Saturday, 31 December 2011

Christmas 2011

Friday 9th December
Church of St John the Baptist Broadclyst
John Scarfe conducts the Jubilee Singers

Soprano Soloist: Mary O'Shea
John Carol Case: 'Sweet Chiming Bells'
Andrew Carter: 'Mary's Magnificat'
and, with Baritone Jason Bonford:
Harold Darke: 'In the bleak mid-winter'

Mary will be singing with guitarist Clive Betts
Bach, Adam, Gounod & South American folk music
St Leonard's Church Exeter Tuesday 10th January 3.30pm

Wednesday 14th December
Glenorchy United Reformed Church Exmouth
Soprano: Val Howels - Baritone: John Brindley
Harold Darke: 'In the bleak midwinter'

John Brindley
T.C. Sterndale Bennett: 'The Carol Singers'
" We sang forte - sounded like an 'undred!"

Never forget the pianist!
Frances Waters

Friday 16th December
Sidholme Hotel Sidmouth
Sidmouth Lions Christmas Concert
Soprano Val Howels
Howard Blake: 'Walking in the Air'

The full ensemble - 'Musicality'
Tenor: Joe MacNulty - Soprano: Val Howels
Baritone: Wally Cotgrave - Soprano: Catherine Moore
Master of Ceremonies: Christopher Rignall

The Pianist!
Dorothy Worthington

Tuesday 20th December
St Mary Arches Church Exeter
Andrew Daldorph conducts the Exeter Chamber Choir
'Seven Joys' carol collection - by Andrew Daldorph

Eric Whitacre: 'Lux Aurumque'
Carl Rütti: 'O Magnum Mysterium'
John Tavener: The Lamb
Exeter poet Richard Skinner (with music by Nigel Walsh)
- 'We have seen a baby'

In the background:
Soprano Soloist: Ann Draisey
Samuel Scheidt: 'A child is born in Bethlehem'

Very special guest - Bassoonist Todd Gibson Cornish
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Bassoon Concerto in B flat K191
Eugène Bourdeau: Première solo for Bassoon and Piano
Pianist: Andrew Daldorph - Assistant: Sally Daldorph

A stunning performance!

Wednedsay 21st December
St Margaret's Church Topsham
St Margaret's Church Choir

Director of Music: Tony Yeates
Organist: Paul Morgan

Tony conducts - and sings!

Lily Neal conducts her own choir, 'Singing for Fun'
in a composition by Topsham composer Diana Finn:
Christmas Day
The Bridge Inn Topsham
'Show of Hands'
Harold Darke: 'In the bleak mid-winter'

Very appropriate!

Something to rouse the spirits:
"Good luck to the Barley Mow!"

H A P P Y     N E W     Y E A R  !

Friday, 30 December 2011

'Autumn Leaves' Glenorchy Wednesday 23 November Mezzo-Soprano Dorothy Ferrier accompanied by Pianist Dorothy Worthington

The firm foundation - accurate and responsive
A very supportive accompanist
Pianist Dorothy Worthington
The 'Doughty pivot' - flexible and hard-working
A supremely expressive and adaptable performer
Mezzo Soprano Dorothy Ferrier
On the Wednesday before the arrival of 'Duo Teresa Carreño' (i.e. on 23rd November), Glenorchy United Reformed Church in Exmouth was host to the wonderful Scottish mezzo-soprano Dorothy Ferrier. What a pity we couldn't book her for the following week - St Andrew's Day! Dorothy gave us a very varied 'international' recital, but with a liberal helping of Robert Burns Scottish poetry along the way.

Accompanying Dorothy on the piano was Dorothy Worthington, a very sensitive and collaborative player. The piano playing skilfully supported what proved to be a very expressive mezzo-soprano recital.

Jacques Prévert in Paris in 1945
'Autumn Leaves'
The set was called 'Autumn Leaves' and started with one of the haunting poems from post war Paris by Jacques Prévert, which were set to music by Joseph Kosma. 'Les Feuilles Mortes' ('The Dead Leaves') was  made into a jazz classic by Kosma in 1945 - and translated into English by Johnny Mercer in 1947. Edith Piaf recorded both versions, of course, but it is best remembered as the theme tune of the film 'Autumn Leaves' - sung by Nat King Cole. Sad, yet loving, with a very subtle piano accompaniment, the music evoked the sense of lost love - and the corresponding sadness of autumn. A very appropriate song for the end of November!

