I didn't know anyone in London so I thought that making music would be a good place to meet people. I was stuck at home in summer 2006, too poor to even take the train into town, so my friend Hannah, who was visiting from Boston, and I decided to organise a recital. This was at the end of July. We started calling local churches, and Christ Church West Wimbledon's pastor Richard Lane said yes please, but they only had an upright piano.
We only gave ourselves one week to organise the concert. We made some flyers, offered it as a free concert and about forty people came, which I thought was really good. After a bit of research I realised that the only classical music concert series in Wimbledon at that time was the Florestan Trio's at King's so I guessed there was a market for it.
We did a "preview" concert in March 2008 and started Jigsaw in September 2008 (ensemble above photographed by Kaupo Kikkas). It's called Jigsaw because the idea is that we put a host of diverse musical talents together and by the concert it should fit like a puzzle....I know, cheesy as hell! There was one concert a month for the first season, each with a theme. Audiences started growing very quickly and by the first Christmas concert we had over 150 people.
We managed to secure some sponsorship from local businesses such as spas and restaurants. I was (pleasantly!) surprised at the response. We gave a fundraising concert for season two and also got funding from a private organisation and Merton Council. We did a lot of education work, going into local libraries, mostly in less-affluent parts of the borough, and we started building up our core supporters.
As a result, I was able to start asking more artists to play and could actually guarantee a fee. Then the private foundation who had promised us a second year of funding reneged on the deal due to its own financial difficulties. We suffered a setback to the tune of £10,000, which represented a huge amount to a small series like Jigsaw, so we were right back to relying on the generosity of individuals and our fundraising concerts.
Many distinguished musicians have been highly supportive over the years. Kim Kashkashian and Jean-Yves Thibaudet are patrons, and Vladimir Jurowski, my chief conductor at the LPO, took time out of his incredibly busy schedule to come to one of our fundraisers at the Light House Restaurant in Wimbledon and to make a speech in our support, where he talked of the value of chamber music.
The difficulties of organising the series were legion. I did have some help from one volunteer but that was on an irregular basis. Publicity was what took most of my time and is what I found to be the hardest part, constantly having to remember to contact people, newspapers, magazines and online sites.
When I got pregnant and had less and less time to advertise, it adversely reflected on public numbers, which was very sad. Nevertheless, we did manage to build an amazing core public which was incredibly faithful, including three devoted followers who have made it to every single concert since Jigsaw started, and we had some remarkable concerts.
I think the highlight was in December 2010 when we played Dmitri Sitkovetsky’s string trio arrangement of Bach’s Goldberg Variations for string trio (pictured above) the day there'd been a huge snow storm. I didn't know if we should cancel but tons of people called to ask if it was going ahead or not and when I asked if they would come they said yes. So people brought blankets and the church was lit with candles, which was so atmospheric.
I met some fascinating people and I have formed strong friendships with so many of the musicians, whose support of Jigsaw has been incredible. Other positives were starting a jazz branch to the series, and last year we did a flamenco evening at the Light House restaurant which was a great success. I really hope to continue next year even if it's the odd concert as opposed to a regular series. "
THURSDAY, 31 DECEMBER 2015 - Sophia Rahman and friends on special festivals