It was a full and generous programme; The first half included Italian music from Verdi and Respighi, the latter's Pines of Rome complete with enchanting bird song.
But the highlight was the world premiere of Lucy Pankhurst's new work for orchestra, Ticket: 250654. This is the ticket number issued to the eight musicians hired by the White Star Line for the maiden voyage of the Titanic. Written in this centenary year as a tribute to their extraordinary bravery (all eight perished, playing their instruments until the very end), this was a kind of tone poem, depicting (it seemed) the scale and magnificence of the ship in a grand opening, to the icy chill of the freezing water, and the fear and desperate sadness of the tragedy.
Lucy made brilliant rhythmic use of the Morse code: the Titanic was the first ship to use the SOS distress signal. She also used the number eight as an influence within the structure. It was a haunting, often beautiful and ultimately moving piece - what a privilege to be there (and indeed meet the composer). The performance ended with a moment's silence, and then - with extraordinary timing - the church bells rang out for eight o'clock. A wonderful, poignant moment.
After the interval the sleepy headed children were woken up with Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker - with a bit of storytelling and illustration from me. This differed a little from the Hatfield performances: I painted on white instead of black, as this suited the projection at St. Anne's much better.
Afterwards the pictures were auctioned (splendidly by Reverend Warren) with funds going towards purchasing the projecting equipment in order to be able to repeat performances like this for schools in Tower Hamlets, a wonderful plan which would give children from all backgrounds the opportunity to engage with superb music, performed by wonderfully gifted people. My thanks to all those who bidded - the money will go a long way to making a very real difference to young people in the East End.
And that brings me to the orchestra - they were fantastic. This is a voluntary orchestra who play for the love of it. And they played superbly. Mostly young professionals, with superb music skills, they were a lovely group of warm and welcoming people - it was a huge honour to work with them, and with their visionary conductor-founder, Spencer Down.
It was an appropriately cold and frosty night; today advent calendars are being opened up as the countdown to Christmas begins. The sugar sprinkled magic of Tchaikovsky yesterday was the perfect way to start the festivities! My thanks to everyone at St. Anne's, Spencer, and the Docklands Sinfonia for a really memorable night - and to all who came.