Cherubino sings 'Voi Che Sapete'
in Lotte Reiniger's 1930 animation
'Zehn Minuten Mozart'
'You - who know what love is . . '
As Dorothy introduced her extensive and varied programme of songs, the audience were treated to her very beautiful Scots accent. So expressive. Ironically, the first song she had chosen was in Italian! 'Voi Che Sapete' ('You [ladies] who know [what love is]), the great 'trouser' aria in Mozart's 1786 'La Nozze di Figaro [Ossia la Folle Giornata]' ('The Marriage of Figaro [or the Day of Madness]'). Cherubino the page boy (played by a woman) begs the countess to diagnose his 'symptoms'. Ridiculous, but strangely moving, Dorothy's Italian diction was lovely and her voice - very strong!
César Franck (1822-90)
From the ridiculous - to the sublime! Dorothy sang César  Franck's Sacris Solemniis, 'Panis Angelicus' ('Bread of Angels') from his 'Messe Solennelle à Trois Voix' ('Solemn Mass for Three Voices'). The original performance, conducted by Franck in 1860 would have included a full choir and orchestra. Subsequently, in 1872, a scoring for organ, harp, 'cello and double bass was introduced. Just imagine! However, Dorothy's voice alone was quite equal to the task. Her diction in Latin matched her Italian in clarity and brilliance, and the volume was impressively even - right up to the highest notes. Behind it all, Dorothy (the other Dorothy) supported the sound on the piano with just the right touch, concluding with deft, soft chords.

Robert Burns (1759-96)
After these two beautiful songs Dorothy admitted that she could not understand Italian or Latin - but you wouldn't have known! However, the next two pieces were not only in English, but had a very definite Scottish turn of phrase. Robert Burns, who composed the poetry in the 1790s, uses a form of English which could even be called 'Scottish' (although it is hardly Gàidhlig).
'There's naething I hate like men!'

Dorothy recited 'Last May a braw wooer [cam down the lang glen]' without music. Her command of the dialect was superb, and so was the sense of irony in the description, by the protagonist, Jean (Sìne?), of the blandishments made by her 'wooer'. Although many of the words were unfamiliar, Dorothy's clear voice and consummate acting made the story very clear! She did, however, have to explain that the 'Tryste o' Dalgarnoch' was a market, and social gathering, held in Nithsdale in Dumfriesshire (now in Ayrshire) even after the village itself had disappeared. A small but important detail. At the 'tryste' Jean doesn't meet a more suitable man. - Instead, her 'wooer' is there, waiting to 'deave her sairly wi' his love'!

Blind Rory depicted
in a manuscript from 1628
'Me, nae cheerful twinkle lights me,
Dark despair around benights me.'
The next poem 'Ae fond kiss [and then we sever]' (meaning, fairly clearly, 'just one' fond kiss!) was set by Burns to the the music of Rory O'Cahan (who was known as 'Rory Dall' - 'dall' means 'blind' in Gàidhlig). O'Cahan played the harp, and composed tunes, two centuries earlier. His music was in great demand, as it still is - Frederic Weatherly used one of O'Cahan's tunes for his composition 'Danny Boy' in 1913 (a tune which was already popular in Ireland as 'Londonderry Air'). In 1792 Burns set 'Ae fond kiss' to the tune 'Rory Dall's Port' ('port' meaning simply 'a tune').

With piano accompaniment Rory's tune rang out again as Dorothy sang the words. Initially confusing, as the protagonist is now male - bidding farewell to his sweetheart Nancy for ever, the story is simple. He is heart-broken. "Ae fareweel alas, for ever!" - "Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee, warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee."

Dorothy's words were clear as crystal, and devastatingly romantic. So strongly worded, and such a touching plea - the emotion acted out with the words. Finally, with a wink, Dorothy left (the other) Dorothy to end the tune with a sweet parting arpeggio on the piano.

'what are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?' Shelley
Roger Quilter
Sadly, that was all the Scottish poetry there would be. If only it could have gone on longer. However, there was more poetry, but set to music by a very English composer. He was Roger Quilter, the son of a baronet from Sussex, went to school at Eton, and was a member of the 'Frankfurt Group' of English composers who studied at the Hoch Conservatory in the 1890s. Quilter set endless poems to music. Dorothy chose two of his best known compositions, 'Love's Philosophy' (Percy Bisshe Shelley, The Golden Treasury, 1875) and 'Now sleeps the Crimson Petal' (Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1847).

The lyrics are complicated - requiring a very clear understanding. Quilter's tunes and piano accompaniments are very challenging, but Dorothy and Dorothy proved well able to handle them - and bring out the very best from the music. Throughout, Dorothy Ferrier's acting matched the skill and power of the words she was singing. This was no mere recital - this was a full performance. Full marks! This is what we want.

