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

Preview: the gemini consort “A Celebration of Christmas”

A programme of exuberant, joyful music and gentle lullabies will be given by the Gemini Consort choir in St Peter’s Church in Petersfield Square in aid of The Rosemary Foundation.

Choir founder and director Ann Pinhey from Petersfield said: “The choir are delighted to be able to give their first concert since December 2019.

“The choral works will be interspersed with music for solo flute, recorder and flugelhorn. The concert includes music by Vivaldi, Handel and Benjamin Britten, as well as contemporary composers Bob Chilcott and John Rutter.

“It is a group of experienced musicians who all sing and some of whom play instruments.  The aim is to use all their talents. The music performed ranges from the Baroque to the present day and includes music by Handel, Mozart, Poulenc and Britten.”

So far, Gemini Consort has raised more than £20,000 for Petersfield’s Rosemary Foundation, “a most worthy cause,” says Ann. The Lavant Street charity provides end-of-life care for patients in and around the town, and support for patients’ families.

Admission to the concert in the church on Saturday, December 11, starting at 7.30 pm, is free and the retiring collection will be given to The Rosemary Foundation.

Review: Dvorak “Czech Suite” by the Petersfield Orchestra

A large audience welcomed the Petersfield Orchestra back for their first full-scale concert since before Covid struck in 2020.

It has been a tricky time for performing musicians with few rehearsal opportunities until September and this, combined with the lively church acoustic, led to some less polished moments here and there.

So it was a joy, after nerves had settled during the early movements of Dvorak’s Czech Suite, to revel in the glorious sonority of the Romance and the boisterous energy captured in its presto Finale.

Following this, Lucinda Willits was superb as the oboe soloist in The Flower Clock. Jean Françaix’s wonderful score, bristling with complex dialogues tossed back and forth between soloist and orchestra, was here given a taut performance of which any ensemble could be proud. The audience got more than they bargained for with a surprise curtain-raiser to the final item in the shape of a Sinfonia for winds. Neatly written, this student composition by the young Donizetti was an opportunity for the excellent band of wind players in the orchestra to show off their virtuosity.

Haydn’s Symphony No 99 ended the concert. Classical textures are notoriously fiddly and there were fleeting lapses in intonation, but the last movement was rousing and full of character, with the witty false ending, controlled to perfection by conductor Robin Browning. I’m looking forward to their next outing in March.

Read preview notes.

Review: Petersfeld Musical Festival: Annual Choral Workshop – Mendelssohn’s Hymn of Praise

Marcia Fielden loved the day’s singing, after an eighteen-month wait.

At last! Not only was the Autumn Workshop allowed to go ahead, despite dire predictions, it was a wonderful success. Throughout this second Plague Year, and especially when the Delta Variant began rampaging, we had doubts, as the Government refused – wisely, alas – to rule out further restrictions.

In the event, however, the whole day succeeded brilliantly in every way. As the singers converged on the ‘Quad’ at Bedales, hearts grew lighter and smiles wider as friendships were renewed to right and left. The sight of Sue handing out scores and Sally checking off the list was worthy of celebration in verse! It all suddenly seemed blessedly normal, after eighteen months of deprivation (unless you count online singing via Zoom, which most of us don’t!) And not a mask in sight.

The work we were studying was Mendelssohn’s ‘Hymn of Praise’. It is in fact the final movement of his Symphony no.2. Joyous and uplifting, it is the ideal work to celebrate the gradual return of normality and, most importantly, to welcome back choral singing for Petersfield Musical Festival, when it will be sung on 26 March 2022. The whole work is a paean of praise, with beautiful choruses strung amongst soprano and tenor solos. It had its first performance in Birmingham, which city Mendelssohn loved.

He conducted often there, in his visits to England (he singlehandedly revived the Bach St Matthew Passion and gave that fabulous work its first ever performance in England). Paul reminded us just how beautiful the centre of Birmingham was in those days – with its new waterways, famously claimed to be more numerous than in Venice; its tree-lined avenues, and its fabulous Palladian public buildings. Mendelssohn carried his sketch book with him everywhere and produced very accomplished watercolours.

Paul spent much of the morning working on the opening chorus which has some complicated fugal passages tricky for those new to it (which seemed to be nearly everybody!) The text comes from Psalm 150 – ‘All men, all things, praise ye the Lord’.

After a delicious lunch in the school refectory we tackled the final chorus, ‘Ye Nations, offer to the Lord glory and might’ from Psalm 96. This is the most difficult movement of all. The voices enter successively, beginning with the basses. The timing is difficult, the intervals are unexpected, and it gets progressively harder to ‘keep the line’ but, considering it was sight-reading for nearly everyone, Paul was very pleased with us. Then we practised no.4 ‘All ye that cried unto the Lord’ (easy by comparison), taking notice of the dynamic contrasts really well.

To finish what had been a splendid day getting acquainted with one of the best ‘sings’ in the English choral repertoire, Paul let us sing the first chorus all through, this time without pause. It was amazing! It had come together in our minds, and the difference from the first attempt in the morning was truly creditable. A fine way to end such a happy day.

Read about Paul here.

Read the Petersfield Musical Festival Newsletter Autumn 2021.

Petersfield Musical Festival Newsletter Autumn 2021

Click here for our latest Newsletter with details of the varied and exciting concerts planned for next March!

The Newsletter also reports on:

A review of the September choral workshop

Taking part in the choral concerts – combined rehearsal dates and details

How you can support the Festival

Forthcoming concerts by local groups

Review of The Renaissance Choir’s “Italian Renaissance Masters” at Petersfield

The conductor, Peter Gambie, dedicated this concert to those who had been damaged by the pandemic. It was the first event by the choir since the lockdown and was well-attended. The lavishly illustrated programme detailed Italian Renaissance Masters’ work, both in music and paintings.

The concert began with Palestrina’s Kyrie from Missa Papae Marcelli which showed the lovely tone of this choir and was followed by Assumpta est Maria à 6 with its joyful ‘gaudete’.

The main work was Victoria’s Officium Defunctorum, prepared two years ago, but very apt now, so many having died from the virus. The well sustained, legato singing was a very soothing experience.

Zoë Barnett provided guitar solos by Luis de Milan to an attentive audience, showing effortless runs. Her eloquent playing was very calming.

The Victoria work continued with dramatic crescendos and edgy tone for the ‘pains of hell and bottomless pit’ section. The Sanctus provided us with a big sound and the Agnus Dei with beautiful tone colours.

After the interval, Victoria’s polyphony continued to entrance us with dramatic episodes in the Libera Me.

Zoë then played three pieces by Alonso Mudarra, who was born in Spain but lived in Italy. The final piece showed unusual harmonies to dramatic effect.

This year marks the 500th Anniversary of the death of Josquin de Pres and he was represented by his motet, Inviolata, in praise of Mary.

Five pieces of street music provided a change of mood, interspersed with contrasting guitar solos. Drum, tabor and recorder accompanied these rhythmical items in which the singers showed their versatility by moving and singing to each other in a lively manner. A quintet sang about the beauty of the lover’s eyes and a nonsense drinking song marked the praises of Bacchus. This section finished with a hilarious piece called Beastly counterpoint to the mind which included the sounds of dog, cat, owl and cuckoo. It provided a rousing finale to the street songs’ section.

