Monday, 31 October 2011

Classical Journey Tuesday 1 November

Soprano Mary O'Shea at her Opera Gala appearance at Poltimore House
(background: soprano Janet Macdonald, pianist Margaret Chave,
bass Julian Rippon, pianist Jenny Shepley)
Today's programme will be very varied. Soprano Mary O'Shea and pianist John Scarfe will join us at 10am to talk about their recent work and a lovely recital they've got planned for next week.

Pianist John Scarfe with Baritone Gareth Keene (Photo: Denise Hammond)

Later, at about 11am, Hilary Weatherley will come in to discuss 'Classics Galore' which is at the University Great Hall next Saturday.

Sue North of East Devon Choral Society will be joining us to discuss the amazing Reading Phoenix Choir concert in Tiverton last Saturday - and probably the Remembrance Concert by the EDCS coming up on the 12th.

All sorts of music to look forward to. Who knows what the guests will want to play?

See you at 10!

Concert Run-Down for the first two weeks of November

Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin
Bradninch Folk Club, Castle Hotel
Tuesday 1 November 8pm
Chaturanga Guitar and Violin
sound samples

Lunchtime Concert
Glenorchy United Reformed Church Exmouth
Wednesday 2 November 12.30
David Lee and David Southerns
Piano and Organ duets
Admission Free retiring collection

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Exeter University Great Hall
Thursday 3 November 7.30pm
Conductor: Krzysztof Urbanski
Violin: Alina Pogostkina
My Country
Edvard Grieg: Peer Gynt Suite No 1
Antonin Dvořák: Violin Concerto
Bedrich Smetana: Ma Vlast
Tickets: £35/£29/£21/£17.50/£11.50
Generous concessions and season tickets available
Student stand-by £5
BSO Kids - under 18 (under 13 accompanied) £1
Phoenix Box Office: 01392 667080

Autumn Music
Southernhay Church Exeter
Friday 4 November 7.30pm
Songs and Clarinet Favourites with Piano
Mozart Clarinet Concerto
Paul Reade's 'Kitchen Garden Suite'
Franz Schubert 'Shepherd on the Rock'
Gabriel Fauré, Gerald Finzi
Soprano: Janet MacDonald
Baritone: Iain McDonald
Clarinet: Philip Bonser
Piano: Margaret Chave
Tickets £5

Devon Baroque
Dartington Great Hall Sunday 6 Nov 3pm Birds, Beasts & Battles
Johann Heinrich Schmelzer: Die Musikalische Fechtschul
Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber: Sonata Representativa
Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber: Battalia à 10
Carlo Farina: Capriccio Stravagante
Cyriacus Wilche: Battaglia
Johann Sebastian Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3

Tickets: £18 (student £5)
01803 847070

Bach Cantata Service
Exeter Cathedral Quire
Sunday 6 November 6pm
J. S. Bach: Cantata 48
St Peter's Singers of Exeter Cathedral
Exeter Bach Society
(This is an Anglican Church Service.
   There is no charge for admission.)

Soprano Lunchtime Recital
Glenorchy United Reformed Church Exmouth
Wednesday 9 November 12.30pm
Soprano: Mary O'Shea
Piano: John Scarfe
 1. Where E'er You Walk (Handel)
 2. Gia il sole dal Gange (Scarlatti)
 3. When I Am Laid In Earth (Purcell)
 4. Bist du bei mir (Stolzel)
 5. Voi che sapete (Mozart)
 6. Standchen (Schubert)
 7. Der Nussbaum (Schumann)
 8. Widmung (Schumann)
 9. Fair House of Joy (Quilter)
10. Ophelia's Song (Maconchy)
Admission Free, retiring collection

Tasty Music'Cello Chaconne
Bicton College
Wednesday 9 November 12.30pm
'Cellists: Hilary Boxer & Jane Pirie
Tickets: £10 (includes lunch & wine)
Box: 01395 562300

Howells' Requiem
Church of St Michael & All Angels Pinhoe
Friday 11 November 9pm
A Concert for Remembrance
The Starling Octet
a capela singing by candlelight
readings and war poetry
Admission  Free  retiring collection

