St. Paul's -- the "Actors' Church" -- is a wonderfully approprtiate location for this event. North Americans may not be familiar with this church and its amazing mission, one tht goes back to the 17th century. Here is their website. If you scroll down to March 13, you will find the Baronova memorial service.
Today, I was at “The Actor’s Church” which Bart pointed out, to attend the Memorial Service for Irina Baronova. It was a family affair. Members of her own family, the professional ballet world family and the ballet lover’s family. St.Paul’s Church, Covent Garden, is one of those Georgian Churches whose interior is beautiful in the way it combines understated grandeur through simplicity of decoration.
I have attended many memorial services there in the past for people from the theatre world and ballet. J.M.W Turner and W.S Gilbert were baptised here, and those buried here include Sir Peter Lely, Samuel Butler, Grinling Gibbons, Thomas Arne, and Thomas Rowlandson. The ashes of Ellen Terry and Edith Evans repose here and there are commemoration plaques around the walls of the church dedicated to numerous famous actors and persons associated with the performing arts.
I arrived early and sat amongst old friends and talked with Katherine Sorley-Walker who was a long time friend of Mme Baronova and author of a number of books; including Robert Helpmann (Rockliff, 1957), Eyes on the Ballet (London, 1963) De Basil's Ballets Russes. London: Hutchinson, 1982) and Ninette de Valois (London, 1987).
The order of the service was:
An organ Prelude - Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring - Bach
The Bidding - The Reverend Simon Gregg
Hymn – Praise, my soul. The King of Heaven
Tribute – Lynn Wallis the Artistic Director of the RAD
Interlude – Two Rachmaninoff Songs (As Fair as Day and Spring Waters)
Reading- Robert Tennant(Son) read out messages from his sister in Australia as well as those from Frederick Franklin and George Zoritch followed by a reading of the familiar, "Death is nothing at all“ by Henry Scott Holland
Reading – Finn Tennant(Grandson) the poem,” And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year…” by Minnie Louise Haskins
Interlude – Oliver Wennink (step grandson) played and sang, “Girl from the North Country by Bob Dylan
Hymn - The King of love my Shepherd is…”
Prayers - The Reverend Simon Gregg
There followed a slide display of photographs of Mme Baronova from childhood to old age showing her in many roles and with her family while Ross Alley at the piano played the “Panorama” music from “The Sleeping Beauty” .
To end the service The Reverend Simon Gregg bid the congregation to join in a round of applause for Irina Baronova which went on and on as if no one wanted it to stop and the experience of this became extremely moving.
As people lefts the church I noticed that there was a good smattering of octogenarians and possibly nonagenarians in the congregation some of whom had seen Baronova dance. The ballet-world was widely represented and included representatives of the Royal Academy of Dancing of which Mme Baronova was a Vice-President. Dame Antoinette Sibley looked amazingly young in a lavender/violet coat; Dame Monica Mason looked both serious and extremely vital. Peter Wright was there as was Lady Sainsbury (Anya Linden), Ivor Guest, Peter Wilson ballets man of many parts, former RB dancers Gail Monahan (nee Thomas), Kathryn Wade and David Gayle and a good number of others whose names I regret escaped me. My good friend Richard Whitehouse looked around and said ponderously, “Mmmm I think I am probably the only person here to have danced with Irina Baronova.” “Really” said I to give him a lead, “Yehss he drawled, it was at a RAD function when we waltzed together.”
I never met Mme Baronova but I had corresponded with her when she graciously became a member of a distinguished support committee for ballet history event I had organised.
I know I am not alone in being interested in the history of ballet as a pathway to understanding this art form as is obvious from the distinguished contributions from many at ballettalk. What on occasion concerns me today is that societies across the world are more self-obsessed about the period of time they live in, rather than investigating the past to contextualise their experience. It is also my observation that many younger ballet goers seem to think that nothing in ballet exists other than what they have personally experienced.