Monday, 15 December 2014

Sneak Preview: English Touring Opera Spring 2015

English Touring Opera
Exeter Northcott Theatre
(and local primary schools)
Tuesday 28 April - Saturday 2 May


"La Bohème"
Mimi: Ilona Domnich
GIACOMO PUCCINI: "LA BOHÈME"
(Italian with English Surtitles)
Exeter Northcott Theatre
Tuesday 28 April 7.30pm
Thursday 30 April 7.30pm
Friday 1 May 7.30pm
Conductor: Michael Rosewell
Director: James Conway
Rodolfo: David Butt Philip (Tenor)
Mimi: Ilona Domnich/Paula Sides (Soprano)
Marcello: Grant Doyle/Nicholas Lester (Baritone)
Musetta: Sky Ingram/Donna Bateman (Soprano)
Schaunard: Njabulo Madlala (Baritone)
Colline: Matthew Stiff (Baritone)
Benoit: Adam Player (Tenor)
Musetta: Sky Ingram
Marcello: Nicholas Lester
Alcindoro: Andrew Glover (Tenor)
Plus ETO are seeking 12 local children for each venue
For further details, apply to Talia Lash
(ETO Education & Community Coordinator)
020 7833 2555 talia.lash@englishtouringopera.org.uk
Tickets: £19/£24/£30/£33
Box Office: 01392 493493
Online BookingTuesday/Thursday/Friday
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GAETANO DONIZETTI: "THE SIEGE OF CALAIS"
(Italian with English Surtitles)
Exeter Northcott Theatre
"The Seige of Calais"
Aurelio: Helen Sherman
Eustachio: Craig Smith
Eleanora: Paula Sides
Wednesday 29 April 7.30pm
Conductor: Jeremy Silver
Director: James Conway
Eustachio de Saint-Pierre: Craig Smith (Baritone)
Eleanora de Saint-Pierre: Paula Sides (Soprano)
Aurelio: Catherine Carby/Helen Sherman (Mezzosoprano)
Edoardo III: Grant Doyle/Nicholas Merryweather (Baritone)
Pietro de Wisants: Matthew Stiff (Baritone)
Giovanni d'Aire: Andrew Glover/Matt R J Ward (Tenor)
Armando: Jan Capinski (Baritone)
Incognito: Peter Brathwaite (Baritone)
Tickets: £19/£24/£30/£33
Box Office: 01392 493493
Online BookingWednesday
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GAETANO DONIZETTI: "THE WILD MAN OF THE WEST INDIES"
Eleanora
Sally Silver
(Italian with English Surtitles)
Exeter Northcott Theatre
Conductor: Jeremy Silver
Director: Iqbal KhanFernando: Nicholas Sharratt (Tenor)
Eleanora: Sally Silver (Soprano)
Cardenio: Craig Smith (Baritone)
Bartolomeo: Njabulo Madlala (Baritone)
Marcella: Donna Bateman (Soprano)
Kaidama: Peter Brathwaite (Baritone)
Tickets: £19/£24/£30/£33
Box Office: 01392 493493
Online BookingSaturday
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IN-HOUSE: "SHACKLETON'S CAT"
Exeter Northcott Theatre (?TBC):
Monday 27 April 12 noon
Tuesday 28 April 12 noon
Barley Lane School Exeter:
Wednesday 29 April 12 noon
Ladysmith School Exeter:
Thursday 30 April 12 noon
Newton Poppleford Primary:
Friday 1 May 12 noon
Exeter Northcott Theatre:
Saturday 2 May 12 noon
For further details, contact Talia Lash
(ETO Education & Community Coordinator)
020 7833 2555 talia.lash@englishtouringopera.org.uk
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IN-HOUSE: "WAXWINGS"
"Icarus and Daedalus" for young people with special needs
Exeter Central Library (?TBC)
Monday 27 April - Saturday 2 May 12.00
Director (& Librettist): Tim Yealland
Musical Composition: Mark & Clive Ives
Singers: Guy ElliottKatie GrossetEmily Blanch
'Cello: Jonathan Kitchen
Animation: Babis Alexiadis
Dance: Ricardo Campos
For further details, contact Talia Lash
(ETO Education & Community Coordinator)
020 7833 2555 talia.lash@englishtouringopera.org.uk

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Glenorchy Lunchtime Concerts Spring 2015