As it had begun, the concert concluded with Palestrina’s music, the joyful Regina caeli, laetare with alleluias.

The enthusiastic reception given by the masked audience showed that all were delighted to be back, listening to live music and appreciating the combined talents of these singers. The choir members were equally pleased to be singing in public again, under the able direction of their conductor, Peter Gambie.

Petersfield Musical Festival: Festival of Young Composers Competition 2021-2022

Do you enjoy creating your own music? If so, enter this year’s Festival of Young Composers, which is both a celebration of our local young composers and a competition with prizes for the winning entries.

Entries are invited in three age classes: 14 and under, 16 and under and 19 and under.

Applications are now invited for the Festival of Young Composers Competition 2021-2022.

This year entrants may present their music either through a live performance or as a digital recording. In either case, entrants must submit a written or printed score by the closing date and attend the Performance and Adjudication Day (6 February 2022) when their composition will be played. The closing date for entries is 6 December 2021.

Read more at the link below.

Award-holders lunchtime recital on 22 March 2022

Image: Thomas Baynes

Preview of Petersfield Orchestra Wind Ensemble Sunday afternoon concert

Petersfield Orchestra is alive and well despite Covid. After a long absence from the concert platform, the orchestra’s strings performed Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ to an invited audience in Liss this June.

Next it is the turn of the wind players. Ten musicians will take to the platform at The Studio at The Petersfield School on Sunday afternoon 3 October, in a sparkling and tuneful programme designed to highlight the virtuoso skills of the local orchestra’s wind section. Music by Gounod and Donizetti is featured alongside works by two 20th century composers, Jacques Ibert and Georges Enescu.

“It’s all gorgeous music, including Gounod’s delightful Petite Sinfonie and Enescu’s dectet Dixtuor’” says Orchestra chairman – and bassoonist – Steve Bartholomew: “The Enescu is not that well-known but is richly textured, and has a very French flavour – it’s a joy to listen to and to play.”

The concert is expected to last about 80 minutes, plus a short interval. To cover some of the costs there is a small admission charge of £5, with under 17s admitted free: book online at: or via One Tree Books, Lavant Street or by phone: 01730 261199.

The full Orchestra will perform together in St Peter’s on 18th November – for the first time since November 2019!


Mark Dancer takes up the directorship of the Portsmouth Festival Choir

Mark Dancer took up the Directorship of the Portsmouth Festival Choir in the spring of 2021 during the choral shutdown caused by Covid-19, having been for some years Assistant Director. He is also currently Director of Music and Organist of St Peter’s Church, Petersfield and Conductor of the Petersfield Choral Society, continuing his long career of choral conducting.

He read music at Durham University and was Organ Scholar of the College of St Hilda and St Bede, studying the organ with Alan Thurlow and David Hill. He holds the Fellowship of the Royal College of Organists (FRCO) and the Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music (LRAM) in organ performance.

An accomplished singer, Mark’s love of choral music stems from his time as a chorister at Ewell Parish Church (Surrey) and he studied singing with renowned operatic bass Hervey Alan. He joined his first choral society whilst in the sixth form and has been involved with at least one ever since.

As an organist, Mark has performed in St Paul’s Cathedral, Birmingham Cathedral and Town Hall, Portsmouth Cathedral, Guildford Cathedral, All Saints, Ryde, etc., as well as for the Petersfield Musical Festival and Portsmouth Festivities. In 2000 he inaugurated a Summer Organ Recital Series at Petersfield Parish Church. After the already-mentioned Covid interruption, he has started the new concert season at the church with a recital of popular classics.

Playing with “sparkle, imagination and a wide dynamic palette”, Mark Dancer is described as a “fine musician and sensitive accompanist” by Ann Pinhey in the Petersfield Post.

He is very much in demand as a choral accompanist and répétiteur by both instrumentalists and singers. Recent performances have included as organist with the Renaissance Choir for their performance of Mozart’s Vespers K339 and Michael Haydn’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah with The Portsmouth Festival Choir and a live-streamed organ recital from St Mary’s, Portsea in May.

2022 will see him perform with piano duet partner Emilie Capulet in the Petersfield Musical Festival, playing works by Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (arranged by Hugo Ulrich).

His YouTube channel, Mark Dancer – Anacrusis Music, set up in 2020, now contains nearly one hundred video recordings of organ works.

New series of musical events at St Peter’s Church, Petersfield

Please visit the St Peter’s performer’s page to find out more.

“Vox Cantab” come to sing at Langrish Church for its 150th anniversary

Come to St John’s Church at 6 pm on Saturday 11 September for a choral concert by the acclaimed choir Vox Cantab. Please see the poster for details.

Petersfeld Musical Festival: Annual Choral Workshop – Mendelssohn’s Hymn of Praise

25 September 2021 10.00 am–4.30 pm
Visit event page.

Mendelssohn’s Hymn of Praise is a joyous work written as a celebration. The original occasion in 1840 was the 400th anniversary of Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, but the life-affirming Biblical texts and Mendelssohn’s uplifting music are universal, with tuneful, approachable choruses expressing the central theme of the piece – ‘The night is departing, the day is approaching’.

The work is scheduled for the closing concert of the 2022 Petersfield Musical Festival, and this open singing day will launch rehearsals leading up to the performance in March.

Paul Spicer is one of today’s most distinguished choral conductors and is in great demand for his inspirational choral workshops. He conducts the Birmingham Bach Choir, is founder- director of the acclaimed Finzi Singers, and is Professor of Choral Conducting at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. He is a composer, writer and broadcaster, and a leading authority on twentieth-century British music. Paul has been Resident Conductor at Petersfield Musical Festival since 2005.

Covid security. The event will be risk-assessed and held in accordance with regulations in force at the time. Further information will be sent to ticket-holders in advance of the day if needed. All details in this leaflet are as at the time of printing, but subject to change or cancellation if necessary.

Concerts at St. Peters are returning!

Dear Concert Supporters,

A year after the first coronavirus lockdown, the people at St Peter’s Church are preparing plans to re-start the much-loved concert programme in the church.

Many of you will have heard the sad news of the death of David Francombe in 2020, to whom we owe a massive debt of gratitude for setting up the concert series and working tirelessly over the years to bring so much music to the town. A new team, led by Brenda James, is starting work on the continuation of his marvellous project.

You will be delighted to know that Mark Dancer has agreed to perform a special organ recital on Tuesday 17th July 2021 at 2.30pm. His programme will include a mixture of old favourites and feature music by two important composers with significant anniversaries this year: Sweelinck, a baroque virtuoso who died in 1621 and Saint-Saens, he of Carnival of the Animals and the Organ Symphony fame, who died a hundred years ago in 1921. A truly wonderful way to kickstart our concert programme. This is currently allowed under the Church of England’s Covid regulations.

In anticipation of the lifting of coronavirus restrictions in the summer, we are working on plans for a number of concerts in the autumn, and a full programme for 2022 and we would like to keep you informed about what’s coming up.

We look forward to offering you lots more musical delights in the near future!

Profile: Robin Browning, conductor

Who and what have been the most important influences on your musical career?

