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25th January - On Forest Paths.
Frances Stafford (sop) and Matthew Stanley (pno)
A concert which could so easily not have happened - first, Fran sustained a hip injury and then, on just two days notice, her planned accompanist had to pull out. What an amazing job was done by Matthew Stanley at the piano!
Fran has a beautiful tone in the mid-register that gave a delightful floating quality to the 'dreamier' pieces, such as Robert Schumann's Meine Rose or the more contemporary Michael Head's A Green Cornfield. But her liking for musical theatre was never far below the surface, even in the romantic repertoire. Faure's Le papillon et la fleur was, well, hammed up a bit and none the worse for becoming almost a comic song. She made a splendidly dangerous Lorelei in Clara Schumann's song of that title, and brought the same composer's Liebeszauber to passionate life. Chabrier's Toutes les Fleurs! received the full operatic treatment, "worthy of Nero drowning his dinner guests in rose-petals" to steal from the sleeve notes to Hyperion's recording.
My favourite song, though, was Richard Strauss' Schlagende Herzen, full of interplay between singer and pianist. It was one of three songs by Strauss which gave Matthew Stanley some real alpine peaks to scale, although Liszt's Enfant, si j'etais roi also brought forth an extraordinary thunderous bass line from the piano.
2nd November - Northern Lights.
Caroline Slade, Roland Slade and Jonny Lane.
This recital for voice and piano was a real voyage of discovery and certainly the first time that a singer has performed for us in Norwegian, French, Icelandic, German, English, Scots and Swedish all in one evening! Aside from her multilingual skills, Caroline Slade sung beautifully throughout; there may have been quite a lot of Nordic melancholy in the material but I loved Thea Musgrave's "Suite o' Bairnsangs" which provided a spirited contrast. Jonny Lane accompanied sensitively and with an appearance of total serenity.
Alongside the vocal works we had two sets of piano solos from Roland Slade, bringing us music by Sibelius and Borodin - again, unusual choices and well-worth discovering.
13th October - Rhidian Jones organ recital
Rhidian Jones is Assistant Director of Music at All Saints' Marlow and, as we discovered, a highly talented organist! We do have a fine Willis organ at Christ Church, with (as Rhidian observed) a 'bright' sound, and it's always a joy to hear a good organist show off what the instrument can do. That was certainly the case on this occasion, with a programme including works by Bach, Buxtehude, Byrd, John Stanley and John McCabe.
Rhidian generously donated his services for this recital in support of Marlow Refugee Action, and Vanessa Faulkner from the charity said a few words about its work. We raised almost £600 which was a great result.
28th September - Mateusz Rettner piano recital
We were delighted to have the Polish-born pianist Mateusz Rettner to play a hugely ambitious programme for us.
A Bach prelude, and a fine performance of Beethoven's sonata Op 109, were followed by a virtuoso rendering (from memory) of Scriabin's mighty 5th sonata of 1907. Seldom has our 'old lady' Bechstein been played with such power!
After the interval, a surprise awaited us: Mateusz had added to his programme the unpublished 1st sonata by Grazyna Bacewicz, which was something of a delight, with unexpected echoes of Ravel as well as Bartok. Then it was on to Chopin with a ballade, a nocturne, three etudes and the Fantasie in F minor to finish.
12th May - Taplow Youth Choir
Another visit by this always excellent choir, under the direction of Gillian Dibden MBE and with Neil Matthews at the piano.
Among the pieces for full choir, the opening Rejoice in the Lamb by Britten was excellent, and it was good to hear again Eric Whitaker's mesmeric Sleep, while My soul's been anchored in the Lord by Moses Hogan came close to bringing the house down!
The soloists all performed with confidence and presence, Elisabeth Cullen setting the bar extremely high with Eric Thiman's I wandered lonely as a cloud so well done Sean Douglas, Sarah Johnson and Cormac Diamond for maintaining the high standard.
This concert was in support of Christian Aid and we were able once again to send £750 to support the work of the charity.
14th April - Wallis Power and friends
A joyous tea-time concert, in which cellist Wallis Power was joined by Maja Horvat (violin) and Craig White (piano) in a run-through of her RCM Master's Recital.
