Reviews of concerts, 2016-17


Concert on 5th October 2016: Victoria Puttock,Saxophone, with Grigoris Ioannou, piano

The following review appeared in the local press:

The 2016-2017 series of Music at Lunchtime at Farnham United Reformed Church opened with a concert by Victoria Puttock (Saxophone) and Grigoris Ioannou (piano).

They started their programme with Paule Maurice's five Tableaux de Provence (pictures of Provence). The composer died only 49 years ago and her music is modern and playful without being aggressive.

Farandoulo di chatouno (Farandole of young women) is a cheerful dance and Cansoun per ma mio (Song for my love) a slower, more heartfelt piece.

La boumiano (The Gypsy) starts with a tabor-like beat on the piano and is lively, while Dis alyscamps l'amo souspire (A Sigh of the soul for the Alyscamps, a Roman cemetery near Arles) is another slow, sad dance; finally there is Lou cabridan (The Bumblebee), which has an impressive saxophone cadenza at the centre.

The second item in the programme was Claude Pascal's Sonatine for saxophone and piano. It was a great privilege to hear a piece by a living composer, who also wrote in a playful style.

The Sonatine is written in three sections without a break between the movements and one which I certainly would like to hear again (as is the case with Paule Maurice's Tableaux).

As a final bonbon Victoria and Grigor played François Borne's Fantaisie brilliante sur des Airs de Carmen, which may have been hard work for the performers but was great fun for the audience. The composer gave the saxophone some enormously wide-ranging arpeggios to play.

Throughout the concert, while Victoria Puttock was clearly the star, Grigoris Ioannou was a brilliant accompanist.

It was a most enjoyable performance and I hope that we may hear them again some time.

John Mansfield

Concert on 2nd November 2016: Gillian Lloyd, organ

The following review appeared in the local press:

Organist serves up a varied menu

The second concert in the 2016-17 season of Music at Lunchtime at Farnham United Reformed Church was given on 2nd November 2016 by Gillian Lloyd, the Director of Music at Guildford United Reformed Church.

Gillian began her programme with the Trumpet Voluntary by John Stanley, the 18th century London organist. At that time English organs did not possess pedals, and this piece was skilfully arranged by Henry Coleman to incorporate pedals.

Next we heard Bach's Prelude and Fugue in G (BWV 541), a performance which benefited greatly from the expert articulation and phrasing which Gillian gave to it.

It was followed by a piece written by her husband Jeff, based on Sir Walter Parratt's hymn tune Huddersfield, Huddersfield being the town where Jeff and Gillian first met.

It is an attractive prelude, with the tune in the tenor, accompanied by lovely harmonies in the right hand. It was good to hear a piece by a living composer.

Percy Whitlock had a short life, dying in 1946 at the age of 42; but his beautiful piece After an old French Air is one of the many reminders we have of his cheerful style. It is written for the organ in the Bournemouth Pavilion but Gillian made it sound completely at home in the church.

There was a change of mood to Vierne's Carillon de Longpont. Vierne was organist at Notre Dame in Paris in the early 20th century and this fiery work is one of his characteristic, virtuosic tone-pictures.

Another arrangement by Henry Coleman followed: the delicious Larghetto from Mozart's Clarinet Quintet, quite a change from the previous piece. Then we heard a piece for manuals only: a Fantasia in C by Handel, originally written for harpsichord, which explains the absence of pedals.

Finally there was the exuberant Tuba Tune by Norman Cocker, formerly organist at Manchester Cathedral. The organ at Farnham URC does not possess a tuba but Gillian nevertheless made the piece sound completely at home.

The next concert in the series will be given by the soprano Diana Vivian with her accompanist Claire Tester on Wednesday, December 7, 2016 at 1.10 pm.

Concert on 7th December 2016: Diana Vivian, soprano with Edward Reeve, piano

The following review was submitted to the local press:

There was a surprise awaiting the audience at the start of the concert given by Diana Vivian (soprano) with Edward Reeve (piano) on December 7th at Farnham United Reformed Church as part of the regular Music at Lunchtime series: there was no singer in sight. Then, startlingly, Diana descended from the gallery at the rear of the church swinging a sweep's brush and singing Lo Spazzacamino (The Chimney-sweep), by Verdi. "I seem ugly and black, I stain everyone who presses against me; I am badly dressed, ever barefoot around I go". After that dramatic entrance there was a change of mood to an Ave Maria and another change of mood to a third Verdi song, Stornello (Rhyme), a delightful character piece.

The Verdi songs were followed by four English songs, Ophelia's song, set by Elizabeth Maconchy, Love went a-riding and When you are old and grey by Frank Bridge and, finally, Love's philosophy by Roger Quilter.

After Italy and England we went to Germany for three love songs by Richard Strauss. Begegnung (Meeting) is the song of young love, Allerseelen (All Souls' Day) of more mature love and in Zuneigung (Affection) the singer gives thanks for love even though the loved one is far away. In Strauss' songs the relationship between the singer and the accompanist is quite different from that in other songs and it was well illustrated here.

In the final group of songs Diana sang Russalka's Song to the moon from Dvorák's opera, Balfe's ballad I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls and What good would the moon be? by Kurt Weill, followed by a humorous version of The twelve days of Christmas as an encore.

It was a recital to remember, featuring a wide range of songs and arias and excellent technique and elegance from both performers (the piano parts were particularly demanding) and I hope we may hear from them again.

The next concert in the series is to be given on Wednesday February 1st by students from Lord Wandsworth College.

