For the latest amateur classical music listings in and around Portsmouth, including Fareham, Petersfield, Chichester, Havant and Hayling Island

Review: Valentina Seferinova & Catherine Lawlor at Portsmouth Cathedral

Lunchtime Live! is underway again in Portsmouth which is some of the best news we’ve had for some time. A shrewd move to put the concert space up in the more intimate St. Thomas Chapel made for a warm, full acoustic which benefitted Valentina‘s piano and Catherine‘s violin. It was encouraging to see such a good turnout for this event, too, which augurs well for the future but will mean arriving in plenty of time to ensure a good seat.

The programme was made up of pieces from the forthcoming disc, Myths and Legends, and provided some lesser-known composers for those of us who enjoy such things. The American Romantic, Charles Wakefield Cadman, set us off with some aching, long lines in his Legend of the Canyon given smooth, unhurried treatment by Catherine. If Frank Bridge is better known, his Norse Legend is not, redolent of folk song perhaps and full of apparent regret rising to passion in the higher register.

If Catherine is out front and seemingly the focus of most of our attention, Valentina is always contributing to the conversation eloquently behind her and they combine seamlessly and with great sympathy. The Delius Legende had some soaring violin with rippling piano generating considerable power before a delicate ending that came as some surprise.

The Belgian Joseph Jorgen’s music hasn’t been heard by my ears before and neither has his name. His Legende naive from Aquarelles, op. 59, no.1 had an autumnal feel as much of the programme thus far had. How much that was due to the music and how much was the collateral effect of summer having retreated is hard to say.

All the music thus far could almost have been written by the same composer, their dates not varying by much and the mood being sustained from one piece to the next. The Danish Otto Malling is from a generation or so earlier though and the finale, his Faust Suite, op. 55, extended into something bigger with four character portraits from the famous story.

Faust is restless but not as tormented as one might have expected. I wouldn’t have recognized him from this but Mephistopheles was more demonic, giving Catherine the opportunity to do more than lyricism but she does both very convincingly. Siebel was lyrical and outgoing before the shadowy beginnings of Margarethe which reached an impressive crescendo with a big theme to finish a thoughtfully compiled set.

One asks for no more than such dedicated musicianship and the research Valentina and Catherine put into their esoteric interests. I had no idea what was going to be played beyond the billing that it was music from the new disc. I’m perfectly happy with Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart and the household names that line the shelves here but I’m also always glad of new names. I can’t have been the only one who was grateful for their visit. The autumn is set fair with a number of choice Tuesdays in Chichester booked and plenty more Thursdays in Portsmouth to look forward to. This is what it was supposed to be like.


Review: Solent Symphony Orchestra at Portsmouth Cathedral, October 2nd

Finally! Live music and the Solent Symphony Orchestra (SSO) are back!

After nearly 19 months of silence, it was marvellous to see again so many musicians in one place, at Portsmouth Cathedral plus a good size audience, despite the weather! However, alongside this joy, we were saddened by the loss of those who were missing… The concert was dedicated to the wonderful Gwen Robson, a member of the cello section of the orchestra for many years, who sadly died in August. Perhaps this was one of the reasons for the chosen repertoire? The handful of gorgeous cello themes throughout the programme seemed most appropriate.

Out of the silence and stillness in the Cathedral, the first few notes of Borodin’s Prince Igor Overture, sounded mysterious, even perhaps slightly nervous… but within few bars, as the music unfolded, the sound gained intensity and depth and we were all immersed in rather dark and slow opening of this incredible masterpiece, but most importantly – in the magic of live music!

The Overture was masterfully performed under Steve Tanner’s fantastic leadership.

Maybe some of the clarity and orchestral balance might have not been like on a CD or even as on a live streamed concert (there are sound engineers to adjust that!) but these imperfections didn’t take away from the sheer emotion even physical feel of the music surrounding us.

Magical and priceless!!

The second item in the first half of the concert was Liszt’s Piano Concerto No1, with 17 years old soloist, Finalist of BBC Young Musician of the Year 2020, Thomas Luke. Thomas, who lives on the Isle of Wight, won the SSO Concerto Award at the Portsmouth Music Festival back in 2019 and had waited a long time for his opportunity to perform…. but it was well worth the wait and we were in for a treat indeed!

Although the concerto itself perhaps is not the favourite of many musicians (including me), Thomas found a loving tenderness in the lyrical passages and at the same time was fully equipped to meet this virtuoso work’s challenges.

Perhaps a few occasions in the 1st movement when the young blood stepped in and few passages ran ahead, but Thomas’s excellent musicianship and unexpected (for 17-year-old) maturity, kicked in and in the rest of the piece Soloist and Orchestra bonded beautifully to become one – a great performance.

However, the highlight of the 1st half of the concert was actually the encore!
Thomas transported us from the virtuosity of Liszt to a much more intimate and wonderfully lyrical place – that of Rachmaninov’s Prelude in D Major, Op.23!

There were beautifully shaped and layered textures with a splendid sense of atmosphere and heart-warming lyricism. Most enjoyable!

In the second half of the concert, the Solent Symphony Orchestra and Steve Tanner delivered an inspiring realisation of Dvorak’s Symphony N8. The interpretation struck a perfect balance of darkness and sunshine, sadness and triumph where all solos in the wind sections (as well as strings, especially orchestra leader Kirstie Robertson’s violin solo in the Liszt) were splendidly executed. Pure delight!

What an evening of live music!
The future of music is looking bright…


Review: Chichester Music Society – The Champagne Quartet

The Champagne Quartet was welcomed by the Chichester Music Society on 15 September 2021 at the University of Chichester as their opening autumn concert. The Quartet is an operatic vocal quartet established in 2016, made up of graduates of the Royal Welsh School of Music and Drama, delighting the audience as their programme of well-known opera favourites, often from Italian composers, unfolded.

The programme opened with the four musicians performing the fun and rather exuberant Drinking Song “Brindisi” from Verdi’s La Traviata. This was sung with a boisterous raucous flavour that set the tone for an enjoyable evening that the audience certainly appreciated in person.

After that, the programme was spread between either solos, duets or three of the Quartet, moving through Donizetti and Rossini, and then on to The Flower Duet from Lakme by Leo Delibes, which was sung by Erin Alexander, who had previously sung for the Society, and Clare Eccles. This was a delightful, often nuanced, performance by both singers. Both musicians were throughout technically assured, and Erin particularly had a lovely clean sound that projects strongly.

Later in the evening Clare Eccles was joined by Ross Wilson in a performance of Franz Lehar’s Lippen Scheweigen from The Merry Widow. The dynamic between the singers was natural and effortless and was played to maximum effect. In fact, the acting of the whole Quartet was effortless and effective throughout, and substantially added to the overall enjoyable atmosphere that was being created by the music.

Sam Young and Ross Wilson sang the duet O Mimi, tu piu non tourni from Puccini’s La Boheme, both delivering a moving performance of remarkable control and sensitivity.

The accompaniment on the piano by Guy Murgatroyd was throughout the concert understated, yet acutely judged according to the demands of each composer. A thoroughly outstanding example of how important it is for any singer to have a sympathetic and understanding musician at the piano.

The concert concluded, after some Mozart songs from The Magic Flute, with a rendering of the whole Quartet singing Goodnight Quartet from Martha by Frederich Ferdinand Flotow, a simple, calm conclusion to the concert. Chris Hough, Chairman of Chichester Music Society, said, “This was a fabulous evening with some marvellous singing of many well-loved opera favourites. The Quartet and Guy are to be heartily congratulated!”


Review of Holy Trinity Gosport tea-time concert: Catherine Bilton

Today’s concert can only be described as ‘a triumph’ for Music and the Arts at Holy Trinity!

Catherine Bilton, soprano, brought us great joy this afternoon: to listen to her remarkable voice is a joy in itself and we were transported from an ordinary Sunday to an extraordinary one whilst listening to her sing. Her voice evoked a wide range of emotions from coquetry to anguish (and I felt them all)! Add to all this her delightfully playful introductions and we were all smitten.

It was a beautiful programme of music and, although Catherine had her own favourite in the Brahms, I would find it impossible to claim one above the others as I was delighted with each new song; one, however, stands out in my memory: ‘When I have sung my songs’ by Ernest Charles. Catherine’s rendering of this held such pathos it was impossible not to be moved and brought me close to tears.

Family and friends turned out to support Catherine in her first public performance since the beginning of the pandemic; I am certain she will have many more fans following today’s concert. We thanked Catherine and her very able accompanist, Nickie Tabeart, for their superb performance. If you missed her this time, she hopes to return in 2023!


Review: Anthony Burns-Cox on the organ at Holy Trinity, Gosport

We thoroughly enjoyed Anthony’s ‘All-Organic Musical Menu’ yesterday and feasted on his choice of music: the ‘Main Course’ by ‘the greatest composer of all time’, Bach, in particular, was complex and challenging, and the Henri Mulet was clearly a favourite with the audience, where there seemed to be more notes played at once than Anthony has fingers and toes!

We felt that his programme was most engaging, his playing as pleasing to the ear as ever, and his programme notes both interesting and educational! We all agreed that ‘enharmonic confusion’ was definitely a learning curve . . . ever the teacher, Anthony! We thanked Anthony as always for his most enjoyable recital and Keith for his expert page-turning!


Review of Annual Organ Celebration at Holy Trinity Gosport: Charles Francis

Today’s concert was billed as our Annual Organ Celebration and, thanks to Charles Francis, that is precisely what it was! We loved his music programme – after 18 months of silence I for one could feel my brain coming alive again!

It is hard to claim favourites in a programme as varied and rich as this one, but I certainly delighted in the Widor, so deliciously varied, which opened the concert; Mendelssohn (in particular the 1st movement, Allegro Maestoso), where I understand there was a ‘Battle of the Stops’ between the Jordan and Hill organ stops – for me it was simply full of drama and movement; then the final piece from Liszt with its virtuosic fire, creating a powerful finale.

We loved the programme, but we also loved listening to and watching Charles play; he is clearly a hugely talented musician, coupled with his great commitment to music – and a ferocious memory! He played at least three pieces without sheet music: so many notes to memorise! We thanked Charles for his performance today and wish him great success going forward in a musical career that is bound to be successful.


Music returns to Holy Trinity, Gosport: Fumi Otsuki

Regular music-making returns to Holy Trinity, Gosport!

We welcomed Fumi Otsuki (violin) accompanied by Sarah Kershaw (piano).

What a ‘come back’ concert we had!  It was a superb programme: just right for the time of year and beautiful setting.  We enjoyed every piece, from Delius to Vaughan Williams, Herbert Howells to Mussorgsky, Grieg to Massenet, we were delighted, and transported to images of cascading streams, gambolling lambs in pastoral scenes, larks ascending, folk dancing in Norway – and what a terrific way finish, with ‘Meditation’ from the opera ‘Thais’ by Jules Massenet.

We have a full programme of recitals planned going into the autumn.


Review: Stradivarius Piano Trio

The Stradivarius Piano Trio of Andrew Bernardi Jonathan Few and Maria Marchant performed a brilliant evening of music in Chichester as part of the celebrations.

With a carefully constructed programme including pieces by some female composers, Joanna Gill, Rebecca Clarke and Clara Schumann, the trio spoke about why the pieces had been chosen and what was special about them.