T H E    S I D M O U T H     O R C H E S T R A
Glenorchy United Reformed Church Exmouth
Wednesday 11 March



Dorothy Worthington
& Dorothy Ferrier
Glenorchy Lunchtime Concerts
Glenorchy Church Exmouth
Wednesday 7 January 12 for 12.30pm
PIANO & SONG RECITAL
Piano: Dorothy Worthington
Mezzo Soprano: Dorothy Ferrier
Admission FREE
Retiring Collection
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Alex West
Glenorchy Lunchtime Concerts
Glenorchy Church Exmouth
Wednesday 14 January 12 for 12.30pm
PIANO & ORGAN RECITAL
Piano & Organ: Alex West
Admission FREE
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WensleighJackie Palmer
Glenorchy Lunchtime Concerts
Glenorchy Church Exmouth
Wednesday 21 January 12 for 12.30pm
SOPRANO RECITAL
Soprano: Jackie PalmerPiano & Organ: Wensleigh Palmer
Admission FREE
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Quorum
Glenorchy Lunchtime Concerts
Glenorchy Church Exmouth
Wednesday 28 January 12 for 12.30pm
QUORUM
Soprano: Janet Macdonald
Piano: Margaret Chave
Clarinet: Phil Bonser
Admission FREE
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Josephine Pickering & Frances Waters
Glenorchy Lunchtime Concerts
Glenorchy Church Exmouth
Wednesday 4 February 12 for 12.30pm
PIANO DUETS
Piano: Frances Waters
Piano: Josephine Pickering
Admission FREE
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Philip & Rosemary Henry
with Josephine Pickering
Glenorchy Lunchtime Concerts
Glenorchy Church Exmouth
Wednesday 11 February 12 for 12.30pm
PIANO SOPRANO & FLUTE
Piano: Josephine Pickering
Soprano: Rosemary Henry
Flute: Phil Henry
Admission FREE
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Anna Cockroft
Glenorchy Lunchtime Concerts
Glenorchy Church Exmouth
Wednesday 18 February 12 for 12.30pm
VIOLIN ACCORDION & RECORDER
Violin: Anna Cockroft
Accordion & Recorder: Pam Canter
Admission FREE
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Tim Othen
Glenorchy Lunchtime Concerts
Glenorchy Church Exmouth
Wednesday 25 February 12 for 12.30pm
PIANO RECITAL
Piano: Tim Othen
Admission FREE
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Margaret Aagesen Hughes
Glenorchy Lunchtime Concerts
Glenorchy Church Exmouth
Wednesday 4 March 12 for 12.30pm
SOPRANO RECITAL
Soprano: Margaret Aagesen Hughes
Piano: Frances Waters
Admission FREE
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Glenorchy Lunchtime Concerts
Alan Williams

Glenorchy Church Exmouth
Wednesday 11 March 12 for 12.30pm
THE SIDMOUTH ORCHESTRA
Conductor: Alan Williams
Leader: David Norrish
Admission FREE
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Exeter Singers
Glenorchy Lunchtime Concerts
Glenorchy Church Exmouth
Wednesday 18 March 12 for 12.30pm
THE EXETER SINGERS
Conductor: Tony Yeates
Admission FREE
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Frances Waters, John Brindley
& Val Howels
Glenorchy Lunchtime Concerts
Glenorchy Church Exmouth
Wednesday 25 March 12 for 12.30pm
SOPRANO & BARITONE DUETS
Piano: Frances Waters
Soprano: Val Howels
Baritone: John Brindley
Admission FREE
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Alison Burnett
Elle Williams
Glenorchy Concerts
Glenorchy Church
Wednesday 1 April
12 for 12.30pm
SOPRANO DUETS
Soprano: Elle Williams
Soprano: Alison Burnett
Piano: David Davies
Admission FREE
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Chris Gradwell
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Glenorchy Lunchtime Concerts
Glenorchy Church Exmouth
Wednesday 8 April 12 for 12.30pm
CLARINET/SAXOPHONE & GUITAR
Clarinets & Saxophones: Chris Gradwell
Guitar: Richard Llewellin
Admission FREE
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Phil Bonser
Glenorchy Lunchtime Concerts
Glenorchy Church Exmouth
Wednesday 15 April 12 for 12.30pm
CLARINET & PIANO
Clarinet: Phil Bonser
Piano: Margaret Chave
Admission FREE
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Beacon Piano Trio
Glenorchy Lunchtime Concerts
Glenorchy Church Exmouth
Wednesday 22 April 12 for 12.30pm
BEACON PIANO TRIO
Piano: Joyce Clarke
Violin: Anna Cockroft
'Cello: Ruth Lass
Admission FREE
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Christine Marsden
Betty Shipp
Frances Waters
Glenorchy Lunchtime Concerts
Glenorchy Church Exmouth
Wednesday 29 April 12 for 12.30pm
CLARINET SOPRANO & PIANO
Clarinet: Betty Shipp
Soprano:Christine Marsden
Piano: Frances Waters
Admission FREE
Retiring Collection