Paul Dyson, the very charismatic head of music at my rural North Yorkshire school, was a great role model. Accordingly, I used to pinch my mum’s knitting needles and carve the air in front of my bedroom mirror accompanied by the Beethoven Violin Concerto at full blast. The needles ended up getting quite warped. I was playing in the school wind band when he suddenly gave me the baton at the age of 13. I’d also been playing violin (which I loved) and had a go at clarinet (which I loathed). I went on to conduct the orchestra at University.

I’ve been lucky to have been mentored buy some of the key luminaries in the conducting world. On one occasion a half-hour lesson with Sir Charles Mackerras was extended to five hours. Amongst my conducting teachers, three crucial, inspirational and utterly amazing maestri stand out above all others: Paavo Järvi, who I was lucky enough to study with in Estonia, and whom I’ve assisted, along with his father Neeme Järvi; the legendary Ilya Musin, with whom I spent an unforgettable summer studying at Accademia Chigiana in Siena; and one of Musin’s star pupils, Sian Edwards, the head of conducting at the Royal Academy of Music. In my opinion Sian is the greatest conducting teacher on the planet. Musin has a picture of her on the wall in his teaching studio.

Of those I never met, but wish I had, in particular I hugely admire Carlos Kleiber – he figures high in my musical inspiration – and Glenn Gould – such spontaneity.

What makes them all great? Simply, the rare ability to combine technical and intellectual rigour with artistry and spontaneity.

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career?

The “gatekeepers” of the global music industry – in other words the record company executives and promoters of festivals and competitions – are so often narrow-minded, stubbornly keeping the door closed to all but long-established regulars. I certainly experienced this at the beginning of my career. Now it doesn’t bother me – I’ve forged my own path, after all – but I can see how it continues to impact younger musicians today, at all levels.

The pandemic has also been a massive challenge, with no live performances and the need to keep myself musically fresh in lockdown and maintain energy.

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

A lot of people think that conducting is all about standing in front of people and barking at them. A good conductor is an inspirer and enabler, as well as a manager, able to spot issues and getting people to perform well beyond what they think they can do. I try to emulate Claudio Abbado’s self-effacing humility, sharing the applause with the other musicians.

I am very fortunate not only to conduct a number of orchestras but also to run the conducting course at Southampton University. I love seeing gifted young musicians overcoming their nerves to express a musical voice which had been hidden when they had been playing their instrument, through conducting.

Are there any composers for whom you feel a particular affinity?

Sibelius springs immediately to mind. Right from a young age I was bowled over by his special soundscape – that beautiful “yin and yang”, that intellectual symmetry, ice cold water combined with molten lava of power and emotion. He appeals on so many levels. He’s got it all! Mahler’s depth and breadth appeal to multiple aspects of my musical personality. And Bruckner’s harmonious chords really appeal to me as a “harmony geek”.

These people unite rigour with freedom and emotional expression. By contrast, although I admire many composers such as Stravinsky, I’m not drawn to them. All that desperation amongst young conductors to do The Rite of Spring makes me think of teenagers wanting to drive a Lamborghini.

Which works do you think you perform best?

My strength of feeling for the above-mentioned favourite composers mean that I will be able to perform their works best, especially those pieces which have a big “canvas” in the form of a big symphony.

Which performances are you most proud of?

I can recall the performance of a Shostakovich 7 Leningrad Symphony in Southampton some years ago. This is a broad and long piece, which is ideal for me as it has a big canvas onto which to paint a story. Over the years I’ve developed “antennae” for judging the mood of the audience that are sat behind my back, and on this occasion felt that the audience was being carried along with us. Indeed, nobody could speak or clap for ages afterwards.

This kind of heightened awareness is really helped if I’m able to share stories about composers and their works – the what and (more significantly) the why. So, I’m a lover of pre-concert talks, which can give people a “map”.

What are your most memorable concert experiences?

In my 20s I was fortunate enough to get a ticket at the Royal Albert Hall for a seat right behind the French horns for a performance of Mahler 9 with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Claudio Abbado. The next morning, I could still see the imprints from my fingernails on my arm, so excited was I to have been there, basically staring at this magician for 90 minutes! I also realised how high the bar was for a professional conductor – a man who did everything from memory.

Incidentally, although there are only a few people who conduct well from memory, I have avoided it for many years due to my working pattern of mentally juggling multiple programmes at the same time. Having said that, it’s obviously ideal to “keep the score in the head, not the head in the score”.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

I’ll be straightforward on this: ask yourself deeply how much you really want such a career, and why. Only do it if you feel that music has “chosen” you. Otherwise keep music as a (high-level) hobby. There’s so much rough which goes with the smooth. Besides the current headwinds around Covid and post-Brexit touring, there’s also a huge amount of competition.

This is explained by the fact that many music students are leaving music college at a skill level that is higher than ever, and I’m glad to see that tuition standards are reaching new heights. I recall attending a rehearsal of Sibelius 1 played by young members of the Philharmonia that I recently attended: the players provided such a fresh, febrile performance.

How would you define success as a musician?

Success for a conductor is communicating the composer’s intentions, giving your all, in an authentic performance. Being true to yourself means communicating the composer’s intention but at the same time following your own “script”. You should deliver the blend of technical skills and intellectual rigour along with spontaneity and with the power to move.

What are your current plans for performances in the Portsmouth area?

On 19 June I am conducting Petersfield Orchestra in St Mary’s, Liss, in its first live concert for what will be sixteen months.  I’m obviously very excited about this. This promises to be an intimate, strings only affair, featuring local soloist Shoshannah Sievers in Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, alongside Holst and Elgar.

As with all musicians in the UK and around the globe, I’m desperately hoping that we can find a way back onto stage soon, to share our skill and love for incredible music with you all once again.

Robin Browning is an established conductor and music-educator. Praised as an “expert musician & conductor” by Sir Charles Mackerras, he made his debut with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at London’s Barbican, going on to conduct the Hallé, Northern Sinfonia, Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Intercontemporain, St Petersburg Festival Orchestra and Estonian National Youth Orchestra.

Having won the inaugural Boosey & Hawkes Award at the Edinburgh Festival, and taken second prize in the NAYO Conducting Competition, Robin is now music director of de Havilland Philharmonic, Havant Chamber Orchestra, Petersfield Orchestra and SÓN Orchestra – currently in its third season as Orchestra in Association at Turner Sims, Southampton. He has worked with a wide array of soloists, including Guy Johnston, Aled Jones, Jack Liebeck, John Lill, Craig Ogden and Raphael Wallfisch.

Robin studied at the Accademia Chigiana, Siena, with Myung-Whun Chung and the legendary Ilya Musin, later continuing his training at the David Oistrakh Festival, Estonia, in masterclasses with Neeme and Paavo Järvi. He has subsequently assisted Paavo Järvi often, notably with Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie – for a complete Beethoven cycle at the Salzburg Festival – and the Philharmonia Orchestra’s complete Nielsen cycle. Robin also studied with Sir Charles Mackerras, Benjamin Zander, and Sian Edwards – participating in the first ever Conductor Development Programme with Milton Keynes City Orchestra in 2012, with whom he made his debut a year later.