Chopin's late sonata for cello and piano, from a first movement full of romantic passion and storminess, moves steadily towards the light and the final allegro rounds it off in a mood that is surprisingly happy, given the composer's failing health. The writing for piano is, as you might expect, demanding and Craig rose to the challenge; while the lovely third movement in particular showed off the sumptous tone of Wallis' cello.
Huw Watkins' Prelude for solo cello (2007) gave her an opportunity to shine technically. Then it was back a century, to Ravel's sonata written in 1920-22 in which Maja's muscular violin-playing was a perfect foil for Wallis's more lyrical style. The final movement, simply marked 'vif', is no happy knees-up but suggestive of a totentanz or dance macabre. Terrific stuff!
The recital concluded with a generous encore, bringing all three players together in a movement from Mendelssohn's first piano trio
15th March - Dudley by the Chris Ingham Quartet
A real feel-good evening! Our audience always enjoys having performers talk to them about the music and, after touring the music of Dudley Moore for several years, Chris Ingham was a mine of information and anecdotes. He also asked some very pertinent questions about why Dudley Moore's music isn't better known.
And it spoke for itself. Dudley Dell, Millionaire, Waterloo (well before Abba got there!), Poova Nova, Bedazzled, Waltz for Suzy and much more.
While Dudley always played just with bass and drums, Paul Higgs' beautiful playing on trumpet and flugel needed no justification.
For me, the highlight was the quartet's performance of Amalgam, a Dudley original, morphing into a high-octane version of Jerome Kern's Yesterdays. Just fabulous! After an encore of - what else? - Goodbyee, the audience left with smiles all round.
Chris Ingham (piano), Paul Higgs (tpt),
Marianne Windham (bass), George Double (drums)
16th Jan - Chiltern Music Academy
CMA's fourth visit to Christ Church, and another chance to hear some of their smaller, chamber, groups.
Making this happen takes huge amounts of hard work not only by the students but also by the teachers and ensemble directors, without whom none of it would be possible. So big, big, thanks to Sally Stafford and all the staff as well as to these amazing talented young people. Let's let the pictures do the rest of the talking!
9th Dec - Marlow Gospel Choir
Marlow's newest choir sang its premiere concert for us at Christ Church.
"Gospel" is a wide field and there was a lot of variety in the material, including This little light of mine, Don Besig's We've got good news to tell, I've got a robe, and Bring me a little water, Sylvie. James Bryant accompanied from the piano and contributed a rockin' version of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and - of course - We wish you a merry Christmas.
I'm sure James and the choir won't mind me saying, however, that the highlight were two wonderful solos from their MD, Caroline Slade, singing first the popular hymn How great Thou art and then a beautiful Poor wayfaring stranger.
13th Nov - Greg Abate / Alan Barnes 4tet
Full on, straight ahead, driving... Call it what you will but this was an evening of high-octane bebop jazz making no compromises and taking no prisoners! Five terrific musicians at the very top of their game, featuring Greg Abate (reeds) and Phil deGreg (piano) from the USA with our very own Alan Barnes, Steve Brown and Andy Cleyndert (standing in magnificently for an indisposed Dave Green).
The numbers just in the second half included Confirmation, Ladybird, Yardbird Suite and Au privave, along with the gentler Sometime Ago and an unexpected piano feature Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.
One of the delights of the evening was the sheer versatility of the front-liners, with the pair duelling on altos in some numbers but Alan also doubling on clarinet and baritone while Greg sported his tenor and flute (or, in Alan's words, suffering 'an outbreak of flautulence'. And we even got a scorching drum solo from the normally 'shy and retiring' Steve Brown. Who could ask for anything more (and no, they didn't play that...)?
7th Oct - Queen of Sheba
We've known Frances for many years and she has performed in a number of events over time, but this was the first time we have had her do a proper recital on the oboe. And the baroque oboe. And the cor anglais. So a veritable feast of double-reeds, especially when Frances was joined by Jean in such famous pieces as - yes - Handel's 'Queen of Sheba'.
Also on the programme were sonatas by Telemann and Handel, Albinoni's famous Adagio in D minor, some folk song arrangements, two Scarlatti keyboard sonatas (brilliantly played by Martin) and more. My favourite was the Jagdstuck by Zemlinsky, arranged for two cors anglais. Not something you hear every night!
The concert concluded with another popular favourite, Gabriel's oboe, specially arranged for two oboes and piano by... Frances Jones.
