Monday, 6 February 2012

Classical Journey Tuesday 7 February The Mighty Book, Al Mutanabbi Coalition, Exeter Bach Society, Elizabeth Drury, Music on the Edge, Counterpoint, Exmouth Choral Society, Sikovetski Piano Trio . . .

The Mighty Book: Gill Hopkins & Abi Marlowe
Thank you as always to the 'Mighty Book' team for another wonderful Tuesday morning programme last week. It was sad, not to hear Tina Suneyna Harper's voice any more, but Gill Hopkins and Abi Marlowe kept things going admirably.

The book under discussion last week was by Belfast author and illustrator, Oliver Jeffers, - his 2010 graphic novel, 'The Heart and the Bottle', which won the V&A Book Illustration Award last year, and was also short-listed for the 'Kate Greenaway Medal' for illustration in childern's literature. Next month, on Tuesday 28 February, Gill and Abi will be back to discuss the winner of this year's Man Booker Prize, 'The Sense of an Ending' by Julian Barnes.

Gill and Abi also gave us a timely reminder about this year's World Book Night.

William Shakespeare's 448th birthday is on Monday 23 April (and he died on 23 April 1616). Naturally, world book night will be on the night of 23 April 2012. participants will distribute free books to encourage the habit of reading. Participants apply for their books from a short-list of 25 titles provided by a cross-industry consortium initiated by Jamie Byng of Canongate Books. Each, receives 48 copies of their chosen book to give away on the night. (Presumably the number of books relates to Shakespeare's birthday.)

It is too late to apply to be a giver, but there are other ways to get involved. Contact your local library, or bookshop (WHSmith or Waterstones), for further details.

The World Book Night 2012 Books:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen The Player of Games by Iain M Banks Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham
Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho The Take by Martina Cole
Harlequin by Bernard Cornwell Someone Like You by Roald Dahl A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Room by Emma Donoghue Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Misery by Stephen King The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella Small Island by Andrea Levy 
Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist The Road by Cormac McCarthy The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell The Damned Utd by David Peace
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff Touching the Void by Joe Simpson 
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Catherine Cartwright
Al Mutanabbi Street Coalition: Catherine Cartwright
A more sombre literary anniversary is Monday 5 March. This will be the fifth anniversary of a terrorist attack on Al Mutanabbi Street (شارع المتنبي) in Baghdad. On 5 March 2007, 26 people were killed and many booksellers put out of business by a car bomb which did irreparable damage to the literary heart of Iraq's capital.

Catherine Cartwright - a teacher at the Double Elephant Print Workshop at the Exeter Phoenix - was in the Phonic FM Studio on Tuesday 24 January to read a sample of the Iraqi poetry which will be included in a memorial recital in the Double Elephant workshop on 5 March. She was not able to return for the 'Mighty Book', nor is she able to make the 'Classical Journey' this Tuesday as planned, but she will be with us on Tuesday 21 February - together with some of the other readers. I hope listeners will tune in for that

J S Bach Cantata 14: Exeter Bach Society
Exeter Bach Society at St Michael's
Anna Cockroft leads the orchestra
Violin: Ken Law, Viola: Margaret Offord

Since the last 'Classical Journey', the Exeter Bach Society have performed Bach's Cantata No 14 twice - first at Exeter Cathedral for evensong on Sunday 29 January, and then at the Church of St Michael and all Angels in Mount Dinham a week later on Sunday 5 February. This old, old hymn was written by Martin Luther in 1524 and based on Psalm 124. The theme of divine rescue from catastrophe is a common feature of services at the end of January. Bach's orchestrated choral version was introduced in Leibzig on Sunday 30 January 1735.

Nicholas Marshall conducted the orchestra and singers - including Anna Cockroft (leader), Ruth Lass ('cello), Tony Hindley (trumpet - and piccolo trumpet), and organist David Davies. David also finished each concert with more Bach - 'Fugue in C' (BWV 545) on 29 January, and 'Prelude and Fugue in G' (BWV 541) on 5 February. The modern Wyvern electronic organ at St Michael's has a very satisfying sound - even compared to the cathedral organ. When Nicholas Marshall stands down as Musical Director of the Exeter Bach Society later this year the man to replace him will be - David Davies.

Soloists for Bach's Cantata 14
Bass: Charles Hughes, Tenor Ed Woodhouse
Soprano: Margaret Aagesen Hughes
David Davies already directs the St Peter's Singers at the Cathedral - who join with the Bach Society for cantata services. One member of David's choir is already familiar to Phonic FM listeners - soprano Mary O'Shea. Another familiar soprano was the soloist Margaret Aagesen Hughes, joined by two 'Counterpoint' soloists Edward Woodhouse and Charles Hughes.