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Earworms present JUTP Music at Exeter Central Library Sunday 14 December 2014

Fiona McLean-Buechel
with the students of JUTP Music

We are delighted to confirm that our next concert on 14th December will be given by musicians from JUTP Music. Please remember that this concert will take place in the Rougemont Room at Exeter Library.

JUTP Music is a unique youth group of string players that offers creative opportunities in musical performance and professional development. It was started in 2006 in Plymouth and since then 34 of their young musicians have gone on to read music and Arts related subjects at Conservatoire and University and many are professionally engaged in the Arts world as performers, sound engineers, teachers and music managers.

Through "Joined Up Thinking Projects", young music leaders from within South West Camerata are developing huge amounts of transferable life skills; mentoring, teaching, supporting, web design, stage management, sound engineering, creative lighting, arts management and performance development.

In 2011 JUTP Music attempted to achieve a Guinness World Record for the largest ever string orchestra, it was attended by 320 performers from across the south west with ages ranging from 4 to 78!

Read more about JUTP on their website or Facebook page.Tickets are available from Exeter Northcott Box Office 01392 493493 or Exeter Visitor Information, Dix's Field, Exeter 01392 665885.

The concert starts at 2:00pm and will run for 1 hour.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

"Music in the Castle" Exeter Cathedral Choir at Powderham Castle Friday 12 December 2014


‘Music in the Castle’

Choral Scholars and Senior Choristers of Exeter Cathedral
Friday, December 12th, at 7.30pm

Exeter Cathedral Choir singing for Music in the Castle Music in the Castle, centred on the magnificent James Wyatt Music Room in Powderham Castle, with its newly-restored organ, celebrates Advent and Christmas this year with a visit from Exeter Cathedral Choir, under their Director of Music, Andrew Millington.




He explains:

"Christmas is a very special time for cathedral choristers, with extra concerts and musical events leading up to the big day itself. In Exeter cathedral, the season of Advent is observed with its austere atmosphere of expectation, something rather lost on today’s secular and commercial society. Christmas Eve has a unique aspect at Exeter, with the Office of Grandisson, which opens the main Carol Service. This is a very atmospheric piece of liturgical theatre, marking the start of the Christmas festivities in music and ceremonial. It was devised by Bishop John Grandisson in the 14th century, and has been part of the Cathedral`s Christmas ever since."

In the Music in the Castle concert, the senior boy and girl choristers (aged 12-13) with the Choral Scholars (young adult singers) give a foretaste of the Christmas celebration with a wide variety of seasonal music from ancient to modern. Some of the music will be `a cappella`, but there will be accompanied items, using the beautifully restored organ at Powderham. There will be an opportunity to hear some solo pieces on the organ, and a chance for the audience to exercise their lungs and voices in some hearty favourites!

 The organ, built in 1769 by Brice Seede of Bristol, was restored last year. The memorable ‘re-opening recital’ was given by three Cathedral organists, Andrew Millington, Director of Music; David Davies, Cathedral Organist; and Paul Morgan. No-one will forget the final piece, a duet in which the third organist reached through between the other two to enhance the composer’s intentions with his own fanfare!

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We look forward to seeing you on Friday beside the roaring log fire in the State Dining Room, and our Christmas cheer will be further enhanced by complimentary mulled wine and mince pies during the interval, thanks to the generosity of anonymous sponsors.

 If you haven’t yet bought tickets, there are a few still available - £15, (students and children £7)

Ring the Castle on 01626 890243.

