Saturday, 12 December 2015

Claudia Alvarez Calderón "Jolly & Holy" Recital Catholic Church of St Mary & St George Totnes Saturday 12 December 2015

Claudia Alvarez Calderón
Coloratura Soprano

Soprano: Claudia Alvarez Calderón
"Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child"
A carol concert with a difference. No choir, no audience participation. Just one perfect voice, accompanied by an accomplished organist, singing all the familiar songs and carols, and even some not so familiar. A little historical exposition on each song, and a chance to hear the original French, German, Latin - and Spanish - sung in perfect coloratura.

In a new collaboration, Totnes-based soprano, Claudia Alvarez Calderón joined organist Father Kristian Paver at his Catholic Parish Church of St Mary and St George in Totnes for an hour of music to delight the Saturday morning audience. Father Paver's Parish covers the whole of Totnes, and extends to the surrounding villages in the South Hams, and many parishioners were there to enjoy the music.

Claudia has recently completed a tour of Tuscany performing Gioachino Rossini's opera buffa "Il Barbiere di Siviglia" with the opera company "Gli Amici di Fritz" under the direction of Alessandro Arnoldo.

Organist: Father Kristian Paver
Soprano: Claudia Alvarez Calder
Claudia is part Italian, and part Peruvian, her original home being in Lima, and her alma mater in Milan. Sadly, during a visit to Peru since completing the Italian tour, a throat infection struck, which nearly put paid to this week's recital. However, following three weeks of mute endurance, Claudia was able to rehearse with Father Paver, and sang perfectly on the day.

To spare Claudia's voice, each song was knowledgeably introduced by a parishioner from Denbury, Susan Vaughan, using Claudia's preparatory notes. Claudia sang the original version of each song wherever possible, in the original language, and even treated the audience to the Spanish version of Franz Xaver Gruber's "Silent Night" as a final encore.

One unique feature of Claudia's carol recital was the traditional Spanish song "Los Peces en el Río" (The Fishes in the River). In delightfully comprehensible Spanish, the song relates the gentle daily tasks of Mary, while the chorus returns repeatedly to the fishes in the river, dancing excitedly, thrilled by the news of Jesus' birth.

Claudia Alvarez Calderón with Margaret Merrington
Also unique, and even more moving, was a première performance of a Christmas carol created by local pianist and composer, Thomas Merrington. In recent years, Thomas suffered a protracted illness and sadly died in September this year. Even more tragically, almost his entire collection of original compositions was lost in a fire just before he became ill in 2011.

Among the little that could be salvaged, Tom's son-in-law managed to find the words to a carol which the family had regularly sung together each Christmas. Tom's wife Margaret was able to recall the tune, and recreate his composition.

With Margaret accompanying her on the piano, Claudia sang the beautiful "That Was How the First Christmas Began" - a magical experience to be cherished, and a fitting memorial to Tom himself.

The whole audience concurred in their feelings of pleasure and gratitude to Claudia for combining her impressive vocal skills and singular kindness in such a moving and enjoyable concert. Many thanks to her and Father Paver for all their efforts.

The proceeds from the concert will help to support the "Our Lady of the Mount" Children's Home in Anjara in Jordan. The Catholic community in Totnes support this project, and the impoverished population of the town of Anjara, which now includes many refugees from the violence in Syria.

Extracts from this Saturday's concert can be heard on Phonic FM Community Radio on Friday 18 December, when the "Classical Journey" will be on air from 2 to 4pm. The whole concert will feature on Soundart Radio's "Classical Journey Redux" two days later, from 3 to 6pm on Sunday 20 December. With Margaret Merrington's kind permission, Thomas Merrington's "That Was How The First Christmas Began" will be included in the programme.


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