Reviews of concerts, 2017-18


Concert on 4th October 2016: Geoff Tuson, organ

The following review appeared in the local press:

Geoff Tuson gave the first concert in the 2017-2018 Music at Lunchtime series at Farnham United Reformed Church on Wednesday 4th October. Geoff is the organist at the Royal Garrison Church, Aldershot, and trained at the Royal College of Music where he was awarded the Harold Darke Prize for excellence in performance on the organ.

In a programme that stretched over 250 years the first item was the Toccata in F by Dieterich Buxtehude, BuxVW 157 with its showy opening and echo effects.

The Bach prelude on the Lutheran Chorale Von Gott will ich nicht lassen which followed was played quietly with the tune in the pedal at 8 foot pitch against beautifully interwoven three-part counterpoint played on flutes: a deeply-felt performance.
Mendelssohn wrote three preludes and fugues for organ and the first of these, in C minor, followed. The somewhat stern prelude is followed by an attractive, lilting fugue. The addition of reeds in the concluding bars was an attractive touch.

Next we heard two of Schumann's four sketches, op. 58, written for pedal piano but which sound well on the organ.

Finally there were two pieces from Saint-Saëns' seven improvisations, op. 150, which date from 1917. The Allegretto is a charming, quiet, lilting piece and by contrast the final Allegro Giocoso a burst of energy reminiscent of a French carol tune and ending with full organ.



Concert on 8th November 2017: Richard Watts, trumpet with Catherine Watts, soprano and Tony Ingham, piano

The following review appeared in the local press:

Mother and Son in concert

The concert presented on Wednesday 8 November 2017 as part of the regular Music at Lunchtime at Farnham United Reformed Church was given by the trumpeter Richard Watts with a special item given by his mother Catherine Watts, about which more later.

Richard opened the programme with the brilliant Concert Study, opus 49, by Alexander Goedicke, a virtuoso piece in which he was ably accompanied by Tony Ingham on the piano. This piece was very demanding of both performers and we are all grateful to Tony for stepping in at a late stage as accompanist.

There could hardly have been a greater contrast between that piece and the one that followed, Quiet City, by Aaron Copeland, arranged from incidental music Copeland wrote for Irwin Shaw's play of the same name. In the play the main character, having abandoned his Jewishness, is recalled to his conscience by the haunting sound of his brother's trumpet playing. Copeland's wonderful harmonies add to the feeling of haunting nostalgia coming from the trumpet.

Richard's mother Catherine is a teacher and choir trainer but in her early career sang in the Welsh National Opera and also with Donald Swann, and it was one of Donald's songs we heard next: My Love Came A Marching (to words by Sydney Carter). It was clearly a song that meant a great deal to her - it was sung at her wedding - and it has a trumpet obbligato, so it fitted into the programme very neatly.

The final item in the programme was Flor Peeters' Trumpet Sonata, opus 51. The outer movements, an Allegro opening and a toccata finale, are both vigorous and are separated by a delicious Aria, of which the composer must have been very fond, as he later adapted it as a solo for his own instrument, the organ. It was good to hear it in its original form.

All the performers had close connections with Frensham Heights School, and it was therefore pleasing to see a number of students from the school at the concert. In fact the next concert in the series will be given on Wednesday 8 December at 1 pm by students from Frensham Heights.

Concert on 6th December 2017: Music students from Frensham Heights School

The following review appeared in the local press:

The Music at Lunchtime concerts have been held regularly at Farnham United Reformed Church for some 20 years, and during that time audiences have welcomed a wide variety of performers but visits from Frensham Heights School have always been special, and so the concert they gave on Wednesday 6 December was keenly anticipated and much enjoyed.

Proceedings were started by George Acworth playing Norton's Carthorse Rag on clarinet, a short piece but one which showed he had a proper feel for ragtime. George was followed by Tom King singing Bring him Home from the Boubil & Schonberg show Les Miserables. Tom was keen not to over-strain his voice and as a result it was so soft as to be scarcely audible, which was rather a pity because it was well worth hearing.