Robert and Clara Schumann
( 1810-56 / 1819-96 )
Dorothy jumped back in time for a classical work by the master of song - Robert Schumann. In 1840, when Robert was finally able to marry his beloved Clara, his output increased astronomically. His song collection 'Myrthen' written for the wedding is familiar. (Soprano Mary O'Shea sang 'Der Nüssbaum' and 'Widmung' from that collection - at Glenorchy on 9th November - details). In that year Robert completed more than 137 songs. Other collections include his famous Opus 39, 'Liederkreis Dichterliebe' ('Song Cycle to my Dearly Beloved'), and - Dorothy's choice for the concert - Opus 42, 'Frauenliebe und -Leben' ('A woman's love and life').

This collection of eight songs charts the (love) life of a woman. Starting with 'Seit ich ihn gesehen' ('Since I saw him') it is clear that Robert is charting his own wife's feelings while they were 'engaged'. Curiously vain, but rigorously objective, the story continues with 'Er, der Herrlichste von allen' ('He, the most hansome man of all').

'Also er an meinem Himmel . . . '
('Thus he is in my heavens . . .')
Outrageous! However, Dorothy explained with reassuring clarity (in that delicious accent!) that Robert is recording Clara's genuine feelings. She loves Robert, begs for God's protection for him, even wishes him well if chooses another wife - as long the other woman is worthy of such a wonderful man.

Dorothy sang in German with absolute clarity. Every word was easily comprehensible, even to anyone who knows not a word of German themselves. With the passion Dorothy puts into each word there can be no misunderstanding the over-riding sentiment anyway. This Teutonic love song perfectly suited the mezzo-soprano range. The low powerful notes were ideal for Dorothy.
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)

From German - to French! From Camille Saint-Saëns' opera 'Samson et Delila' (first performed in German at the Grossherzogliches Theater in Wiemar in 1877), Dorothy chose Delilah's aria 'Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix' ('My heart opens itself to your voice'). Apparently a touching entreaty of love, this is actually from the scene where Delilah is trying to uncover the secret of Samson's superhuman strength. O guileful deceiver! Dorothy's incredibly expressive singing style got the dramatic irony and tension across perfectly - and in French. The skilful blending of piano and voice recreated the biblical scene perfectly.

Oscar Hammerstein & Jerome Kern
( 1895-1960 / 1885-1945 )
'I got to love one man till I die.'
For musical lovers Dorothy sang an Oscar Hammerstein number from his 1927 musical 'Show Boat'. 'Can't help lovin' dat man [of mine]' was set to a blues theme by Jerome Kern. Dorothy sang in a glorious 'spiritual' style. Conversational, but musical, she sounded very like another great musical singer, from Dawlish - Mitzi Maybe (soprano Nicola Howard). What a pairing they would make. (Unfortunately, Mitzi is still in Zambia - not heard in these parts since 5th January - details.)

' . . . and when he walks with me,
Paradise comes suddenly near!'
Alexander Borodin (1833-87)
Photo: Lorentz 1880
Dorothy's final musical number was from a more recent musical, but with much older music. 'And this is my beloved' comes from Robert Wright and George Forrest's 1953 musical 'Kismet', but the music is from 1881 - the nocturne from Alexander Borodin's String Quartet No 2. A very serious sound, with lots of emotion to finish the concert. After a soft repeat of the final line we were left with the beautiful sound of Dorothy Worthington's closing notes on the piano - idyllic!

United Reformed Church
where all the fun happens!
Every Glenorchy concert seems to be a gem, and this was no exception. Dorothy Ferrier and Dorothy Worthington were an outstanding team. Dorothy, the pianist, so calm and measured; Dorothy, the singer, so passionate and animated. It is such a pity that Glenorchy church has to close for restoration work - until September! Wonderful concerts like this will be sadly missed.

a Doughty pivot
P.S. Some people may have had the pleasure of reading Anthony Buckeridge's 'Jennings goes to School'. They may remember Darbishire, as the school news reporter, describing Jennings as the 'doughty pivot' of the football team. However, it may still be unclear what a 'doughty pivot' is.
("What's a doughty pivot?" demanded Atkinson.)

This is what a Doughty pivot looks like.

No further explanation needed, surely!

P.P.S. Maybe there is . . . Thank you to all those who pointed out that 'doughty' is a perfectly good Anglo-Saxon word in itself - dyhtiġ: valiant and formidable (modern German - tüchtig: capable).
William Caxton, in his preface to Morte D'Arthur: "[Kyng Arthur was] bolde and doubty of body."

