London Walking Tours    with Joanna Moncrieff

Open House at the Romanian Cultural Institute

If you are a regular reader you might know that one of the first walks I did when I qualified as a City of Westminster Guide back in 2009 was a walk around Belgravia. One of the stops on this walk is next to the statue of Sir Robert Grosvenor, First Marquess of Westminster who is responsible for developing Belgravia. The statue stands on the edge of Belgrave Square.  He is shown with one foot on a milestone indicating 197 miles to Chester where the family seat can still be found; the names of some of their land ownings in Cheshire giving rise to the naming of Belgravia and the streets within. The statue also depicts the now extinct talbot dog.

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To one side of the statue at no.1 Belgrave Square can be found the Romanian Cultural Institute which does what you would expect ie it promotes Romanian culture.

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Last Sunday as part of Open House weekend I volunteered to act as a steward on the morning of the Sunday. In fact I had picked the perfect time; Sunday morning being fairly quiet and the visitor numbers only picking up towards lunchtime. I spent the first part of my time on the door alongside Alexandra one of their staff members welcoming people to the building and telling them what there was to see.

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Me volunteering

The second half of my volunteering took place upstairs in the concert room. I knew there was going to be a pianist playing Chopin between 12 and 2pm but I had no idea how good he would be. Romanian pianist Cristian Sandrin was outstanding. Although people wandered in and out as he played, the music was spellbinding and I felt very privileged to be there. I have since found out that a fellow guide was also a visitor and he told me that stumbling upon this musical interlude was the highlight of his weekend.

Watch this YouTube clip to see just how good Cristian was. The video is from the 17th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition earlier this year. Fast forward to 34 seconds for the introduction in English.

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This was very much an unexpected bonus. The sound of the piano being played expertly gave a whole new atmosphere to the house.

I am hoping that those who attended over the Open House weekend signed up to go on the RCI’s mailing list as recitals and other cultural events regularly take place here and all are free. There is a sign-up page on the Home page of their website

I am already booked on one – this coming Thursday 1st October when the Schubert Ensemble will perform works by three composers (Gabriel Fauré, Robert Schumann and the famous Romanian composer George Enescu).   The concert is free and places can be booked here. Future events also taking place at 1 Belgrave Square can be found here. I should add too that the staff there are very friendly and welcoming.

It’s not all classical music though as coming up in October is a festival of alternative Romanian music at The Garage close to Highbury & Islington tube.

If you would like to discover more about the Romanian Cultural Institute and their events you can find that out here and if I have tempted you to discover more about Belgravia you can find out about my tour here.

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) is both a City of Westminster and  Clerkenwell and Islington Tour Guide. 

Details of all her walks are listed here  

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