"Wär Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit" - "Were God not with us at this time [ - we would surely have despaired]"!

Baroque Recital, Exeter Cathedral Chapter House: Elizabeth Drury
Soprano: Elizabeth Drury
(Bach Magnificat/
Mozart Mass in C)

Exeter Cathedral
Thursday 26 May 2011

For the cantata service on 29 January, the Bach Society arranged something very special - an extra recital in the Chapter House afterwards, with some star performers. Andrew Daldorph and Gareth Hoddinott provided the instrumental accompaniment (harpsichord and baroque trumpet) while soprano Elizabeth Drury sang another Bach cantata, this time from 1730 - Cantata 51: "Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen" ("Praise God in all lands") and four songs by Henry Purcell from 1688 - including 'Evening Hymn', "Now that the sun hath veiled his light (and bid the world good night)", not to mention that gorgeous aria from Handel's 'Samson' oratorio (1743), "Let the bright Seraphim (in burning row, their loud uplifted Angel-trumpets blow)".

Three outstanding musicians - and a sensational sound. Elizabeth Drury, local girl from Topsham, is a member of Howard Goodall's 'Enchanted Voices', and a regular soprano singer at the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, in the Tower of London. (Lizzie's profile on the Kantanti Ensemble website)

Recently Elizabeth has been recruited by the Academy of Ancient Music ( under the direction of Richard Egarr. It just so happens that the Academy of Ancient Music are making one of their rare visits to Devon in just two weeks time. They will be at Dartington Great Hall on the evening of Thursday 23 February to celebrate 'The Birth of the Concerto' with a feast of baroque music by Bach, Biber and Vivaldi - directed on this occasion by violin soloist Alina Ibragimova (details).

A month later Dartington will be host to Devon Baroque's 'English Baroque Weekend' starting on Friday 23 March (details). There will be three public concerts, and the weekend will end with more Purcell - a Sunday afternoon performance of 'Dido & Aeneas'. Margaret Faultless and Devon Baroque will be joined by two soprano soloists, Meg Bragle as Dido and Emma Walshe as Belinda - a rôle which Elizabeth Drury performed so beautifully at 'Musique Cordiale' in Nice, in the summer of 2008.

Flute: Susie Hodder-Williams
an impressive line-up of modern music
(Photo: Cecil Hatfield)
Live at the Long Room, Drewsteignton:
Music on the Edge
On the same Sunday evening as Lizzie's recital, and at almost the same time, but out on snowy windswept Dartmoor, 'Music on the Edge' were performing Stockhausen, Cage, Giuffre - and Bach. Susie Hodder Williams played inspired flute, while Chris Caldwell added alto and bass saxophone, clarinet - and bass clarinet. What made this concert particuarly special was the magical and inventive percussion of Trevor Taylor of 'Future Music Records'. (jump to CJ report)

Counterpoint Choir: David Acres
In the current cold weather, the chapel at Exeter University is simply glacial. Despite this, the Counterpoint choir, and their Director of Music David Acres, put in another sterling rehearsal session. In such adverse conditions, they worked steadfastly to hone and perfect that glorious sound that has made them so famous.

It will less than a week now before they perform 'In Memoriam' at Buckfast Abbey (Saturday 11 February 7.30pm). This is a very popular concert so look quickly at the Classical Journey Concerts or Counterpoint websites to see how to get tickets.

A Counterpoint quartet warm up
Soprano: Daisy Walford, Alto: Harry Castle
Bass: Andrew Henley, Tenor Ed Woodhouse
David Acres conducts

Altos: Clive Dickinson,
Colin Avery & Penny Gordon

Wrapped up against the cold:
Simon Sherwood, Andrew Henley,
Edward Woodhouse, Colin Dickinson
Denise Kehoe, Nini Davies,
Lizzie Lashbrooke, Susie Howells,
Rachel Mitchell, Ellie Williams, Katherine Gwynne

Guess who? - Soprano Mary O'Shea
with Denise Kehoe & Nini Davies

We'll hear some Counterpoint singing on Tuesday's show - starting at 10am
1. William Byrd 'Come to me, grief, for ever'
2. John Tavener 'The Lamb'
 - And David Acfres is hoping to come into the studio to talk about the concert.

Exmouth Choral Society: Laurence Blyth
The Exmouth Choral Society Choir, fronted by the Divertimento Orchestra

Viola: Andrew Gillett
 Flute: Melanie Orriss
'Cello: Vicky Evans
On Saturday evening (4 February), Laurence Blyth was in Exmouth with the Exmouth Choral Society, and Divertimento Orchestra, to conduct a spectacular Bach oratorio - The Saint John Passion.