Classics Galore!
Exeter University Great Hall
Saturday 12 November 7.30pm
Strauss: Wine, Women and Song
Walton: Crown Imperial
Tchaikovsky: Valse des Fleurs
Vivaldi: Gloria in Excelsis Deo
Handel: Hallelujah Chorus/Zadok the Priest
(& an aria from 'Rinaldo' - Lascia ch'io pianga)
Coates: The Knightsbridge March
Lloyd Weber: Medley
Langford: Marching with Sousa
Jerusalem, Rule Britannia, Pomp and Circumstance
Exeter Symphony Orchestra
Lympstone SWT Brass Band
Ottery Choral Society
St David's Players
Soprano: Penny Daw
Gallery: £16.50 - !Sold Out!
Gallery Box: £12.50
Auditorium: £12.50 (U16 £7.50)
From 'Classics Galore': 01392 832405
Auditorium tickets also from Exeter Visitor Centre,
Dix's Field - 01392 665885

Remembrance Concert
St George's Church Tiverton
Saturday 12 November 7.30pm
East Devon Choral Society
Conductor: Andrew Daldorph
Soprano: Lucy Bray
Baritone: Oli Peat
Peter Milmer: 'Requiem' (q.v.)
Howard Goodall: Eternal Light
Nigel Walsh: Pie Jesu
John Rutter: "The Lord Bless and Keep You"
Tickets: £10 (child £4)
Box Office: 01884 253494

Tasty Music'Cello Chaconne
The Corn Barn, Cullompton
Sunday 13 November 4pm
'Cellists: Hilary Boxer & Jane Pirie
Tickets: £5 (includes tea and cakes)
Box: Yta Batchelor, 01884 32107

Reading Phoenix Choir: St Peter's Church Tiverton - Sue North brings back the award-winning singers by popular demand - Saturday 29 October

The Reading Phoenix Choir open with
Nigerian Highlife Music - 'O Re Mi'
with darbuka accompaniment
As a result of the dedicated work of the East Devon Choral Society's vice-chair, Sue North, St Peter's Church in Tiverton was host once more to the Reading Phoenix Choir. The choir has been operating for 43 years now, and last year won the Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup - and was first runner-up for the 'Choir of the Year' award.

They made a grand entrance - processing to the front of the nave singing a traditional Nigerian 'High-Life' song. Michael Brewer's arrangement of 'O Re Mi' had the exciting African - and Caribbean - flavour to start the evening off with a bang.

Conductor David Crown
One very special feature of the choir quickly became apparent. They sing entirely from memory. With no scores to read, the attention of each singer is fixed firmly on the conductor, David Crown, who is able to bring out every harmony, and every emotion, to perfection. Learning every song by heart is a big task - new members of the choir can only attend concerts like this in an auxilliary role, selling CDs for example, until they have mastered the repertoire.

The Reading Phoenix Choir
Following the rousing Nigerian singing, the choir performed a late nineteenth century English song - 'Hail, Gladdening Light' by that bastion of Anglican musical tradition, Charles Wood. From the exotic, we had moved to a soft and reassuring sound - extremely restful on the ear.

than came some wonderful renaissance liturgical music. Thomas Morley's 'Nolo Mortem Peccatoris' ('I don't wish that sinners should die') The words are from a fifteenth century 'macaronic' poem (mixing Lating and English phrases). As a result half were incomprehensible to most people, but expressing emotion which anyone could understand. The English words (e.g. "Father I am your only son") came unexpectedly and delighted the ear. The singing was incredibly controlled with every inhale made as inconspicuously as possible. Every eye was concentrated on David Crown, and every mind was focussed on the form and the meaning of the music.

The joy of song
The next song was even more moving. Anyone who heard David Acre's 'Counterpoint' choir at Buckfast Abbey two weeks ago would be familiar with the entrancing sound of Morten Lauridsen's late twentieth century choral music. Counterpoint sang 'O Nata Lux' from 'Lux Aerterna', which they will sing in full next May (details).

'Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Rose
Francisco de Zurbaran 1633
'O Magnum Mysterium' was composed by Lauridsen in 1994 for Marshall Rutter's Los Angeles Master Chorale. It was inspired by the symbolism of Francisco de Zurbaran's 1633 painting 'Still Life with Lemons, Orange and a Rose'. The images represent the Christian mysteries of incarnation and resurrection, and the corresponding music is equally moving. The voices merge seemlessly (in Latin) to extoll the great mystery and wondrous sacrament of the birth of Mary's child. The ending, "Dominum Christum, Alleluia . . . ", with it's sustained bass continuo, is devastatingly beautiful.