Next we heard a duet for two flutes, played by Jo Dinnis and Eleanor Henley: an Allegro con brio by Beethoven in which both girls demonstrated a good sense of rhythm.

Harry McCann then played Grieg's Nottorno, Op. 54 no. 3 on the piano, in which he conveyed the feeling of that beautiful atmospheric piece.

A second singer, Tom Green, sang the dramatic Spirit Song by Joseph Haydn and followed it with This nearly was mine from South Pacific by Rogers and Hammerstein, which he described as n "antidote" to the Haydn.

Grace Cooper is a fine clarinettist, and gave us Debussy's lilting La plus que lente, a beautiful piece of music which was very special and expertly played. It was clear that Grace had a great feeling for this music.

The final singer was Izzy Cole, who gave two songs, A Hymn to the Virgin by Rubbra and O Holy Night by Cappeau & Adam. Izzy has a nice voice and had taken great care over her personal appearance and it was a shame that she seemed rather nervous.

The finale was a piece for no less than seven clarinets, the Caprice for Clarinets by Clare Grundman: the players were George Acworth, Grace Cooper, Jacob Easton, Ben Williams, Rory Webber, Lizzie Kirk and James Casselton. It was great fun to listen to, and no doubt to play.

We are very grateful for the two staff members, Lizzie Kirk and James Casselton, for accompanying the soloists and for arranging yet another excellent concert.

The next concert in the series is to be given on 31 January 2018 at 1 pm by music students from Lord Wandsworth College.

Concert on 31st January 2018: Music students from Lord Wandsworth College

The following review appeared in the local press:

The keenly anticipated visit of music students from Lord Wandsworth College to Farnham United Reformed Church as part of the Music at Lunchtime series of concerts took place on 31 January. The first two performers were both singers: Will Smith sang Alma del Core (Soul of my heart) by the eighteenth-century Italian composer Antonio Caldara. Will sang this beautiful song rather quietly, but with good control. The second singer, Caitlin Butcher, was also quiet, but she had a good presence and gave an enjoyable performance of I dreamed a dream from Les Misérables by Claude-Michel Schönberg.

The next item was not at all quiet. Jess Evans played a trombone showpiece, The Acrobat, by J.A. Greenwood. Jess produced some nice tone in the introduction and was impressive in the jokey movements which followed.

Will Adams is a singer with a good voice and clear enunciation. He gave a fine performance of Ol' Man River from Showboat by Jerome Kern, which was well suited to his bass voice. It will be very interesting to see how that voice matures. Will has the making of a fine singer.

Next, the violin: Jake Towsley played the Hindu Song from Sadko by Rimsky-Korsakov in which he seemed a little hesitant, which was a pity because he played this difficult piece well.

Alex Craig, another singer, gave us This nearly was mine from Rogers and Hammerstein's South Pacific. Alex gave it all he had got, dramatically alternating between loud and soft, as demanded by the music.

Up to now the singers and instrumentalists had been accompanied on an electronic keyboard but the next performer, Libby Taylor, used the piano as she played the Valse Lente by the Finnish pianist Oskar Merikanto. It is an attractive piece, and Libby played it well, although it might have been heard better if the piano lid had been raised.

We have heard Alex Bradshaw sing at previous concerts in this series and it was a pleasure to hear him again, singing Ombra mai fu (Handel's Largo). Like Alex before him, Alex displayed a good dynamic range between loud and soft.

The penultimate performer was Queenie Li, a cellist, who played the Méditation from Massenet's opera Thaïs. Queenie's musicianship was evident in the expressive way she moulded the beautiful tune.

Beth McKinnon has sung at these concerts twice before, and her voice is now maturing nicely. She sang Paris's aria O del mio dolce amor (O of my gentle love), in which he declares his love for Helen of Troy in the opera Paride ed Elena (Paris and Helen) by Gluck. It made a fitting conclusion to a very enjoyable concert. The accompanists were Edwin Rolles for the male singers and Lauren Griffin for the others.

The next concert in the series is to be given on Wednesday 7 March at 1 pm when the musicians will be the Ishi String Ensemble.