With solos, duets and trios, the passion and emotions of the musicians shone through.

For further details of their future concerts, see www.bernardimusicgroup.com.

Read more at the link below.


Rounding off Ports Fest 2021

The first weekend of July this year saw Ports Fest return to the city in the form of a three-day festival, comprising mainly of outdoor and free events to suit the current climate. Highlights included the face of the 2021 sea shanty revival, The Longest Johns, who headlined the opening concert on Friday night, and a splendidly engaging talk given specifically for Portsmouth schools by former children’s laureate Michael Rosen.

The long weekend also featured the work of many local artists, with several exhibitions and ‘open studio’ events taking place around the city, from Art Space Portsmouth, Aspex Portsmouth to Hotwalls Studios, Alice Hume’s Interactive Weaves and Portsmouth Cathedral being home to the Portsmouth Our Place exhibition. Saturday evenings show featured Duncan Sandilands who belted out the very best musical numbers alongside some of the best talent in Portsmouth.

Ports Fest hosted many workshops and performance opportunities for young people, perhaps most notably a collaboration between the London Mozart Players and various Portsmouth school choirs at the final sold-out concert on Sunday night.

The festival revolved around the theme ‘Remember, Reimagine, Reset’, and the events accordingly engaged with issues from protecting ocean wildlife with a performance by Circo Rum Ba Ba and their 50ft inflatable whale in the Guildhall Square, to remembering experiences of the pandemic through a multitude of art across the City.

Erica Smith the Festival Director “This year’s Ports Fest felt very different in lots of ways, but the vibe was incredibly powerful. We have had some amazing feedback about our events this year and so many people saying it is the first time they have been able to see live performance in so long. I am incredibly happy that we were able to go ahead and that’s with great thanks to our sponsors and partners who have supported us this year”.

Ports Fest 2022 will run between 30th June to 3rd July 2022.

Find out more about our ongoing vision at portsfest.co.uk.


Truly special evening as Ensemble Reza delight Festival of Chichester audience

A wonderful concert from Mid Sussex’s Ensemble Reza underlined the importance of live music tonight to a delighted audience at the Festival of Chichester.

Their Russian Dreams programme in the Assembly Room in the Council House in North Street was delivered to a socially distanced audience – and was met with prolonged and deserved applause.

Read more at the link below.


Review: Chichester Music Society: Tanya Ursova (piano) & Anna Gorbachyova (soprano)

See associated Noticeboard item.

The Chichester Music Society had their first 2021 Concert that finally had a live audience, and as usual the Society met at the University of Chichester, where 30 members and guests attended on 9 June. The artists were Anna Gorbachyova-Ogilvie [soprano – right in photo] and Tanya Ursova [piano].

The programme was a fascinating mixture of Russian, German and French songs, involving music by well-known composers such as Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov, Richard Strauss and Poulenc. Interestingly they also included music by other lesser-known composers such as Henri Duparc, and Anna chose his Chanson Triste to open this concert. Immediately the audience was captivated by her confident and dramatic conviction, her volume, which, when needed, was impressive, and her ability to temper this appropriately according to the demands of the music.

Another particularly interesting choice was In the Autumn, a piece which was written by Georgy Sviridov who only died in 1998. Much of his career had been spent working in the Soviet era, but this piece was part of the New Folk Wave, and Anna and Tanya together created a memorable performance which demanded both sensitivity and emotional musical scene painting.

Anna sang throughout with both technical fluidity and produced some highly polished singing with a voice full of emotional intensity, which was particularly noticeable in her rendition of Richard Strauss’ Three Songs of Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Hamlet Opus 67.

Tanya Ursova’s accompaniment was fluid and at times fiery, at times breathtakingly haunting, always anticipating the mood of each piece, and she was a perfect instrumental companion. She also played a piano solo by Rachmaninov that was well chosen to demonstrate her ability to articulate both poignant, moving music, as well as light-hearted crescendos and more melodic themes.

The concert programme ended with a sensitive performance of Poulenc’s Fiancailles pour Rire where much of the music was anxious and wistful. The Duo ended the concert with an encore by Gershwin that certainly lightened the mood.

This concert was a prime example of what the Chichester Music Society does best, which is to introduce our members to new music, as well as reminding them of old favourites. Chairman, Chris Hough, thanked the two musicians “for giving the Society a wonderful evening of marvellous music”, also thanking Tanya Ursova for her valuable work on the detailed programme notes and translations which greatly added to the audiences understanding & enjoyment of the music.


Jonathan Willcocks on the PCU’s “Covid Island Discs”

For much of the past year Portsmouth Choral Union has been holding weekly Zoom rehearsals, with a few live practices just before Christmas.

For their final session before the Easter Break, a lively and informative ‘Covid Island Discs’ interview was held with the choir’s former conductor Jonathan Willcocks as the castaway, and current conductor, David Gostick, as a remarkably convincing Roy Plomley.

This was both light-hearted and informative, and was much enjoyed by the many choir members, and guests, that tuned in to watch. We were treated to a number of photos of Jonathan in various guises, including ‘as a choir boy’ and ‘sporting a luxurious beard’ (though not in the same picture!).

I’m sure I wasn’t the only member of the choir to be amused by Jonathan recounting his experience of recording Allegri’s Miserere as a boy chorister at King’s College Cambridge – all the choir boys fresh from the sports field and dressed in football kit, complete with boots and dirty knees!

Jonathan’s eight discs were as follows:
1) Allegri: Miserere
2) Faure: Requiem – Agnus Dei
3) Bach: St. Matthew Passion – Alto Aria ‘Erbarme dich’
4) Trad: What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor – arr. Willcocks
5) Mozart: Exultate Jubilate – ‘Alleluia’
6) Elgar: Dream of Gerontius – Angel’s Farewell
7) Gershwin: Lady be Good (Stephan Grapelli / Django Reinhardt)
8) Willcocks: A Great and Glorious Victory

If there were only one recording to take to the desert island, it would be the Bach.
Chosen book(s): The complete works of Dickens.
Luxury item: A sand wedge and a large number of golf balls.

 


Review: Chichester Music Society – David Owen Norris

Chichester Music Society was pleased to welcome David Owen Norris on 9 December at the University of Chichester when he gave his lecture-recital entitled “Beethoven at the Piano – a Path of his own Discovery.” This concert was live-streamed courtesy of the University.

David Owen Norris is a consummate and experienced lecturer and pianist, performing all over the world and presenting regularly on BBC radio & TV including BBC Proms Extra.

He started his lecture/recital on a historical note, pointing out that Beethoven had had lessons on the harpsichord, but that he was a self-taught musician on the piano. He was of course an exceptional pianist as well as a composer, able almost effortlessly to improvise, as he showed aged 21, when he just added variations to his performance of his own work, the Righini Variations, by playing new variations in the elegant style he had just heard for the first time.

Throughout his presentation, David Owen Norris played a wide range of illustrative excerpts from Beethoven’s compositions to emphasise the points he was making. He explained that Beethoven, over the coming years, began to create his own style of playing in his compositions, such as adding scales and trills from 1791. The result was that we began to hear phrases such as “mercurial characteristics” or “irreverent impudence” that surround reviews of his music.

David Owen Norris then played the Moonlight Sonata, Opus 27, No 2, which was written in 1802 when Beethoven knew he was going deaf, the final movement a poignant reminder that the composer did not accept this threat to his life of music. The transformation from the tranquil first movement to the finale was ably played by the pianist, where he created endlessly varied colourings and subtle changes in dynamics and phrasing, with a firm and exciting finale. A real loss to members that no audience was able to be present to enjoy this fine performance.

The second piece was the Sonata Pathetique Opus 13, which was written in 1799. Again, this was beautifully performed, with the pianist ably interpreting the fiery and darker elements of the music.

The final piece was a special composition for the evening. David Owen Norris created a possible scenario imagining that were Beethoven alive today, being Christmas, he might have added a set of variations on a Christmas carol to his catalogue of works. Thus, our lecturer and pianist gave us a set of Christmas variations written in the style of Beethoven. This was an exercise which really worked and seemed to this reviewer to be eminently possible and would believably be approved of by Beethoven himself!

Chris Hough, Chairman of Chichester Music Society, thanked David Owen Norris, and said, “This was a wonderful evening, and it was fitting to have such a remarkable and sensitive pianist and presenter to end our 2020 celebration of Beethoven’s birth 250 years ago. What a delight to be able to enjoy David’s remarkable compositional skills and share his fascinating interpretations and insights into Beethoven’s great music.”


Review: Martino Tirimo and Atsuko Kawakami, Chichester Music Society

Chichester Music Society [CMS] was able to continue holding concerts in this second lockdown thanks to Chichester University’s willingness to live stream the concert from the University’s Chapel on 11 November. Martino Tirimo was originally going to be part of the Rosamunde Trio for this concert, but unfortunately two of the Trio were unable to travel from the USA, due to the Covid crisis and were unable to attend. However, Martino offered to come with fellow pianist, Atsuko Kawakami, one of his former students, and this offer was gratefully accepted.

The concert had been originally planned by Chris Coote, Treasurer of CMS, who tragically died in September, and Martino opened the concert by saying that he wanted to dedicate this concert to Chris Coote’s memory, as he was one of his close musical friends. The programme was entitled “The Dance in Music.”

A link to the recording of this concert and further information may be obtained on the CMS website at www.chichestermusicsociety.org.uk.

Read more at the link below.


Mitsuko Uchida plays Schubert at Petworth Festival

Like almost every other festival this year, Petworth’s annual summer music festival, which normally takes place in July, fell victim to the restrictions imposed in response the coronavirus pandemic, but rather than cancel this year’s festival altogether, its organisers sensibly moved the music festival to the autumn and combined it with the literary festival. The events are all online, though some are live, with audience, to create “a real ‘Petworth’ feel about them” (Stewart Collins, Artistic Director) and, as always, there’s a fantastic line up of performers and guests, including Sheku and Isata Kanneh Mason, The London Mozart Players with Howard Shelley, and Mitsuko Uchida. Petworth Festival always attracts an impressive roster of performers and amply confirms that there is very high quality music-making to be found outside of the capital.

We’re all pretty used to watching concerts via livestream and videocasts now; superior technology allows such broadcasts to be presented with high-quality sound and visuals, which undoubtedly enhances the experience. It’s impossible to entirely recreate being in a concert hall, but one of the advantages of livestream is that you can choose when the view the concert: watch it live or at your own convenience, perhaps in the middle of the afternoon, as I did with this particular concert. With my laptop connected to the tv in the living room and a cup of tea in hand, I settled down to enjoy Mitsuko Uchida playing two sonatas by Franz Schubert.

Read more at the link below.


Erin on a High Note!

Chichester Music Group welcomed back Erin Alexander [soprano] and Nick Miller [piano] on 29 September to the Society’s first “socially distanced” concert at the University of Chichester, which was also live-streamed. This was a new experience for both the performers and the audience and, given these unusual circumstances, it was an enjoyable experience for all.

This concert was entitled “On a High Note”, which tells the story of soprano Graziella Scuitti (1927–2001), a contemporary of Maria Callas. Erin Alexander played the Italian singer, and she expertly maintained an effective Italian accent when in the role. Nick Miller was an adept interviewer and they both created a believable platform, as they developed the life of Graziella Sciutti.

