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Title graphic: Frank Bridge: A Life in Brief
The Beloved Vagabonds: 5

The College's orchestral players were sometimes envied by other students, not only because of the prestigious London concerts in which they were involved - held either at the Queen's Hall or at the St James's Hall - but also because of the orchestra's fairly frequent excursions outside the capital. Excitement was guaranteed when the orchestra travelled to Oxford, Leicester or Cambridge on a specially-booked train, or when a blizzard almost caused a concert's cancellation, or when, on arrival at a venue, the players discovered only one dressing-room, the men commandeering the only mirror. An important concert took place in King's College Chapel at Cambridge on 5 June 1902 in aid of Addenbrooke's Hospital, and due to the lack of space there were only four desks each of first and second violins, with Brahms's weighty First Symphony on the programme. It was obligatory for all the ladies to wear white dresses and white bonnets and all the men, including Bridge, surplices and hoods. According to Marion Scott: 'Those of us already there [in the Chapel] beheld our colleagues struggling along in the most wonderful misfit of surplices that fancy can picture, or a careless hand dole out.'6

Bridge's initial appearance as a chamber-music player was at the first performance of his own Piano Trio on 14 November 1900, leading the ensemble as the violinist. However, he decided to take up the viola as well, and it was on this instrument that he made his reputation as an excellent chamber-music player. Only three weeks after the performance of the Piano Trio, he appeared at a College chamber concert on 5 December playing the viola in Dvořák's Terzetto, and from then on he performed in these concerts fairly regularly, nearly always as a viola player. Bridge's repertoire as a student consisted mostly of works by Brahms and Dvořák, in other words, selected items of contemporary music, eg, Brahms's Second String Quintet, Op 111 (1891) and Dvořák's 'American' Quartet (1893), and other recently-composed works in which he performed included Franck's Piano Quintet (1878-9), Borodin's Second String Quartet (1881) and Strauss's Piano Quartet (1883-4).

6 M Scott, 'The Royal College of Music from Within: Orchestral Excursions', Royal College of Music Magazine, Vol 5, No 2, 1909, p 49.