 Tickets can then be reserved for you to pick up at the door.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

English Touring Opera announces Spring 2015 season of Italian opera, including a rare Donizetti opera never before staged in the UK : Press Release from John Walker

Olivier Award Winners 2013
Michael Rosewell & James Conway
Conductor & Director
English Touring Opera

The Wild Man of the West Indies (Il furioso all’isola di San Domingo)
Music by Gaetano Donizetti, libretto by Jacopo Ferritti,
after Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.
New production, sung in Italian with English surtitles.
Conducted by Jeremy Silver, directed by Iqbal Khan.

La Bohème
Music by Giacomo Puccini, libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa.
New production, sung in Italian with English surtitles.
Conducted by Michael Rosewell, directed by James Conway.

The Siege of Calais (L’assedio di Calais)
Music by Gaetano Donizetti, words by Salvatore Cammarano.
Revival of ETO’s 2013 production, sung in Italian with English surtitles.
Conducted by Jeremy Silver, directed by James Conway.

All three productions open at Hackney Empire, London:


The Siege of Calais opens on Saturday 7 March 2015;


The Wild Man of the West Indies opens on Thursday 12 March 2015;


La Bohème opens on Friday 13 and Saturday 14 March 2015.

The tour then continues to venues including:
Truro, Poole, Norwich, Sheffield, Cheltenham, Wolverhampton,
Snape, Leicester, Exeter, Canterbury, Buxton, Durham and Perth,
with further venues to be announced.

Also touring: Shackleton’s Cat, a new opera for 7-11 year olds and their families;
and Waxwings, a new opera for children with special educational needs.


English Touring Opera has announced details of its Spring 2015 season,
which features rare bel canto gems by Donizetti, a Puccini favourite,
and two new operas for young people.

The season opens at Hackney Empire from Saturday 7 March to Saturday 14 March 2015,
with new productions of Donizetti’s The Wild Man of the West Indies
(Il furioso all’isola di San Domingo) and Puccini’s La Bohème,
together with a revival of ETO’s Spring 2013 production of Donizetti’s
The Siege of Calais (L’assedio di Calais).  

The operas then tour to
'Hall for Cornwall' in Truro, 'Lighthouse' Poole, 'Theatre Royal' Norwich , Sheffield Theatres, 'Everyman Theatre' Cheltenham, 'Grand Theatre' Wolverhampton, 'The Maltings' Snape,
'Curve Theatre' Leicester, 'Northcott Theatre' Exeter, 'The Marlowe Theatre' Canterbury,
'Opera House' Buxton, 'Gala Theatre' Durham and 'Concert Hall' Perth,
with further dates to be announced.

They are joined by Shackleton’s Cat and Waxwings, two new operas for young people,
to be performed in schools, libraries and studio theatre spaces.

Donizetti’s The Wild Man of the West Indies (Il furioso all’isola di San Domingo) was given its première performance in Rome in 1833 and became hugely successful before vanishing from the repertoire until the late 20th century. ETO’s new production marks both the opera’s first staging in the UK and first tour on this scale anywhere in the world in the modern era.

The libretto by Jacopo Ferretti is based on a play by an unknown author, but ultimately derives from an episode of CervantesDon Quixote. Unusually for its time, the plot centres on a male victim of spousal infidelity: After his wife Eleonora is unfaithful, Cardenio flees for an island in the West Indies, where he loses his senses and his mind.

"The Wild Man of the West Indies" features a love story of huge psychological depth, and a host of beautiful bel canto arias. ETO’s new production is sung in Italian with English surtitles, directed by Iqbal Khan, and the conductor is Jeremy Silver. Craig Smith stars in the title role, with Sally Silver as Eleonora and Nicholas Sharratt as Cardenio’s brother Fernando.


La Bohème was last taken on tour by English Touring Opera over ten years ago.
Puccini’s masterpiece is on tour in Spring 2015 in a new production directed by James Conway.
Ilona Domnich and Paula Sides share the role of Mimi, with David Butt Philip as Rodolfo,
Grant Doyle as Marcello and Sky Ingram as Musetta. Michael Rosewell conducts ETO’s orchestra.

"La Bohème" also features the work of Linbury Prize-winning designer Florence de Maré, who is designing the sets and costumes for both this production and The Wild Man of the West Indies.


The Siege of Calais (L’assedio di Calais) enjoyed its first ever UK professional tour as part of ETO’s Spring 2013 season. Constructed of bel canto arias and ensembles of extraordinary quality, "The Siege of Calais" tells the story of the burghers of Calais who offer up their lives to save their city from the besieging English army. Their sacrifice culminates in one of the most moving ensembles in all of opera, the momentous O sacra polve, o suol natio (O Sacred Dust, O Native Land).