Graziella Sciuitti’s stage career began in 1951 as she sang the role of Elisetta, the woman in The Telephone, which Erin performed with humour and skill, and then she sang songs from the characters that became Scuitti’s celebrated favourites, which during her career she performed over a hundred times each, Susanna, Despina, Rosina and Musetta.

The audience therefore enjoyed a wide selection of arias from Bach, Mozart, Verdi, Rossini, and Puccini. Erin Alexander’s performance was engagingly dramatic, and she sang with a very self-possessed vibrancy, particularly rising to the challenge of singing in the character of another opera singer. This was an extremely rewarding performance.

The accompaniment by Nick Miller was very supportive yet so buoyant that it led to a highly effective performance by both musicians. They are to be congratulated for producing a near to perfection performance both musically, as well as in the acting necessary to make the format of the evening believable. The small audience that was allowed was very appreciative.

At the short interval the Chairman of the Chichester Music Society, Chris Hough, explained that this concert was dedicated to Chris Coote, the Society’s Treasurer, who unfortunately had just tragically died after a short illness. He said, “This was a concert that Chris Coote would have loved. He was especially committed to the development of young, gifted artists and took a keen interest in our Charity and its work. Chris had many friends in the musical world, especially in the Chichester and Bognor Regis music scene. His financial skills as an actuary, and musical temperament gave CMS an excellent treasurer. He was a talented accompanist and a fine musician. We shall miss his wit, his friendship and expertise. Erin and Nick have produced a torrent of lovely music which we have all thoroughly enjoyed. They are to be congratulated.”

Erin Alexander then closed the concert with a poignant performance of the piece when she had first met Chris Coote at a Showcase Concert Competition. This was the competition which Erin had won. She said he was one of those rare individuals who always had time for her, was always ready to provide help and advice, and as she said “he was so generous, with his time, his love, his soul, particularly for all of us young musicians, and even offered accommodation at his home when she was performing.”


Chichester orchestra records its own lockdown song

Encore Chichester Community Orchestra has managed to come together musically – while keeping its distance – to produce its very own lockdown song: Ku’u Pua I Paokalani.

Appropriately, the piece was written by the Queen of Hawaii from the time of her own isolation – an echo of the isolation we are all enduring right now.

Members of the orchestra recorded their own parts and submitted them to orchestra director Professor Laura Ritchie.

Laura, who teaches at the University of Chichester, then spent a day of “jiggery pokery” balancing it all out to produce the finished version which can now be enjoyed on YouTube.

Read more at the link below.


The Solent Symphony Orchestra plays Beethoven, Canteloube and Brahms

From the dramatic opening of Beethoven’s Leonore Overture and the rising scale of the full orchestra, the warmth of the string playing was immediately evident with the solo flute cutting through the orchestra beautifully. The pace then changed, introducing the main theme and conductor, Steve Tanner, achieved good control over the range of dynamics produced. A highlight was the very effective, distant trumpet calls from another part of the cathedral. The main theme was again revisited, with the flute initially and then the full orchestra. Sadly, here, the detail of the furious string playing was a little lost in the lively acoustic of the cathedral.

Lucy Cronin, soprano, a graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge, who also recently taught at Portsmouth Grammar School, was the soloist for Canteloube’s Songs of the Auvergne. A collection of traditional French folk songs, sung in Occitan, the local language, were richly scored; a lovely backdrop to Lucy’s beautiful, soaring voice. The third song, in particular, The Shepherdess and the Horse Rider had a playful orchestration but was a little overpowering for a lone voice, however, masking her lower register. Also notable was the virtuoso clarinet cadenza, played with a rich and sonorous tone making full use of the cathedral acoustics to great effect linking seamlessly into the joyous final movement which Lucy delivered with great character and style. Although not sung in English, Lucy’s facial expressions conveyed the stories well.

The second part of the concert featured Brahms, Symphony No 3. Here the orchestra shone with rich chords from the woodwind and brass along with lovely, lilting phrases conveying pastoral thoughts. Clara Schumann was enthralled by the music saying that she was ‘wrapped about by the charm of woods and forests, babbling brooks and the buzzing of insects’. The third movement perhaps has the most familiar of themes, being regularly played on Classic FM. The cathedral acoustic really enhanced the ‘tight’ playing of the orchestra and the excellent intonation of the closing chords were a joy to listen to.


Review: A new cantata – “On Windover Hill: Music of the Sussex Landscape”

Nathan James’ On Windover Hill: Music of the Sussex Landscape was recently given its première at Boxgrove Priory as part of a programme of music, poetry and dance to a full house.

The concert celebrated the South Downs as a focus for a huge amount of creative outpouring, and all of the featured composers and most of the poets whose words they set to music lived in Sussex.

On Windover Hill is a new Arts Council-supported cantata describing the famous hill-figure of The Long Man of Wilmington and is the culmination of nearly four years of work. The cantata was performed by The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and the Harlequin Chamber choir and conducted by Amy Bebbington.

Nathan explains what originally inspired him. “I have been excited to discover the many different ways the figure of the Long Man has inspired people through the years.

“Through my research I have also met an incredible group of people including artists, poets, authors and fellow musicians, who have interpreted the Long Man in their own unique way more recently.

“I’m delighted that through various collaborations, my new cantata has been the driving force behind some new bold creative ideas.

On Windover Hill is an example of how music can be influenced, not only by primary inspiration from the natural environment, but by secondary inspiration; poetry, prose, art, and music, that has itself been inspired by the landscape. It demonstrates the power nature has over our consciousness and creativity if we only stop, look, and listen to the wonderful countryside in which we are lucky enough to live.”

Its nine movements, interspersed with poetry readings and dance, skilfully made me familiar with the stories around the mysterious form on the East Sussex hillside, and the beauty of the expansive countryside around it. Is the Long Man really a man, or a woman? And is the figure holding two staves, or opening the gates, welcoming the people to the Downs?

I much enjoyed the feeling of the choir and orchestra being in a conversation during the course of this piece. They were both brilliantly assured, adeptly handling the often-abrupt changes in mood.

The concert also featured little-known performances from Ruth Gipps (Goblin Market) and Avril Coleridge-Taylor (Wyndore), both of whom were proud of their Sussex roots.

What was as impressive as the charm of the music was the spectacular 32 pages of programme notes, a gold mine of information and insight.

For further info go to https://www.castleymusic.com/onwindoverhill.


Review: Nigel Willoughby and Teresa Foster – Violin and Piano – at Holy Trinity, Gosport

Yesterday’s concert was a remarkable reminder of just how fortunate we are at the Holy Trinity Church Tea-Time Concerts and Recitals.

Nigel Willoughby and Teresa Foster played sublimely and the programme was equally inspiring: we thanked them for including the Handel to mark the 300th celebration of our organ.

I remarked on the Beethoven, which transported me to the sets of many recent, excellent, drama reproductions of Jane Austen novels, their playing conveying the wonderful complexity of his work; the Franck Sonata was hauntingly beautiful, leaving us all with a yearning for more . . . We thank both Nigel and Teresa for their beautiful playing and look forward to them returning in the future.


Review: Power and Passion with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra: Tchaikovsky, Grieg & Sibelius

The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s latest Guildhall concert was full of some of the best-known tunes in the classical repertoire. In an age of iPads and iPests, live classical music is a real treat and the BSO is showing the way with its sparkling performances.

After its dark introduction, Tchaikovsky’s Romeo & Juliet developed into a rich and bright romance. The violins sounded as if the two lovers weren’t yet too sure about each other but the BSO’s “golden soul” – its ‘cello section – soon brought a rich and ardent passion to their playing.

Hearing musicians introduce a programme is a rare pleasure, so conductor Stephen Bell’s humour showed that musicians aren’t posh and aloof. Bell reminded us of the Morecambe and Wise sketch containing the words “I played all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order”. And so we were treated to Greig’s famous piano concerto. Pianist Tom Poster was no Eric – he played all the right notes in the right order with astonishing virtuosity and flair. The orchestra also enjoyed themselves (a bit too loudly on occasion). The cadenza was particularly good, showcasing Poster’s brilliance and delicacy.

At the end, a packed house showed rapturous appreciation.


London Bridge Trio thrill Funtington Music Group audience

The Funtington Music Group were thrilled with the performance that the London Bridge Trio gave on 12 February at the University of Chichester. This was the first visit of the Trio and it certainly won’t be its last!

The Chairman of the Funtington Music Group, Chris Hough, said, “This was a marvellous concert. The Trio gave us sensitive and insightful performances and showed real virtuosity throughout the concert, with wonderful performances of the music of three very different composers. It was an evening to cherish.”

Read more at the links below.


Review: “Requiem in a Day” with Matthew Coleridge at Portsmouth Cathedral

Matthew Coleridge’s Requiem is a recent composition from a young British composer. He says that that he didn’t set out to write a Requiem, but gradually pieced one together from various musical ideas that kept appearing in his head.

It’s melodic and quietly powerful music, which weaves flowing choral melodies with soaring cello lines to form rich tapestries of sound, and has been hailed by the late Sir Neville Marriner as “a valuable addition to the 21st-century choral repertoire.”

I found it of interest to discover what in each of its seven movements inspired Matthew. Some sections were adaptations of instrumental pieces he’d written as an experiment, using clips from various David Attenborough TV series. The cello solo section in the middle of Agnus Dei is an example (lofty mountain grandeur), and the Pie Jesu (minus the soprano solo, which was pasted in later on) is a super-slow-motion clip of a great grey owl gliding across a snowy forest landscape.

The solo cello sings a song of hope whenever the choir are singing about death or hell or sorrow, and it works brilliantly with human voices, because its range matches that of the human voice so well.

Seventy-five singers braved the onset of Storm Ciara to spend a day at Portsmouth Cathedral learning and rehearsing the Requiem prior to a performance in the evening. This was no ordinary “come and sing”: it was led by Matthew himself, who led us with humour, dexterity and encouragement through the work, ably assisted by David Price, Master of the Choristers, first at the piano then at the organ.

Matthew’s interesting personal insights into what had inspired him over a long period brought the work to life. He worked hard to keep the pace going, yet somehow in an informal and relaxing fashion. The work is not without its challenges, requiring both stamina and good breath control, but the in-depth rehearsal ensured that these could be brought to bear. Later in the day we were joined by cellist Sarah Gait and soprano Emily Hicks.

When it came to the evening performance, the tone was set by three pieces: And I Saw a New Heaven by Matthew Coleridge for soprano, choir and cello, Spiegel im Spiegel for cello by Arvo Pärt and Improvisation on themes from Requiem for cello by Sarah Gait.

The Requiem itself is a piece with strong contrasts, from the tranquillity of the Introit, through to the Kyrie, where a tenor drum recalled the sombre marching music associated with the First World War. The work featured the exquisite beauty and panache of the cello, where the instrument provided a contrast to the soaring soprano in the Pie Jesu. This was contrasted by the swelling notes of the organ and choir in the Offertory, and the clashing percussion of the Rex Tremendae. We returned to a sense of tranquil prayerfulness in the final Lacrimosa. The setting of Portsmouth Cathedral suited the performance well.

Matthew said, “it’s a fantastic experience – and very powerful emotionally – for singers to go from complete strangers to performing in front of an audience in the space of about 10 hours. The singers rose to the occasion and gave a terrific performance, helped by the Cathedral’s glorious acoustic and the wonderful professional musicians we were working alongside.”