Frances Jones and Jean Ashford (oboes / cor anglais), with Martin Jones (piano)
22nd Sept - Emil Chakalov / Carlina Carr
Old friend Carlina Carr joined with the brilliant Bulgarian violinist Emil Chakalov in a programme comprising Mozart's sonata in B flat K454, Ravel's Sonata No 2 in G, and Fauré's first sonata, Opus 13 in A.
After the refined classicism of the Mozart, the tonal world of Ravel's sonata (completed in 1927) came as something of a shock. For a time the first movement seems to be in a very dark place, wandering in a kind of chromatic wilderness, but it then moves wondrously towards the light of major chords and all seems well again. The second movement is strongly influenced by jazz, with bluesy slides in the violin and completely different syncopations in the piano. A lively final movement rounds the sonata off.
After the break, the opening of the Fauré seemed to stutter slightly but Carlina was soon back in her stride and the soaring violin melodies made me think of red kites gliding over the Chilterns...
1st July - 'Feelin' my way' (classic jazz)
The moment the Danzon Duo (Ramon Goose and Jonny McCourt) started up with Chicken a la Swing, you knew this was going to be a real feelgood gig, and so it proved. They champion the music of Carl Kress, Dick McDonough and (in their own words) the peerless ‘Father of Jazz Guitar’, Eddie Lang. Highlights included the appropriately named Hot Fingers by Eddie Lang and Lonnie Johnson - but also gentle ballads like their 'title tune' Danzon. Another Eddie Lang track gave the name to this concert, and Carl Kress and Dick McDonough's number Stage Fright brought it to an end.
We'd paired Danzon up with a piano and clarinet duo, and Martin Litton and David Horniblow stepped in when our original plans fell through at the last minute. Martin is a real expert in ragtime and stomp, and David produces a truly authentic sound, with loads of vibrato and lip-bends, immediately evocative of classic jazz. Martin's solo Boogie-Woogie Stomp did pretty much what it said on the tin, while his exploration of Jelly Roll Morton's latin-influenced pieces (Mama Nita, The Crave) was new territory to me and a real discovery.
13th May - Taplow Girls' Choir
We were delighted again to have one of the excellent Taplow Choirs perform for our Christian Aid fundraiser. Gillian Dibden MBE being absent, they were directed by Philip Viveash, with Neil Matthews doing sterling service at the piano.
As in previous concerts, the girls performed items for full choir but also a number of solos and pieces for smaller ensemble. Linden Lea, the Silver Swan and An die Musik all made what might be called their usual appearances, and the soloists all did really well in what must be quite nerve-racking proximity to the audience! I particularly enjoyed Anna Shanu-Wilson's Sonntag by Brahms, and Tallulah Halcox gave us a spirited Summertime by Gershwin. The choir brought this short evening to a close with an exceptionally well-drilled Deo Gracias by Britten and Carly Simon's Let the River Run.
11th March - Fran Stafford / Megan Cave
Two young women that we have known for quite a while but who are just starting out on their musical careers. Fran Stafford (soprano and piano) is already making her professional way as a vocal teacher and performer, while Megan Cave (piano and violin) is about to head off to Trinity Laban to pursue her musical studies. They kindly agreed to perform for us and were also eager to raise money for the Oxford Heart Centre and for Great Ormond Street Hospital.
The recital itself, under the title "Nothing is so beautiful", featured a movement each from Bruch's violin concerto (with Fran accompanying Megan) and Beethoven's Tempest sonata (played by Megan) along with arias by Handel and Mozart and some more recent tunes. Less familiar, though, was Poulenc's song cycle La Courte Paille, in which Fran demonstrated her vocal agility with a torrent of French vowels (Ba, be, bi, bo, bu, bé! / Le chat a mis ses bottes, / Il va de porte en porte / Jouer, danser, / Danser, chanter...) while Megan coped magnificently with the tricky accompaniment. Great fun!
25th Feb - Cameo Opera 'Showstoppers'
Second visit by this ensemble, and what a hit they were with our capacity audience! This time there was just a little less opera and a few more faves from the shows - If I were a rich man, Don't cry for me Argentina, All I ask of you and Wouldn't it be luverley, to name just a few of the best known. But it was a really good mix: Gilbert & Sullivan got a look in (When I was a lad, from Pinafore) as did Henry Mancini (Moon River) and Franz Lehar (On my lips). Oh, and Mozart and Strauss... and we even had a couple of piano duets.