Sung in Italian with English surtitles, "The Siege of Calais" features designs by Faroese artist Samal Blak, inspired by the siege of Stalingrad. The production is again directed by James Conway, and the conductor is Jeremy Silver. The opera’s third act has long been considered less than perfect and has sometimes been dropped, including by the composer himself; as with its inaugural tour in 2013,  ETO’s production presents a two act version.

ETO’s Spring 2015 season also continues the company’s record of touring new operas for younger audiences, with singers and players drawn from the cast and orchestra of the main-stage productions.

Shackleton’s Cat is based on the true story of the tabby cat that accompanied Ernest Shackleton’s 1914-17 Antartic expedition. Designed for children aged 7-11, the opera incorporates elements of the geography and history curricula, and is complemented by a Teacher’s Pack for schools.

Waxwings is ETO’s new opera for children with severe learning difficulties. Based on the story of flight and the myth of Icarus, the highly interactive piece brings together singing with a combination of live accompaniment and recorded electronic music.

Tickets for the ETO Spring 2015 tour go on sale throughout summer and autumn 2014.
Further dates and tour venues to be announced -  for latest confirmed tour dates please visit


Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Exeter Music Group Symphony Orchestra Triple Bill with multiple soloists at Exeter University Great Hall: Opera Overture Dame Ethel Smyth "The Wreckers", Sir Edward Elgar's 'Cello Concerto in E minor Op 85, Special Guest 'Cellist Laura van der Heijden, Benjamin Britten's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" Special Guest Narrator Alistair Ganley Saturday 22 November 2014

Laura van der Heijden
(photo: Nigel Cheffers-Heard)

St Cecilia's Day is always a good time for an orchestra to unveil their latest work. On this St Cecilia's Day, Marion Wood's 'Exeter Music Group Symphony Orchestra' had three very special works to share with us.

'Unveil' is perhaps not the right word, as Marion always holds at least one open rehearsal where members of the public, especially schoolchildren, are invited to hear, and see, the work in progress. Marion always explains every aspect of the music in a comprehensive and accessible way - and children are always invited to inspect all the instruments and talk to the players. Anyone who has passed their Grade VI exam can even bring their instrument and join in!

This time the orchestra went one better, and prepared Benjamin Britten's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" in open rehearsal - with audience participation. (See details.) In order to include extra instruments, not covered in Brittens original composition, EMG contrabassoonist and percussionist Alfie Pugh wrote new music to extend the 'Guide'. Marion also composed new words to be included in Britten's script - and recited by actor Alistair Ganley.

It is a tribute to the creative abilities of Alfie and Marion, that it is very hard to distinguish between the original Britten and the Pugh/Wood inserts.

Needless to say, on the big night,  Exeter University Great Hall was filled to capacity. Many of the seats were filled by families with children of all ages, all looking forward to the fun and high-jinks of the 'Guide'. However, the programme opened with two other works, apparently unconnected, which such an audience might not have thought to seek out.


The Wreckers

Dame Ethel Smyth
To much excitement, the concert opened with the overture to Dame Ethel Smyth's opera "The Wreckers". Marion has produced this opera before, so it was a natural choice for her orchestra.

However, this choice represented much more than that. The Opera follows the harrowing story of Cornish wreckers, members of isolated communities so desperate, or so greedy, that they counted the lives of others less important than their own personal gain.


"Wreckers"
George Morland 1799
Daphne du Maurier's novel "Jamaica Inn" is the perfect complement to this piece. It describes perfectly the sociopathic actions of Cornish wreckers in the nineteenth century. By extinguishing warning lights, or creating false ones, they deceived ships' captains into driving their crews onto the murderous rocks off the Cornish coast. (A common trick was to wave a lantern from a cliff-top, in such a way that it would be mistaken for the mast-head light of another ship in safe water.)
While dragging the stolen cargo from the sea, the wreckers would compound their crime by leaving the sailors to drown - or even murdering those who managed to get to the shore. "Pas devant les enfants", surely? However, the overture, while summarising the plot of Smyth's opera, is open to other interpretations. Forty years after the opening of "The Wreckers", Benjamin Britten included its themes in the mix, while creating his musical interpretation of George Crabbe's poem "Peter Grimes" from the collection "The Borough" (written a century before "The Wreckers").