As a singer, it certainly felt like a big achievement to spend one day learning one splendid work. Many thanks to Matthew, David, soloists and all the singers.

Matthew’s Requiem in a Day tour continues throughout 2020, giving singers an opportunity to perform this deeply moving and powerful music in some of the country’s most inspiring churches. See https://www.matthewcoleridge.com for further information.

London / Mar 28th
Bristol / May 9th
Pershore Abbey / June 20th
Dorchester Abbey / Aug 20th
Exeter Cathedral / Sept 19th

See also Meet the composer: Matthew Coleridge on Music in Portsmouth.


Review of Havant Chamber Orchestra playing Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Glazunov and Haydn

Following the resounding success of his opera, The Marriage of Figaro, Mozart was commissioned to write Don Giovanni, the overture from which a slow and dramatic introduction contrasts vividly with lively and spirited music to follow. Indeed, this very opening was selected for the Havant Chamber Orchestra concert on Saturday 8th February and the conductor, Robin Browning, secured a tight and highly focused performance which set a standard of high expectation for the audience who were packed tightly into the Holy Trinity Church in Fareham.

What then followed was a true delight; three works which featured the exquisite beauty and panache of the cello, played by the internationally renowned soloist, Mikhail Lezdkan. Acclaimed for his performances in Russia and spanning Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Europe over a thirty-year period, the highly experienced chamber musician enabled the mesmerised concert-goers to enjoy a skilfully crafted approach commencing first with Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme.

Understood by many as written in homage to Mozart, there was a fine balance and communication achieved in the structure of the ‘rococo theme’ which features the solo cello followed by a light and well-refined woodwind reply. The variations which followed were performed with real grace, with highly decorative passages and virtuosic features lightly added in a dance-like manner and deceptively easy on the ear of the listener. To contrast and enabling the full lyrical qualities of this performer to shine through, the highly popular Andante Cantabile for cello and string orchestra followed by Glazunov’s Chant du Ménestrel concluded the first half. In Glazunov’s tribute piece to early roving poet-musicians, the rich tonal qualities of Lezdkan’s playing were balanced by the well-directed interjections from strings and wind and the delicacy and style of short soloistic feature passages for individual players here.

Deriving its name from the “ticking pulse” which accompanies the main theme of the second movement, Haydn’s Symphony No 101 The Clock was performed by the orchestra in the second half with the feeling of a large-scale grandeur overall achieved by these fine musicians. Indeed, the sense of shared satisfaction at the close from performer and listener alike can rightly be attributed to the quality of musicianship and professionalism of this fine orchestra for whom a strong following is well-deserved.


Review of the BSO’s “Unrequited Love” concert at Portsmouth Guildhall: Tcherepnin, Rachmaninov & Berlioz

The best-known feature of the Guildhall, the Pompey crest, hung skew-whiff at the end of an astonishing concert given by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. This was a dazzling show, more exciting than a trapeze act and louder than a ten-gun salute.

The concert theme, Unrequited Love, focussed on composers who’d written passionate music after failed love affairs. The marriage between the people of Portsmouth and the BSO has already lasted over 70 years – a marriage to be nurtured.

Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini can almost be played without music, it’s programmed so frequently. But this wasn’t the stale rendition which over-familiarity can produce. It was fresh, lively and scarily fast, with the orchestra clearly loving working with stand-in conductor, Thierry Fischer.

Musicians quickly learn “save the best ‘til last” and Berlioz and the BSO kept us waiting. First, swirling dances and pastoral scenes, then the fantastic climax to his Symphonie Fantastique. Was it the battery of 6 timpani and an enormous bass drum which did for the city’s crest, or the phalanx of 14 brass players (the latter out-doing the blow of Storm Brendan) but both sounds brought shouts of joy from an ecstatic audience.


Review: “A Christmas Carol” with the Portsmouth Choral Union

Portsmouth Choral Union gave us a delightful start to the business end of the Christmas season in their concert on Saturday, mixing traditional items with less familiar offerings. This was a ‘game’ of two halves, with well-known carols in the first part giving way to Jonathan Rathbone’s entertaining Mr Fezziwig’s Christmas Party, after the interval.

Proceedings opened with a lively, unaccompanied performance of Ding Dong Merrily on High with crisply detailed diction adding to the sparkle. There were also audience participation carols, including God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, While Shepherds Watched and The First Noel, the large audience joining in with gusto.

Baritone Soloist Tom Asher sang a group of three popular Christmas numbers, I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas, Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire and Adam’s O Holy Night. This final item avoided the customary pitfalls of over-sentimentality and there was momentum maintained throughout. Earlier in the programme, he was particularly effective in Cornelius’s The Three Kings, where he was sensitively accompanied by the chorus.

For the final three numbers in this part of the concert there was a stirring performance of Joubert’s celebrated Torches, a moving account of Berlioz’s The Shepherd’s Farewell, delivered with a fine sustained legato, and the concluding Sussex Carol provided a fitting prelude to the interval drinks!

Mr Fezziwig’s Christmas Party was the only item in part two. This is written for chorus, baritone solo, narrator and piano accompaniment; words of the narration are taken from Dickens and text for the songs is by Paul Whitnall. This work requires crisp enunciation from the choir and despite their best efforts in the faster moments, the choir failed at times to win their battle with the lively acoustic of St. Mary’s church. Even so, this did not detract from the enthusiasm and overall enjoyment of their performance. It was good to see and hear St. Mary’s own Canon Bob White, looking appropriately Dickensian, in the role of Narrator.

The concert was accompanied with surety by Ian Richardson on both organ and piano and the evening’s proceedings were well directed with customary flair by conductor David Gostick. It was a satisfied audience indeed who enthused as they made their exit.


Portsmouth Cathedral Choir and the Renaissance Choir raise £3,697 for Rowans Hospice

The Renaissance Choir and Portsmouth Cathedral Choir performed a programme full of splendid music to a full house on Saturday 7 December, raising £3,697 for the Rowans Hospice Silver Jubilee Appeal – an ambitious capital appeal to raise funds to redevelop the hospice building to ensure it is fit for future care.

Portsmouth Cathedral provided a wonderful candlelit venue for this delightful concert, filling the audience with festive cheer and raising vital money to support this Appeal which will see Rowans Hospice fully refurbished.

A beautifully arranged programme of music was performed from the 17th to the 21st century and carols to celebrate the festive season.
Save the date for next year. The 2020 concert will take place on Saturday 19th December.

Additional notes

Rowans Hospice is a local charity which provides specialist hospice care and support to patients with life-limiting illnesses resident in Portsmouth and South East Hampshire, their relatives and carers. All the care given is without charge.

In 2018, the Silver Jubilee Appeal was launched to raise £7.5 million to completely refurbish the Hospice, ensuring that it is equipped to continue caring for the local community today, tomorrow and in the future.

Rowans Hospice strives to create an environment which is conducive to the physical, social, emotional and spiritual well-being of all people referred.

Rowans Hospice team works with the NHS specialist palliative care teams to achieve optimal quality of life for families affected by life-shortening illnesses both within the community and at our Hospice. With the support of volunteers and other care services the Hospice supports families during illness through to bereavement.

It costs £6.5 million each year to provide hospice care and to ensure the hospice building and grounds are well maintained, offering a haven for rest and recuperation. Although Rowans Hospice receives some statutory support from the NHS and Social Services, the majority of the money still needs to be fundraised each year. This would not be achieved without help and support from the local community.

For more information please visit www.rowanshospice.co.uk
For information about the appeal, please visit www.silverjubilee.rowanshospice.co.uk


Review: Daniel Rowland and Natacha Kudritskaya, Chichester Chamber Concerts

Before a note of this imaginative ‘Parisian’ programme had been played, we knew from those soulful open strings as Daniel Rowland tuned up that we had on stage a violin that loved to be played and a player that loved to play it. And how! Rowland’s passion for the music shone through every one of the evening’s very different works. From the poignant sorrow of Mozart’s E-minor sonata following his mother’s death, to the wild virtuosity of Stravinsky, this was no mere display, but a powerful communication of the heart of the music.

Read more at the link below.


Portsmouth Philharmonic raises more than £800 for Cystic Fibrosis

Portsmouth Philharmonic raised more than £800 for Cystic Fibrosis after its latest charity concert in the city featuring music by Rossini, Humperdinck and Beethoven.

More than 80 people attended a concert at the Church of the Resurrection in Drayton on Sunday December 1, which featured a varied programme much appreciated by the audience.

The event was raising money for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, a charity backed by former Portsmouth Lord Mayor Lee Mason. And his successor Cllr David Fuller and the Lady Mayoress Leza Tremorin were also in attendance as guests of honour.

The first half featured Rossini’s Thieving Magpie overture and Humperdinck’s Hansel & Gretel Overture, as well as a special composition and arrangement of Christmas melodies for audience participation by conductor Hugh Carpenter.

After the interval the orchestra performed Beethoven’s seventh symphony – regarded by many as his best – which delighted the bumper audience.

Formed in 2009, the Portsmouth Philharmonic has now raised almost £20,000 for local charities.

Chair of the orchestra Di Lloyd said: “We were delighted so many people turned up to see this concert and we are sure they will have gone away impressed.

“Beethoven’s seventh is never a straightforward piece to perform, but the orchestra managed the piece very well and it was a mark of its increasing maturity.”

Image credit: Colin Farmery


Review: Portsmouth Choral Union: “Salzburg Splendour”

Two choral works, one well known and the other something of a rarity, delighted Portsmouth Choral Union’s enthusiastic audience in their ‘Salzburg Splendour’ concert at St. Mary’s Church Portsea on Saturday.

The well known – Mozart’s Solemn Vespers – opened the concert and, with some rather clever programming, five of the same composer’s Epistle Sonatas were performed between the works individual movements. There is very little that can be described as ‘solemn’ about these Vesper settings, and the similarly joyful Sonatas were well chosen and apposite. With fine toned singing and nuanced dynamics, Portsmouth Choral Union once again demonstrated their reputation as one of the leading amateur choruses in the South of England.

Michael Haydn, brother of the more well-known Joseph, provided the musical rarity with his Requiem Solemne. This is a work that Mozart clearly knew well and in it there are many pre-echoes of his often performed Requiem. Here the choir rose to the challenge of the works dramatic nature and with a well-balanced team of four soloists, this work was brought vividly to life – and deserves to be heard more often. Of the soloists, Luci Briginshaw had most to do and she was particularly eloquent in her poised performance of Laudate Dominum from the Mozart Vespers.

Under David Gostick’s clear direction, Southern Pro Musica provided discreet musical accompaniment and it was good to hear them take centre-stage in their stylish performances of the five Mozart Sonatas.

This concert’s lengthy ovation was richly deserved.


Review: The Chichester Singers: A Child of Our Time

The main work of the Chichester Singers’ November Concert was Michael Tippett’s secular oratorio A Child of our Time, which was first performed 75 years ago.

The Singers’ choice of date for the performance was appropriate, because the work was inspired by the Nazi attack on the Jews and their buildings, called Kristallnacht, which took place on 9th November 1938, after a Jewish boy shot a Nazi official.

Tippett was distressed by the Nazi persecution of the Jews and hoped his work would call attention to the suffering of oppressed people everywhere. The choir, ably supported by the orchestra of Southern Pro Musica, mastered the intricacies of Tippett’s score and brought real emotion to the spirituals that are sung at significant moments in the work.