'Jennings goes to School' was written in 1950 and the reference is probably to some overly-florid football commentator of the time. (That quote seems to be lost.) It would be interesting to know whether the original reference was to a well known product manufactured by Doughty Precision Engineering Ltd (founded 1925) or just an atypically literary turn of phrase . . .

Thanks for the comments. Please keep them coming.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

More Music - for Advent - in the Topsham Art Room Chris Caldwell, Susie Hodder-Williams, Emma Welton 8A The Strand, Topsham, Friday 9 December

Chris Caldwell with his mighty Henri Selmer bass clarinet
Topsham Art Room
'Music on the Edge' were last seen at Deborah Wood's new Topsham Art Room on Sunday 28th August (details). A glorious mix of Bach, Villa-Lobos and the very modern music of Stephen Goss, played on clarinet, flute and saxophone. After that concert those two great musicians, Chris Caldwell and Susie Hodder-Williams set off on a tour of Canada and the USA. After playing the '345' gallery in Toronto, in New York and in New Orleans, 'Music on the Edge' played Dominique and John de Menil's 'Rothko Chapel'. The setting must have been perfect - surrounded by great works of art created by Mark Rothko. What a concert that must have been!

Susie Hodder-Williams plays flute
What better venue for a concert on their return to England than the Topsham Art Room. To complement an eclectic new collection 'Five', including work by five artists working in the South West, Chris and Susie joined forces with a familiar local violinist - Emma Welton. Emma was recently seen at the Bikeshed Theatre in Exeter, adding her performance of James Tenny's 'Koan' to an exciting programme of music by Gabriel Prokofiev and Exeter composing prodigy Michael Brailey (details).

A new sound -  Emma Welton plays violin

The concert started with the natural choice - Johann Sebastian Bach. 'Haste ye Shepherds' from the 'Christmas Oratorio' and 'Sheep May Safely Graze' from the 'Hunt Cantata'. Chris always maintains that Bach would have embraced the saxophone in his music if it had been invented earlier. To demonstrate, he played an arrangement of 'Haste ye Shepherds' for Bass saxophone.

Bass saxophone!
Beautiful - and beautifully echoed by Susie on the flute.
More flute
And for 'Sheep May Safely Graze', something very special - double bass

Double Bass!!
- and soprano saxophone - the perfect continuo. The clever counterpoint of the soprano saxophone and flute harmonised beautifully with the very deep double bass. A gorgeous sound.

Soprano saxophone
After that surprising and impressive start, the wonders continued with carols for advent. First was based on Alice Parker's arrangement of the Catelan Carol 'Fum Fum Fum' ('Smoke Smoke Smoke') the rhythm indicating the puffs of smoke from a cottage chimney - or the rocking of a cradle. "A vinticinc de desembre (fum fum fum) Ha nascut un minyonet" ("On the twenty fifth of December, a child was born"). The sound was very moorish with complex clarinet trills, the flute and violin keeping up a subtle whispering conversation.

For the fifteenth century English carol 'Nowell Syng We', Chris played finger bells gently while Susie and Emma played a simple flute and violin duet - based perhaps on Susan Nelson's 1953 recorder quartet arrangement, and very beautiful.

The thirteenth century carol 'Make we Merry, Both More and Less, For now is the Time of Christmas' from Edith Rickert's 1914 Ancient English Christmas Carols collection, introduced the jolly sound of a new instrument - the 'C' soprano clarinet. One tone higher than the standard soprano, the 'C' has a delightfully bright tone - especially in the hands of clarinet virtuoso Chris Caldwell.

Up the scale with the 'C' clarinet
One last carol - from fourteenth century France - was Pete Massie's working of 'Laudemus sum Armonia', prepared for his 'Stairwell Carollers' in 1977. A great Canadian musician, Pete's music is familiar on CBC radio, and 'Laudemus' has been performed by the Amadeus Choir in Toronto. An impressive heritage. Chris took things further - introducing the soprano saxophone. His arrangement was very complex and sheet music was needed - but what fun!

Chris took a little time after the carols to introduce the new 'Music on the Edge' string section. Emma Welton is already well known for her work with 'Icebreaker', playing electric violin with James Poke and John Godfrey, in their 'totalist' repertoire, including Philip Glass's 'Music with Changing Parts'. Chris, familiar with the repertoire, from his work with the Delta Saxophone Quartet, was eager to give Emma a trial run when he and Susie returned from America. As soon as they heard Emma's playing - and joined in - a new trio was born.