The next piece of music was something very unusual. David Crown and the Phoenix Choir have been experimenting with instrumental pieces arranged for chorus. Their first this evening was Toby Young's arrangement of Johann Strauss II's 'Pizzicato Polka'. When Strauss composed this piece in 1892, it was intended for orchestra, with the strings played pizzicato naturally. Later a ballet was created to fit the music, but Toby Young's version is quite something else. Initially the plucked notes, sung as "Da, da, da" don't seem right, but as the tune and harmonies become more complicated it all starts to work perfectly. The resulting sound was enormous fun - both for the choir, and for the audience who couldn't hide their enjoyment.

Organist Christopher Enston
Played Charles-Marie Widor's 'Toccata from Symphony No 5
During the 'Two Moors Festival', Exeter Cathedral organist David Davies came to St Peter's Church in Tieverton to give an organ recital which finished with the extraordinary 'Toccata' from Charles-Marie Widor's Symphony No 5 for Organ. It was so well received, and people were so keen to hear it again, that the Phoenix Choir's organist Christopher Enston was persuaded to play it once more. The Henry Willis organ had been retuned in the intervening week, to give its optimum performance. Having seen David Davies forced to play in shirt-sleeves to keep cool, we know how taxing this piece is for the organist. Christopher embarked on the piece with immediate energy, uproariously enthusiastic, maybe not as precise as David, but with enormous excitement. The bass pedals sounded out very distinctly throughout, finally running up the magisterial concluding chords. An amazing musical detour.

Incredible bass sustain for John Tavener's 'Song for Athene'

After the Toccata, there was a change from the published programme. David Crown moved the choir to the back of the quire to sing John Tavener's funeral homage to Princess Diana, 'Song for Athene'. Again a very familiar style. Tavener's 'Last Sleep of the Virgin' written in memory of Dame Margot Fonteyne (and also used at Princess Diana's funeral), displays the same Russian Orthodox influence with handbells gently underpinning the sound. Instead of handbells 'Song for Athene' has a continuous sustained bass note which carries on through every word and every rest. The breath control of the bass singers is very impressive - there was no sign of inhale or exhale. Then, right on cue, the bells of distant St Paul's Church began to peal for eight o' clock. If that was deliberate, it was a stroke of genius. The combined sound was certainly absolutely perfect.
Full bass voice in the Tavener
The bass voices did get to sing part of the tune, leading up to some extraordinarily moving dischordant line endings - and then a huge, apparently final "Alleluia" - which faded to leave the same bass note continuing on and on - haunting.

Then, staying in the same position, the choir sang the music of 96 year old Knut Nystedt. Nystedt studied with Aaron Copland, picking up his American style. However, 'I Will Praise Thee O Lord' was also imbued with a Russian feel, complementing the preceding music by Tavener. The words of the Psalm were sung with deference, but lively and engaging. A delightful song.

Repositioned once more, the choir continued with Mozart's 'Ave Verum Corpus' ('Hail True Body'). Mozart had reached the height of his powers - and the untimely end of his life - just as he completed this choral masterpiece. (His great comic Opera, Cosi Fan Tutti, was completed in the same year, 1790.) With the singers in a line across the front of the Sanctuary, women on the left, men on the right, the sound was powerfully spiritual. The male voices followed the organ a lot of the time and went down with it to the last sustained bass note.

Moving away from the spiritual, David Crown had another delightful choral arrangement, originally written for 'other forces', Ben Oliver's arrangement of Claude Debussy's 'Des Pas sur la Neige' ('Footprints in the Snow'). Written in the romantic era, but with a forward-looking impressionist style, 'Footprints' describes icy whites and grays in music. Replacing the piano sound the bass voices built and sustained just like the sound of a glass armonica (or simply running a wet finger round the rim of a wine glass). The sopranos added a gentle humming even more reminiscent of the armonica. Then, at 8.15 sharp, the bells of St Paul's blended in perfectly again. Could it really be pure chance? As the sopranos sustained their hum, the men plunged down through arpeggios. It is hard to imagine anything more unlike a piano, but it was beautifully evocative of a winter landscape.

The choir brought us back to feelings of sunshine and greenery with Sir Hubert Parry's 'I was Glad' from Psalm 122 (used at coronations, and at this year's marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton). The telling second line, "Our feet shall stand in thy gates, O Jerusalem" were sung with genuinely exuberant joy. Christopher Enston accompanied softly on the organ while the soft voices of the choir built up to the supremely high soprano harmony and a strident finish on the organ.

