was we wanted to stay local. We wanted to cut out the travel. All of us love our playing and performing, but the travel was taking too much time. It is not the rehearsing and the performing that is the problem. It is the time spent travelling, and so we just wanted to create something that would work closer to home. We are all at the stage where we have families, and we want to see them more.

“And it is working out amazingly. We rehearse nearby, and we are getting more and more concerts, and the great thing is it changes the whole vibe. We are not spending hours on the train getting there, so we are more relaxed, and we are not thinking about the fact we won’t get home until well after midnight. It just gives the whole thing a completely-different feeling that really works for us.”

Pavlos is also enjoying the kind of venues they seem to be attracting at the

moment, venues of which St John’s is typical. They are playing a lot of churches or former churches, not necessarily by intention but because a lot of music societies use churches, past and present, as their bases.

“It means you get such beautiful acoustics.”

The ensemble plays one free concert a month, but otherwise their workload varies, though it is certainly on the up. They are playing more concerts this year than last. As Pavlos says, he is keen to make sure they don’t overload themselves, but he is delighted at the way things are going. Now it is a question of taking the next step. For the moment, they play largely what Pavlos calls the mainstream repertoire, but a longer-term aim is to move more towards commissioning, for which, as he says, they will have to acquire the funding.

“It’s our long-term vision. We want to be part of what is happening in contemporary music, not just watching what is happening all around us. It is very important to encourage young composers to compose. It is very important that they get that chance.”