One of the most remarkable things about Southbank Sinfonia is that every year another 32 musicians are welcomed to form an orchestra. Not only does that mean that each year’s band has its own nuances of personalities, nationalities and sound, but also that Anghiari is seen through new eyes every July.
The orchestra has been resident at the annual Anghiari Festival for over a decade now, and supporters who travel out one year invariably get hooked and return the next. So what makes this Tuscan hill town so special? Right from day one of being involved in Southbank Sinfonia, the town is talked about in almost mythical terms. Ancient buildings, divine food, stunning views and glorious sun (although it’s been a little shy this year) are mentioned time and time again. However, until you experience Anghiari in the flesh these are just hollow words.
On a grand scale, the vast vistas of the Tiber valley from the medieval walls are truly incredible. But the atmosphere within the town is so much more than just scenery. It’s a sense of centuries of history, of individual characters and stories shaping every single building perching in their uniquely hodgepodge way up the hill. It’s the smell of Italian cooking seeping through the windows and onto the narrow cobbled streets. And when Southbank Sinfonia are in town, it’s the sound of Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, or perhaps the Ravel String Quartet, wafting through the air and reaching your ears in locations you least expect it. Before you realise it, you’ll have a huge grin on your face and goosebumps galore.
Words, pictures and videos cannot hope to do this place justice. But, to make a start, just one tiny element of this incredible collage are the door knockers, with every house’s different. Some are simple, some are extravagant; some have ornate faces, others a characterful handmade charm. Of course each is essential to getting into a house, but they also do so much more than that – they help give the town its collective charm. The sum is greater than its parts.
In some ways, the musicians and instruments of Southbank Sinfonia are the same (bear with us here…). Some are large, some are small; some are gregarious, others more subtle. A whole collection of personalities and sounds that are brilliant by themselves, and which become something even greater when performing as a whole orchestra.
And now the fun part! After much debate, prosecco and impersonation among the orchestra, we’ve tried matching up a few examples of ironwork to the personalities of our players and their instruments. Silly? Probably. But to begin to share the magic of Anghiari, you have to think outside the box.
Of course, to experience the bigger picture there really is only one way: make sure you join us in Tuscany in 2015.