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.

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Background to this series.

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