Leader: Mary Eade
Divertimento Orchestra, led by Mary Eade, were superb, the Exmouth Choral Society choir performed impressivley in their familiar venue of Holy Trinity Church Exmouth - and the solo singers were sublime. The oboe playing of Lynn Carter and Kate Hill-Art was exquisite.

Professor George Pratt, Kapellmeister of the baroque James Wyatt Music Room at Powderham Castle, was there with a very versatile Roland electronic keyboard. The sound combined samples of great instruments from around the world, to elicit the best from all. The volume was perfect - augmenting, but never overpowering, the sound of the other instruments and voices.

Oboe: Kate Hill-Art
 Organ: George Pratt
(tenor Ed Woodhouse)
Tenor: David Webb
Tenor David Webb once again took time out of his professional singing commitments to sing the part of the Evangelist - superbly. David never fails to amaze with his soft clear diction, and amazingly serene stage presence - a thoroughly professional performer, and very popular.

The oratorio was sung in English translation. Although not as affecting as the German, perhaps, the English version is much easier for an English audience to follow, especially when the singing is so clear.

Alto: Juliet Curnow
Juliet Curnow sang the first aria, "From the bondage of iniquity that ever binds me, my Redeemer sets me free." Just the oboes now, and Vicky Evans playing her 'cello, combining perfectly with Juliet's striking alto voice. Can you imagine?

Soprano: Josie Walledge
The beautiful aria "Ich folge dir gleichfalls" (or rather "I follow you gladly") went to soprano Josie Walledge - what a voice! Julian Rippon's splendid bass voice rang out as Jesus - in dialogue with Andrew Henley's Pilate. From the choir came two more tenor voices. Phil Hobbs was Simon Peter, while Edward Woodhouse took the part of Pilate's servant.

Tenor: Edward Woodhouse
Other very special moments were Mary Eade's impressively vigorous violin solo following Pilate's judgement, tenors singing their own 'solo' - "We have a sacred law", the voices of the despairing souls looking for new life and crying, "Oh where? Oh where?" - Edward Woodhouse, Juliet Curnow and Josie Walledge, all singing alto!

Juliet Curnow's intoning of "It is fulfulled" was backed up strongly by Vicky Evans and George Pratt - 'cello and organ. When David Webb got to "The veil of the Temple was rent in twain . . .and the rocks did quake", who provided that seismic tremor? Vicky Evans on her 'cello!

After a long wait, Josie Walledge sang to us again - and with incredible sweetness. "O heart, melt in weeping, with tears overflowing . . . "  Overpoweringly beautiful!

Conductor: Laurence Blyth caresses the choir's sound
(Josie reaches for water)
Many agreed that the last word has to go to the Exmouth Choral Society Choir. The final chorus, "Sleep well, sleep well, and rest in God's safe keeping" was the gentlest most reassuring sound possible, all very carefully controlled and perfected by the guiding hand of their Musical Director, Laurence Blyth.

Bass: Julian Rippon

Double Bass: Michael Allnatt

Who's this? - Pianist/Composer
Andrew Odber sings tenor

Mary Eade, Andrew Gillett and Vicky Evans will be joined by violinist Lindsay Braga to form the Divertimento Quartet this Wednesday (8 February 7.30pm) at Exeter Cathedral Chapter House.

Their recital will include Haydn, Schubert, Shostakovich, Bridge, Elgar, Cole Porter. To find out about tickets contact Vicky Evans - 01803 863677/

Buckfast Abbey
in the pale winter sunshine
Was that it for this week? - Definitely not!!!

On Sunday morning, members of Counterpoint choir went to Buckfast, and were joined by members of the Abbey Choir, including Michael Vian Clarke and Jonathan Schrantz, to sing a special Mass composed and conducted by Matthew Cann. It was very special and will be used again at future services. A beautiful thing to hear on a cold winter's morning. Well done Matthew.

And, after the second presentation of the Bach Society's Cantata 14 - for the broader community, there was one last classical gem - perhaps the most exciting of all . . .

               Exeter Northcott Theatre Classical Concert Series: The Sitkovetski Piano Trio

The Sitkovetski Trio
Violin: Alexander Sitkovetski, Piano: Wu Qian
'Cello: Leonard Eischenbroich

In the five years of their collaboration, the Sitkovetski Piano Trio have travelled to Devon many times. Most recently their leader, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky, and pianist Wu Qian came to Crediton in April 2011 to play a recital of piano and violin duets at the Church of the Holy Cross for the St Boniface Concert Society. The whole trio, which also includes 'cellist Leonard Eischenbroich, previously played there in 2009.