After a convivial interval with wine and soft drinks, as the audience were welcoming the singers back with a round of applause, the choir launched themselves into Aaron Copland's Old American Song 'Ching a Ring Chaw'. The nonsense of "Ching a ring ching" and "Ho a ding kum larkkee" immediately grabbed everyone's attention, before progressing to real words and a very American vision of the promised land - and ending with more nonsense, "ring ching ching ching CHAW!" Very strange, very intriguing.

From nonsense David turned the choir to something much more serious. Eric Whitacre's 'Lux Aurumque' was originally performed by a virtual choir via the internet in 2009, and followed by 'Sleep' in 2010. Naturally David felt a physically convened choir must sing even better. David Acres' Counterpoint choir had performed both at Buckfast Abbey, and in Pont L'Abbé and Quimper in Brittany since then. The Reading choir, singing entirely without sheet music, gave a very special performance of the now familiar 'Lux Aurumque'.

The men are accompanied by a long long soprano sustain
in Whitacre's 'Lux Aurumque'

The song has unusual origins - the original words are not latin at all, but English. Working in collaboration with Eric Whitacre in 2001 Charles Anthony Silvestri was struck by the possibility of translating Edward Esch's poem 'Light and Gold' into Latin for Eric to set to music. Classical purists might not like the grammar, but the words are beautiful to sing. The choir really excelled, projecting the words of the nativity out into the audience. An extraordinary and captivating sound, each harmony was slowly built before fading just as slowly. The sustained soprano notes were utterly entrancing.

(You can hear the virtual choir version here - x)
(Compare the Reading Phoenix Choir version here - x)

The familiar sound of 'Jupiter' from Gustav Holst's 'Planet Suite' followed, in his 1921 setting of Sir Cecil Spring-Rice's 'I vow to thee, my country'. Spring Rice was a British ambassador, involved in influencing Woodrow Wilson's American government to join the allies during the Great War. Very patriotic of course, but also very beautiful - with a very powerful tenor solo part for Simon Wellings, perfect and unforced.

Great singing by the tenor Simon Wellings
in 'I vow to thee my country' and 'Nobody Knows'
From the west we travelled to the east and a song by Estonian composer Piret Rips-Laul. After living under communism for the first 24 years of her life, she delights in creating new material and reaching a wider audience. Paradisi Gloria is a charming arrangement of 'Fac, ut portem Christi mortem' ('Grant that I might bear the death of Christ') from the Stabat Mater. With the bells of St Paul's ringing nine o' clock in the background it was absolutely lovely.

In contrast to Piret Rips-Laul, who has been enjoying freedom from oppression since 1989, Michael Tippett was influenced by the tyranny of the Third Reich in the later thirties to write his oratorio 'A Child of our Time' based on Ödön von Horváth's 1938 novel of the same name. The individual songs are intended to serve like Bach chorales, but are in varied styles including 'spirituals'. 'Nobody knows the troubles I've seen' sounds like something from the deep south, but takes on an even more sinister significance when we remember that it was composed just after the outbreak of the Second World War in the context of Nazi atrocities in Europe. There was another superb tenor solo by Simon Wellings, but the singer was somewhat hidden in the ranks of the choir. He was very audible though, and his singing was very beautiful and moving. (See his photo above.)

The organ interlude in the first half had been splendid, but now we had a very different and exotic addition ot the programme. Tenor Didier Garçon is also an accomplished player of the traditional Provençal instruments, the galoubet and the tambourin. Didier demonstrated how the galoubet, a small pipe, can be used to play several full octaves by the use of harmonics, despite having only three finger holes. The galoubet can be played with one hand - leaving the other free to beat a rhythm on the tambourin.

In Provence whole bands of players entertain the local people all night, imitating the sound of an orchestra. That must be quite a sound!

Didier Garçon Plays Galoubet and Tambourin
To hear Didier play was a very special treat. There are only about four hundred players left now. The traditional instruments date from the thirteenth century and can recreate the flavour of traditional French mediaeval music beautifully.

Didier becomes impassioned

Didier's first peice was 'very French' - a seductive waltz tune. Initially courtly the music became increasingly lively and impassioned. 'The Nightingale' was contrastingly sweet and gentle, and allowed Didier to demonstrate his amazing breath and tongue control. A real treat. Everyone was very grateful for Didier's delightful contribution the the evening's entertainment.