Passionately committed to the training of younger musicians, Robin works regularly with Essex Youth Orchestra, as well as conducting orchestras at Guildhall School of Music and Trinity Laban Conservatoire. He runs the highly-regarded conducting course at University of Southampton, and has inspired the lives of many youngsters across the south through the innovative education projects he runs with SÓN Orchestra.

Petersfield Musical Festival online retrospective 8: recollecting 2019

This is the last of our 2011-2019 retrospectives. We hope you’ve enjoyed revisiting some of the Festival’s activities over the past decade.

Thank you for your interest and support and we look forward to welcoming you to Festival events in the future.

All being well, we shall be announcing a choral workshop for Saturday 25 September and a full-scale Festival in March 2022.

Click on the year below to open our last email of the series with articles, anecdotes, reviews, photographs and links to websites about the Festival’s music and performers.

In this issue:

Plastikes Karekles

George Dyson: The Canterbury Pilgrims

Brahms: Requiem

Claire Martin and Ray Gelato with the Dave Newton Trio

Trumpeter Jonathan Mitra, pianist Rosie Sheppard and saxophonist Victoria Puttock

Petersfield Brass

Petersfield Orchestra: Rachmaninov’s Symphony no. 2.

Youth Concerts

Family Concert

Choral workshop with Ben Parry & Mark Dancer

Please click on the link below to read more.

Background to this series.

Petersfield Musical Festival online retrospective 7: recollecting 2016

AChoired Taste / Hampshire Guitar Orchestra

The Rio Grande and Carmina Burana

Mark Dancer

Family Concert

Festival of Young Composers

2015-16 saw the fourth biennial Festival of Young Composers, run in conjunction with the Festival’s Michael Hurd Memorial Fund.

Composers are invited to submit scores, which they perform to a panel of three adjudicators and other listeners. The adjudicating panel in January 2016 comprised Festival president, Jonathan Willcocks, the noted composer Roxanna Panufnik and Festival chairman, Philip Young.

A cross between a celebration and a competition, the event has three age classes, with prizes for the winners and runners-up to spend on furthering their musical development. The outstanding compositions of the year were played again at the Youth Concerts in March: ‘Stormy Seas’ by Shoshana Yugin-Power, aged only nine, ‘Love Passing By’, by singer and guitarist Bethany Magennis-Prior, and ’See You Soon’ by Joel Knee, an A level student who brought an eight-piece jazz band to play his complex and beautifully scored piece.

Shoshana returned to the Youth Concerts in 2019 with her piece ’Three Little Pigs’, for narrator and ensemble. In October last year, she was one of 15 young composers to win the BBC ’30- second Composition Challenge’ as part of the ‘Proms at Home’ season.

Trombonist Joel went on to study at the Royal Academy of Music and to become a member of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra.

The theme for the choral items in the Youth Concerts 2016 was Shakespeare’s quatercentenary – interpreted broadly enough to include sixteenth-century songs, conducted by Ben Harlan, choruses from West Side Story conducted by Hamish Newport, and 60s rock and roll from Return to the Forbidden Planet! conducted by Edward Williamson with an instrumental ensemble led by Darren Reeves.

Lunchtime Recital with Sara Deborah and Richard Pearce

Mendelssohn, Schubert and Weber

If the Festival’s first choral concert shook things up, the second brought us back to the familiar home territory of the early Romantics.

A workshop a couple of years earlier had introduced the choirs to Mendelssohn’s beautiful Verleih’ uns Frieden and reminded them that his ‘Hear my Prayer’ is more than ‘O for the wings of a Dove’ – beautifully sung in the concert, as in the workshop, by the young soprano and Petersfield resident Olivia Brett.

Weber’s Mass in E flat is not often performed, and ‘one can perhaps see why’, wrote David Francombe, confessing himself ‘strangely underwhelmed’ as a whole, in spite of some excellent choral singing by Fernhurst and Petersfield choral societies and Midhurst Music Society.

The heart of the programme, as it turned out, was Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’ Symphony, in which Paul Spicer relished the opportunity to work with the musicians of Southern Pro Musica. His meticulous direction, wrote David, ‘lovingly shaped and crafted this much-loved piece’.

Weber’s penchant for operatic drama and instrumental brilliance were on show – rather more than they were in the Mass – in his Concertino for Clarinet in E flat, played by Keir Rowe with every nuance from magical pianissimo to brilliant virtuosity.

Please click on the link below to read more.

Background to this series.

Petersfield Musical Festival online retrospective 6: recollecting 2013

Froxfield Choir – African Sanctus

Under their founding director, Elizabeth Gotto (who retired from the Festival Committee last year after many years as Soloists’ Secretary) Froxfield Choir took part in the Festival’s choral concerts between 1997 and 2004.

Conducted by Elizabeth’s successor, Richard Smith, the choir gave a series of ambitious and memorable concerts in High Cross and Privett, including a spectacular performance of David Fanshawe’s African Sanctus in Privett Church in 2011. The Festival invited the choir to bring its performance to the Festival Hall to open the 2013 Festival. Joined by Churcher’s College Junior Chamber Choir, accompanied by the brilliant Backbeat Percussion Quartet, and with technical support from Jane Fanshawe, the choir gave its packed audience an evening of unforgettable colour and excitement, enhanced by the lighting effects of Simon Auty and the Green “A” Team.

Benjamin Britten’s Centenary – Britten: St Nicholas

Both of the 2013 Festival’s Saturday concerts commemorated the centenary of Britten’s birth on St Cecilia’s Day, 22 November 1913.

On the first Saturday, the choirs coupled Britten’s St Nicolas with the Ode on St Cecilia’s Day (1692) by Britten’s great forbear and inspiration, Henry Purcell. Britten achieved in St Nicolas a combination of accessibility and expressive power that is rare among twentieth-century choral works and which has made it a lasting favourite of choral societies.

The performance under Paul Spicer’s direction in 2013 was the third in Petersfield; the Festival performed it first in 1973 under Richard Seal and again in 1987 with Mark Deller conducting.

Britten: Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes

Basingstoke Symphony Orchestra’s association with the Festival began with an all-Beethoven concert in 2008, followed by Mozart’s Requiem in 2009 and Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony in 2011. Alongside the choral music, the programmes have included a variety of orchestral works conducted by the orchestra’s permanent conductor, Stephen Scotchmer – including Stephen’s own Fantasy for Orchestra.

Petersfield Orchestra

What a programme! Petersfield Orchestra‘s Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto no. 2 was of course enough to fill the hall with devotees who had heard it many times. But Piers Burton-Page’s programme note reminded us to listen to it afresh, quoting Hans Keller’s dictum that ‘there are no such things as hackneyed works, but only tired ears’.

The concert opened with a beautiful but less familiar work, the warmly coloured Symphonic Variations by Dvořák.

Young Musicians – Youth and Lunchtime concerts

The 2013 Youth Concerts opened with a selection from Jonathan Willcocks’ Musical Pie. The children enjoyed these snappy songs with their sound effects and question and answer exchanges. However, a group of songs from the very popular show Wicked proved unexpectedly challenging to learn. TPS and Churcher’s College filled the stage with their combined wind band and swing band, and the concert ended with Churcher’s College orchestra playing the Finale of SaintSaëns Organ Symphony and (enthusiastically joined by the choir) Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.

