Some time ago I mentioned the incredible, well, incredible to me, news that the St. Petersburg String Quartet had played a recital in an organ museum 300 yards from where I live. Amongst other things they played the Shostakovitch 8th Quartet which for me is one of the very great pieces of music ever written. I was once able to use excerpts in a production of Troilus and Cressida which, given that both are evocative of the glory and the misery of war, was entirely appropriate. Then on Tuesday night, another huge surprise. My next-door church, for whom I cut the grass on the basis of a strict understanding between me and the Intelligent Designer concerning this summer's weather, advertised a concert by the Hermitage Ensemble, a Russian male voice quartet. They sang a programme of Russian church and folk music. According to Orthodox Church rules, singers are never accompanied by musical instruments because they are considered to be irreligious. Each time they sang, the leader used a tuning fork for the other three to reach the correct pitch, before starting the song. It was sublime! I have never heard pure, unaccompanied male voices before and it was like listening to an immensely mellow but infinitely variable musical instrument. The leader was a counter-tenor and he was joined by a tenor and two bass/baritones. How odd to hear this 'alien' music in the setting of a Dorset country church but how right and natural it seemed. Just one of those unexpectedly perfect evenings!