The choir show their appreciation for Didier's wonderful music
Of course Didier had to resume his place in the choir as a tenor for more singing. A whole programme of modern choral works still to come. Didier did look a little overwrought after his wonderful performance, but rallied quickly to join the other singers with a will.

Didier returns to his position in the choir
With Christopher Enston playing piano, the Choir tried a little 'alternative rock'. 'Viva la Vida' ('Long live Life' - also ironically called 'Death and all his Friends') has a very modern youthful feel to it. A perfect echo of Didier's Mediaeval sound.

'Coldplay', who recorded the song in 2008, have some local connection of course. Chris Martin their lead vocalist, was a pupil at Blundell's school in Tiverton!

Coldplay gave way to gorgeous Welsh traditional song - 'Suo Gân' ('Lullaby'). David had carefully learned the correct pronunciation of the title, but still allowed the choir to sing in English - despite some protest from Welsh speaking members!  However, the English speaking audience were more than happy to hear the restful words 'Sleep my baby' carried along by sweet humming harmony from the sopranos.

A glorious soprano solo by Kate Dogra in Cole Porter's
"Miss Otis regrets, she is unable to lunch today"
Then came the ominous black humour of Cole Porter's 'Miss Otis regrets' ('she's unable to lunch today'). The soprano soloist, Kate Dogra, sang the story with incredible conviction and clarity. Miss Otis' servant, observing polite etiquette, relates the reasons for Miss Otis' absence - a terrible litany of duplicity, murder and lynching. The choir and soloist fully conveyed the contrast between the style and the content of the terrible message. Shocking, but beautiful, with a haunting quaver in the soloist's voice on the final word, " . . . today!"

Robert Burns' 'O my luve's like a red red rose' is equally familiar. Roddy Williams version opened as a soprano number, but quickly diverged into a complex counterpoint for four voices. A lovely arrangement.

From Wales to Scotland to - Sweden. Benny Andersson's Abba hit 'Dancing Queen' was perfect in Mac Huff's arrangement for choir. Christopher Enston was back on the piano and flew into an opening glissando and bashed out the tune in a gloriously wild 'honky-tonk' style. The singers joined in with a will, perfectly recreating the sound of breathlessly excited teenagers. Very clever, and very entertaining.

Formality is abandoned to sing a song for Haiti

Finally, in recognition of the continuing hardships of the Haitian people, following the earthquake last year, the choir broke up their formal ranks and stood, or sat, individually around the front of the quire. From their various positions they sang an incredibly moving Haitian folk song, specially arranged by Roddy Williams, 'Fey-O'. The Darbuka drum was brought out again, and Didier played another.

A more relaxed style for Roddy Williams' 'Fey-O'
The baritone solo by Dan Bignall was superlatively rich and emotive. The sincerity of the singer showed in his voice - and his facial expression. As the singing slowly faded, the drum playing became more passionate, before slowing to end with the solo baritone voice. This song was a very moving reminder of the continuing suffering of people in crisis-affected areas of the world.

A very moving baritone solo by Dan Bignall
in Roddy Williams' arrangement of Traditional Haitian folksong 'Fey-O'
As a final encore the choir sang Bob Chilcott's 'Irish Blessing':

May the road rise to meet you, 
May the wind be ever at your back 
May the sun shine warm upon your face 
and the rain fall soft upon your fields, 
and until we meet again, 
May God hold you in the palm of his hand. 

Such an incredible evening of music. Skilled, beautiful, and full of emotion - and such a journey of discovery, with so many different styles and traditions.

Thank you so much to the Reading Phoenix Choir for making a special trip to Devon to entertain us. And special thanks to the vice-chair of the East Devon Choral Society, Sue North, whose tireless efforts made this wonderful evening possible.

Until we meet again . . .

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Update: Now that the Counterpoint choir have returned from Brittany, Matthew Cann - with the help of David Acres - is creating a new Choir - 'Antiphon'. They are already in preparation for an Advent concert at Buckfast Abbey on Saturday 3rd December. The programme will include some of the pieces sung by the Reading Phoenix Choir on Saturday - and many more as well.