The bass soloist, Theodore Platt, was the Narrator for the story of the Child, or Boy, and projected his voice well into the space of the Cathedral, though the acoustics of the building were such that most of the audience had to follow the story through the programme notes. The other three young soloists, Charlotte Bowden, Rebeka Jones and Ted Black sang their roles with pleasant musicality and increasing confidence, though, again, the words of Tippett’s libretto could not always be heard.

The chorus and orchestra, under the baton of Jonathan Willcocks performed with admirable power and control, supporting the soloists, playing the parts of the various groups in the story, and especially singing the spirituals of a persecuted people. Let my people go was overwhelming and the final climax of shadow and light leading into Deep River will linger long in the memory.

There were two other works in the evening’s concert, both also by 20th century British composers. The concert began with the song for chorus and orchestra, Toward the Unknown Region, by Vaughan Williams, a musical setting of a poem by Walt Whitman. Whitman’s remarkable text inspired Vaughan Williams to compose a delightful song, which the Singers and orchestra performed with great zest.

Between the two choral works, Southern Pro Musica performed Elgar’s Enigma Variations. Each variation was played with skill and finesse, so the audience could picture the character that Elgar had in mind – the elegant, the boisterous, even the pet dog, and of course Nimrod, Mr Jaeger. The playing of the orchestra and the quality of the sound within the Cathedral made this performance close to perfection.

Once again, the Chichester Singers have given us an excellent evening of music that has been sometimes challenging but always enjoyable.


Review: Remembrance Concert by the Portsmouth Grammar School

A cast of hundreds marked Remembrance Sunday last weekend with a beautifully moving concert in Portsmouth Cathedral.

Working with conductor and composer, Jonathan Willcocks, PGS musicians along with the London Mozart Players and singers from Castle Primary performed a programme of music inspired by the sacrifices made by so many people for our freedom.

The austere and dramatic Fanfare for the Common Man opened the concert, followed by a performance by 80 young singers from PGS Middle School, PGS Juniors and Castle Primary of Anthem for Peace accompanied by the LMP strings with a beautiful solo cornet played by Elliot Hartridge.

Habina Seo and John Yu performed piano concerto movements by Mozart and Shostakovich, demonstrating a beautiful sense of melody line and great maturity and poise. Butterworth’s idyll, On the Banks of Green Willow, written shortly before his death at the hands of a German sniper, featured our string players playing side by side with the LMP in a performance that was refined and moving.

The second half of the concert opened with Vaughan Williams’ haunting Lark Ascending in an expansive and expressive performance by Ruth Rogers, leader of the LMP. Jonathan Willcocks’ own composition Lux Perpetua, written specifically for Remembrance and featuring texts by war poets, finished the concert. The 160 strong chorus of singers from aged 8 to 80 gave an authoritative and dramatic telling of this powerful work. Congratulations to all involved.


Review: The Renaissance Choir “Vespers” concert

Vespers’ at St Peter’s, Petersfield on Saturday 26th October, was a concert of two distinct halves, two celebrated composers, and two distinguished performances.

In the first half, conductor Peter Gambie presented Mozart’s Vesperae Solonnes de Confessore, said to have been strongly influenced by Michael Haydn’s Requiem Pro Defuncto Archiepiscopo Sigismundo featured in the second half. And ‘by Jove’ did it live up to its reputation of being strikingly beautiful . . . it was emotionally electric and the collective voices of the Choir echoed the enormity of the composer’s messages, pulsing and sobbing the meanings within the psalms. Most striking of course was the spectacular Laudate Dominum where the vibrant and remarkably rich soprano voice of Susan Yarnall, soared to the rafters, taking us along with it.

For me, however, the absolute highlight of the evening had to be Haydn’s Requiem Pro Defuncto Archiepiscopo Sigismundo, where, even in the first movement, the individual voices came together in unison raising our hearts, our expectations – and our pulses! Singing alone and at times together, the soloists, brought an emotional depth to the performance with Haydn’s score giving them ample opportunities to showcase their voices. When a conductor can select twelve individual soloists from the ranks one begins to understand the rare quality of The Renaissance Choir! The close relationship between conductor and choristers was evident in every look, movement and sound, and the whole programme was ably accompanied by Mark Dancer, Director of Music, St Peter’s Church, Petersfield.

The overall success of the evening was finally captured in a breath-taking moment of silence followed by extensive, rapturous applause and general cheering for a truly magnificent performance.


A warm welcome in Fareham

When Tchaikovsky wrote his ‘Souvenir de Florence’ for string sextet in 1890 he took as his inspiration the sights and sounds of Italy – a country he loved to visit – and in particular the city of Florence. However, much of the piece has the distinctive Russian sound we associate with Tchaikovsky and, especially in the string orchestra version, it is a big work, symphonic in scale.

At our recent concert on October 19th, Havant Chamber Orchestra found the intimate, warm atmosphere of the United Reformed Church in Fareham to be an ideal setting in which to present this powerful music. We even had a slight concern that the overall effect might be too loud for the audience – and that was with just strings! Whether or not we can introduce a full wind section with horns and trumpets at the URC will need to be assessed.

The other music in this varied programme included an Oboe Concerto by Albinoni, beautifully played by Lucinda Willits. This lighter repertoire certainly worked perfectly in the URC.

We were delighted to hear comments such as ‘That came over extremely well’ and ‘What a fantastic concert!’. This is particularly important to us in this experimental period without the Ferneham Hall and we are delighted to find most of our regular audience following us on this new adventure. Fifty-four people have purchased a season ticket for all three of our Fareham concerts this season and many more came along on the night.

We have been more than a little put out to discover that the planned remodelled Ferneham Hall will be an 800-seater in which, to quote Appendix A to the Concept Design presented to Fareham Borough Council (FBC) by architects, Mace Group, “…the acoustic does not support drama without amplification or good performance of classical music”.

There really is a small but enthusiastic audience for classical music in Fareham and Havant Chamber Orchestra intend to persist with delivering the music they love in whatever venues we can find. Granted, we are not as popular as tribute acts or mediums, but FBC’s cultural short-sightedness is disappointing, to say the least!

Our next outing in Fareham will be February 8th, 2020, this time at Holy Trinity Church. Don’t miss it!


Review: Latin Fiesta – Marquez, Montero & de Falla with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra brought some dazzling sunshine to Portsmouth Guildhall with their Latin Fiesta concert. Conductor Carlos Prieto shimmied on his podium as he coaxed smiles and foot-tapping from a delighted audience. The BSO, who can be pretty serious at times, cast aside their grey garb and played as if wearing shorts, shades and sombreros. There were new, younger players who were obviously loving the occasion. Marquez’s Danzon is a challenge to keep together because the rhythmic basis is constantly changing but Prieto’s incisive beat was unwavering. Some of the brass and woodwind solos were too restrained, needing a little more cojones.

A BSO masterstroke was to appoint Gabriela Montero as Artist in Residence. Here is one of the most outstanding musicians of her generation: a fine pianist, an exceptional composer and a great improviser. As a composer, she combines the exciting, urgent rhythms of her native Latin America with a western classical tradition – a bit like a meal of chilli and chips – but with much more class. After playing her fiendishly difficult concerto, we were served a rare treat – an improvisation which encompassed blues, ragtime, harmonies from Debussy and opera. The lady in front of me said “worth the ticket price just for that”. She was right.

And then there was more sunshine from de Falla (whose famous ballet score is also known as the Tricorn). The commitment from the orchestra was outstanding, loving every minute of it and playing their hearts out. A truly wonderful, enjoyable evening.


Review: Portsmouth Light Orchestra Autumn 2019 Concert

Echoing the activities of professional orchestras like the Bournemouth Symphony, Ed McDermott, Musical Director of Portsmouth Light Orchestra masterminded a very successful concert at an entirely new venue.

Innovative Ed cast the orchestra’s net more widely with a crowd-pleasing repertoire at the Titchfield Community Centre. This is the first time in more than a decade that the PLO has performed away from its usual haunts – the Admiral Lord Nelson School, Buckland Community Centre and the Church of the Resurrection at Drayton.

Despite atrociously rainy weather the audience filled the hall. The Mayor of Fareham, Councillor Mrs Pamela Bryant and the Mayoress, who is also her daughter, Councillor Louise Clubley, also graced the occasion with their presence.

The evening’s programme could not have been more varied. A Nursery Rhymes Suite and The Teddy Bears’ Picnic amused those old enough to remember such delights. Tunes from Les Miserables and Oklahoma pleased aficionados of musicals while Vivaldi’s Winter from the Four Seasons and Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance No.4 pandered to the tastes of the highbrows present.

Bugler’s Holiday was brilliantly played by the orchestra’s three trumpeters, who surprised audience and orchestra alike by coming on dressed as cleaners. Mixed in with this musical potpourri were two rhythmically tricky, pieces from Central America. In short, it all went down a treat as there was something for everyone in this successful outreach for the Portsmouth Light Orchestra.


Review: “French Connection” by the Solent Symphony Orchestra – Sensational Soloist

Review of the Solent Symphony Orchestra on Saturday September 28 at Portsmouth Cathedral

The Solent Symphony Orchestra never fails to delight with its exuberance and flair and the opening bars of the Berlioz overture, “Le Corsaire”, left the audience in no doubt that this evening’s performance was going to be memorable.

The brilliance of the initial nimble-fingered string flourish set the bar high and the rapid wind syncopations drove things onward at a rate of knots. The contrasting, beautifully-controlled melodic section gave a brief but welcome respite, before the fireworks returned ably led by the energetic trombone section.

The orchestra then provided the perfect accompaniment for Valentina Seferinova’s sensational performance of Ravel’s “Piano Concerto in G Major”. Her interpretation was in equal measures dramatic, energetic, serene and inspirational.

The opening iconic whip crack heralded an outstanding performance. The first movement fizzed along with stand out solos from the piccolo, trumpet, horn, harp, and a triumphant bassoon section but the breathtaking piano cadenza was the highlight. Many in the audience couldn’t help themselves in acknowledging the excitement of this movement with a spontaneous round of applause as it came to a ferocious full stop.

The sublime opening of the slow movement perfectly reflected the ethereal setting and Ms. Seferinova’s control of the tranquil and serene piano solo brought about an atmosphere of celestial beauty. The peace and calm were symbiotically supported by the sensitivity of the solo flute entry and the haunting cor anglais melody. With the exquisite final pianissimo piano trill, Valentina brought this movement to a poignant and emotionally-charged close.

The last movement once more gives the full orchestra the chance to shine and the atmospheric, jazz-like episodes, shared between piano and ensemble, promote the enjoyment for which this piece is so well known. Valentina’s perfectly presented virtuosic passages brought the first half to a vibrant and celebratory culmination.

The single work of the second half, Mussorgsky’s 10-movement “Pictures at an Exhibition” gave this fine orchestra the chance to show off the breadth and variety of its aural palette. This included impressive solos from saxophone and euphonium, the textural intensity provided by the contrabassoon and the majestic brilliance of the brass section “Promenade”.

Under Conductor Steve Tanner, each picture was brought to life by the expert musicians in this impressive ensemble, who gave an appreciative audience a very special evening’s entertainment.

