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.

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