A Concert for Advent
Buckfast Abbey
Saturday 3 Dec 7.30pm
Antiphon Choir
Director: Matthew Cann
Fantastic programme, including:
Gabriel Jackson: 'I look from afar'
Thomas Tallis: Videte Miraculum
Morten Lauridsen: O Magnum Mysterium
Henryk Gorecki: Totas Tuas
Eric Whitacre: Lux Aurumque
Tickets: £16 (advance £14)

Advent Programme

Rorate Coeli – plainsong                         (F major)

Rorate Coeli – Byrd                                 (F major)

1. Advent antiphon – O Sapientia         (G minor)

I look from afar – Jackson                       (G minor)

O Maria Vernans Rosa – Cox                 (G major)

2. Advent antiphon – O Adonai             (G minor)

Salve Regina – Poulenc                          (G minor)

Videte Miraculum – Tallis                         (E minor)

3. Advent antiphon – O Radix Jesse     (G minor)

O Magnum Mysterium – Lauridsen          (D major)

4. Advent antiphon – O Clavis David     (Fminor)

 5. Advent antiphon – O Oriens                (F minor)

Totus Tuas – Gorecki                                 (E major)
6. Advent antiphon – O Rex Gentium      (F minor)

Ave Maria – Parsons                                   (A major)

Lux Aurumque – Whitacre                                 (D major)

7. Advent antiphon – O Emmanuel            (F minor)
Lully, Lulla – Leighton                                   (G minor)

8. Advent antiphon – O Virgo Virginem     (G minor)

Tomorrow go ye forth – Jackson                   (G minor)

Benedicamus Domino – Warlock                   (C major)
Tallis –Te Lucis Ante Terminum                       (B minor)

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Janet Macdonald presents a dazzling 'Opera Gala' at St Margaret's Church Topsham Saturday 22 October

'Opera Glass' sing Mozart: "O never trust that evil man" from 'Don Giovanni'
Bass: Julian Rippon, Soprano: Janet Macdonald,
Mezzo Soprano: Anneke Freeland, Tenor: Chris Hunt
(accompanied on piano by Joyce Clarke)
Following the success of 'Songs for Summer Nights' at Poltimore House on 8th July, soprano Janet Macdonald reconvened the 'Opera Glass' company for an opera gala at St Margaret's Church in Topsham last Saturday (22nd October). The lighting at the church is commendably energy saving, but somewhat sombre (see photo above). However, the acoustics are excellent and perfectly suited to a recital of favourite opera arias. Margaret Chave was unable to make a return visit as pianist, but fortunately the very talented Joyce Clarke was able to take over for the evening.

Each aria was given an informative and humorous introduction by Peter Macdonald - always welcome when listening to less familiar works - or taking a foray into the world of opera for the first time.

For the opening aria 'Pur ti miro, pur ti godo' ('I gaze at you, I possess you') from Monteverdi's 'Coronation of Poppea', Janet sang the part of Poppea Augusta Sabina, mistress of the emperor Nero. Janet was joined by Dutch mezzo soprano Anneke Freeland who sang the part of Nero, which is not so strange, as the role was originally intended for 'castrato' voice which is quite close to  mezzo soprano. Anneke's voice has a delightful soft tone and perfectly complements Janet's.  This Venice Carnival piece from 1643 with the words of Giovanni Busenello set to music by Claudio Monteverdi was the first to use characters from history ('The Twelve Caesars' by Seutonius) instead of characters from mythology.

Anneke then took us back to Greek mythology with the doom-laden aria 'Ahi! che forse ai miei di l'ultima aurora splende!' ('Alas! perhaps for me the last dawn shines!') from Luigi Cherubini's 1788 opera 'Demophon'. Anneke was playing the part of Dircea, who is secretly married to King Demophon's heir Timante. Dircea is due to be sacrificed to Apollo - will no-one come to her rescue? We have to see the whole opera to find out, but Anneke's entreaties set the scene beautifully.

Tenor Chris Hunt and bass Julian Rippon sang the essential duet of Georges Bizet's 1863 opera 'The Pearl Fishers' - 'Au fond du temple saint' ('Behind the holy temple') in which the fishermen Zurga and Nadir renounce the love of Leila in favour of remaining friends. A very touching scene, performed with great sensitivity.

For a further two hours the singers entertained the audience with French and German opera classics - 'The Marriage of Figaro' (Mozart), 'La Boheme' (Puccini), 'The Magic Flute' (Mozart), 'Faust' (Gounod), 'Jeanne d'arc' (Tchaikovsky), 'Turandot' (Puccini) and finally, the grand finale - Mozart's 'Don Giovanni'. All four singers joined together at last in reviling the terrible don: 'O never trust that evil man' and 'Sinner pause and ponder well'. Beautifully acted and sung (in English) these final Mozart arias finished off the concert in style.