Concert on 7th March 2018: Ishi String Ensemble

The following review appeared in the local press:

Every musical ensemble knows the problem that arises when an important member becomes unable to take part in a performance. That is what happened to the Ishi String Ensemble before the concert they were due to give at Farnham United Reformed Church on Wednesday 7 March as part of the regular Music at Lunchtime series. It was the violinist Elona Laurie who was indisposed, but the ensemble was fortunate in being able to obtain Tadasuke Iijima in her place. Tadasuke occupied the first violinist's chair for the second piece in the programme.

The first piece was the first movement of Schubert's sublime quintet which is scored, unusually, for two violins, viola and two cellos rather than the more traditional line up with two violas and one cello. Schubert's choice of instruments allows him to contrast the choir of violins and viola against that of the cellos and viola, and makes for some wonderful effects. The work was given a magical performance by the group with its wonderful unanimity of dynamics and attack, contrasting the bold loud passages with the tenderest moments in the soft playing.

The Schubert piece was followed by Brahms' second string sextet in G major, op.36, for which a second viola was needed. Schubert's quintet was first performed in public in 1850 & the Brahms piece was first performed only 17 years afterwards, in 1867, but is a world away in feeling. The helpful programme note mentions Brahms' relationship with Agathe van Siebold, a singer in Göttingen he fell in love with before she rejected him. After the composition of the sextet Brahms declared "Here I have freed myself from my last love." The sextet is dense and serious and was given a thoughtful and impressive performance by the Ishi ensemble which makes one want to hear this piece again.

The concluding concert in the 2017-8 series of Music at Lunchtime concerts will be held on 2nd May which will feature Vincent Lindsey-Clark, guitar, and Ariadne Blyth, harpsichord.

Concert on 2nd May 2018: Vincent Lindsey-Clark, Guitar

The following review appeared in the local press:

It was a great pleasure to welcome Vincent Lindsey-Clark for a return visit to Farnham United Reformed Church as part of the regular Music at Lunchtime series. As stated in the printed programme, Vincent is well known for his compositions for the guitar: he writes music for both students and professionals, much of which has been used extensively by the major examination boards and performed around the world. He has also written two guitar concertos, one of which had its first performance in Farnham United Reformed Church, a great honour for us.

On this occasion Vincent started his programme by playing his delightful May Dance, from Dances and Songs; it was followed by the Siciliana from Bach's Violin Sonata no.1 (BWV 1001), which works well on guitar.

Federico Moreno Torroba is a twentieth century Spanish composer well known to guitarists, and we next heard four pieces which make up his Album no. 5. All the pieces are very rhythmical, and the first piece, Quien te puso petenera sounds particularly Spanish. Cancioncilla, as its name indicates, is a little song, and Trianeras a dance from Triana, a district of Seville. Niña Merse seems to be a girl's name and is much more heartfelt.

The next composer to be heard was Leo Brouwer, born in Cuba. His music has a quite different feel from Torroba's. Danza del Altiplano, evoking the high plains of the Andes, has rapid solos alternating with chordal structures very attractively.

The music in the rest of the programme was Vincent's. There were three pieces based on astronomical phenomena, Magnetar (a neutron star with a much stronger magnetic field than ordinary neutron stars), Shadow of the moon, a depiction of the solar eclipse in 1999, and Pulsar (a cosmic source of regular and rapid pulses of radiation, once popularly believed to be a star broadcasting signals from outer space to earth) were described by the composer as "dark pieces" but seemed to this writer as being quite graphic depictions.

The final piece in the printed programme was another graphic depiction, this time of Laura, a little girl who was always dancing. The music had two dancing motifs, one in the treble followed by one in the bass, repeated time and again - hearing it, you could see Laura dancing.

But there was an encore: some time ago when Vincent was in New Zealand he was asked to write a piece of guitar music for that country, and chose to compose an extended picture of the bird life there. From that piece we heard Penguins in the Forest, another attractive composition.

This was the last concert in the 2017-18 season; the new season begins in the autumn of 2018.