Ex-BSO leader Brendan enjoys ‘great pleasure’ of care home concert   

24 March 2022

It’s not every day you have the chance to see and hear professional orchestral players performing live in your own garden

But that’s exactly what residents here at Canford Chase were able to do thanks to a visit by musicians from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO).

And for the performers, there was added incentive to shine as the audience of residents included Brendan O’Brien, a former BSO leader and principal violinist who spent 29 years with the orchestra until his retirement in 2011.

French horn and piano player Kevin Pritchard and violinist Jennifer Curiel delighted the spectators with a varied, one-hour set that featured pieces by Puccini, Gershwin, Scott Joplin and Debussy.

There were tunes from musicals including Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music and even a classical take on Abba’s Thank You for the Music.

The afternoon concert took place with performers and audience seated in separate, suitably distanced gazebos.

Team members expressed thanks to neighbouring builders who downed tools for the duration to ensure there was no noise disturbance.

In addition, the timing was perfect as planned maintenance work inside the home meant power was briefly shut off but with residents gathered in the garden to hear the music, no-one was affected.

Brendan, who was married to the Irish violinist Anita Dunkerley, was first appointed leader of the BSO in 1968.

He said: “When I started with them, they were celebrating their 75th year and it was a wonderful season.

“David Oistrakh, one of the greatest violinists ever, played Shostakovich’s violin concerto and Rostropovich the cellist also played. It was a huge honour for me to be celebrating that wonderful time with them.

“Now, to be here as an old man, living in this nursing home which I like very much, it was a great pleasure for me to meet some of the present-day members of the orchestra and enjoy their playing. It would be great to enjoy a repeat of the experience.”

Our Companionship Team Leader Julie Wathen said: “The musicians wove a magical spell over our garden, with 17 residents watching the performance in hushed silence, their faces a picture of peace and contentment. There was complete stillness as everyone listened in awe to the beautiful music.

“There was obvious pride in Brendan as he spoke with Jenni and Kevin afterwards and I overheard Edna, another of our residents, say to the musicians that she found the performance ‘absolutely charming’.

“With our power briefly off for maintenance work, it could have been quite chaotic for the residents, but the garden became an oasis of peace for them. Thank you BSO.”

In a note of thanks to Canford Chase afterwards, Kevin praised the ‘generosity of staff for providing lunch and refreshments and being attentive throughout’.

Kevin and Jennifer were accompanied on their visit by organiser Ben Jennings, the BSO’s Participate Programme Manager.

The concert was part of a ‘tour’ being delivered with the generous support of Tapper Funeral Service.

Throughout the pandemic, BSO musicians have engaged with all ages through live music-making workshops and performances.

Symphonic performances by the orchestra were also livestreamed for government ministers attending the recent G7 summit in Cornwall.