The singing had been glorious - Julian Rippon in particular has an extraordinary voice, and Anneke Freeland is a wonderful new addition to the team. It was sad that soprano Mary O'Shea was not able to make make Saturday's concert, but let us hope she will be available for the next 'Opera Glass' production.

Janet Macdonald will be at Southernhay Church in Exeter this Friday, 4th November, with baritone Iain McDonald (no relation) for 'Autumn Music'. Instrumental music will be provided by pianist Margaret Chave and clarinettist Philip Bonser. Peter Macdonald will once again be introducing the music.

Autumn Music
Southernhay Church Exeter
Friday 4 November 7.30pm
Songs and Clarinet Favourites with Piano
Mozart Clarinet Concerto
Paul Reade's 'Kitchen Garden Suite'
Franz Schubert 'Shepherd on the Rock'
Gabriel Fauré, Gerald Finzi
Soprano: Janet MacDonald
Baritone: Iain McDonald
Clarinet: Philip Bonser
Piano: Margaret Chave
Tickets £5

Janet Macdonald, Julian Rippon and Christopher Hunt will be performing with the Clyst Valley Choral Society and an instrumental ensemble conducted by Paul Stock (and organ playing by Mark Perry) in another of their double concerts - Saturday 19th November at St Margaret's Church Topsham and Sunday 20th November at Holy Trinity Church Exmouth - both at 7.30pm.
Bach, Charpentier and Schubert - a great evening of music!

Clyst Valley Choral Society
St Margaret's Church Topsham
Saturday 19 November 7.30pm
Sunday 20 November 7.30pm
Bach: Nun Danket Alle Gott
Charpentier: Te Deum
Schubert: Mass in G
Soprano: Janet Macdonald
Tenor: Christopher Hunt
Bass: Julian Rippon
Organist: Mark Perry
Conductor: Paul Stock
Tickets: £8 (advance £7)
Joel Segal Books: 013921 877895
01392 271858

And soprano Mary O'Shea will be singing with piano accompaniment from John Scarfe at Glenorchy URC in Exmouth on Wednesday 9th November at 12.30pm.

Soprano Lunchtime Recital
Glenorchy United Reformed Church Exmouth
Wednesday 9 November 12.30pm
Soprano: Mary O'Shea
Piano: John Scarfe

 1. Where E'er You Walk (Handel)
 2. Gia il sole dal Gange (Scarlatti)
 3. When I Am Laid In Earth (Purcell)
 4. Bist du bei mir (Stolzel)
 5. Voi che sapete (Mozart)
 6. Standchen (Schubert)
 7. Der Nussbaum (Schumann)
 8. Widmung (Schumann)
 9. Fair House of Joy (Quilter)
10. Ophelia's Song (Maconchy)
Admission Free, retiring collection

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Exeter Alternative Theatre present 'Grand-Guignol' Halloween Horror Spectacular, Barnfield Theatre Friday 28, Saturday 29 & Monday 31 October

A grotesque display of emotion:
Ben Rodwell & Mike Gilpin as Professor Alistair Rodwell & Tom Sullivan
in rehearsal for ‘An Eye For An Eye’
(Photography: Nigel Cheffers-Heard

Grand-Guignol - The Parisian Theatre of Terror arrives in Exeter!

Exeter Alternative Theatre continues to build on its reputation for putting on the most provocative theatre in Devon.

Le Theatre du Grand-Guignol opened in Pigalle, Paris, in 1897 thrilling, titillating, shocking and horrifying its audiences for 65 years. It is now revered as one of the world's greatest forgotten theatres.

Following on from rave reviews and audience feedback for 'Quills' in July and a hugely successful Grand-Guignol debut in October 2010, Exeter Alternative Theatre once again invites you to experience 'something a little different to the norm' - another evening of Grand-Guignol terror as they take to the stage to present three more short plays from, and sinpired by, this legendary Parisian theatre. You won't experience enything darker, bloodier or sexier in the South West this Halloween.

A slightly less extreme moment - or is it?
Elisabeth Bennett & Al Wadlan as Clara Watson & Jean Marchal
in rehearsal for ‘The Torture Garden’
(Photography: Nigel Cheffers-Heard

The Torture Garden
(Le Jardin des supplices) by Pierre Chaine & Andre de Lorde
Based on the controversial 1899 novel by Octave Mirbeau this disturbing play assaults the senses in true Grand-Guignol style. This seductive and brutal 3 act play ticks all the right boxes for an EAT performance and it opens on the very night that the original production was performed in Paris 89 years ago!

