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.

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