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 was submitted to 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.