Simon Green

It’s rather rare for a prestigious social gathering to be taking place on a Monday; rarer still would your scribe actually be in attendance. Mondays are usually a day for reflection on the weekend just past, and is more often than not spent in the throes of a recovery from wine o’clocks that invariably start nearer lunchtime than the prerequisite 6.00pm. However, rules are made to be broken, and an invitation to attend a high-end soiree proved too tempting to pass up. I therefore found myself traipsing from the metro to H.E. The British Ambassador’s palatial house in -15 with an elegant lady who I had invited to the occasion. His house in this cold seemed like a distant mirage in the desert as we set off across the bridge at Borovitskaya, but as if being pulled by a magnet, we quickened our pace in anticipation of the scrumptious canapes bound to be on offer, as well as the proffered champagne that awaited us.

Upon arrival at this eclectic event, we received the latter refreshment at the top of the quasi royal staircase, then no sooner had we moved into the dining room, than several waitresses circulated with an array of canapes to suit all tastes. This event was sponsored by Luke Conner of Conner and Company, and after an exchange of pleasantries with him and several other familiar faces, he instructed us to take advantage of the fizz, wine and Glenmorangie at our disposal- I didn’t need a second invitation! After an hour of frenetic socialising, we were duly ushered into the ornate white and gold room in anticipation of the Bolshoi singers performing excerpts from Handel’s Messiah. They were accompanied by a six-piece mini orchestra who played with aplomb and dexterity, and were the supporting act of the four main singers there to serenade and entertain us.

Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Moscow, Laurie Bristow, made the introductions and announced that the proceeds of the evening would go to a worthy cause: The Centre for Curative Pedagogics, a charity set up in 1989 to help children with developmental problems. G.F. Handel’s Messiah burst onto the musical scene in 1742 and quickly became the perennial fixture of the Christmas season. The award-winning Emma-Marie Kabanova led the orchestra with zest and confidence, and she had under her command a couple of violins, a viola, a cello, a harpsichord and last, but not least, a trumpet. The latter amply demonstrated his skills at differentiating between ‘piano’ and ‘forte’ playing, but had this rather strange idiosyncrasy of tipping his trumpet vertically to drain the saliva, which had a few of the cognoscenti stifling (in my case in vain I have to confess) a few giggles at this spectacle. In all my 50 odd years of orchestral playing, this was a first for me! The soloists, comprising of a soprano, a mezzo soprano, a tenor and a baritone, then got to work in various combinations, either as a duet or individually, then collectively for the finale, the world famous ‘Hallelujah.’

After receiving rapturous applause from all of us, each performer was presented with a bunch of flowers which was a fitting gesture. At this juncture, I fully expected to be shown the door and be making my way home, but to my surprise, we were told part two of the party was just beginning with jollifications in the form of fish and chips and other gastronomic delights, as well as a plethora of liquid refreshment. It’s fair to say I most probably ‘dined unwisely.’ But such a convivial occasion merited such behaviour and we all went on our way rejoicing into the night.