Diving straight in
Just back from New Zealand
Bass Clarinettist
John Welton
The familiar sound of Britten's tale of tragedy, and possible wrongdoing, are prefigured in Smyth's crashing tumult of the sea. Not only that, the piece offers the audience a brief foretaste of the virtuoso instrumental solos, also composed by Britten, which they could look forward to later in the evening. John Welton, newly returned from New Zealand - and somewhat jet-lagged, was first to take centre stage with an ominous bass clarinet solo linking the opening storm to the orchestral interpretation of the arrival or the wreckers themselves.


Just time for a little warm up
In the deceptive calm that followed, Richard de la Rue and John Walthew provided a moving clarinet refrain, joined unexpectedly and impressively by Prue Tasman and Gail Hicks's bassoons and Alfie Pugh's contrabassoon. There is also time to hear Kate Osbourne's plaintive oboe - and the false dawn of Jennifer Campbell's harp. Clare Smith's violins lead us gently up the garden path to - the dreadful act itself. Brian Moore's trumpets and Charles Dowell's trombones build the tension for what we know must happen.
Principal Clarinet
Richard de la Rue

However, the second half of the piece is surprisingly positive. Rather than the panic and pandemonium of disaster at sea, we hear a series of patriotic-sounding themes. This is confusing, and unresolved at the close of the overture. We must remember that this piece is intended only to set the scene for Smyth's opera - not give the whole game away.

This wonderful piece (brilliantly performed by the orchestra) will definitely feature on this week's "Classical Journey". Tune in on Tuesday (10-12am, or listen ot the MixCloud recording) for a chance to hear the live performance at Exeter University Great Hall - and draw your own conclusions.

Elgar 'Cello Concerto

Laura van der Heijden
(photo: Nigel Cheffers-Heard)
As the audience absorbed the impact of the concert's impressive opening, the star of the evening's performance appeared on the stage. 'Cello prodigy of the Brighton Youth Orchestra, Laura van der Heijden, is 17 years old and studying for A-Levels. Somehow she also manages to tour the country playing as a soloist. Her dazzling repertoire includes orchestral works by composers from every period, and many sonatas for 'cello and piano.

On 17 July this year Laura was at the Temple Church in Budleigh Salterton to play an evening concert of sonatas (Brahms and Shostakovich), together with Schubert's Fantasy Pieces and Bach's 'Cello Suite - accompanied where necessary by Japanese pianist Mana Oguchi. Since then, Laura's next performance in Devon has been awaited with eager anticipation. What better vehicle for her return fixture than the Exeter Music Group Symphony Orchestra and Elgar's 'Cello Concerto in E minor?

Sir Edward Elgar
Elgar was a contemporary of Ethel Smyth, but did not live as long. In 1900, shortly before the opening of "The Wreckers", the death of Arthur Sullivan opened the way for Elgar to become the pre-eminent English composer. This expectation was soon realised with Elgar's completion of Dvořák's abandoned project to set John Newman's 'Dream of Gerontius' to music. (See Andrew Daldorph's sensational performance with the Exeter Chamber Choir and East Devon Choral Society in May 2011.)

Subsequently, Elgar's 'Pomp and Circumstance Marches' and 'Enigma Variations' gained him popularity which has never diminished, and his Violin Concerto for Fritz Kreisler appeared to be his crowning accomplishment at the age of 53 in 1910. During the Great War, Elgar continued to compose for the theatre. Despite declining health, he returned briefly to composing chamber music after the Armistice. His last major work was the great 'Cello Concerto.

Jacqueline du Pré
at Dartington
Elgar himself was humiliated at the première, where the orchestra he was conducting "made a public exhibition of its miserable self" (review by Ernest Newman). Elgar blamed Eric Coates who, he claimed, had wasted rehearsal time on his own part of the programme. In any event the Elgar was fortunate to see the success of his composition during his own lifetime. He was able to make the first recording with 'cellist Beatrice Harrison in 1920 which was released by 'His Master's Voice' in 1928. Sir Adrian Boult's recording with Pablo Casals for EMI at the end of the Second War came too late for Elgar, who had died ten years before.

Jacqueline du Pré, one of the early supporters of Rabindranath Tagore and Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst's project of progressive education and rural reconstruction at Dartington Hall, rekindled public interest in the concerto twenty years later with Sir John Barbirolli and the London Symphony Orchestra. In a sad parallel of Elgar, Jacqueline also became ill soon afterwards (with multiple sclerosis) and was forced to abandon playing within ten years.