Put the date of the next SSO performance in your diary now (7 March 2020, 7.30pm, St. Thomas’ Cathedral, Portsmouth). You won’t regret it!


Review: The Anemos Trio at St Peter’s

A small but discerning audience escaped the heavy showers outside to be greeted with musical sunshine inside with this fabulously enjoyable concert. The well-established Anemos Trio: pianist Karen Kingsley, clarinetist Rob Blanken and bassoonist, Richard Moore are regulars at St. Peter’s in this and other ensembles. They presented a varied and enjoyable programme of 20th and 21st century music.

The influence of Eric Satie was evident in the largely unknown Chant d’Esperance (‘song of hope/sunrise’) by Henri Cliquet-Pleyel. From the opening piano block chords, a doleful clarinet melody emerged and interplayed with expressive bassoon motifs. Pre-echoes of another composer’s Summertime could be heard just before the music became more sonorous as the sun shone strongly at the music’s conclusion.

The main work was William Hurlstone’s substantial, four movement, Trio in G minor. Richard told the story of his fascinating discovery of the ‘lost’ third movement and the works links to Oxford and the mathematician Roger Penrose. Richard is himself a mathematician, computer engineer and outstanding bassoon player as well as a leading authority on the instrument. A contemporary of Vaughan Williams and Holst, Hurlstone would have been a much better known had he lived past his untimely death at age 30. This substantial work demonstrated Hurlstone’s huge talent: his music is richly inventive, harmonically sophisticated and atmospheric. It was played with skill, tenderness and passion by Anemos who were perfectly attuned to this splendid music.

The final work, Collaboracao was a modern tour de force – both by contemporary composer Mike Mower and Anemos. Mower is best known for his jazz group ‘Itchy Fingers’ and Anemos certainly needed twitchy fingers to get around the dizzying rhythms of this jazz/Latin inspired piece. Feet were tapping in the audience as the wind players whizzed around the full range of their instruments and Karen swung to the Bossanova beat!

A lovely antidote to the autumnal gloom outside. When are Anemos going to issue a recording of these works?

Image: Rob Blanken


Review: The Solent Chamber Orchestra’s concert at St Peter’s

Aptly billed as Music for a Summer’s Evening, the programme opened with the unassuming, yet pleasantly melodious Rondino for Wind Octet. The acoustic of the church lent itself perfectly to hearing and appreciating the individual contributions of each instrument in this piece scored for pairs of oboes, clarinets, horns and bassoons. Fittingly this served as an ideal introduction to what was undoubtedly the true highlight of the evening; Telemann’s Suite in A Minor for Recorder, Strings and Continuo. Local performer and teacher, Jennie Flatman, presented with real poise and kept the audience truly captivated throughout. In this work, which offers a fine balance between the highly ornamented and rhythmically ornate French style at the opening, contrasted with the more sumptuous Italian style to follow, Jennie enabled the audience to relish the real beauty and richness of her treble recorder sound. Yet when the faster, allegro section later returned equally she showed clear delight in presenting the impressively elaborate passages. Notable too in this performance was the strength of communication between the soloist, the string orchestra, conducted by Steve Tanner and the continuo part, played by Andrew Cleary.

In complete contrast the programme was completed with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A. A highly exhilarating performance of this veritable tour de force, the audience was left breathless in the outer movements. Whilst the dynamically quieter passages allowed lyrical features to shine through, for me the acoustic of the venue and the sheer power of this orchestra provided too great an intensity in the louder sections. However, the versatility of this orchestra is to be applauded and the concert very well-received by an audience unstinting in its applause.


Review: The Chichester Symphony Orchestra Festival concert

“A wonderful evening; a snapshot of romantic music at its finest, arousing an array of emotions and full of vitality”.

In a glorious Saturday afternoon in St Paul’s Church, we were served a delicious evening of orchestral works from that great son of Bohemia, Antonín Dvořák, with a somewhat appropriate sandwich-filling of his contemporary, Johannes Brahms. The German was highly influential in the rise of Dvořák’s fortunes as it was with his support and guidance that set the plucky young Czech on a more nationalistic and, indeed, populist path.

Read more at the link below.


Festival of Chichester Finale

A month-long programme of over two hundred Festival of Chichester events came to a triumphant conclusion on the final Sunday in an inspiring open-air concert in the wonderful grounds of Halnaker Park. Despite rival attractions of the Cricket World Cup and the Wimbledon final, festival goers enjoyed a brilliant session from Amanda Cook on classical guitar, Finlay Wells on Celtic guitar and Meg Hamilton on violin.

Elsewhere the final weekend saw an extra performance of N F Simpson’s absurdist comedies by Chichester Community Theatre at the Penny Royal Open Air Theatre at Bosham, the soaring melodies of Sull’aria by sopranos Tamzin Barnett and Rhiannon Merrifield at Christ Church and Chichester Symphony Orchestra in full swing at St Paul’s. Not to mention Abba’s Angels and the Rolling Tones at the Assembly Room!

It was a fitting conclusion to a fantastic festival – the seventh since it was launched in 2013 to replace the Festivities. This year has seen an eclectic mix of the best of Chichester’s community organisation performing to top standards, supplemented by the visiting stars.

This year we were delighted to welcome international best-selling novelists Victoria Hislop and Louis de Bernières, Oculi Ensemble stopping off en route to the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Russian maestro Victor Ryabchikov, brilliant flamenco guitarist Eduardo Niebla, top jazzers Julian Stringle and Alan Barnes, folk star Pete Coe, the Phoenix Big Band as well as Chichester stars Kate Mosse and Dame Patricia Routledge.

Planning is now underway for 2020. We’ll be back next summer with another scintillating programme of very special festival events.

To join our mailing list or enquire about taking part, please email our coordinator, Barry Smith, at festivalchichester@gmail.com.

The picture shows the statue of John Keats with festival performers Linda Kelsall-Barnett (guitar), Tamzin Barnett (soprano) and Zoe Barnett (guitar) after the Poetry & Music event in Chichester Cathedral where Dame Patricia Routledge read the Odes by Keats.


Review: End of season opera music from the Havant Symphony Orchestra

The Havant Symphony Orchestra brought their season to its conclusion with an ambitious and challenging programme of masterpieces, which were performed with great commitment and skill.

The orchestra was joined by the soloist Joo Yeon Sir in Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto, whose performance combined virtuosity and refinement in equal measure. Her warm tone and rhythmic accuracy were enhanced by the beautifully balanced orchestral contribution under the direction of conductor Jonathan Butcher.

The concert began with music by two German romantics. With its slow pulse and extended lines, the sublime Dream Pantomime from Humperdinck’s opera Hansel and Gretel demanded and received richness of tone and accuracy of intonation from the strings. Wagner’s celebrated Mastersingers Overture received a mobile and well-articulated performance under conductor Stefano Boccacci, the latest holder of the bursary created by Bob Harding and his wife Beryl. Sadly she passed away recently, and this made a fitting tribute.

After the interval came Frank Bridge’s Suite The Sea, the work which inspired the young Benjamin Britten to become a composer, and finally Richard Strauss’s symphonic poem Don Juan. Here the magnificent writing for the horns made its mark in suitably heroic fashion.


Review: “Night and Day” concert by The Renaissance Choir

Entitled ‘Night and Day’, Saturday’s concert by The Renaissance Choir was described by conductor Peter Gambie as a programme of contrasts – and it certainly was. There were the obvious contrasts of mood, genre and musical period, but there was more. Dynamic contrasts were in abundance, moving from some remarkably soft sustained singing to vigorous ‘forte’ passages – often in rapid succession. Eric Whitacre’s Lux Aurumque was notable for some very impressive soft and sustained high notes from the choir’s sopranos, it also provided an excellent foil to Byrd’s Laetentur Coeli that opened the concert.

Good pianists are not necessarily good accompanists, but Karen Kingsley is exceptionally accomplished at both. I particularly enjoyed her playing of two movements from Britten’s Holiday Diary, moving from the virtuosic Early Morning Bathe to the atmospheric Night, the pieces were well chosen to maintain the theme of this concert.

The most substantial item on the programme was Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna, and here we were able to hear Karen as accompanist – at all times responsive and supportive, without being intrusive. The choir’s tone and blend of voices suit this work well. There was much gentle singing here with the more dissonant passages well handled, and the more lively moments were rhythmic and appropriately dramatic. The work’s final, quiet ‘Amen’ was held for an impressively long time.

Guerrero’s Duo Seraphim and Wood’s Hail Gladdening Light were sung ‘in the round’. The former, impressive and confidently sung in its three choir layout and the latter providing a fitting conclusion to this enjoyable concert.


Review: St Richard Singers: “Rejoice!”

It is one of the many benefits of being a concert reviewer that occasionally one is offered a programme so redolent with nostalgia, I was immediately carried back to my own days as a chorister. On Saturday evening, the St Richard Singers marked the launch of their 50th anniversary season in a sweltering St George’s Church by elevating the audience with a concert of choral motets, canticles and cantatas spanning six centuries and encapsulating the very essence of worship: pure joy.

The proceedings opened surely enough with O Sing Joyfully, Adrian Batten’s spritely setting of Psalm 81 followed by Pitoni’s stately Cantate Domino, displaying the same distilled elation but set within a minor mode. We remained in Italy for Pueri Hebraeorum, Palestrina’s masterful example of Renaissance polyphony. Pitoni was a great admirer of Palestrina, and indeed both held the position of Maestro di Cappella at the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran, some 150 years apart. Their piety and compositional craft were evident in the beautiful delivery by the choir.

Mozart’s exquisitely melodic Laudate Dominum, from his Solemn Vespers, was a highlight; Charlotte Bateman’s transcendent melisma emerging from the harmonic backdrop with a single word – Amen.

Jumping forward to the twentieth century, the choir engaged Arvo Pärt’s fiendishly tough Magnificat. It’s a common misconception that minimalism’s simplicity must equate to an easy sing – quite the contrary; the intonation is highly challenging, particularly in its unaccompanied context. In this regard the choir gave a valiant effort and all the emotion and nuances of the composer’s famous tintinnabuli style were evident in this meditative work.

It was at this moment that the conductor took the opportunity to reveal his sublime talent as a countertenor, joining the other soloists in Orlando Gibbons’ Great Lord of Lords. All the more poignant as it was announced that Jake Barlow will be stepping down as musical director for the St Richard Singers, and this was to be his final concert. It’s no exaggeration to say his dynamism and flamboyant style have re-energised the choir in recent years and I’m sure he will be greatly missed by choir members and audience alike.

We were then jolted back to our celebratory spirit with Gerald Finzi’s grandiose and ever-popular, God is gone up. A special mention must be made here to organist Tim Ravalde in whose virtuosic accompaniment one could almost hear the trumpets mentioned ringing through the delightful refrain.

The second half saw a return to Merrie England and our soloists to introduce Purcell’s rather aptly titled Rejoice in the Lord Alway. Next, the choir furnished us with some of the finest Teutonic examples in the choral repertoire; the rather dignified Locus Iste from Anton Bruckner, reminding us that he wrote a great deal more than just symphonies, and Haydn’s The Heavens are Telling, from his blockbuster oratorio The Creation. This remains for me a personal favourite; it’s a work that just ticks all the right boxes: a timeless melody, beautiful harmony, clever counterpoint and, in this performance, you could clearly feel the joy in the choir as they were singing.