John Tams and Barry Coope

The Festival has not often programmed a full evening of folk music, but in booking John Tams and Barry Coope in 2013 they went straight to the top!

John Tams’ work has spanned five decades in every performance medium. He is a recognised authority on vernacular music and a seven-times winner of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. At the National Theatre he has worked as an actor and musical director/composer on over 30 productions including Lark Rise to Candleford.

Please click on the link below to read more.

Background to this series.

Petersfield Musical Festival online retrospective 6: recollecting 2018

Rock choir

Bach: St John Passion

Mozart Requiem with Hampshire County Youth Chamber Orchestra

Kit and McConnel

Angela Zanders

Youth Concerts

Tim Ravalde

Please click on the link below to read more.

Background to this series.

Petersfield Musical Festival online retrospective 5: recollecting 2012


Organ recital with Carlo Curley

Petersfield Orchestra

Petersfield Orchestra seized the chance of using the Allen organ to programme Saint-Saëns glorious ‘Organ Symphony’, with Richard Barnes as the organ soloist and Hiroko Banks and David Groves playing the piano duet.

Reviewing the concert, Elizabeth Gotto wrote that the orchestra ‘launched into the first item (Dvořák’s overture Carnival) with strength and enthusiasm, giving the concert a rousing start, led by their leader, Helen Purchase’.

In Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake suite, Elizabeth noted that the young Lucy Humphris (now a fine professional trumpeter) ’played with confidence and panache in the ‘Neapolitan Dance’’. ‘Strong strings, wind, brass and percussion’, Elizabeth wrote, ‘all joined together to make the Saint-Saëns symphony an unforgettable experience. The Adagio, with its organ part, gave a feeling of spiritual peace and serenity’.

Supporting young players and composers Petersfield Orchestra welcomes talented young players into its ranks, providing invaluable experience of the excitement and discipline of rehearsing and performing with a full orchestra.

As well as Lucy Humphris, several other young musicians over the past decade have benefited from having this opportunity on their doorstep, including composer George Venner, who has been a regular attender at rehearsals.

Some years ago, recalls conductor Robin Browning, the orchestra ran two workshop rehearsals with some of George’s early orchestrations. Between the rehearsals, George revised his score in the light of the issues the first session had brought to light, and on the second occasion ‘we were adeptly able to turn it into orchestral sound right off the bat’.

George’s Three Paronomasias for two clarinets and piano four hands were recorded last year by Rob Blanken (principal clarinet of Petersfield Orchestra) and Emma Alexandra, with pianists Nic Saunders and Matthew Cooke.

Helen Purchase has been leader of Petersfield Orchestra since 2002.

Helen studied at Colchester Institute and Middlesex university before taking up a post at Churcher’s College, initially as a teacher in charge of strings.

She became Director of Music there in 2012, and Head of Performing Arts in 2016. Festival week is always a busy time for Helen, since as well as leading the orchestra in its Thursday concert she coordinates the College’s contribution to the Youth Concerts and conducts the combined jazz bands of Churcher’s and TPS in the two performances.

Outside music, as the orchestra’s website tells us, Helen keeps fit with climbing (Mont Blanc), long distance running, skiing and more.

Mass for Chorus, Brass and Organ for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with Petersfield Chamber Choir

Ann Pinhey (read a 2020 profile of her on Music in Portsmouth)

Cabaret Evening with Michael Mates and William Godfree

Verdi Requiem – open workshop day led by conductor Paul Spicer

Youth Concerts celebrated the Olympics

Please click on the link below to read more.

Background to this series.

Petersfield Musical Festival online retrospective 4: recollecting 2015

Jonathan Willcocks: A Great and Glorious Victory

In October 2012 Jonathan Willcocks led an inspiring Festival workshop on his choral work A Great and Glorious Victory, timed to coincide with preparations for singers from several UK choirs to join an international choir in Carnegie Hall, New York, in early 2013.

The Festival’s own performance of A Great and Glorious Victory, conducted by Paul Spicer with Peter Aisher as soloist, followed in 2015. The work both inspired and challenged the combined Fernhurst and Petersfield choral societies and Midhurst Music Society, with its complex rhythms, explosive depictions of battle and storm, and powerful emotional range from conflict to resolution.

Trafalgar was not the only battle being fought – David Francombe described the drama of the chorus ‘battling valiantly against a huge volume of sound from the orchestra’.

The work memorably involves the audience singing the great hymns ‘Eternal Father, strong to save‘ and, in conclusion, ‘The day Thou gavest, Lord is ended’. The closing bars, said David, with the offstage soloist singing the word ‘Victory!, Victory!’ were ‘pure magic!’

Also: Hampshire Police Male Voice Choir with Quintessential Brass

National celebrations of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta – new short cantata with words and music by Philip Young

The Parnassian Ensemble – Their programme for the Festival, subtitled ‘Cross-currents’, included twentieth-century music by Bohuslav Martinù and Ryohei Hirose as well as one of their own commissions, Flourishes and Dances by Steve Marshall, who was in the audience. ‘I hope he was delighted with tonight’s engaging performance, full of jazz rhythms and occasional dissonances,’ wrote Ann Pinhey. Of the whole programme, Ann wrote, ‘Everything was elegant, polished and performed with virtuosity and assurance. Wonderful!’

Petersfield Orchestra – Beethoven’s ‘Egmont’ overture received ‘an impressive performance, full of warmth and drama’, wrote Ann Pinhey. In Bizet’s Symphony in C, ‘Robin Browning galvanised his players, giving a polished, energetic reading.

Gerald Finzi: Intimations of Immortality is a big and challenging work, so who better to prepare a performance than Paul Spicer, a trustee of the Finzi Society and foremost exponent of the British choral music of the period, who named his own chamber choir the Finzi Singers?

Please click on the link below to read more.

Background to this series.

Petersfield Musical Festival online retrospective 3: recollecting 2017

Edward Thomas Centenary Concert

From time to time the Festival puts on a ‘Petersfield special’ – a unique concert relating to the music and community in this part of the world, such as the gala concert of Petersfield Musicians and Composers at the Festival’s centenary in 2001, the memorial concert for Michael Hurd in 2007 and the Rogate Choral Society centenary concert in 2008.

The latest in this series, and the broadest in scope, was the 2017 Edward Thomas Centenary Concert. In order to represent the nature of Thomas’s association with the area, and with Steep in particular, the Festival invited Petersfield Photographic Society to mount an exhibition of photographs inspired by the poetry. Petersfield Museum was also invited to put on a display drawing on the substantial collection of Edward Thomas material held there. The Museum’s trustees and staff, who include members of the Edward Thomas Fellowship, provided invaluable advice and support. The programme of choral and solo vocal and instrumental music was researched and devised by members of the Festival committee and performed by a variety of groups and individuals with local connections, to a capacity audience that included the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, Nigel Atkinson, and East Hampshire MP Damian Hinds.

The first half of the concert focused on Thomas’s family, friends and literary contacts, with music he wrote about and settings of poems by his contemporaries. The second half introduced settings of Thomas’s own poetry – many of them little known, but strongly evocative in the context of his life and work, described by Philip Young in a linking narrative.

