We caught up with Bec Berkley, Artistic Director of Music at Reading from August 2017 until June 2020, to see how she was getting on during this isolation period!
What has been the worst or most memorable thing that has happened during one of your performances – as a performer/director/accompanist etc?
I have good and bad experiences of this. I have performed contemporary pieces in front of the (famous) composer on several occasions, and this can be remarkably challenging and also really rewarding, especially when the music is technically challenging, and the publishing company only tell you the day before the concert that the famous person is attending! I remember one very poignant performance where the person who had commissioned the work to commemorate their child who had died attended the concert. It was a real privilege to be able to meet them, and to be able perform the work.
Less positive memories include conducting Spem in Alium – a forty voice motet with eight choirs of 5 voices all around the church – and getting lost a couple of bars in at the dress rehearsal, and then being slightly pleased that the choir broke down and we needed to stop so no-one noticed that I’d got lost some while back. And I have a habit of forgetting my concert shoes.
I do remember some orchestral players inventing a game called Bec Bingo, where they would write down swear words on a piece of paper and then tick them off during rehearsals with a opera group that I was working with. They said that as the rehearsals progressed I got more and more angry and sweary with the singers on stage, and they found it increasingly harder to play because they were laughing.
Who is your musical inspiration?
I would like to be Nicola Benedetti when I grow up. Her Benedetti Foundation does the most fantastic work to inspire and education young musicians. I also always wanted to sound like Nina Simone when In sang, but I never did!
What inspires you to perform and teach?
I really like it when people can do it for themselves. I really like watching teachers go and teach the next generation.
Which instrument do you wish you had learned?
What musical advice would you give to your younger self?
Do not be scared of the sharps and flats – do not tell yourself that you have to stay in C major because the other keys are too hard. They are not, they just need some extra work.
What musical moment are you most proud of?
Playing for Toro Takemitsu was pretty spiffing. And also watching the musicians of Music at Reading perform every time is always completely heart warming. The fellowship and commitment of the membership is always a great pleasure to be part of.
Which three words describe you as a musician?
Hot cross Bec?
It goes like this? (although that’s four words)
Where’s my coffee?
What is your favourite memory of working with Music at Reading?
All of them have been great.
What is the soundtrack of your lockdown?
Adras Schiff playing Bach Well Tempered Klaiver books 1 and 2 and
Kenny Rogers – RIP – try The Gambler
Penguin café orchestra, mainly because it is bonkers and really cheerful
Faure piano quintets – love them all but no 1 in D minor is exquisite
What are you most excited for when lockdown is over?
In a way, I am enjoying the calm. But I am not enjoying the lack of face to face contact with people. So, I will look forward to having a busy building full of musicians again.