Daylight Music 335

There must be something special about Daylight Music to get me out of the house at 6.50am on a Saturday morning. I was going to help take photographs and wanted to be there by 9.30am. But with the new series moving venues, it now takes longer to get to them. Today’s venue, St John’s in Leytonstone, is the furthest out. So I needed to take into account the travel time, the regular weekend Thameslink cancellations, minimising tube travel and the walk down to the station.

I believe today’s session was effectively the cancelled Piano Day from 2020. The previous Piano days have been some of my favourite Daylight sessions, featuring some amazing artists and composers. Today’s session featuring Kerry Yong, Yshani Perinpanayagam and Elliot Galvin, wasn’t as strong as previous sessions. But still proved interesting (and some of the previous Piano days have set a very high bar).

The session opened with Kerry playing harpsichord and piano in the first of his two sets. Playing a new piece (I failed to get the name of) and extracts from Messiaen’s Catalogue d’oiseaux (Catalogue of Birds).

The harpsichord is an interesting instrument. It has a distinctive sound that always conjure images of 1700s, with elegantly dressed balls. The sound to me always lacks dynamics but has a precise, almost formal feeling. It’s always interesting to hear in small doses. Thankfully, Kerry used it sparingly so it didn’t outstay its welcome, playing the piano for most of his two sets. (Although St John’s piano, didn’t have the richest sound).

Next up was Yshani. Unusually for a Daylight piano day, Yshani, like Kerry, didn’t play any of her own music, instead played Metamorphosis by Philip Glass. Like much of Glass’ work, this is a beautiful and accessible piece. You literally could hear a pin drop as the audience listening attentively (and my camera in silent mode).

Kerry then returned to with more Messiaen. Too much Messiaen for my liking. I like some of Messiaen’s work. But I have to be in the right mood for it.

I’ve said this many times, I like how Daylight challenges my musical boundaries. The final performer, Elliot Galvin was one of those acts. Elliot Galvin is a jazz pianist and played an improvised piece. As with all improvised music, it overstayed its welcome, but was interesting at times. At times registering with me, other times losing me as Elliot headed in a different direction to how I thought it should go. Watching the crowd, it was a mixed bag. Half were completely lost in the music. But there were others like me, struggling to concentrate on the random musical changes, but still fascinated by Elliot’s dynamic performance.

It is expensive putting on sessions like these. Daylight now needs to generate revenue to keep it going. While cafe and merch will help, it is going to need people who are willing to return regularly to hear it’s curiosities. On the one hand, programming accessible music like Glass would put bums on seats, and £10 for Glass is really cheap. Programming more challenging works by Messiaen and having ‘Cafe Otto’ improvised Jazz may keep the audiences size down and make the sessions unsustainable without external support. However, if it was forced to change, would it still be Daylight Music? I like Daylight because it offers distinctive programming. I don’t want to like everything. I want to be challenged. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if this programming was too challenging and see if the audience returns for the next Leytonstone visit.

This was the second St John used by Daylight. It was interesting to compare the two venues. St John’s in Bethnal Green had better dynamics. But St John’s in Leytonstone felt like it could be moulded to Daylight’s needs. It felt more open and airy and it also had better accessibility. It also brought in a new audience. Lots of new faces from the Leytonstone area. It felt like there would be an opportunity to grow the audience. While catching a walk-in audience might be a struggle as the Leytonstone area felt a bit ‘suborby’. However, the bustle of Bethnal Green felt even less likely to be a place you’d get walk-ins. It will be interesting to see how Grand Junction fairs in a few weeks time.

It is really great having Daylight back. I had my most normal Saturday since March 2020. A decent walk. I took some photos. Listened to some music and then had a post-Daylight ‘just one pint’ drinking session. I really hope they find a way to continue beyond this season and they do so without compromising programming. With its return it continues to challenge my music sensibilities, bringing me new music I would otherwise never listen to.