Brilliantly-played string renditions of songs by the world’s biggest pop star
It’s every Gen Z music lover’s dream — a string quartet playing Taylor Swift songs, lit by candlelight in a majestic, gothic cathedral. This past Friday, I attended a Candlelight Concert at Christ Church Cathedral with my two roommates, fulfilling our perennial craving for Swift’s music while feeling like classy symphony-goers.
I saw an advertisement for the event on Facebook from @concertsbycandlelight and was immediately hooked by the prospect of a live music event in Victoria. The organizing company, Fever, has a simple website where I purchased three tickets that were emailed to my inbox.
After scanning our QR codes at the door, my roommates and I sat in our “section C” spots, towards the back rightmost side of the cathedral. Though I’ve been to Christ Church before, I’m always shocked by its grandeur and other-wordly aura. The ceilings seem to reach the clouds, and the swooping gothic curves create a haunting atmosphere. Hundreds of candles circled the slightly platformed stage at the front of the hall. The candles were fake, but of the fancy variety that flickered softly throughout the evening, making them seem authentic from the audience.
The music, performed by Listeso String Quartet, composed of two violins, a viola, and a cello. They began their set with “Lavender Haze,” and it was a slightly shaky opener. It seemed as though the group was not quite in sync with each other.
Their confidence improved as the set went on, though, and only during that first song did I notice an issue with their performance. I also think that they could have played louder — Christ Church is a cavernous space with the potential for sound to bounce off every wall.
The quartet played a variety of songs from nearly all of Swift’s albums. To my surprise, I enjoyed the more upbeat songs much more than the slower ones, which I thought would adapt better to the strings. The build-up to the chorus of “Anti-Hero” was a delightful moment, my favourite from the whole concert. The strings got louder and filled the space with enough intensity for me to feel it in my chest. I also quite enjoyed “Wildest Dreams,” especially because the musicians mentioned it was the same arrangement used on Shonda Rhimes’ Netflix show Bridgerton, which I love.
There was a pause after every two songs where the musicians commented on what they had played or introduced the next ones. They were enthusiastic and personable, adding their own anecdotes about Taylor Swift and occasionally asking the audience questions. The audience participation made the experience feel all the more personal.
I could only see one violinist from my seat because the massive columns that line the cathedral blocked my view. He was animated and passionate while he played, and I can only assume that the others shared his exuberance.
The audience was filled with every type of person. We happened to be sitting near many couples, who all exchanged glances while “Lover” played. It’s safe to say that this was a great choice for a romantic date night, though we were not the only group of friends in attendance. There were other people our age, possibly also students, but also families with younger children. It was lovely to see all sorts of Swifties enjoying the music together.
One of my favourite moments was during the encore song, “Cruel Summer,” where I saw a mother and young daughter singing together and dancing in their seats. The girl was wearing a sparkly dress and was glowing with excitement as the two left.
This concert was a wonderful way for me and my friends to enjoy the repertoire of a global superstar in our own city. It was also a unique opportunity to see one of Victoria’s architectural marvels, while being introduced to a more sophisticated style of performance. I believe that live music is an industry that needs to be supported, and I can’t think of a better way to do so than through a performance like this one.