Most of the choral works were sung by Vox Cantab, the professional chamber choir set up by former Churcher’s College student Louisa Denby, conducted by Jonathan Willcocks and accompanied by Richard Pearce.

A Romantic Choral Feast

Petersfield Orchestra

Johnny Mansfield’s Elftet

Sara Deborah Timossi

Sara Deborah Timossi first performed in Petersfield, as Sara Deborah Struntz, with Petersfield Orchestra in 2009, when she gave a memorable performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. Her biography for that concert already hinted at her breadth of interests and sympathies: “Aware that every talent bears a responsibility, Sara Deborah strives to bring music’s message and beauty to life to reach her listeners’ hearts; therefore she also performs in hospitals, prisons and care homes.”

In October 2017, she won the First Prize and Audience Prize at the International Baroque Violin Competition Premio Bonporti in Rovereto, Italy, awarded for only the second time since 2003.

Since moving to Liss, Sara Deborah has combined her artistic career with family life and involvement as an environmental activist. She founded the string orchestra SouthDowns Camerata to promote classical music to wide audiences and to support young string players, and leads the Spirit of Music Festival in Liss and Petersfield.

With pianist Richard Pearce, Sara Deborah gave an acclaimed lunchtime recital at the 2016 Festival. She was due to return wearing two hats in 2020 – with SouthDowns Camerata in a concert of eighteenth century choral music, and with the SOS Choir, who were preparing to perform Dorry Macaulay’s song ’SOS from the Kids’ with the combined schools choir at the Youth Concerts. The SOS Choir went on to reach the semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent in September last year.

Please click on the link below to read more.

Background to this series.

Petersfield Musical Festival online retrospective 2: recollecting 2014 + David Francombe remembered

David Francombe remembered:

It was just a year ago, on the first Saturday of the 2020 Festival, during rehearsals for a concert that David Francombe was due to attend as reviewer, that we received the sad and sudden news that he had passed away.

David came to Petersfield with his first wife, Miriam, in 1965, and quickly established a place as a leading member of the town’s arts activities and the congregation at St Peter’s Church. His first involvement was with the Lion and Unicorn Players, but by 1976 he had started a five-year stint as conductor of Harting Choral Society, which brought him in contact with the Festival. He joined the Festival committee, serving on it until 1985 and then again as vice-chairman from 1998 to 2004.

Familiar with the technical side of Petersfield Festival Hall, David masterminded the Festival’s lighting for many years. Later, he showed his versatility and readiness to help by looking after the Festival Friends for two years, editing and designing the programmes for three Festivals, reviewing concerts, providing liaison with St Peter’s for the Festival’s lunchtime and evening recitals, and latterly managing the priority postal bookings.

All this time, the Festival benefited from his intimate knowledge of the town and his wisdom as an organiser. After Miriam’s premature death in 1976, David devoted himself to the work of a single dad, striking up a companionship with Jillie Booth at a Festival meeting in 1983; this further cemented his Festival connections, since Jillie’s mother, Kay McLeod was Festival secretary. David and Jillie married in 1997 and together they enjoyed twenty-three years of happy and exceptionally busy retirement.

In the reviews of the choral concerts that he wrote between 2012 and 2019, which we shall often be quoting in these recollections, David brought a wide knowledge of choral repertoire and a discriminating ear, together with an appreciation, born of experience, of all that is involved when amateur musicians embark on such big enterprises.

Please click on the link below to read more.

Background to this series.

Petersfield Musical Festival online retrospective 1: Castaway’s Choice with Piers Burton-Page & Paul Spicer

Piers Burton-Page interviews composer, conductor and music writer Paul Spicer about his life, work and 8 favourite pieces of music. Produced by Phillip Young Edited by Chris Bartholomew-Fox

Please click on the link below.

Background to this series.

Petersfield Musical Festival moves to online retrospectives in 2021

Petersfield Musical Festival online retrospective 1: Castaway’s Choice with Piers Burton-Page & Paul Spicer
Petersfield Musical Festival online retrospective 2: recollecting 2014 + David Francombe remembered

This time last year, preparations for the 2020 Festival’s ten concerts were in full swing and ticket sales were building by the day.

But the news was becoming threatening, and we were only three concerts into the Festival when the curtain suddenly had to come down.

Since then music-lovers have been sadly starved of live performances and musicians have struggled to make ends meet.

Donate to support musicians.

Festival online 12-20 March

Open a daily email to revisit the Festival’s mix of classical and popular music, old friends and new discoveries, inspirational professionals, dedicated local amateurs
and keen, talented youngsters.

PMF’s online retrospectives will feature many of the 73 Festival concerts presented in the Festival Hall and St Peter’s Church between 2011 and 2019.

These are not recordings of the concerts, but expect articles, anecdotes, reviews, photographs and links to websites where you can hear and see more about each year’s music and performers.

They won’t be in chronological order, so discover the featured year when you log in.

Join us from Friday 12 to Saturday 20 March for a daily reminder of the variety and excitement of nine different Festivals!

Donate to Petersfield Musical Festival

Support for musicians and the musical community during the pandemic

Established in early 2017, Music in Portsmouth offers classical musicians a voice in the local community. It enjoys around 1,000 unique visits and 3,000 page views per month.

During the current crisis I am:

• Writing profiles of local musicians – whether they be composers, conductors or performers*
• Sharing videos and audio clips, including video-casts and live-streamed concerts – the concert venues are closed but the music goes on
• Sharing articles and other resources which may be of interest.

If you hear of anything you’d like me to share, or if you would like me to write a profile of you, please contact me or message me via Twitter to submit material for inclusion.

Meanwhile, stay well everyone and let’s keep in touch.

* Read about:
Lisa Pow
Hugh Carpenter
Nick Carpenter
David Green
Thomas Luke
Adrian Green
Mark Dancer
Angelina Kopyrina
Tim Ravalde
Cordelia Hobbs
Catherine Martin
Robert Browning
Jelena Makarova
Erin Alexander
Julia Bishop
Sachin Gunga
Brian Moles
George Burrows
Neil Sands
Philip Drew
Stefanie Read
Susan Yarnall-Monks
Alex Poulton
Stewart Collins
Catherine Lawlor
Crispin Ward
Clive Osgood
Jack Davies
Vincent Iyengar
Jonathan Willcocks
Susan Legg
Lucy Humphris
Nik Knight
Andrew Cleary
Steve Venn
Cathy Mathews
David Price
William Waine
Stella Scott
David Russell
Peter Gambie
Lynden Cranham
Ben Lathbury
Valentina Seferinova
Ann Pinhey
Geoff Porter
Tim Fisher
Terry Barfoot
Angela Zanders
Peter Best
Colin Jagger
Ian Schofield
Matthew Coleridge
Nicola Benedetti
Beryl Francis
Alex Poulton
David Gostick
Stuart Reed
Lucy Armstrong
Roy Theaker
Julia Bishop
Anne White
Wayne Mayor
Stefano Boccacci
Ben Lathbury
Jake Barlow
Penny Gordon
Antonia Kent
John Elder
Simon Wilkins

Petersfield Orchestra meets again

Piers Burton-Page reports from the cello section

‘Lockdown’ has just been awarded the accolade of Word of the Year by Collins Dictionaries – an honour it could perhaps well do without. We have probably all had enough of its impact, as well as of the word itself. Over the course of 2020, Petersfield Orchestra has lost not one but three concerts: depriving us of welcome exposure, and most especially, of the joy of communal music-making. Concerts are after all why we exist! So the news that Petersfield Musical Festival, of which Petersfield Orchestra is such an integral part, is determined to go ahead in 2021 is very welcome.