The programme closed with pieces by two British giants of the twentieth century. A Child of Our Time is Michael Tippet’s anti-war masterpiece, whose innovative use of African-American spirituals in place of the usual chorales demonstrated the purity of praise over the injustice of their persecution. In the balmy heat of the summer evening, this struck a particular resonance. Finally, we were treated to the entirety of Benjamin Britten’s Festival Cantata Rejoice in the Lamb. It was here that the choir excelled themselves, both invoking a solemn lament and dazzling us with jubilant worship.

Whilst perhaps tinged with sadness at the loss of such an inspirational conductor for the choir, my own wistful recollection of performing these magnificent works was happily evoked by this thoroughly enjoyable evening.


Review: Bach’s B minor Mass by The Consort of Twelve with the Portsmouth Baroque Choir

If you perform music from the Baroque period, your Mount Everest is Bach’s B minor mass. The Portsmouth Baroque Choir (PBC) decided to attempt to scale its lofty heights and a large audience came to St Paul’s, Chichester to see whether they would achieve their quest. And did they? And how!

This was a momentous achievement, ably directed by their conductor, Malcolm Keeler. Bach’s greatest choral work is not for the unwary, so Mr. Keeler’s clear beat will have been appreciated by choir and orchestra alike.

Just occasionally, the snow-flurries of Bach’s complex vocal lines became a little indistinct but this didn’t mar the occasion.

PBC is a fine choir all-round. In particular, the soprano line’s blend is excellent and its vocal quality is clear.

The Consort of twelve provided an excellent accompaniment, especially the trumpeters, although there were a few moments when the strings dominated the chorus.

The quintet of soloists acquitted themselves well, although some of Bach’s passionate nature was missing from some interpretations towards the end of the work.

Musical directors only get to see the entire cast on the day of the concert when orchestra and soloists meet for the first and only time. But someone had a brilliant idea, realising that working with the orchestra a day early for an extra rehearsal might pay dividends. And did it? And how!

This was a very fine achievement by PBC, with everyone enjoying their Everest ascent. They should all feel very proud of themselves.


“Lastnight! Lastnight!” Review of “Tonight, Tonight…” by the Portsmouth Choral Union

On a suitably sultry evening, The New Theatre Royal, with twinkling stars behind the singers, was host to American music of both church and theatre genres. The Portsmouth Choral Union was challenged by their Musical Director, David Gostick in an imaginative programme.

Together with tenor, Anthony Flaum, The Prebendal School Chamber Choir, Chichester, Andrew Cleary and Ian Richardson, keyboards and three percussionists from Southern Pro Musica, excerpts were presented from Bernstein’s Mass, Misa Criolla by Ramirez and the Choral Suite from West Side Story.

The choir coped with the rhythms and harmonies of the music with concentrated determination and the children, with their soloist, added another dimension to the sound.

It was difficult to follow the translations in the Programme Notes due to the low level of house lights and we could have done without the canned music before and after the concert and during the interval.

The tenor soloist was outstanding, coping with the high tessitura, especially in Bernstein’s setting of The Lord’s Prayer and the skilled percussionists contributed greatly to the flavour of the music.

The ladies changed into ‘something more comfortable’ for the second half which suddenly came alive in The West Side Story extracts. The choir produced a lovely well-blended sound, carefully controlled at the conclusion of One Hand, One Heart.

The ladies seemed relaxed and enjoyed singing I Feel Pretty and the men judged Boy, crazy boy well, building to a rousing climax. I Like to be in America went with a swing and both soloist and choir combined in the moving conclusion to the evening. The audience left the theatre humming the memorable tunes from West Side Story.


Review of Zimbe! by the Froxfield Choir

The June drizzle may have been a far cry from African sunshine, but it did nothing to dampen the spirits at Privett Church on Saturday, when Froxfield Choir, together with pupils from Froxfield and Steep primary schools, performed Zimbe!, Alexander L’Estrange’s arrangement of traditional African songs.

African traditional music is essentially social and participatory, so this was an ideal choice for an event on behalf of Froxfield Community Project that involved all age groups and continued after the main performance with a hog roast and informal African drumming led by Kristian Bediiako. Conductor Michael Servant was relaxed and entertaining as he introduced the proceedings, warming up the children and the willingly cooperative audience with simple action songs. How many of us had expected to be singing ‘Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken, MacDonalds’ while illustrating each eatery with hand gestures, or stamping our feet to a song about picking apples, while the children sang it in Norwegian?

The feel-good community atmosphere spread through the performance of Zimbe! that followed. The choir, bright in their coloured tops, sang out confidently in the unaccompanied sections and brought out the variety of moods in the different songs – light-hearted in the children’s songs, hypnotically rhythmic in Ilanga libuya, high-spirited in the drinking song, Vamudara, and (perhaps the best of all) hushed and atmospheric in the funeral song Aleluya/Thuma mina, when the choir divided between the front and back of the church. The children threw themselves into the whole proceedings confidently, earning applause and cheers for their enthusiasm, whether demonstrating the warm-ups or singing and clapping during the performance. The choir was well supported by Naomi Ides (alto saxophone) and Merryl Spong (piano), with Laura Murray adding African percussion and Tom Lydon driving the music powerfully from the drum kit.

Although the basic tunes are often simple, there are complications in the arrangement and there were occasional difficulties with balance and continuity. Some sections of the choir were not at full strength; the sopranos, who made up half the total number, showed the quality and evenness of tone that the choir can achieve at its best, whilst the more energetic songs inevitably lacked weight in the lower parts. Transitions between movements sometimes wavered before settling into a new groove, and only a few members of the choir looked as if they were enjoying the physicality of African rhythms!

Before Zimbe!, the choir performed three short pieces. Samuel Barber’s Agnus Dei was a challenging choice as an opening, and there were a few issues with intonation and balance, but both the atmospheric beginning and the powerful climax were perfectly suited to the fine acoustics of the church. John Rutter’s A Gaelic Blessing and The Lord bless you and keep you were well within the choir’s comfort zone, receiving assured performances with careful attention to details of phrasing and diction.


Portsmouth Phil’s ‘Last Night of the Proms’ concert makes more than £1000 for charity

A recent charity concert by the Portsmouth Philharmonic, featuring some of the country’s best loved music, has raised more than £1,000 for the Alzheimer’s Society.

The orchestra was invited to the Buckler’s Hard Yacht Harbour on the Beaulieu River to perform a private concert on June 15 for users of the marina.

Featuring music by Eric Coates, Ronald Binge, George Frideric Handel, Edward Elgar, Henry J Wood and Hubert Parry, concert-goers were treated to a ‘Last Night of the Proms’ style performance which was well received by an audience of almost 400.

Conducted by Hugh Carpenter and led by Colin Wilkins, the orchestra played for more than an hour and was given a rousing ovation at the end of the concert.

Orchestra Chair Di Lloyd said: “It was an honour to be invited to play in this annual event and the orchestra found it a hugely enjoyable and challenging concert to be involved in.

“The location was idyllic and we were very fortunate with the weather. To raise more than £1,000 for an important charity such as the Alzheimer’s Society is an amazing achievement and everyone involved in organising the event should be very proud.”

Beaulieu River Harbour Master Wendy Stowe added: “We were delighted to welcome the orchestra to perform at our mooring holders’ summer party on the picturesque banks of the river. The annual get together is a key date on the calendar of Beaulieu River events, bringing together new and old friends of the Buckler’s Hard Yacht Harbour community. The rousing Proms-style concert was perfect for everyone to wave their flags and sing along to the thoroughly enjoyable performance. We are very grateful to the talented musicians.”

The Portsmouth Philharmonic is fast gaining a reputation of being one of the foremost amateur orchestras in the region.

Di, who is a ‘cellist, added: “The most important thing is that we are here to enjoy our music first and foremost. We are an open-access orchestra, which means we don’t require auditions, but we do expect members to commit the time required to practise to ensure a high standard of performance.”

Last summer the orchestra featured in the Portsmouth Festivities, as well as playing a concert at its ‘home’ venue of the Church of the Resurrection in Drayton, where it rehearses, in December in aid of Tonic: Music for Mental Health. In March the orchestra played at Portsmouth Grammar School, raising money for the Stroke Association.

Its next concert is on Sunday December 1 at 3pm at the Church of the Resurrection, which will feature a programme including Beethoven’s seventh symphony.
Since it was formed in 2009, the orchestra has now raised getting on for £18,000 for local charities.

For more information about the orchestra contact: 07766 305676.


Review: Chichester Singers “Messe Solennelle” and celebration of twinning of Chichester with Chartres

As their part of the Festival of Chichester, the Chichester Singers produced a rather special concert in the Cathedral. To an extent, it was a celebration, both of Jonathan Willcocks’ 40 years as the Singers’ conductor and also of the 60th anniversary of twinning between Chichester and Chartres. As an affirmation of the friendship between our two cities, the Singers were joined for this performance by fifteen members of the Choir of the Chartres Conservatoire. A number of Chartrains were also in the audience.

Celebrating the link between the French and English cities, the concert programme consisted of French and English choral music. The first work did not cause any language problems for the two choirs, as it was sung in Latin, the Messe Solennelle by Louis Vierne, a former pupil of César Franck. The work started powerfully, with a strong brass section from Southern Pro Musica Brass, and the chorus entered with equal power and kept admirably together as the accompaniment was joined by the organ and percussion. The performance of this Mass set the scene for most of the works in the programme, with strong singing accompanied by organ and brass, with little input from soloists or use of counterpoint.

The second work was of great interest to the audience as it was a composition by the conductor, Jonathan Willcocks, called From Darkness to Light, which had been commissioned by a choir in Texas, and set war poems by Ryland Baldwin, a member of that choir, to music. The organ, joined by the chorus singing very quietly, sets a sense of mystery, and the work achieves subtlety by combining the Latin text of a requiem mass with the English words of death and grief. One of the six sections was admirably sung by baritone Thomas Isherwood, and the chorus did justice to the other five sections, including a gentle unaccompanied Lacrymosa that was almost a lullaby.

Another choral work by a local composer, which was new to the audience, was Crucifixus by Jonathan Little, Professor of Music at Chichester University, which is a setting of 15th/16th-century words, which were hard to understand even for a modern Englishman. However, the Anglo-French chorus rose to the occasion and made a confident entry into the rather dissonant start to the work and mastered the challenging complexity of the composition, developing with the accompaniment a rich and finally beautiful synthesis.

The other works in the programme were more familiar and less challenging. Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine, a setting of a 17th-century French poem for chorus and organ only, was performed sweetly and gently, with organist Richard Barnes providing a delicate accompaniment. Richard Barnes was also the accompanist, on the piano, to two songs by Reynaldo Hahn sung by the baritone with great beauty and feeling.

Panis Angelicus by César Franck, is one of the nation’s favourite songs, but on this occasion the solo line was sung, not by a tenor but by the sopranos, with the rest of the chorus joining in after the first verse to produce a thoroughly enjoyable sound. The final work in this very varied programme was John Rutter’s Gloria, another well known and well-loved piece. This involved the Singers and members of the choir from Chartres, the Southern Pro Musica Brass and Richard Barnes at the organ, who is now retiring after 24 years as the choir’s skilled accompanist. Under the energetic direction of Jonathan Willcocks, they all contributed a lively finale to an enjoyable and interesting concert.


