London Marathon contestant running to musical time

Royal College of Music The Royal College of Music teaches 750 students from more than 60 countries

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Musicians often talk of "marathon" performances, but for Mark Messenger, head of strings at the Royal College of Music (RCM), the word has a more literal meaning.

While Mark runs the London Marathon later, an eager audience at the RCM will be tracking his progress, hoping the violinist makes it back to play Mendelssohn's Octet with the College orchestra.

It should not be too much of a challenge, as Mark has run his fair share of marathons, with a best time of 3 hours 30 minutes.

He has four-and-a-half hours to get back in time.

Stringing it together

Meanwhile, students at the RCM will be in the midst of their own endurance test.

At 11:00 BST, they will begin a marathon performance of string music favourites, building from a solo musician to a whole ensemble in each hour.

Mark on the run Mark Messenger has run nine marathons; eight in London

As the day wears on, the offerings will get less traditional, including music from the film Star Wars played by eight violas, and Time Is Running Out by Muse arranged for six cellos.

The final hour will culminate with the slow movement of Schubert's cello quintet, featuring BBC Young Musician of the Year Laura van der Heijden.

She will be waiting for Mark to run into the hall in his jogging gear and help them through the first movement of Mendelssohn's Octet.

The audience at Super String Sunday, as the annual event is called, will be able to follow Mark's progress round the Marathon course via a screen projected above the performers.

Remarkable musicians

And the reason for all of this? To raise money to support extraordinary young musicians who want to study at the RCM.

"I hear the most amazing musicians from around the world come and audition at the college - some bring tears to your eyes," Mark says.

"But they need money. There are those who will not be able to pursue their dream of coming to the college without financial help."

Two of the performers on Sunday, Eva Delatorre and Nazli Erdogan, would not be at the Royal College of Music without the money Mark raised running the London Marathon last year: an impressive £4,000.

"It has made their whole life," Mark says, "and made our lives so much the richer."

The money, says the acclaimed string specialist, "allows amazing things to happen".

Super String Sunday is a free event and no tickets are required.

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