All fabulous stuff and no wonder the audience wore a big collective grin at the end of the evening, before setting off to Climb every mountain on their way home!
Big thanks to Matthew Craven, Judith Buckle, Claire Williamson, Stephanie Crooks, Ian Parrett and (on the ivories) Peter Bailey. Bravo!
11th Nov - Chiltern Music Academy
A fine case of triumph plucked from the jaws of ... well, if not defeat, exactly, certainly a possible disappointment. It's a huge pleasure to be able to bring the Chiltern Music Academy to Christ Church but working with young people does have its trials and tribulations, which their own teachers cope with magnificently. With hindsight, the date for this concert was too close to CMA's gala, and an Albert Hall appearance, and goodness knows what else, which made it hard to pin the groups down. And then, at the last minute, they lost a rather important performer to illness. So, an hour and a half before the start time, it was looking like we had little more than half a concert... Step forward the ever magnificent CMA staff and, a few phone calls later, two brilliant youngsters agreed to front up some solo items which they played superbly and we had one very happy audience!
7th Nov - Dave Higgins 4tet
Our fiftieth concert, and a second appearance by one of the UK's very top jazz saxophonists. It consisted, in the main, of Dave's own compositions from his most recent album.
Dave O'Higgins was accompanied this time by Rob Barron on the piano, and the now-familiar faces of Geoff Gascoyne (bass) and Sebastiaan de Krom (drums). He has something of a way with words too and his song titles range from dreadful puns to the distinctly quirky. The album itself is called "It's always 9.30 in Zog" - not sure he explained that one, but he did seem a bit surprised when I told him that King Zog of Albania once lived near Marlow (all true, folks). I do like the title of a track which he said he had taken from his US Visa application: "Alien with Extraordinary Ability".
For me, the top tune of the evening was not actually one of the man's own compositions. I confess that Timelessness by Bheki Mseleku was a new one on me - but what a great track, and what a fantastic performance by Dave and the band!
15th Oct - 1517 (Luther, Bach and beyond)
A concert to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, by tracing the Lutheran Chorale tradition down through Pachelbel, Buxtehude and Bach, and contrasting it with the Italianate Madrigal tradition sung in the great houses of the 16th and 17th centuries.
The leitmotiv of the evening was Luther's best-known hymn, Ein' Feste Burg, which we heard sung in its original form, adapted by Pachebel, and then sung by the whole audience at the end in Thomas Carlyle's translation.
So, a very different concert from our normal kind of programme (whatever that is). And all made possible through the talents of Christine Wells FRCO on the organ, and Waltham Madrigals who provided the voices.
10th Sept - "Crossing Borders", piano recital by Luke Welch.
Luke's playing might be described as "muscular", certainly he draws great power from the piano with an appearance of little effort. With the release of his CD he may have announced himself as something of a Scarlatti specialist, and his choice of three sonatas for our concert ( L23, 118 and 449) demonstrated his flair and affinity for this music.
But there was much else too: Beethoven's Op 26 sonata, Chopin's Nocturne Op 48 No 2, Morawetz's Scherzo for piano and Schumann's Faschingsschwank aus Wien. Luke's performance of the Chopin did much to justify his suggestion that the piece is unfairly neglected in favour of No 1 in the same Opus, while the Morawetz was a joyful introduction to a composer new to me. I felt the Beethoven could have been given more 'room to breathe' and the same went for some of the Schumann; but the finale, marked "Höchst Lebhaft", certainly lived up to that description as it hurtled brilliantly to its end.
16th July - Peter Ripper and All That Jazz
Jazz on a summer's afternoon, with tea, cake and bubbly - making a most enjoyable celebration of Martin's big birthday! The first (but we hope not the last) appearance in Christ Church of local jazz legend Peter Ripper with his band, collectively All That Jazz... That's Richard Whennell on the piano, Dave Richmond on bass and Barry Kirton on the drums. And Peter himself on clarinet, alto, tenor and (most unusually) C-melody saxes. Four for the price of one!