Review: D-Day 75th anniversary concert

Dona Nobis Pacem (Grant us Peace), a Portsmouth Festivities concert last Thursday at Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral, supporting the D-Day Museum trust, promised music from across the Allied forces countries along with Germany.

Indeed it did – a veritable feast. The Solent Symphony Orchestra (SSO), the choirs of Portsmouth Cathedral and the Portsmouth Grammar School Chamber Choir offered us a wonderful evening of music from the instantly powerful Fanfare for the Common Man (Copland) to the superbly disciplined Grammar School’s singing of Paul Mealor’s, Peace.

David Price, Director of Music at Portsmouth Cathedral, demonstrated his virtuosic mastery of the organ in an interesting interpretation of Bach’s famous Toccata and Fugue, featuring the wide variety of ‘colours’ of the organ and also the supreme power of the instrument.

Steve Tanner, conducting the large orchestra in Wagner’s Rienzi Overture enlightened the audience with the atmospheric, dark, foreboding tones of the cellos and basses in the opening, leading to the majestic and stirring main theme. For me, the highlight of the evening was the excerpt from Saint-Saens, Organ Symphony. The slow movement’s gentle, warm and rich string opening, supported by a tight woodwind section along with the warmth and depth of the organ, gave a real atmosphere, crowned by the powerful last movement which built to a thrilling conclusion.

Both sections of the concert concluded with the music of Hubert Parry, eminently suitable for the evening. The first half concluding with his Blest Pair of Sirens. As the combined forces sang and played, the sun streamed in the cathedral windows which added to the spine-tingling sound filling every corner of the building.

The concert, concluding with Philip Stopford’s In my Father’s House, featuring the cathedral choirs and orchestra, was an unfamiliar work but beautiful to listen to. Finally, with the combined forces and the packed cathedral singing Parry’s Jerusalem, it was indeed something special. The long, enthusiastic applause was justly deserved. What musical talent we have in Portsmouth!


Review: David Briggs: Organ Recital

As part of the Portsmouth Festivities, David Briggs returned to Portsmouth Cathedral for the first time in over a decade to give an afternoon recital of transcriptions of well-known orchestral works.

The recital opened with the finale of Saint-Saens’ Third Symphony ‘Organ’. Soon after the opening chords thundered around the cathedral, David quickly explored the full range of timbres available to him on the cathedral’s Nicholson organ, bringing out solo lines on stops replicating the instruments for which the solos were originally written.

The Saint-Saens was followed by Vivaldi’s Concerto in D minor, transcribed by J. S. Bach (BWV596). Quite a contrast to the Saint-Saens, this further proved David’s virtuosity, applying sensitive and delicate playing when required, alongside the grander movements of the Concerto.

This was followed by a leap forward in time to Wagner’s Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde, again bringing out the orchestral colours which the work was composed with. David had no problem in creating the range of emotion through harmony and dynamics that Wagner is known for.

After Ravel’s Ma Mère l’Oye, transcribed by David for a concert at the Royal Albert Hall last year, in which he managed to extract further colours from the organ, the recital concluded with an improvisation on themes submitted by the audience. These were Heart of Oak, the Simpsons Theme, I saw three ships come sailing in and a theme composed by an audience member. David improvised on each of these themes separately, creating a four-movement work. The final theme was turned into a fugue, before culminating in an amalgamation of the four themes to create a grand finale.

This was a truly extraordinary recital in which David Briggs demonstrated through his immense virtuosity why Mozart called the organ the ‘king of instruments’, and provided a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon for all in attendance.


Review of Guy Johnston (cello) and Tom Poster (piano) at Portsmouth Grammar School

Well, what a treat Guy Johnston and Tom Poster gave us on Saturday evening at Portsmouth Grammar School’s David Russell Theatre as part of the 2019 Portsmouth Festivities.

Guy told us that they had been performing together for half their lifetimes ever since they met as competitors in the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition in 2000 – “which Tom let me win” as Guy modestly explained last night!

This close collaboration was evident tonight when the pair gave us a fascinating programme of mostly short pieces from less well-known corners of the cello/piano repertoire.

Right from the start, with Beethoven’s 1801 Bei Männern Variations, (which takes its theme from Mozart’s Magic Flute), they watched each other intently and balanced the music perfectly. Although Beethoven puts the piano front and centre, they produced attractive exchanges combining the light-hearted and dramatic aspects of the music beautifully.

Grieg’s 1882 Cello Sonata in A minor was the one full-length item of the evening. This was Grieg’s only work for this combination, and although occasionally reminiscent of the piano concerto, deserves to be heard more often. Guy and Tom gave expression to the full character of the music from the sublime tender moments in the slow movement to the repeated crashing climaxes of the finale.

After the interval we heard Chopin’s Introduction and Polonaise Brillante mostly composed in Antonin, Poland, in 1829. In last night’s performance the Polonaise was indeed brilliant!

Kiss on Wood by Sir James MacMillan was originally composed for violin and piano but arranged for cello and piano in 1993. It is based on the Good Friday versicle Ecce lignum crucis and is devotional in intent perhaps depicting the congregation moving forward to kiss the wooden cross. After a dramatic, agonising opening the piece tapers to delicate slow sustained music ending in isolated staccato taps in the piano’s upper register. None of us dared to applaud lest there would be another one!

After the tension of Kiss on Wood Schumann’s supremely romantic 1849 Adagio and Allegro put us back in more familiar territory. Guy played this from memory which no doubt helped reinforce the intimacy and warmth of the music.

Lastly we heard Martinu’s 1942 Variations on a theme of Rossini, although it might best be called “Variations on a theme of Paganini who first borrowed it from Rossini’s Moses in Egypt”. This was the highlight of the evening for me, and others I think, as it was the most enthusiastically received. The players displayed their full virtuosity in this demanding piece. The ensemble was impeccable in its many rushing scales and arpeggios.

Many thanks to Guy and Tom and Portsmouth Festivities, a wonderful evening.


Review: Tenebrae Consort: Medieval Chant and Tallis Lamentations

As part of Portsmouth Festivities, the internationally acclaimed Tenebrae Consort presented an impressive programme under the direction of Nigel Short.

The concert featured a small ensemble of handpicked singers, comprising a countertenor, two tenors, a baritone and a bass, who focused on repertoire originally conceived for consort performance.

The singers were well-blended, disciplined and balanced, yet able to bring out some lovely contrasts of mood, as befits their core values of “passion and precision”.

Nigel writes, “It’s such a pleasure for us to be able to perform this early repertoire in a space such as Portsmouth Cathedral, where the acoustics as well as the physical layout of the building allow us to really make the most of the space, processing through the building so that the audience is immersed in the sound.

“This programme is based on a disc that we released back in 2014, and it’s always a delight to be able to re-visit it. Tenebrae normally performs with up to 19 singers, but in the case of this programme a smaller consort enables us to achieve a real clarity of texture and also an intimacy in what is meant to be music for contemplation.

“The texts of the various works are all taken from different points in the Christian liturgy. Much of it is music for Compline, the service which marks the ending of the day; In manus tuas, for example, which we performed in two settings by John Sheppard, asks the Lord God to keep watch over us while we sleep.

“We also performed Thomas Tallis’ beautiful Lamentations of Jeremiah, which are set to the first two texts of the night office performed on Maundy Thursday in Holy Week. All this wonderful polyphony was interspersed with Gregorian plainchant, which formed the larger part of the monastic offices of the day and which, in the context of this programme, provided a thoughtful contrast to the masterful polyphonic textures of Tallis and his contemporaries.”


Review: The Austen Trio Concert

What a delight to hear the unusual combination of soprano, piano and harp bring musical light to the life of novelist Jane Austen.

Jane and her siblings lived in an age where live entertainment was the only option. They revelled in the music of their time: the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and often performed it themselves.

Pianist Samantha Carrasco has studied the six books of music collected by Jane Austen, much of it copied in Jane’s own hand. This provided the narrative for a fascinating concert. Fine musicianship from Samantha, and her colleagues, Kate Ham (harp) and Helen Neeves (soprano) brought us works, in various combinations of voice and instruments, from famous composers past: Handel, Haydn, and present: Carl Davis and less well-known composers from Austen’s time. All the works were introduced by the performers with interesting snippets of social context, gossip and musical background.

Handel arias from ‘Judas Macabaeus’ and ‘Theodora’ immediately established that we were in for a real treat. Helen Neeves has an attractive, natural and well-focused voice perfectly suited to this repertoire. ‘Their Groves of Sweet Myrtle’ showed Robert Burns at his best as a songwriter and worked beautifully for soprano and harp.

Although skillfully played, the two works for piano and harp (Dussek’s ‘Grand Duet’ and Knapton’s ‘Caller Herring’) were less successful as piano sound masked the harp’s middle and lower registers. A real shame as Kate Ham is an accomplished harpist as she showed in solo works by Gretry and Piccini (not ‘Puccini’).

Carl Davis’ familiar music for television’s ‘Pride & Prejudice’ is formulaic and disjointed despite being as expertly played here by Samantha as by Melvin Tan for TV. Thankfully, this disappointment was more than made up for by Charles Dibden’s tongue in cheek: ‘The Joys of the Country’ which Helen characterised with great wit.

The highlight of the evening was Georgina Cavendish’s ‘I have a silent sorrow here’ (pointing to some sad realities of aristocratic life at the time, as portrayed in the 2008 film ‘The Duchess’). It was performed tenderly and poignantly by all three members of the Austen Trio.

A superb concert by insightful and hugely accomplished performers – enjoyable and educational. To misquote Jane Austen: “You have not delighted us long enough my dears”.

To get a flavour of their performance, watch vimeo.com/187886219


Review: The Cardinall’s Musick at the Portsmouth Festivities

To mark the opening of Portsmouth Festivities 2019, award-winning vocal ensemble ‘The Cardinall’s Musick’ presented a stunning concert of vocal music.

Described by director Andrew Carwood, as a concert of contrasts, the programme included works by Renaissance masters, alternating with contemporary compositions by Nico Muhly, Cheryl Francis Hoad, Judith Weir, and the world premiere of a work by Paul Crabtree.

The group’s ability to move from the flowing and generally restrained melodic and harmonic style of the earlier works, to the more angular and often quite dissonant sound world of modern compositions, was one of the most impressive elements of this concert. I especially liked Muhly’s ‘In great numbers’ and Weir’s ‘Vertue’. Hoad’s ‘From The Beginning’ was challenging, and impressively sung – notably in the high lying soprano line. Crabtree’s ‘Forgive me – in memoriam Iris Murdoch’, written in a more restrained modern idiom contained lovely moments and a well-judged variety of texture, but to this listener, did seem overly long. Of the choir’s Renaissance offerings I particularly enjoyed Praetorius’s joyful ‘Magnificat’ and Guerrero’s four-voiced ‘Virgo prudentissima’.

For two items: Byrd’s ‘Laudibus in Sanctis’ and Victoria’s ‘Alma Redemptoris’, they were joined by Portsmouth Grammar School chamber choir. Clearly well-rehearsed, they possess good intonation, balance between vocal lines, and great musicality – it was as though ‘The Cardinall’s Musick’ had suddenly become much bigger, rather than merely being joined by a different group of singers.

Andrew Carwood’s direction throughout was a model of discreet clarity and this well-attended concert was deservedly received with great enthusiasm.


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