Music Scholars from the Prebendal School at Lunchtime Live!

2022 is underway and the young musicians from Chichester brought in the new year of Portsmouth’s lunchtime treats with a wide range of instruments and music. The sky outside was a clear Venetian blue that might have anticipated Vivaldi but a charming Miniature in D Minor by Gedike played by Inigo Abbott Barrington set a high standard to be followed by Caitlin Bailey’s confident clarinet on a Prelude by Finzi which was as bright and clear as the weather.

One of a number of impressive aspects of the show was the number of scholars appearing twice on different instruments. Scarlett Gladman’s singing on Homeward Bound, not Paul Simon but Marta Keen, was gentle on a folksy tune and she returned later to play Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring on the oboe with an authentically period reedy sound.

Isaac Hussey’s cello performance on Berceuse by Amy Beach was well organized before he returned later to be equally capable on the piano and then the enterprising idea of jaunty jazz on tenor horn was made convincing by James Parker on Philip Sparke’s Rhode Island Rag. James was to return to sing some Parry very effectively as his second offering.

It’s not often I have fifteen names to mention and I can’t mention some without paying tribute to them all and it turns out to be seventeen really so, with apologies, there’s no hanging around or extraneous filler here today.

Cradle Song by Ni Hongin was captured from its dreamy beginnings to some awakening on piano by Matilda Stone and although I’m very much not going to nominate a highlight among such an accomplished cast of musicians, Dolly Vann’s interpretation of With You, from Ghost, the Musical, was very moving and expressive. I’ll have to look that one up as one of several pieces that were new to me.

Daniel Waldren’s clarinet technique did well with the challenges of Fantasy Piece by Carl Nielsen which might have been one of the most difficult pieces played.

I’ve looked up to find a translation of Blaž Pucihar’s Z Eriko na igrišču from Flavta se igra and found it means ‘at the playground with Erika’, which makes sense given Matilda Wyatt’s lively, lightsome flute.

Baroque is not an easy option but it was great to hear Joseph Youngs on the opening to the great Well-Tempered Klavier, there’s plenty more of that to be getting on with, as well as Holly Eitel’s famous piece of Purcell that caught its glorious upward surge.

Inigo came back as a singer and used the sympathetic acoustic of the St. Thomas chapel with his top notes in Mozart’s Benedictus from k. 220 and Caitlin added some Debussy piano to her earlier clarinet so that, as with the others, it wasn’t possible to tell which was her ‘first’ instrument. If indeed any of them take priority over others but I understood that one begins to study a second instrument after reaching a certain level on one’s first.

Matilda came back on the oboe with a swing-along Italian Dance by Madeline Dring before we finished not with a bang but Daniel on piano with an impressionistic Lavender Field by Karen Tanaka.

I think that’s the fifteen but special credit should go to Mr. Collings and Mr. Pilgrim, teachers not having given names by tradition in school, whose accompaniments were well-judged and it must be a pleasure for them to have such talent to worth with and encourage.

Some performances grew from uncertainties towards more confidence and others were self-effacing enough to dispense with taking a bow in their haste to get off. I can sympathize with all of that. If I don’t have to read a poem in front of an audience ever again that will be soon enough for me. Perhaps such a concert is about development, promise and potential and perhaps there were future accountants as well as, obviously, musicians among the scholars but there’s no time like the present and they’re doing it now and there’s nothing better than that.

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