It was a very relaxed gig, just what was called for, and Peter's easy-going style went down very well indeed with our audience. We went from Strike up the Band via the Girl from Ipanema, Lullaby in Rhythm, Satin Doll, Misty, Limehouse Blues, S'wonderful, Bernie's Tune (a new one on me) , Honeysuckle Rose, Stoned (on the C-melody) and plenty more, to a very fitting finale with an upbeat Get Happy.
14th May - Taplow Youth Choir
Directed as usual by Gillian Dibden, MBE, the full choir items opened with a beautifully-sung I will lift up mine eyes by H Walford Davies, and also included Mendelssohn's Richte mich Gott and Rheinberger's Abendlied. Solos by both young men and women included a suitably nautical Sea Fever (John Ireland) sung by Tuvshen Morgan and the wonderfully-titled For I will consider my cat Jeoffrey (Benjamin Britten) performed by Molly Goetzee, accompanied of course by Neil Matthews at the piano. But the pick of the evening for me were the various vocal ensembles, including a very fine O vos omnes (Victoria) by the girls, Tell me where is fancy bred (Matthew Harris) for mixed voices and (something we've not heard from Taplow before) a male voice quartet singing Slow motion time.
21st March - "It might as well be spring" - Marlene Verplanck
A remarkable evening with an extraordinary grande dame of the jazz scene.
Marlene VerPlanck has been performing for well over half a century and yet there's still springtime in her voice! A full two hour programme of jazz standards and Broadway classics and yet she still gave us an encore at the end. Amazing!
The band was pretty useful too - great piano playing by John Pearce, ably assisted by Bobby Worth on kit and Paul Morgan on bass.
As well as the title track (Rogers & Hammerstein), the programme included The way you look tonight, In the still of the night, I remember you, The best thing for you would be me, I give up, I'm in love, The rules of the road, You'd be so easy to love, I never knew what time it was and, as an encore, The lies of handsome men! And much, much more.
25th Feb - Piano a deux, "Meet me in Paris"
An evening that fizzed like a glass of champagne! Linda Ang and Robert Stoodley, collectively known as Piano à Deux, gave us a recital of piano-four-hands playing in which the lighthearted presentation concealed some seriously good musicianship.
There was a French connection to everything they played. They opened in safe territory with a spanking selection of tunes from Bizet's Carmen, before moving on to Fauré's Dolly Suite. From there, a number of interesting avenues opened up: Robert left the stool for a time to let Linda deliver some solo Chopin, Bach was fused with Cole Porter (I love Paris in the springtime), and three arrrangements of Poulenc songs changed the mood.
On we rolled, never pausing for too long and always keeping things bright. More Chopin, Liszt, Johnny Mercer, and so to a finale from Gershwin - a brilliant piano reduction of much of the score of An American in Paris, and the sight of Robert counting like crazy as the pair powered through the time changes and the syncopations.
26th Nov - Chiltern Music Academy
The second visit by CMA, again featuring their "smaller" ensembles - although that meant everything up to the 30-strong string orchestra. It was a fantastic evening of music-making by these young musicians; but we did struggle a bit to cope with the numbers of both players and audience packing Christ Church out, so apologies to anyone who found it a bit of a squash!
The quality of the music-making was consistently high and to pick out individual groups seems wrong... But I can't not give a mention to the piano trio (that's six hands on the one piano) and to the string octet, both of whom won gold medals at the Marlow Music Festival earlier in the week. And how appropriate that the strings played the first movement from Mendelssohn's octet, itself written when the composer was just sixteen.
30th Oct - Live on Stage
Another new idea, a kind of mini-festival featuring no fewer than ten different "acts" who each performed for around half an hour. So quite a long event overall - "Martin's Marathon" as one of our friends called it - but with audience coming and going as took their fancy. It was great fun and raised lots of money for Marlow Age Concern and Karen's Big Smiles whom we were very pleased to support. Huge thanks to all these wonderful local musicians.
Performers were: Murray Whitaker, Tomoko Nishiyama with Jean Ashford, RAF Halton clarinet 4tet, Waltham Madrigals, Allsorts sax 4tet, Lea Barn musicians, Suzanna Shaw with Matt Murton, Marlow Ukelele Group, Jon Woodhouse jazz impro group and the Dan Simpson folk trio.
15th Oct - Cristofori Trio
Our very good friend Carlina Carr made a return visit with the two "boys", Warren Zielinski and Ian Burdge, to play another remarkable evening of piano trios.
