Reviews of concerts, 2003-4

Concert on 19 May 2004: Benjamin Kolodziej, organ

The following review was submitted to the local press:

Benjamin Kolodziej certainly put the 98-year old Henry Jones organ through its paces. His programme started with the March from The Birds of Aristophanes by Hubert Parry, famous for his broad sweeping tunes such as "Jerusalem" and "Dear Lord and Father of mankind"; this march was another confident tune. It was followed by Bach's Prelude in G major (BWV 541), an exciting piece which opens with a splendid flourish which covers the whole keyboard and continues in the same vein. The feet are given a great deal to do in both prelude and fugue.

Then there were two quieter pieces, both chorale preludes. "How lovely shines the morning star" is a beautiful tune for Christmas, and Pachelbel's prelude on it was very attractive. So was the setting of "Brother James' Air" by the American organist Searle Wright, which featured the tune played by the feet but in the treble register.

The Prelude and Fugue in E flat major by Camille Saint-Saëns has a rather pianistic opening, reminiscent of Clementi's studies, but the fugue is a real French fugue. It has to be stated that its effectiveness on this organ was somewhat limited because of the lack of reed timbre (particularly French reed timbre) but the piece came off well nonetheless. Two pieces by another American composer followed. Dan Locklair (born in 1941) conceived the ingenious idea of writing music inspired by rubrics in the Prayer Book. Benjamin played two of these: "The Peace may be exchanged" and "The People respond 'Amen' " - the first a beautiful, tranquil piece and the second very exciting. Finally Benjamin gave us his own improvisation on the traditional Welsh melody Suo Gan.

Altogether this was a memorable performance by a talented organist.


Concert on 6 April 2004: Gillian Lloyd, organ

The following review was submitted to the local press:

Gillian Lloyd is a much-loved performer on the organ at the Lunchtime Concerts presented by Farnham United Reformed Church, and the concert she gave on 6th April was well-received.

Gillian's programme opened with J. S. Bach's Prelude and Fugue in C, BWV 547; the jig-like prelude danced along merrily (as it should); the fugue, which gives the initial impression of being for manuals only, always surprises the listeners when the pedals enter, 23 bars from the end.

The 98-year-old Henry Jones organ at the church seems to be very appropriate for the music of John Stanley in spite of the lack of a cornet stop, and the performance of Stanley's Voluntary in A, op. 7 no. 1 was both stylish and idiomatic. You can tell that Stanley is one of Gillian's favourite composers for the organ.

The next piece was two movements from Mendelssohn's Sonata no. 4 in B flat. The monumental Allegro con brio contrasted well with the gentle third movement Allegretto.

Two chorale preludes followed. Brahms' "Herzlich tut mich verlangen", very appropriate for Holy Week, is difficult to bring off without exactly the right stops at the organist's disposal, as the 8 foot pedal solo must come through the arpeggiando manual part without being loud: Gillian managed this particular hurdle well - and also chose appropriate stops for the attractive prelude on the tune "Stracathro" by Rowland Owen, who was the organist of the Parish Church at Bramley.

After these two quiet pieces we heard the vigorous Recessional (op. 96 no. 4) by William Mathias, a showpiece written for a much larger organ than that used here: but it came off very effectively with a registrant available to execute a few important stop changes.

John Mansfield


Concert on 3 February 2004: Music Students from Frensham Heights School

The following review was submitted to the local press:

Every year music students from Frensham Heights School give a concert at Farnham United Reformed Church as part of the church's "Music at Lunchtime" series, and that concert is always a high spot in the series. The concert given on 3 February this year was a good example.

Julia Vivian and Joanna Riggs opened the concert with a piano duet: Diabelli's Sonata no. 1, producing a good singing tone, especially for the second subject.

Freddie Errington (Baritone), a GCSE student, charmed the audience with his relaxed approach to "I've grown accustomed to her face", from "My Fair Lady".

An instrumental piece followed: Samuel Rolles played Putz's "Blues for Benny" on viola, settling into the blues style very nicely. He was accompanied by Annie Rolles.

Carla Hirsch (piano solo) then gave an atmospheric performance of "October" from Tchaikowsky's Seasons, and Matthew Nicholls (tenor) sang Handel's "Where'er you walk", and from the way he sang you could tell that he was very fond of that lovely song.

The remainder of the concert was shared between two very talented students: Claire Day (soprano) and James Topping (baritone), who are both taking A-level music this yea. Their first duet was "None shall part us" from Sullivan's "Iolanthe", which was enjoyable from beginning to end. Claire then sang a recitative and two arias from Handel's "Jephtha", beginning "Farewell, ye limpid springs", which together made a very dramatic scena, given added expression by her lovely voice. James has a fine voice, too, and a good imposing presence. He gave us another Handel aria: "How willing my paternal love", from "Samson", in which Samson's father, the aged Manaoh, pledges to help his blinded son. Finally there was a second duet, the delightful "Half past two", from Lionel Monckton's "The Arcadians".

All the items were introduced by Harvey Bennett, and the accompanist (except where mentioned above) was Frensham Heights' Director of Music, Edwin Rolles, to whom we are all most grateful.