Weekend Cottage
by Frederick Witney
From the 1945 London Grand-Guignol revival, this is a dark, evil, one act terror ride. On a Friday evening Laura awaits the arrival of her married lover for a 'romantic' weekend. The appearance of two stangers changes everyone's plans . . .

An Eye for an Eye
by Rosie Mullin & Midge Mullin
A brand new Grand-Guignol play written exclusively for this EAT production. An eminent anthropologist returns home to England after stealing a stone of great spiritual significance to an African tribe. The cataclysmic consequences are truly horrifying . . .

Warning! Not recommended for the faint hearted!

"If this is the future of amateur theatre - count me in."

"Most professional casts would die to be so good." Dr. Paul Gray

Monday, 24 October 2011

Reading Phoenix Choir, St Peter's Church Tiverton Saturday 29 October

The Reading Phoenix Choir will be at St Peter's Church Tiverton
Saturday 29th October 7.30pm

On the last 'Classical Journey' for October (Tuesday 20th) we heard a beautiful performance of Edward Elgar's 'Lux Aeterna', the choral version of 'Nimrod' from his 'Enigma Variations'.

The beauty and quality of the sound was comparable to the wonderful performance by David Acres' 'Counterpoint' choir at Buckfast Abbey on the previous Saturday.

Now in their 43rd year, the Reading Phoenix Choir are one of the countries very finest choral ensembles. They have wond the Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup - and were first runners-up in last year's 'Choir of the Year'. Could there be any chance that this superb choir might come to Devon to entertain us?

Yes! Sue North (Vice-Chair of the East Devon Choral Society) has managed to book the Reading Phoenix Choir to perform at St Peter's Church in Tiverton on the evening of Saturday 29th October. The choir will perform their amazing programme of music datingfrom the seventeenth century to the present day.

Also performing on the night will be Didier Garcon playing traditional pipe and tabor, and organist Christopher Enston who will accompany some of the choral works - and give a performance of Widor's 'Toccata' on the 1867 Henry Willis Organ. (David Davies, Director of Music at Exeter Cathedral, played the Toccata on the Willis Organ on Thursday 20th Oct as part of the Two Moors Festival - and it is well worth hearing again!)

This will be a superb concert, and a great opportunity to see this magnificent choir in action. Early booking is reccommended!

Reading Phoenix Choir
St Peter's Church Tiverton
Saturday 29 October 7.30pm
Sacred and Secular Choral Music
from 1500 to the present day
Special Guests:
Organist: Christopher Enston
Widor: Toccata in F major
Pipe and Tabor: Didier Garcon
Traditional Music from Provence
Tickets: £10 (advance booking recommended)
contact Sue North 01884 253494

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields in Devon Dartington Great Hall Sunday 30 October

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields

Once again the Dartington Hall Trust, in association with 'Orchestras Live' demonstrate their leading role in bringing the very best music to Devon.

Next Sunday, 30th October, the Adacemy of St Martin in the Fields returns to Dartington Great Hall for an afternoon of musical excellence, starting at 3pm.

Founded in 1959 by Sir Neville Marriner CBE, the Academy is now directed by founder and leader of the  English Chamber Orchestra, Gabrielli String Quartet and Adacemy Chamber Ensemble - Kenneth Sillito.
The orchestra leader is Harvey de Souza, a Menuhin student from Mumbai, where he was founder of the Sangat Chamber Music Festival in 1995 and has been it's artistic director throughout its existence.

The Academy are bringing a stunning programme of Classical and Romantic music to the Great Hall on Sunday:

Sir Edward Elgar: Serenade fro Strings in E minor Opus 20 (1896)

Gerald Finzi: romance for String Orchestra Opus 11 (1928)
(as played at Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, in April)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (age 16): Symphony No 17 in G K129 (1772)

Thea Musgrave (age 71): Aurora (1999)
( commissioned for the students of Colburn School of Performing Arts - to represent 'dawning creativity')

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (age 18): Symphony No 29 K201/186a (1774)

An amazing programme of music - in the perfect setting of Dartington Great Hall on an autumn afternoon!
Academy of St Martin in the Fields
Dartington Great Hall Sunday 30 October 3pm
Elgar: Serenade
Finzi: Romance
Mozart: Symphony No 17 in G
Musgrave: Aurora
Mozart: Symphony No 29 in A
Tickets: £18 (student £5)
01803 847070