Free Music

Music is definitely one of things that’s helped me through this life. It’s disturbed me too at times, given me unsettling dreams of glory, excited me to get involved when I really shouldn’t have, made me weep on several occasions, but on the whole it’s been a brilliant, positive force – whether listening to songs that have helped me make sense of things, trying to write them, singing in bedroom, bath or choir, playing in a band and making people dance, or just tootling about on pianos or pipes. It’s one of the nicest and least dangerous things to do with other people. I often feel a bit lost and puzzled in the houses of friends who don’t have musical instruments lying around to play with. What do they do while they’re waiting for the kettle to boil?

It’s great that there’s so much music going on all the time in Leeds, and that so much of it is either very cheap or completely free.  At a music pub like the Grove, for instance, you can hear the ‘world’s longest running folk club’ every Friday, go to the Tuesday blues jam session, take in a French traditional music session every third Thursday, or a gypsy folk night every 4th Monday, and quite a bit more. There’s a whole host of open mic nights around the city, including at either the Grove or the Victoria behind the town hall, on Wednesday evenings. The magnificent Cloth Cat run one at the Chemic in Woodhouse every Thursday evening. When I’ve been there the music has been high standard, played through good equipment with a sound engineer on hand to balance things. The only cost is a whip round in a beer glass for the one booked act each week.

But also there is lots of quality classical music going on this Autumn completely free, including free lunch-time classical concerts at the University. They take place most Fridays at 1 p.m. at the Clothworkers Hall, which is about a hundred yards down on the right if you go from Woodhouse Lane into the University (with the big, white Brotherton building on your right). Last year I saw the brilliant Kronos Quartet – world renowned musicians! Free! And this years programme looks pretty interesting. For instance next Friday 5th October you can see David Greed (violin), the leader of the Orchestra of Opera North, and Ian Buckle (piano), his long-time accompanist, play Mozart’s only work in E-Minor (that surprised you eh? all that stuff he wrote and only one thing in E minor! And you can hear it for free next Friday!)

If one dose of free classical music a week isn’t enough for you, Leeds College of Music have a season of lunch-time concerts at The Venue on Quarry Hill, every Wednesday til next April (ok, apart from Boxing Day and Jan 2nd, if you’re going to be pedantic.) They start next Wednesday 3rd October (two days time) with Lionel Cottett (cello), and Louis Schwizgebel-Wang (piano, and I honestly haven’t made up that name), playing Beethoven Cello Sonata No1, 6 Schubert Lieder transcriptions, and Schumann’s Adagio and Allegro. It starts at 1 p.m. at The Venue, St.Peter’s Square – which is more or less directly opposite you, as you stand waiting for your bus in the bus station. Performances timed at 50 minutes for busy lunch-time punters, or readers of the Wellbeing Web and other idle singers of an empty day. Terry

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Free concerts at the Howard Rooms

I saw a brilliant concert one recent Friday evening, when the Palestinian singer Reem Kelani sang at the Howard Assembly Rooms. She kept an audience of a couple of hundred people entertained for over an hour with songs from all over the middle east, with quite a bit of musical and other history thrown in for good measure. The most amazing thing was it was completely free. The Assembly Rooms are part of the newly refurbished Leeds Grand Theatre, and the regular concerts there range from fairly cheap to moderately pricey. But every so often for reasons I can’t quite fathom, you get the chance to see brilliant musicians for free. It’s really worth checking out if, like me, music is crucial to your well-being, but you can’t afford to see a lot of live music. The next free stuff at the Howard Rooms is on May 12th, when there’s a session on Opera’s Greatest Duets, and a Sacred Harp Singing Workshop. You just have to go to the box office at the Grand and ask for a ticket.