Alexander and Qian have since married, further strengthening the bond within the group, which has continued to grow in reputation and popularity. The ensemble is truly international. Alexander (Sasha) is Russian, Qian Chinese and Leonard German. It is wonderful for us that they are now based firmly in London, and willing to venture down to the South West to entertain us.

(Just to clarify: Wu Qian and Qian Wu are not the same person. Qian Wu is a violinist and leader of the Wu String Quartet (who performed at Powderham Castle Fri 7 Oct). Both women are from Shanghai. They know each other well and have performed together. Both are in fact called Qian Wu, but Wu Qian has reversed the order of her names for professional purposes - so that the two musicians will not be confused. I think that's clear . . . )

Anyone seeing the Trio in concert would be in no confusion. Wu Qian is unforgettable. She is a mesmerising presence at the piano. She plays with absolute determination and concentration. Sasha and Leonard work equally hard on their respective instruments - and to equal effect. The smallest nuance of phrase has clearly been worked out to perfection and is played seamlessly and effortlessly for the concert.

Things started extremely well with a trio by Haydn, full of passion and classical beauty, and ending with an impressive presto. Owing to a confusion of order in the programme the audience were expecting to hear a very sad trio next - Smetana's G minor. Pushed to the extremes of despair by the death of all his children, Smetana threw all his expressive ability into and extraordinary three movement composition.

Quickly people realised something wasn't quite right. The opening allegro led into a Scherzo - a four movement work. Leonard had his own 'cello line which Smetana had not provided. Slowly the penny dropped. This was Beethoven's Archduke Trio - last on the programme. I, of course, wouldn't know my Archduke from Duke Ellington, but others were quicker on the uptake. That star Devon pianist, Frances Waters, was in the audience and soon worked out what was happening.

Every emotion exploited
Bedrich Smetana
Piano Trio in G minor
Even those who were still perplexed had no concerns. The sound was simply magnificent - whatever we were hearing! The final rousing presto, which may or may not have settled any lingering doubts, was a sheer delight.

During the interval (with coffed served in the foyer - a new initiative) people got the story straight. And then - the Smetana. Unmistakeable, and unmistakeably unrelenting in its emotional impact, the G minor trio took everyone on a whole new journey - of grief and frenetic rage. Bedrich Smetana had put every ounce of his energy and emotion into the composition and the three musicians did likewise. Truly awe-inspiring, the sound held, pummelled and drew the audience along without let-up. A virtouso performance.

Keeping up the energy
inspired playing in
Mendelssohn's Trio No 1
The audience  clearly wanted more, and the trio were able to provide - 'andante con moto tranquillo' from Felix Mendelssohn's Piano Trio No 1. The perfect antidote to overstimulation by Smetana, and just as beautifully and skilfully played. Asked afterwards whether they had found the playing exhausting, Qian spoke for all - Not at all. All in a day's work!

Splendid work!

Relaxing with the fans in the Northcott bar
Leonard and Alexander meet
Alexander's Alexander teacher -
'cellist Francesca Neduszinska!

Farewell - and thanks!

For anyone who might not be up to speed, the Sitkovetski Trio were giving the third in Exeter Northcott Theatre's 'Classical Concert Series'. The current series started last year in October with a piano recital by John Lill (Sun 16 Oct) which competed, successfully, with Yevgeny Sudbin's simultaneous recital at Dulverton, which was part of the 'Two Moors Festival'. (Both concerts were a huge success!). Pianist James Baillieu and 'cellist Tim Lowe came to the Northcott on 27 November for a classical recital of Schumann Brahms and Beethoven.

The Navarra Quartet
The fourth, and last, recital in the series will be given by the Navarra String Quartet (Outstanding Young Artists 2008). They will be at the Northcott Theatre on Sunday 4 March. To find out more about the Quartet, and how to get tickets for their concert, contact the box office (01392 493493) or go to the Northcott Website:

And still to come!

This week:

Divertimento String Quartet
Exeter Cathedral Chapter House
Wednesday 7.30pm

Nocturnes by Candlelight
Hockworthy Village Hall
Saturday 7.30pm
'Cello: Hilary Boxer
Guitar: David Cottam
(A 'Tasty Music' production)

Counterpoint Choir
Buckfast Abbey
Saturday 7.30pm
'In Memorian'
spectacular and moving
renaissance music for mourning

jump to concert listings for more details.

Stay tuned!

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