Concert on 1st February 2017: Students from Lord Wandsworth College

The following review appeared in the local press:

Lord Wandsworth visit is always a treat

One of the highlights of the Music at Lunchtime concert series at Farnham United Reformed Church is the annual visit of students from Lord Wandsworth College.

Their most recent concert in the series took place on Wednesday February 1 and was devoted to singers.

The first singer was Emily Henry and her song Dancing on my own by Calum Scott. Emily clearly projected the sadness of the song.

Alex Craig's performance of Roger Quilter's O mistress mine to words from Twelfth Night was quite different, a straightforward, tuneful rendition of this lovely song.

James Saunders then sang Ombra Mai Fu, from Handel's Serse, better known as Handel's Largo. James demonstrated good breath control over the long phrases of this famous piece.

In the opera Gianni Schicchi by Puccini, Gianni's daughter Lauretta does her best to wheedle her father with the aria O mio babbino caro, which India Mayhook-Walker sang next. What can I say? She would have succeeded with me.

That song was followed by Ave Maria by Beyonce Knowles. This is a pop-song but cleverly takes some phrases from the Schubert Ave Maria. Luca Capelle gave it a confident performance.

Alex Bradshaw sang Jerome Kern's wistful The folks who live on the hill, about a couple dreaming about the house they want to build. The song was attractively sung by Alex Bradshaw.

Beth McKinnon sang Irving Berlin's Wild about you from the show Top Hat with great confidence, characterising the song as she performed it. It was a very enjoyable performance.

Finally Nick Evershed gave Oh, is there not one maiden breast from the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta The Pirates of Penzance. Like the previous singer, Nick acted the song. He has a good voice, and also gave a confident performance.

The accompaniments were given on an electronic piano by Lauren Griffin (for the girls' songs) and Edwin Rolles (for the boys' songs). It was a special occasion for Edwin: his birthday. So all the singers, and the audience, sang 'Happy birthday, dear Edwin' at the conclusion of the concert.

Concert on 1st March 2017: The Ishi Ensemble

The following review appeared in the local press:

A first performance at Music at Lunchtime

The Ishi Ensemble gave the March Music at Lunchtime concert at Farnham United Reformed Church on the first day of the month. The concert consisted of two string quintets, one of which was a first performance. It is a great privilege to hear the premiere of any piece of music, and this piece was written by Sam Rolles, the first viola player in the ensemble. The piece was dedicated to Samuel's father Edwin Rolles on the occasion of Edwin's birthday and it was well received by a large audience.

It is quite a short piece which, after a brief introduction, contains a hymn-like section with variations, with a rich texture obtained by the five-part writing possible from a quintet. It made one want to hear more from this composer, and, judging by the title, String Quintet no.1, it seems that more are planned if not already composed.

The other piece played at the concert was Brahms' String Quintet no. 2, a wonderful, rich work, written towards the end of the composer's life, and intended to be his last piece of music. It seemed to be a very busy piece after the previous tranquil quintet and was played with great devotion and skill by the young performers. I noted particularly the lovely slow movement and the buoyant Hungarian mood of the finale.

I hope that we shall hear this ensemble again at Music at Lunchtime soon.

The next concert in the series will be given on Wednesday 3 May at 1 pm by students from Frensham Heights School.

Concert on 3rd May 2017: Students from Frensham Heights

The following review appeared in the local press:

The latest series of Music at Lunchtime concerts at Farnham United Reformed Church concluded on Wednesday 3rd May with a visit from music students from Frensham Heights School under their Head of Music, James Casselden. Visits from students are always appreciated because they bring so much freshness to the music, and today's concert was no exception.

The concert opened with a short fanfare by Nicolas Chédeville, played on trumpet and clarinet by Thomas Williams and Cael Goodburne, and they were followed by Rose Park, a young singer from year 7, singing I feel pretty from West Side Story by Leonard Berstein and Caro mio ben, by Giuseppe Giordani. Rose has a pretty little voice, but sang rather too quietly to be heard well in the building.

Jan-Luca Ko is not only a guitarist but also a composer and he played one of his own compositions, Angel Under the Sky. Again it was rather quiet, the guitar being a soft instrument, but it was a piece that one would like to hear again.

Being heard was no problem for George Acworth who played the theme tune from the television series Mr Benn, by Duncan Lamont. The audience responded enthusiastically on hearing the music from this much-loved series.

It was followed by a pianist, Harry McCann playing the evocative Child falling asleep from Kinderscenen by Robert Schumann. Then we heard a flute duet, Anna Causer and Maisie Binns, playing a traditional tune, Hunting the Hare.

School music departments often have plenty of students learning the clarinet and we were next treated to an arrangement of Dvorak's Slavonic Dance Op 46 no. 2, skilfully arranged for clarinet quartet by Peter Spink. It was played by George Acworth, Grace Cooper, Rory Webber and Lizzie Kirk, who is a teacher called in at a late stage to substitute for a student who had to pull out.

Attention turned to the piano next: Zoe Fry played Beethoven's well-known Für Elise, and played it very skilfully.

The youngest performer was Oscar Gratton from year 6, who has already been playing the violin for half his life, having taken it up at the age of 5. He played the heart-breakingly beautiful Romance from The Gadfly by Shostakovich and his feeling for the music and his technique made it obvious that here we have an outstanding musician in the making.

Finally another outstanding performer: Tom Green (tenor) sang three songs by that well-loved composer Roger Quilter: Now sleeps the Crimson Petal, Come Away, Death and Go, Lovely Rose, beautiful songs in their own right, were characterised and well delivered. It will be interesting to see how Tom's voice develops: he already has a strong stage presence.

That was the concluding concert in the present season: the new season starts on the first Wednesday in October.

John Mansfield