“An island of civilisation” – the words used by the celebrated
actor-director Simon Callow to describe Cecil Court yesterday.
And how accurate a description that is of this beloved byway of bookshops in the heart of London. A miraculous survival - one of London’s greatest treasures – and the home of course to the greatest concentration of ABA members to be found anywhere in the country. A tribute to some enlightened landlordism – the understanding that it’s as easy to make an area as it is to break it.
Simon Callow was there to unveil a plaque to commemorate Mozart’s earliest residence in London – here in Cecil Court – in the spring and summer of 1764.
Callow of course played Mozart in the original stage production of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus. No-one more appropriate to perform the task. He also directed The Magic Flute for Opera Holland Park back in 2008 – so no surprise that some of the Holland Park team were there to sing for us, accompanied by a string quartet
(City of London Sinfonia) playing on the very spot where the boy prodigy once lived and, most likely, composed his first symphonies.
No surprise (again) that after an actorly introduction by David Drummond, Simon Callow made an excellent speech. Tough act to follow, but our own Tim Bryars stepped forward to supply the background story – equally excellent. For all the hundreds of books about Mozart (almost all of which appeared to be in Travis & Emery’s eye-popping window display),
no-one had previouly known exactly where in the Court Mozart and his family had stayed. It was Tim’s own
adroit research in the eighteenth-century rate-books, cross-referenced of course by the study of contemporary maps of London, which supplied the answer and made the accurate placement of a plaque a possibility.
And – naturally enough – it was Tim’s drive and determination which brought it into being. This was very much his day. A good turnout, quite a crowd, we stand and applaud.
A thoroughly delightful afternoon – in fact one
of the most enjoyable afternoons I can ever recall - thank you so much Tim.
Good to see a number of friends and colleagues there.
Wonderful food and drink. Divine music in the open air. We all managed to have a chat, were charmed by the stunning soloists who stayed to talk, and simply didn’t want it to come to an end.
And – just for the record – I managed to take some photographs of a few of the shops which make the Court such a spellbinding and rewarding place to visit – music or otherwise.