Since then a succession of talented musicians have performed and recorded this highly emotional and evocative composition. In Exeter University Great Hall, Laura van der Heijden claimed her rightful place in that roll of honour. Where du Pré played a Stradivarius, Laura brings a new sound with a modern 'cello which was made by Galileo Arcellaschi not long after Elgar's concerto was first performed. The instrument looks almost brand new, but was soon shown to have great depth of tone - mirroring the precocious talent and expressiveness of Laura herself.

Under the high vault of the Great Hall, Laura's playing reached every member of the audience - right to the back of the gallery. As the opening movement switched from grandiose adagio to plaintive moderato, a baby in the arms of its mother in the very back row joined in with lusty cries - perfectly matching the mood that Laura was creating.

Exeter Music Group Symphony Orchestra
Far left: Marion WoodLaura van der Heijden
Right: Yvonne Ashby
Inspired by their illustrious visitor, the orchestra excelled themselves. Under the leadership of Clare Smith, and the masterful direction of Marion Wood, the mood of the overall sound never wavered, and always matched Laura's expression and direction perfectly. It was almost impossible to believe that this is an amateur orchestra, and that they had not met Laura before the day of the performance.

Children, who might have been excused for showing slight signs of restiveness at the delay of the Britten, were captivated by the performance, as were the adults. Many must have gone away determined to become a 'cellist themselves.


Marion Wood conducts
Laura van der Heijden
(photo: Nigel Cheffers-Heard)
The final glorious notes of the concerto were almost lost in the immediate burst of applause which lasted for three curtain calls by the soloist and conductor (with presentation of posies) to the regal exit of the orchestra leader, Clare Smith.


Autographs for the fans
Laura van der Heijden
During the interval, Laura met audience members and enjoyed chatting with everyone. Fans of all ages queued up to ask for her autograph, and the entire complement of Yvonne Ashby's 'cello section stayed to pose with Laura for a group photograph - courtesy of EMG photographer Nigel Cheffers-Heard.



Laura van der Heijden
with the EMG 'cello section
(photo: Nigel Cheffers-Heard)

Britten's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra"

Benjamin Britten
As the orchestra resumed their places, Marion Wood returned to the stage with another guest performer. For Britten's "Young Person's Guide" we were joined by drama therapist, and Artistic Director of the Cygnet New Theatre in Exeter, Alistair Ganley. As narrator of this excellent introduction to the instruments of the orchestra, Alistair followed in the footsteps of many great musicians who have shared their enthusiasm through this piece - not least Sir Adrian Boult, some ten years before his recording of the Elgar 'Cello Concerto with Jacqueline du Pré.

Britten created the 'Guide' just after the Second War. He had spent the war in America as a consciencious objector. In an attempt to engage with American culture, Britten wrote his pioneering opera "Paul Bunyan" during the war, but it was not well received by the American public, who objected to a 'limey' analysing their antecedents too closely.


1945 production of "Peter Grimes"
at Sadler's Wells Theatre
As the war drew to a close, Britten was working on his tragic opera "Peter Grimes". Despite initial resistance from various quarters, the opera was a huge success and re-established Britten's reputation in this country. Birtten collaborated with Yehudi Menuhin in a tour of Europe to entertain concentration camp survivors. (Menuhin's parents were Belarussian Jews who had fortunately emigrated to the United States immediately after the Great War.) Britten was deeply shocked by what he experienced in Europe.


Muir Mathieson
It is surprising, therefore, that his subsequent collaboration with Muir Mathieson on an educational film "Instruments of the Orchestra" was so filled with fun and excitement. Britten's score was completed within a year of the end of the war and recorded by Malcolm Sargent with the London Symphony Orchestra. Sargent was to be knighted for his services to music the following year. (See a sample of this magnificent production here.)
Alistair Ganley
(photo: Nigel Cheffers-Heard)
Sadly the public address system of the Great Hall did not do justice to Alistair's very skilful presentation, and some of the excitement was lost. However, every time he made his portentious announcement, and the instruments were played, the full impact of the first 1945 performance was revived.