Mozart's trio in E K542 was full of charm and was followed by the lush scoring of Brahms' sumptous trio no. 3, Opus 101. After the interval, Shostakovich's second trio, Op 67, written in wartime and premiered in Leningrad in 1944, took us to a wholly different place, musically and emotionally. Warren warned that "shrapnel might fly" and the trio delivered a performance of great physicality that left one feeling drained. Once again we are so grateful to these players for bringing great chamber music to Marlow.
12th July - Derek Nash acoustic quartet with Martin Shaw
Another terrific night in our occasional series of "co-productions" with the Marlow Jazz Club. Derek Nash and Martin Shaw were backed by the fantastic rhythm section of Dave Newton (pno), Geoff Gascoyne (bass) and Steve Brown (standing in at the last minute for Seb de Krom on the drums). The evening featured tracks from their CD, "You've got to dig it to dig it, you dig" as well as standards and more, and the energy levels were truly exceptional! When a band enjoys itself as much as this one seemed to it really rubs off on the audience... In short, a big WOW of an evening!
4th June - Louise Cournarie recital
An evening of great variety from this young French pianist.
The oldest piece in the programme was Purcell's Suite in A minor, one of a relatively small number of keyboard pieces that have survived from this English composer. From just a few year's later, Rameau's suite in the same key from his first book of harpsichord pieces contained some lovely melodic moments as well as showing off the player's great technique - particularly some astonishing trills in the Vénitienne movement!
Moving on in time, Mozart's Sonata number 12 (K332) was perhaps the least confident performance - Louise has been suffering from a damaged finger and not been able to practise as much as usual. But you certainly would not have guessed it from the way she tackled the mountain of Schubert's late sonata in A major, D959. It is a fabulous work, at times intensely lyrical and at others quite tortured as the composer seems to be all-too aware of death's approach.
15th May - Taplow Girls' Choir
A return visit by the always excellent Girls' Choir under the direction of Gillian Dibden MBE.
The choral works in the programme included Lift thine eyes from Mendelssohn's Elijah, Percy Fletcher's arrangement of Follow me down to Carlow, Dowland's Come again! Sweet love, The peace of God by John Rutter and a fine setting of Psalm 150 by F Roy Bennett.
We also had a number of vocal and instrumental solos, performed by Maria Nozdrina, Madeleine Martin, Alys Dally, Tallulah Halcox, Beth Wooller and Sophie Cooper. The evening concluded with a (more or less) world premiere, a tercentenary anthem was written for Christ Church, with music by Margaret Denby setting words from the book of Haggai and presented by the choir as a "work in progress".
23rd April - Bandfest 2016
A special day: St George's Day, the 400th Anniversary of William Shakespeare's death, and the great Marlow Bandfest 2016! No fewer than six wind bands played a set each at All Saints church. And what a foot-tapping time we had of it!
The bands were: Bisham Concert Band, Senior Wind Ensemble of CMA, Borlase Brass ensemble, BB (Senior big band) from HWMC, Chiltern Hills Brass and RAF Voluntary Concert Band.
26th March - Loddon piano quartet with Jacobine van Laar
Music from the Baroque to the 20th century.
After opening with songs by Ivor Gurney and Vaughan Williams, the main piece in the first half was the first Piano Quartet by Gabiel Fauré, Op 15 in C minor, and the quartet's playing of it was a real joy. The church's Bechstein grand piano, played by Marisa Cornford, really seemed to suit this music.
After the interval things took a whole new direction. Arvo Pärt's "Mozart's Adagio" was followed by the same composer's movingly romantic and deeply sad song "Es sang vor langen Jahren", in which Jacobine van Laar's sumptuous tone was accompanied by Dan Cornford on viola and Cormack Browne on violin.
Another complete change of gear took us to a final section of works by JS Bach, for which Marisa took to the organ console. The pieces included an arrangement of the Trio Sonata No 1 for organ. Jacobine then returned to the stage to sing arias from Bach's cantatas, with the accompaniment of the quartet and underpinned by Roberto Sorrentino's cello continuo.
19th Mar - Quire Voices, 'Crucifixus'
A relatively new choir, several of whom - including Musical Director Sean Bui - learned their craft in the Taplow choirs. Precision and fine diction could therefore be taken for granted, but what was really impressive was the way that their voices blended together, particularly noteworthy in the quieter pieces where the sound was allowed to drift gently into the stillness.