By the way - those 'Minimal Tendencies' recordings by the Delta Saxophone Quartet are available on CD - and much more besides, from 'Music on the Edge' (link).

Just to show the wonderful potential of this new ensemble, Chris, Susie and Emma had prepared something really special. A classical masterpiece. Haydn's London Trio No 1. This was originally scored for two flutes and 'cello. Emma took on the second flute part ably, but what about the 'cello part? Cue Chris with his bass saxophone, brilliantly injecting the lowest notes. The 'cello cadenza on saxophone was outstanding, and the final booming bass note serene. The 'London Trio' was extremely well received in Topsham's Art Room!

higher - the piccolo!
Just to get us back in the festive mood, Chris had prepared a 'Christmas Cracker'. Could the audience recognise the Christmas carols in Chris's medley arrangement? Chris started by beating out an insistent rhythm on the keys of his bass clarinet - which Emma joined in by striking ricochet strokes with her bow on the strings of her double bass. As the tune started to become apparent Susie brought in the melody softly and perfectly on the piccolo flute. It was unmistakeably 'Carol of the Drum', written in 1941 by Katherine Kennicott Davis and recorded in 1955 by the Trapp Family Singers. (Yes. The family that later featured in 'The Sound of Music'.) We know it now as 'The Little Drummer Boy' - pah rum pah pum pum! As the driving rhythm finally died away Susie lifted her regular flute slowly and deliberately. As she slowly built a single note and harmonics in classic 'Music on the Edge' style a single note sounded on Chris's bass clarinet. Emma played very slow notes on the top string of the double bass. The tune - could it possibly be . . . ? As Susie and Emma developed their melody it became clearer and clearer - 'God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen' an early nineteenth century classic. Susie played a perfect solo to the insistent rumble of Emma's double bass - that's new! With very appropriate crash, Emma put her double bass to one side and took up her violin. Chris also switched - to soprano saxophone - and, in a new higher register the tune changes to Howard Blake's "Walking in the Air" (written for the 1982 animation of Raymond Briggs' 'The Snowman' - and sung by Peter Auty, by the way; Aled Jones was the soloist for the hit single.) What a sweet seductive sound!

highest - harmonics on the double bass
From one devastatingly beautiful tune to another. A baroque masterpiece. Henry Purcell's 'Dido and Aeneas'. As with all their music, the trio introduced something really special. In 'Oft she visits this lov'd mountain' Emma accompanied Chris's soprano saxophone and Susie's flute with incredible harmonics on the double bass, interspersed with pizzicato chords - new and very wonderful! Chris and Susie built some glorious discordant harmonies (if that's not a contradiction in terms) before Chris seemed to drop out and leave Susie and Emma to play a duet. Having carefully replaced his soprano on its stand, however, Chris took up the bass clarinet to provide his own continuo to Susie's melody. Emma added an extra melody line on the double bass, ending with the very lowest notes on the instrument. A masterpiece!

A brilliant, brilliant performance!
The audience were utterly spellbound - and hoping there might be just one more piece. The trio had prepared a special encore (which Chris assured them they would all recognise). They certainly did. It was 'Silent Night' for flute, violin and bass clarinet. Softly breathed and sweetly familiar, the clarinet descended to its very lowest B flat - a great arrangement using the instruments to their full potential.

A fantastic concert - and just what everyone has come to expect from the wonderful 'Music on the Edge'. What next for Chris and Susie? - They're going on a trip to the Ukraine! 'Music on the Edge will be at the seventeenth 'Two Days & Two Nights' annual international music and arts festival in Odessa on the weekend of 23rd - 25th April 2012 (details).

Music in the Art Room continues in February next year. On Saturday 4th February, Deborah Woods will be opening an exhibition of paintings and Sculptures by Roger and Margaret Dean. (Open Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays from 11am to 5pm.) The exhibition runs until Sunday 4th March. To accompany this exhibition there will be 'Music in the Art Room' on Sunday 19th February. Guitar duo Alex Knight and Chris Glassfield will give a very special recital of music for two Spanish Guitars.

International guitarist and composer
Chris Glassfield
Devon-based Alex Knight
has been working as a professional soloist
and accompanist for many years
performing classical, Spanish, baroque
and renaissance music

Chris and Alex have a touring duo for 6 years

Music in the Art Room
Topsham Art Room, 8A The Strand
Sunday 19 February ?6pm
Alex Knight and Chris Glassfield
Vivaldi: Concerto in D major
Bach: Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring
Chopin: Waltz in A minor
Pachelbel: Canon in D
Zequina de Abreu: Tico Tico
Kosaku Yamadaso: Akatombo
Tickets: details to follow