It is soon explained that each instrument would take its turn to play a variation on a theme by Henry Purcell. The theme is the opening rondeau from Purcell's 1695 incidental music for the earlier play "The Moor's Revenge" ("Abdelazar") by seventeenth century Mata Hari, Aphra Behn. (To experience the flavour, sample the overture and rondeau of the original, played - appropriately - by the Britten Sinfonia, here.)

Bass Drum & Trumpet
Charlotte & Tony Hindley
Percussionist & Composer
Alfie Pugh
The Exeter Music Group Symphony Orchestra version was enhanced by additional material composed by Alfie Pugh. He brought together an unprecedented number of percussionists to perform under the able supervision of regular EMG tympanist Ali Board. Amongst others, Alfie was joined by 'cellist Hannah Willson (sister of EMG violist Rebecca Willson), and Charlotte Hindley (daughter of EMG trumpeter Tony Hindley).



Contrabassoon
Alfie Pugh
Alfie himself also played the solo variation for contrabassoon. Heard briefly at the opening of the "Wreckers" overture, the super-bass woodwind instrument was finally centre-stage, and what a magnificent sound it was. Alfie had also written a special variation for the bass clarinet (almost as deep as the contrabassoon) - to be played by the Clarion Clarinet King himself, John Welton.


First and Second Violins
Jackie Baldwin & Clare Greenall
Naturally the orchestra leader Clare Smith with her principals, Kat
Tremlett (second violins), Richard Wood (violas) and Yvonne Ashby ('cellos), gave a perfect example of their craft. Each string section played a perfect variation of Purcell's original theme - not forgetting the double basses. Lisa Thorne led a thunderous discharge from the deepest strings, with a total of six double basses. Making up this impressive number were jazz duo Pete Canter and James Rintoul.

Viola: Rebecca Willson
Oboes: Kate OsbourneBen Edmunds
Cor Anglais: David Lotinga
Everyone had their moment. Trevor Ives' horn section (Beth Osment, Sally Maya and Mary Saunders) repeatedly stood to demonstrate their brassy prowess. Brian Moore, Tony Hindley and John Bowden trumpetted spectacularly. The trombones of Charles Dowell, Jacqui Burden and Raddon Stephenson completed the brass exposition, with the last and most overpowering word going to regular EMG tuba player Rob O'Dowd.

Prue Tasman and Gail Hicks excelled again on their bassoons, slyly adding a 

definite jazz swing to Britten's score, while Alfie Pugh played his own composition (school of Benjamin Britten) on the contrabassoon. Kate Osbourne's oboe variation was sweet and sensitive, with the subsequent addition of a second oboe by Ben Edmonds - both of which were complemented by another new Alfie Pugh variation for cor anglais, played by David Lotinga.

Harp: Jenny Campbell
The familiar figure of Catherine Clements was joined by Susan Mitchell to demonstrate the bright sound of their silver flutes, while Rob Stephenson made a big impression with a small instrument - the diminutive and shrill piccolo.

Is that everyone? Not quite. Another virtuoso flautist (and singularly creative composer and arranger for "Flute Cake") Jenny Campbell had switched allegiance to a quite different instrument. She played the only orchestral instrument that is exclusively plucked - the highly versatile harp. From the largest instrument came the sweetest sound - celestial.


Finally there was Alfie's percussion section. In addition to Ali Board on tympani, Charlotte Hindley on bass drum and Hannah Willson on triangle and tam-tam, Alfie was joined by Tom Clemo and Joe Darnell playing drums and Zoë Fitzsimmons (EMG viola, and also soprano with Marion Wood's "Starling Octet") playing the exotic castanets and crashing clash cymbals.

Crash, bang, wallop!
Bass Drum: Charlotte Hindley
Clash Cymbals: Zoë Fitzsimmons
(Photo: Nigel Cheffers-Heard)
Only one instrument remained - and this responsibility also fell  to Alfie Pugh. Once again playing his own composition, Alfie crashed the percussion party with an exhilarating soliloquy - on xylophone.

What larks! Benjamin Britten's ageless brilliance brought right up to date by a highly accomplished orchestra. Excellent stage-management, as well as conducting, by Marion Wood, and highly entertaining additional material from Alfie Pugh and Alistair Ganley.

Well worth the price of admission!


Exeter Music Group Symphony Orchestra
Britten: "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra"
Leader: Clare Smith  Conductor: Marion Wood
Narrator: Alistair Ganley  Principal 'Cello: Yvonne Ashby


Exeter Music Group Symphony Orchestra
WANTS
YOU!