The composer’s new work inspired by the real-life giants of West Berkshire

A rather special event takes place in Aldworth at the end of the month, with the string musicians of the Adderbury Ensemble.

St Mary’s Church is famous for its Aldworth Giants, stone effigies of nine members of the de la Beche family that lie in stately splendour. Norman knights and their ladies were about seven feet tall.

These inspired Tilehurst composer John Whittaker to write one of the movements for his string quartet. He picks up the story:

Composer John Whittaker, photo Geoff Fletcher

“The String Quartet, which I wrote in the difficult circumstances of the pandemic, was born when having initially written a first movement, I was stuck for a moment on the sequel.

“However, a visit to Aldworth Church with all its history gave me the inspiration for a contrasting second movement – which aims to transport the listener into the past.

“The other movements quickly followed, with a light intermezzo and a finale that then returns to the mood of the first movement.”

Adderbury String Quartet
Adderbury String Quartet

Once completed, John then contacted the Adderbury Ensemble who “although I was an unknown composer were kind enough to take my music, and although it was a lot of work to learn something new”.

He then contacted the curate of St Mary’s Church and subsequently the church committee who he said were all very supportive in his natural desire to have his music played at the place that played a role in the birth of music.

“I consider myself so lucky to have a top professional quartet performing my music in the unique venue of Aldworth Centenary Church.”

Composer John Whittaker, photo Geoff Fletcher
Composer John Whittaker, photo Geoff Fletcher

The Adderbury Quartet will premiere John Whittaker’s Quartet with effigies of the movement in church on Saturday July 30 at 7 p.m., as well as Mozart’s Quartet in C and Dvorak’s Quartet in F (The American).

The evening will include a brief lecture by historian Chris Paterson on the Aldworth Giants of the 14th century.

The Adderbury Ensemble brings together some of the UK’s finest musicians to perform the best chamber music in the world. Formed in 1986 by a group of the UK’s finest young independent musicians, the Adderbury Ensemble has a flexible line-up, mixing and matching different musicians to deliver performances primarily as quartets, quintets or small chamber groups and occasionally adding new elements. other instruments for playing symphonies and concertos by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn or Brahms – with or without a conductor. All who perform as part of the Adderbury Ensemble are eminent instrumentalists, usually a principal player in one or more of Europe’s leading orchestras.

Aldworth Giants
Aldworth Giants
Aldworth Giants
Aldworth Giants
Aldworth Giants
Aldworth Giants

John Whittaker, a former teacher, wrote small-scale vocal and choral works and had two one-act operas performed. His quartet was written during the Covid lockdown and much of the music reflects the unsettling times we have all experienced. During the Effigies movement, the listener is invited to imagine a journey through time, perhaps imagining the people represented by the stone sculptures coming back to life. – maybe at the end of the movement the vision fades and again the effigies are lifeless as they are today.

Refreshments provided. Tickets £17 in advance on 01635 578936 or 578239



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