Festival marks the rejuvination of Lauderdale House

Resident musicians the Billroth Quartet renamed the Moeran Quartet. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Resident musicians the Billroth Quartet renamed the Moeran Quartet. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

The Highgate arts centre relaunches after a £2.3 million revamp to create new spaces, and is raring to showcase what it does best

Last year Lauderdale House went to sleep: wrapped in scaffolding and plastic for a major renovation. Now - £2.3million later - the wraps are off. And with new rooms, new performance spaces, a new entrance and a new electric yellow colour on the main stairs that you’ll either love or hate, it’s back in business with a vengeance next month – when the House relaunches with a February festival designed to showcase everything it does as a community arts venue.

Needless to say, music features prominently and what you might call the launch for the relaunch – which will be a whole day of events on Tuesday Feb 7th – begins with a free lunchtime concert by a group of musicians already associated with the House but going through a relaunch of their own, the Billroth Quartet.

As Lauderdale’s quartet-in-residence, the past year’s closure has seen their residency relocated to the nearby Hill Homes care centre where they’ve played to residents and visitors, and been well-received. But quartets don’t live for ever. Over time they reform and reshape as members drift away to pursue other interests. And the Billroth have just metamorphosed into a new group, called the Moeran Quartet (after composer EJ Moeran) and structured so they can pull in extra players when they want them, for larger repertoire.

In this new guise they’ve renewed their residency at the House and their Feb 7 concert will initiate a regular series on the first Tuesday of every month.

As for the rest of Lauderdale’s music programme, director Katherine Ives tells me she’s keen to “up the ante on what’s happened in the past.

“With a new side entrance in addition to the one at the front, we can potentially hold two separate events on the same night. And with extra spaces, we’ve got far more flexibility. Upstairs, the long gallery can have everything from cabaret to chamber music. Downstairs is ideal for jazz and maybe small-scale opera, which is something I’d really like to develop. And we’re about to have separate pianos again in both places.

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“There’s a Steinway grand downstairs, and for a long while we had an Erard grand upstairs, loaned to us by Markson Pianos but out of condition. However...Marksons are very kindly refurbishing it for us. We get it back in February. And we’re keen to make good use of it”.

One use will be a series of keyboard-focused concerts on the 3rd Tuesday of every month – beginning Feb 21 - organised by the pianist Stephen Hose and featuring himself in combination with other instrumentalists or singers.

Also on the cards are musical events for children, starting with a puppet-performance of Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” on Feb 12th. There’s a supportive programme of music talks and educational activities, funded by the unbelievably long-established John Lyons Charity which has been handing out cash to such things since the 16th century.

“John Lyons made his money by owning some of the main routes into London and charging people to use them”, explains Ives, “and it’s extraordinary to think that his money is still around. What I especially like, though, is the thought that Lyons was amassing his fortune at roughly the same time that Lauderdale House was being built. It’s two tales of survival. And long may we both continue”.

Full details at lauderdalehouse.co.uk