John Mansfield

Concert on 2 December 2003: John Mansfield, organ

A programme of organ music based on well-known tunes

The following review was submitted to the local press:

This highly successful Concert Series was launched some years ago by John Mansfield who has been Organist of the church for over 25 years. He has invited talented artists from various musical backgrounds ranging from young students to more experienced performers to give instrumental and vocal music recitals which have covered a whole range of styles. I have attended a number of these concerts over the years and am always delighted by the high standards which have been attained in front of very appreciative audiences.
This time, John put himself in the 'hot seat' and gave a very enjoyable recital of organ music appropriate to Advent, the church season which covers the four week period before Christmas. The programme comprised 7 choral preludes, based on well known hymn tunes. First 'Wachet auf' (Sleepers Wake!) then 'Nun freut euch', (Rejoice beloved Christians) by J. S. Bach. Then followed a partita on 'In Christ there is no East or West' by Sander van Marion, 'Melcombe' (New every morning), by C. H. Parry, 'Blaenwern', (Love Divine) by Stanley Vann, the last movement of Sonata no 6, 'Rockingham', (When I survey) by Mendelssohn, and finally a partita on Morgen kommt (Tomorrow Father Christmas comes) by J. C. F. Bach, who was the sixteenth child & ninth son of J. S. Bach.
The whole programme was enjoyable not only for the musical content, but also for John's skill in performance, particularly in his registration (the thoughtful choice of pipe sounds that he selected and mixed) throughout each item of music. The enthusiastic applause he received at the end of his programme was well deserved.

John Dixon

Concert on 4 November 2003: Alison Kaan, soprano, Alison Blenkinsop, contralto, and John Mansfield, piano

Pergolesi: Stabat Mater

The following review was submitted to the local press:

The November offering for "Music at Lunchtime" in Farnham United Reformed Church was an exhilarating performance of Pergolesi's "Stabat Mater" with Alison Kaan, soprano, Alison Blenkinsop, contralto and John Mansfield, piano. It was refreshing to hear the work as Pergolesi intended, for two solo voices throughout. So often we hear it with a chorus performing many of the movements. This charming work was written during the last year of Pergolesi's short life - he was only 26 when he died - for the Franciscan monastery at Pozzuoli in 1736. The two singers engaged their audience from the beginning. They performed with discipline and musicality throughout. The pure soprano of Alison Kaan blended perfectly with the rich contralto of Alison Blenkinsop. All the solos were well executed and performed with sound and musical understanding. The work with its lilting melodies and sonorous harmonies is deceptively difficult to sing. However both Alisons were completely secure throughout and much of the part singing was superb. Indeed it is a pleasure to hear such controlled singing. Both singers took pains not to romanticize the work and one was treated to a performance in the style of the early eighteenth century. The singers were well supported by John Mansfield who obviously enjoyed the challenging piano part. The magnificent acoustic of the United Reformed Church enhanced the music and the audience was greatly appreciative.

This was a polished performance of the "Stabat Mater'' sung by two local soloists. Particularly attractive was the beautiful singing of "Sancta Mater". The memory of this fortuous dissonance lingered long after the climatic notes had faded. It was an enjoyable and a most distinguished recital in Farnham United Reformed Church, as part of their "Music at Lunchtime" series. One looks forward to the next concert this season, which is to be an organ concert to be given by John Mansfield on Tuesday 2nd December at 1.10 p.m.

Edwin Rolles

The picture shows Alison Blenkinsop and Alison Kaan in the Lake District.


Concert on 7 October 2003: Anthony Hawgood and Ariadne Blyth

Songs of Ivor Novello

The following review was submitted to the local press:

The songs of Ivor Novello evoke nostalgia for the days when London shows were romantic, enjoyable, tuneful and above all glamorous, even in the dark days at the end of the 1930s. Anthony Hawgood (tenor) and Ariadne Blyth (piano) reminded us how good the songs were in their concert presented as part of the Music at Lunchtime programme at the United Reformed Church on Tuesday 7th October In a 40-minute programme Anthony told us a little about Ivor's life and presented nine of his songs. He has a good voice which suited the songs admirably: the words were clear and he acted every song in a way which put them across to the audience admirably.

It was clear that both Anthony and Ariadne had gone to a great deal of trouble in selecting and rehearsing the items so that the ensemble worked ideally. The songs included "Why isn't it you", from "Crest of the Wave", 1937, "My Dearest Dear" and "I can give you the starlight", both from "The Dancing Years" of 1939, and "Primrose". In "The Land of Make-believe", originally sung by Dame Clara Butt (Ivor had been a page-boy at Clara Butt's wedding), Anthony demonstrated a beautiful pianissimo in the top register at the end, holding the audience spellbound.

The audience enjoyed the humour of "And her Mother came too" and the feeling in "Fly home, little Heart" (with another soft high note at the end)-Novello's songs show sentiment without sentimentality simply because he was always completely sincere, as we were told. The famous "Waltz of my heart" was followed by "Dark Music", which was so good that both Anthony and Ariadne felt they could not leave it out of the programme. And everybody went home singing.

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 This page was updated on 22 October 2004