Not that our musicians have been totally silent: from September onwards we began to rehearse in the Assembly Hall at The Petersfield School – socially distanced, one player per desk, strings only, all doors wide open (brrrr!), with a view to a possible COVID compliant-concert before Christmas. Alas, the second lockdown – that word again – has put paid to that project, for this year anyway. It’s been back to practising on our own – with a slight feeling of resentment that the rules seem to be so different for the likes of professional footballers or people who race Formula One cars . . . while professional musicians now find their livelihoods threatened, to the point of possible extinction.

But Government restrictions permitting, Petersfield Orchestra will be there, playing – a rather different programme to the one we originally planned. Certainly the chosen repertoire will be subject to many constraints. I think I’d put my money on Haydn and Mozart, maybe with some Baroque gems, and perhaps with a concerto of some kind just to leaven the texture.

Small is beautiful: we need to leave room for an audience! If the event can be streamed online for a while, so that all our friends – and Festival Friends and Orchestra Friends – can hear us in action, then so much the better for everyone concerned. Goodbye ‘Lockdown’ – we hope!

Petersfield Musical Festival Newsletter Autumn 2020

It’s been the toughest year on record for musicians, with professionals deprived of their livelihoods and amateurs unable to take part in the groups and activities they love.

The Festival was stopped in its tracks by the March lockdown and lost its planned Choral Workshop in September. However, planning for 2021 continues, though necessarily on a smaller scale than usual.

Meanwhile, individuals and groups have found enterprising ways to keep singing and playing – whether online, outdoors, or socially distanced under strict conditions.

Our autumn Newsletter reports on the Festival’s online AGM, and brings stories from local singers and instrumentalists about how they have succeeded in making and sharing music under lockdown,

Read the full newsletter: 46 Petersfield Musical Festival Newsletter_33_Autumn_2020_colour

If you would like to support professional musicians by contributing to Help Musicians (formerly The Musicians Benevolent Fund) please click here.


Petersfield Orchestra “stringing along”

Anyone passing Petersfield School in Cranford Road last Friday evening would not just have felt the first chill of autumn in the air, they would have heard it, too. For the sounds of Autumn, one of Vivaldi’s famous violin concertos called the Four Seasons, were ringing out loud and clear from the Assembly Hall. After an unprecedented six-month break caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Petersfield Orchestra is back in action: if not quite in full swing, then at least, and at last, allowed to rehearse.

Conductor Robin Browning praised his players for returning. “We know that the arts sector has been one of the hardest hit, in terms of morale as well as money. But we were all desperate to play the music we love. So it’s just great to be back!”

Socially distanced – no sharing of music stands – and taking every precaution – string players only, no-one blowing flutes, clarinets, oboes, bassoons or even their own trumpets – around 20 members duly assembled. Orchestra Chair Steve Bartholomew was pleased with the turnout and with the new venue. “I was not sure how many would be willing to come, especially as it is the start of a new season, with some people shielding, retired or having moved on. There is always room for new players – especially violas! And we were in a new hall: temporarily at least, as our usual home, The Avenue Pavilion which isn’t big enough to allow for distancing. I was thankful that Petersfield School could find room for us – a happy reminder that the Orchestra forms a real part of the local community.”

For the moment, no actual concerts can figure in the diary. But everyone hopes that performances as well as rehearsals will soon be possible, perhaps even before Christmas. With luck, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons along with much else will soon be entertaining Petersfield Orchestra’s loyal local following once again.

Any string players interested in joining should write to

Petersfield Orchestra: Inside the Band!

Find out how an orchestra works and plays together and even how it thinks! Is it a harmonious collective? How do the individual strands mesh? Join Piers, Robin & some special guests from inside Petersfield Orchestra.

Watch via the link below.

Petersfield Orchestra: Robin Browning and Piers Burton-Page on Beethoven

Piers & Robin from Petersfield Orchestra delve into the life and works of one of the greatest composers in this, Beethoven’s birthday year.

Join the discussion All about Beethoven today (Friday 12 June) at 7.30pm by clicking the link below, where they’ll try to answer questions such as “Why do the even numbered symphonies get such a bad rap?” and “why are the violins where the cellos used to be?” Bring your sketchbooks, ear-trumpets and a large glass of wine – see you then!

You can join them either on the night or catch-up later (the video will remain on the website).

You don’t need to be a member of Facebook, just click on the link below and it will take you straight there. Towards the end of their discussion they will respond to some of the comments from you, the audience. Please, join them for a lively debate!

Click the link at the bottom of this notice at 7.30pm, or afterwards.


Petersfield Orchestra: Robin Browning and Piers Burton-Page on the Concerto

Robin and Piers will be holding the third in their series of weekly discussions this Friday evening (5 June) at 7.30pm. This week it’s all about one of the key components in any programme: the concerto. Joined by special guest – pianist Valentina Seferinova – they’ll explore the role of the conductor and orchestra, discuss some favourite pieces and top soloists, and investigate how soloist and orchestra navigate the subtle terrain of some of the most challenging works in the repertoire.

Last week’s event drew a number of interesting comments, which may be viewed here.

You are invited to join them – on the night or catch-up later (the video will remain on the website).

You don’t need to be a member of Facebook, just click on the link below and it will take you straight there. Towards the end of their discussion they will respond to some of the comments from you, the audience. Please, join them for a lively debate!

Click the link at the bottom of this notice at 7.30pm, or afterwards.



Profile: Angela Zanders, pianist and lecturer

Angela Zanders was born in London and started piano lessons with her father, New Zealand pianist, Douglas Zanders. She went on to study at The Purcell School, Trinity College of Music and Goldsmiths’ College, University of London. She also won an Austrian Government Scholarship for study at the Hochschule für Musik, Vienna. At Trinity College, where she studied with Joseph Weingarten, Angela won many competitions and awards. She later studied chamber music with Murray Perahia, William Pleeth and Raphael Wallfisch.

Angela has performed all over the UK, including venues such as London’s Wigmore Hall, South Bank, St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields and at St. David’s Hall in Cardiff. She has broadcast for BBC Radio 3 and has given performances throughout Europe and in Australia and New Zealand, both as soloist and accompanist and as pianist in the Solarek Piano Trio, which she formed in 1992. For ten years Angela was accompanist at the Centre for Young Musicians in London. She does a great deal of freelance accompanying and has worked with many internationally acclaimed singers and instrumentalists.

Angela has a special interest in promoting the accessibility of classical music and has been giving lecture recitals for many years. She has lectured in Music Appreciation for Birkbeck College, University of London and for the WEA and U3A in Hampshire and currently runs her own classes in Music Appreciation in Hampshire and West Sussex.

Angela has been a lecturer at the University of Chichester since 2010 and is an adjudicator for The British and International Federation of Festivals.

