Sunday, 16 January 2011

Sally Kirby and John Scarfe at Broadclyst

Sally Kirby (clarinet) and John Scarfe (piano)
performing at Broadclyst
Regular listeners to the 'Classical Journey' on Tuesday mornings on Exeter's community radio station 'Phonic FM' will have heard the delightful live performance of duets for clarinet and piano by local performers Sally Kirby and John Scarfe on the programme this week.  That was just a sample of the gorgeous music they played at Broadclyst on Saturday.
Despite the grey overcast sky a huge audience turned out at the Church of St John the Baptist in Broadclyst to hear their concert.  As always at these 'Coffee and Music' events, tea and coffe and were served in the church rooms from 10.30am and everyone made their way to their seats by 11 o' clock.  John gave his usual welcoming introduction and apologised for the appalling weather.  Sally had been keeping her clarinet warm with a hot-water bottle!
The concert began with the slow 'Church Sonata', composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Salzburg in 1772, which we heard on Tuesday, sandwiched between two faster church sonatas to make what was effectively a sonata in three movements.  The opening notes on the clarinet were rich and clear with Sally and John balancing their sound levels very neatly - not like Luch's electronically mediated efforts on the Classical Journey!  After a rousing finish to the first sonata (No 2) the slow sonata (No 1) was delightfully delicate - even more so than on Tuesday.  The second fast sonata (No 10) was much more gentle than the first and John was clearly getting into his stride, looking increasingly relaxed even managing to recover without any fuss when two pages stuck together.  A great choice for a first piece and a great start to the concert.
The concert continued with three fantasy pieces from Robert Schumann's Opus 73 composed at the end of his time in Dresden in 1849.  While the Mozart we had just heard was an arrangement for clarinet and piano made some time after composition, these pieces were written specifically for the two instruments.  The first, in A minor, had a simple and sombre clarinet line with lovely legato accompaniment from John on the piano.  The second was more complex for the clarinet, but very smoothly executed by Sally, despite her keys getting blocked at one point.  The third had a very modern jazz sound with a languid end to each phrase.  The piano passages became increasingly complicated, even including complex phrases which continuing over the page turn - but John was well equal to the task.
Next came the music of early twentieth century  English composer Gerald Finzi (whom I must not confuse with German classical composer Franz Danzi who was a contemporary of Beethoven!)  Sally and John played two of Finzi's 'Five Bagatelles'.  The premiere of these bagatelles was at the National Gallery in London when Pianist Howard Ferguson accompanied Sally's clarinet tutor Pauline Juler.  'Carol' was just as beautiful as it was in the studio on Tuesday.  The long sustained clarinet note at the end was exquisite.  'Forlana', by contrast, was low and mysterious but again had a high long note to finish, perfectly sustained by Sally on her clarinet.
Sally receives her bouquet
To lift our spirits we then had 'Spring' and 'Summer' from Paul Reade's 'Victorian Kitchen Garden Suite' (Composed for the TV series of the same name.)  Both were quite short.  'Spring' started with a lovely scale on clarinet leading into the piano part while 'Summer' featured languorous clarinet over rippling piano notes.  I wasn't exactly thinking about cricket matches on the village green but it did take my mind off the grey winter weather for a few minutes.
Finally we were treated to 'Three Scottish Impressions' by Gordon Langford.  'Corn Riggs' was very light-hearted and 'jokey' but clearly very difficult to play especially for the clarinettist who has to manage both high and deep sections, while the pianist has equally complicated solo sections.  'My Love is like a Red Red Rose' was soft and sensuous and our last piece, 'Pot-Pourri', was a hopping dance number featuring themes from several familiar tunes - an amazing composition, done full justice by Sally and John.
The encore was rather familiar.  Gabriel Pierné's 'Serenade' was part of the musical sample we enjoyed on Tuesday.  Saturday's performance was even more seductive and finished off the concert in style.
Many thanks to Sally Kirby and John Scarfe for a very professional and enjoyable concert.  Also thanks to John's wife Jean for her invaluable work in set-up and page-turning.  We must always remember the Rector of St John the Baptist, Michael Partridge, who is responsible for Broadclyst Parish Church as part of his team ministry and is always willing to use his church building to share his love of music with all!

Distinguished audience member
soprano Mary O'Shea
Before too long we hope to hear John Scarfe accompanying another local musician on the classical journey - Somerset soprano Mary O'Shea.  Mary was at Saturday's concert to hear Sally and John Play, and she is already in rehearsal with John.  Mary is regularly seen at Exeter Cathedral as a member of the St Peter's Singers.  The next big event she is involved in is the 'Sequence of Music for the Queen's Accession' which will be part of choral evensong in the Cathedral at 5pm on Sunday 6th February.  Mary has also joined the 'Jubilee Singers' and will be performing with them at Killerton on 14th May.

Another artist who has appeared with John, both at Broadclyst and in the studio at Phonic FM is baritone Gareth Keene.  Gareth will also appear on Radio 3 tonight (Sunday) as Aled Jones' guest on the programme 'Choir' at 6.30pm - also available on 'listen again'.

The next 'Coffee and Music' concert at Broadclyst Parish Church will be on Saturday 26th March.  Mezzo-soprano Rebecca Smith will sing Elgar's 'Sea Pictures' and Britten's 'A Charm of Lullabies'.

There is also a special recital planned for Saturday 11th June at 7.30pm when American virtuoso flautist Denise Deter will perform.
Denise studied as a post-graduate at Manchester University.  She currently works at the Woodlawn Arts Academy in Sterling, Illinois.

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