• Peter Dayton

3.16.20 Southampton success, coming back, moving forward

Updated: Mar 24

Dear Friends,

As of this blog post's publication, we are in Heathrow airport on our way home. What Doug and I will meet stateside as far as reentry experiences is anyone's guess. It's clear that the exhibition that prompted us to go abroad came right under a significant cutoff point in public events moving forward.


COVID-19 is having an enormous effect on the ability of artists (especially performing artists) to make a living. For any of my followers who are not a performing artist, I encourage you to keep this in mind, and reach out to performers who are friends to see if they need any assistance or to plan future collaborations to replace what has been canceled.


The opening of John's exhibition Aspects of Landscape was a complete and total success. Taking place at the City of Southampton Art Gallery, the space was filled with friends, family, and admirers of John's work. Since my accent made it obvious I was American, the question I was asked frequently, almost-immediately, was "are you the pianist?" Spot-on! I was given the opportunity of saying a few words myself, after a city councilperson from the City of Southampton and a former director The Tate Gallery introduced the fabulous exhibition. The formalities ended with me performing From Sombre Lands, the piece which truly began the creative exchange with John and his art.


One of the most remarkable things about John's creative practice is how prolific he is as an artist. Working continuously for decades, it would be nearly impossible to catalogue all of John's art. However, the monograph that was published to accompany this exhibition is a truly beautiful book that showcases better than ever before John's life in art.


Photos from the exhibition opening were taken by Anne Purkiss, who has been an essential part of the curation and execution of the Aspects of Landscape retrospective from start to finish. THANK YOU, Anne, for all of your help in telling the world about John's art.

Listen to a YouTube playlist of Peter's album: Aspects of Landscape: Music inspired by the world of John Hitchens


Despite the current crisis, we are still planning on holding a performance again in late May, which will include a performance of Grounds by members of The Són Project. [This has been postponed. Reschedule date TBD] Hopefully, it will also include the world premiere of a new piece I need to start right away, inspired by John's Grounds painting! I'm sure that the timing of this exhibition, while it could have been more ideal, truly came at fortunate time - one of the last events to slip under the closing window of social lockdown.


All that I really wish to say about the virus and our response to it is what I've stated above, about keeping in mind the livelihood of artists who depending on communal gathering (whose purpose and function in our society is to provide structured spaces for community, for enjoyment, socializing, and contemplation), and to, of course, keep washing your hands. My little sister sent me a hilarious guide to hand-washing that measured the duration of washing your hands against Eileen Brennan's nervous monologue at the start of Clue. I fully endorse that as a model for hand-washing, during this peak panic period, and beyond.


The itinerary of our trip in England has provided a wide variety of experiences, from museums and concerts in the city, to the exhibition opening in Southampton, to spending the last few days with John and Rosy Hitchens in the idyllic countryside of West Sussex, and I will cherish memories of this trip as being perhaps the last oasis for several miles of COVID-19-induced panic.


Rough Itinerary:

  • London Visited the Horniman Museum, the Museum of London, the Natural History Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, and Harrods Attended 2 concerts: 1) violin & piano music at the Burgh House in Hampstead, featuring a program of music by 20th century female composers, including several excellent ones of whom I'd never heard before: Germaine Tailleferre, Dora Pejačević, Grazyna Bacewicz, Johanna Senfter, and Amy Beach 2) Beethoven's Archduke Trio and Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time at the Southbank Centre Queen Elizabeth Festival Hall Purcell Room Doug painted in SoHo Square Park and Hampstead Heath

  • Southampton Took part in the exhibition opening of John Hitchens: Aspects of Landscape retrospective Doug helped to repair one of John's paintings (his "Landscape Symphony study" panel), which had been dinged up in transit to the exhibition. A little strange and perversely thrilling to see someone painting ON a painting while it is hanging in a gallery.

  • Petworth Ate, relaxed, playing piano (and harmonium) for John and Rosy, took walks with the dogs, saw wildlife at Greenleaves (John's studio), worked more on the Saxophone Sonata Doug painted at the Hitchens's home and at Greenleaves


Be well. We will persevere. If you know or love an artist, make sure you reach out to them to make sure that they have the support they need during a time when isolation will affect their bottom line.

-Peter

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