Simon O’Hea is in conversation with Angela.

Who or what were the main influences on your decision to pursue a career in music?

I grew up in a house where my father taught up to 100 piano pupils each week. He was a wonderful musician and a great teacher and my mother, although an artist, was also very musical, so growing up with music happened naturally and there was never a point when I made the decision as such. A turning point was being sent to study piano with Vera Yelverton when I was 13 and two years later attending The Purcell School.

Who or what are the most important influences on your musical life?

Without doubt, my father, Douglas Zanders; my wonderful teacher, the Hungarian pianist Joseph Weingarten whom I studied with at Trinity College of Music, and the international concert pianist Murray Perahia. I was completely bowled over by his playing when he won first prize at the Leeds International Piano Competition – shortly afterwards I met him and was struck by his genuine humility, total lack of self-regard, kindness and willingness to offer help and support where needed. I was privileged to get to know him and to be given lessons and mentoring and it is true to say that the example of his playing and his approach to life and to music has been a major influence on my life.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Remembering to believe in myself is definitely one. The music profession is incredibly high-powered and competitive, and it is easy to feel that one is battling against the tide. But, over the years, I have learnt to cultivate my particular strengths based on what I am passionate about, which is studying and researching every aspect of a piece of music and sharing this with others through performing, lecturing and teaching. The pleasure and fulfilment I get from this is immeasurable, and if just one person enjoys listening to music more as a result, I know it has been worthwhile!

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

One of my great pleasures is in playing chamber music. Being a pianist means working largely on one’s own, but if I am rehearsing or performing a chamber work I love with others I have a personal and musical rapport with, I am in my element. Listening to and trying out other musicians’ ideas on interpretation helps broaden one’s thinking and gives insights one might not have otherwise discovered. One of the main challenges is finding rehearsal times to suit all!

How would you describe your musical language?

I would describe my musical language as always trying to tell a story with the music. I like to draw people into the music I perform and I am always eager to share some background to the music with my audiences.

How do you work? 

In studying a new work I want to find out everything I can about the music, the composer and when he or she composed it, the influences behind it and, as far as possible, to ‘get inside the composer’s head’. Every piece of music tells some sort of a story and I love the process of discovering what that story is about – through the composer’s directions, the harmonies, the tonality etc. and in trying to find out how and why the composer wrote the piece in the first place.

Which works/performances are you most proud of?

Ever since I was a child, I have adored Mozart’s final piano concerto in B flat major K595. I finally performed it a few years ago and it was a dream fulfilled. I was also proud to be able to give a lecture recital on Schubert’s Trout Quintet ending with a complete performance of the work with some wonderful musicians for the Petersfield Musical Festival a few years ago.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

I have always adored Beethoven. I studied music at the Hochschule für Musik in Vienna and living for a year in the city where Beethoven (and Haydn, Mozart and Schubert) lived and worked was overwhelming – an experience which has shaped my whole approach to their music.

Which works do you think you perform best?

This is difficult to judge but I would say probably Beethoven and Schubert.

What is your most memorable concert experience – either as a performer/composer or listener?

Hearing the Lindsay String Quartet perform all the Beethoven quartets at the Wigmore Hall was an unforgettable experience, as was hearing Murray Perahia play all Chopin’s Preludes many years ago. Everyone was electrified. I also heard Horowitz play live – the most astonishing moment was when he played the National Anthem. I have never heard anyone play like that before or since. Such extraordinary power and authority coming from such a slight figure.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Only take up music as a career if you can’t live without it. If you’ve got something to say in music, believe in this and never allow yourself to be put down by people who say you can’t do it or that you’re not as good as the next person.

How would you define success as a musician/composer?

Being true to yourself, working hard and communicating through music.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Being with my son, being with my friends and colleagues and the process of communicating my passion for music to others in my recitals, lectures and classes.

Angela is holding a series of three lecture recitals entitled “Beethoven Enlightened” to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, exploring the significance of Beethoven in Western music. With complete performances of some of Beethoven’s most significant piano and chamber music including ‘Moonlight’ Piano Sonata, ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata for violin and piano, Trio in B Flat Op. 11 for clarinet, piano and cello.

Angela Zanders (piano) with Rob Blanken (clarinet), Catherine Lett (violin) and Mikhail Lezdkan (cello).

12 September, 3 October and 7 November 2020 at 3pm. See Beethoven Enlightened.

Also see Music appreciation course with Angela Zanders: “Classical Masterpieces Composed in Troubled Times”.

Review of “The Canterbury Pilgrims” at the Petersfield Musical Festival

To most people of a musical disposition, the name George Dyson will not ring many bells. Google “Dyson” and one gets a lot of information about vacuum cleaners. Those who sing in church choirs will have come across his splendid settings of the Canticles for Evening Prayer, Dyson in F and Dyson in D but few will have heard his masterpiece, “The Canterbury Pilgrims”, in performance…until last week, when the work was given a splendid performance at the Petersfield Musical Festival.

Under the calm baton of Paul Spicer, and with the Southern Pro Musica in top form, The Festival Chorus, resplendent in their multi-coloured apparel, gave it their all. In the opening Prologue the choir sings a capella with the orchestra topping and tailing each phrase; here the balance was good, the dynamics followed the composer’s instructions and the intonation was spot on. Towards the end of the prologue the choir were joined by the tenor soloist, Nathan Vale. Vale has a pleasant uncomplicated voice but needed to “sell” himself rather more to his audience – a little underpowered.

In section ll, The Knight, the orchestra came into its own, Dyson making full use of all departments, especially the large brass section. The choir managed to hold their own against this wall of sound and I was reminded of Vaughan William’s Sea Symphony in some of the more “full-on” moments. In The Squire we were treated to some delightfully delicate playing and we were introduced to the soprano soloist, Sofia Larsson as “The Nun”. She has a beautifully clear voice and an engaging presence which interacted with the audience.

In The Monk, we met the Baritone soloist, Edward Ballard. Ballard has a big voice which was ideally suited to the work. He was not overshadowed by the orchestra and one could hear every word. This was followed by The Clerk of Oxenford, to my mind one of the best parts of the evening. The tenors start a craggy fugue section, the other parts joining in with some precise, detailed singing. The first half ended with a march-like theme for the tenor and the chorus joining in with another fugue-like section, which, given the murmurs of appreciation from the audience, was enjoyed by all.

The second half started with The Franklin with the band going hammer and tongs and the Baritone battling bravely, if not always quite successfully. Again the influence of Vaughan Williams could be detected. In The Doctor of Physic, tenor Nathan Vale was more at ease and sang with assurance and clarity of diction. Sofia Larsson made the fun piece The Wife of Bath very much her own. With a jaunty accompaniment, she obviously enjoyed herself and delighted the audience with a stratospheric final B flat. In The Poor Parson we experienced some excellent four-part singing from the Chorus and the evening ended with L’Envoi.

I left happy but with a slight niggle that something was not quite right. On reflection I came to the conclusion that the work is a series of short separate vignettes and that there is no narrative to hold the piece together. Maybe that is why The Canterbury Pilgrims is not often heard? That said, it was a splendid evening’s music making and a great credit to all concerned.

David Francombe

Image: Sir George Dyson (c) The Royal College of Music

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