Monday, 21 April 2014

Mary O'Shea & Frances Waters Glenorchy Church Exmouth Wednesday 16 April 2014

Frances Waters & Mary O'Shea
Pianist and Soprano
Glenorchy Church Exmouth
12.30pm Wednesday 16 April

A wonderful combination
Piano: Frances Waters
Soprano: Mary O'Shea

It was so sad to hear at the beginning of December last year that Mary O'Shea was unwell and unable to give her soprano recital with pianist Frances Waters at Lupton House. The beautiful venue and would have been the perfect setting for the inauguration of this wonderful new partnership.  Frances and Mary had even got as far as trying out their repertoire at the venue - a trip arranged by Mary's new manager Samantha Goddard of 'Moonstone Management'. Frances had judged the Lupton piano A-OK and Mary was all set to come and discuss their plans on air. What a pity it all came to nothing.

It was not necessary to wait long for a rematch, however. David Lee was very happy to include Mary and Frances in the regular 'season' at  Glenorchy Church in Exmouth. Just four months later Mary's voice rang out in the spring sunshine. What a wonderful day that was!

Together at last

Frances Waters & Mary O'Shea

Mary opened the lunchtime concert with calm authority describing four arias she intended to sing in quick succession. With the joyous memory of her recent wedding - and wedding blessing at Exeter Cathedral with the Counterpoint Choir - Mary opened with Jupiter's aria from Handel's "Semele", "Where'er you Walk". Mary sang this aria at the Cathedral as part of her own wedding blessing which, as Precentor Carl Turner said at the time, is most unusual! Mary's repeat performance, this time with Frances at the piano instead of David Davies playing the Cathedral Organ, was just as delightful.

Frances Waters
accompanies on the Venables piano
"Bist du bei Mir" from Gottfried Stölzel's opera "Diomedes", somehow found its way into Anna Magdalena Bach's second notebook of her husband's works. It follows the marriage theme, but with a darker romantic twist. "If you are with me, I will go gladly to my death." As the original score is lost, it is not clear who is singing this aria. Diomedes' wife Aegiale seems an unlikely candidate as she is remembered as a very unfaithful wife. Mary's singing was more evocative of Helen and Menelaus.

Mary O'Shea sings soprano

In an instant Mary transformed into the love-struck teenager Cherubino in Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro", who has a rather embarrassing crush on the Countess Rosina Almaviva. "Voi che sapete che cosa e amor" - "You (women) who know what love is . . . " Is that what I have in my heart? As Mozart intended, the thoughts of a young boy expressed by the mature soprano voice of a woman is a quite extraordinary combination.

Mary ended the first set with one of the most tragic arias in opera, "When I am laid in earth", Dido's lament in Henry Purcell's "Dido & Aeneas". In just four songs, soprano and pianist masterfully spanned the eighteenth century and a huge emotional range.

For the second set Mary and Frances focussed on romantic songs starting in 1840 and moving backwards in time - Schumann's "Nüssbaum" (nut tree) and Schubert's "Ständchen" (serenade) leading to Giordani's "Caro mio ben" (My dear beloved).

Mary's high range and sensitivity came to the fore in the final four delicate songs: Fauré's "Pie Jesu" (Dear Jesus, give them rest) from the D minor Requeim, Schubert's "Ave Maria", Grieg's "A Swan" from his six songs by Henrik Ibsen and finally Elizabeth Maconchy's 1920's composition "Ophelia's Song" based on the lament of Hamlet's wife in the eponymous play by Shakespeare. (The song was only published in Elizabeth's later life, towards the end of the twentieth century.)

The  combination of Mary's gentle voice and Frances' deft accompaniment wove a spell of romance and tragedy on the spring air which delighted the ear. Frances, who was unable to perform herself a couple of weeks ago owing to a back injury, lovingly augmented each song with precise and sensitive playing on the Venables grand piano.

Fo those who wish to find out more about Mary's singing, to hear some of her recordings - or to find out about future concerts - Mary now has a website:

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