They opened by tackling the heights of Allegri's Miserere. Solo items followed, of which my favourite was James' strong performance of Vaughan Williams' Easter, expertly accompanied by Richard Fustenheim. But the afternoon belonged to the choir - Stopford's Ave Verum was beautiful in every way, before a shift of gear finished the first half with a soulful Were you there and a lively Plenty Good Room.
The second half included some unusual items, finishing with a remarkable Cantate Domino by Elberdin, sung partly in Basque. And as an encore the choir added a gorgeous setting by Blake Henson of Herrick's poem To Music, Becalm his Fever which left off where we came in: fine control, perfect balance and a great sense of ensemble.
21st Nov - Chiltern Music Academy
The evening started with the String Orchestra, shoe-horned into our "intimate" space, then progressed through the Recorder Ensemble (some of them very young!), the Phoenix String Quartet, an excellently played piano duet of Saint-Saens' Aquarium, more recorders, the Zwickau Quintet in a movement from Schubert, the Flute and Wind Ensembles, a duet for violin and cello (playing an arrangement of a Vivaldi recorder sonata), and finally the Brass Dectet. A special mention for the two solo acts, Kim Bowker on recorder and Nick Morgan playing a Bach prelude on bass guitar - and that isn't a combination you hear every day!
CMA is all about the children, of course. But it's also a massive tribute to the huge energy and dedication that the teachers pour into it, and our special thanks go to Margot Rusmanis, Alex King, Guy Button and Jeremy Foster who appeared on stage, Jackey Birch and George Bent and others who did not but who had coached the groups, and most of all to Sally Stafford who made the whole evening possible. Play, Passion and Performance!
7th Nov - Theresa Yu piano recital
A delight in every way! - an evening of intense musicality, brought to us by a charming young lady to whom we wish every future success. Theresa is only 19 and a student at the Royal College of Music, but her performance demonstrated maturity beyond her years and a wonderful combination of great lyricism with power aplenty when required. The programme comprised:
- Beethoven: Sonatas No 17 in D minor, Op.31 No.2; and No 31 in A flat major, Op.110
- Chopin: Nocturne No 17 in B major, Op.62 No.1
- Bach: Toccata in E minor BWV 914
- Schubert: Impromptu in B flat, Op.142 No.3
- Granados: The Maiden and the Nightingale
The final movement of Beethoven's next-to-last sonata, with which the evening closed, runs the entire gamut of human emotion. Forget the X-Factor, this is a work with "wow factor" and the audience loved it.
24th Oct - Return of Lenore Raphael
Another evening of melodic jazz with the wonderful pianist from New York accompanied by Peter Ingram (drums) and Paul Morgan (bass). Their set included plenty of standards, comprising Have you met Miss Jones?, You and the night and the music, They can't take that away from me, Just friends, Do nothin' 'til you hear from me, Yesterdays, a wonderful Georgia, In a sentimental mood (a feature for Paul Morgan on the bass), Confirmation, Alone together, and Tenderly. And a quirky note was added by a version of Someone in love that began and ended in the style of Bach! Lenore ended the evening, as she always does, with her Blues for OP, written in memory of Oscar Peterson.
26th Sep - Maria Kesselman in cabaret with James Church
Thanks to James Church for bringing his "cabaret night" to Marlow, and thanks of course to the lovely Maria Kesselman for her sparkling performance.
An evening of song, loosely based on the merry-go-round of life and love, including some old standards but also a number of much less well-known numbers. I particularly enjoyed Dillie Keane's moving "Look Mummy, no hands!", which was new to me anyway...
Russian folk song got a look in, as did Argentinian tango and Kurt Weill. So plenty of variety, and truly something for everyone. No wonder the appreciative audience went home smiling and humming!
20th June - Temple Ensemble / Royal College Singers
An evening with nine brilliant young performers and some quite unusual repertoire, taking advantage of the various combinations possible with string quartet, piano, clarinet and voice.
The quartet (Matthew Chambers, Sophie Belinfante, Lydia Abell and Amy Goodwin) all performed wonderfully, with a lusciousness of sound that was shown off to great effect in Dvorak's American Quartet. Rounding out the Temple Ensemble, pianist Daniel Espie also accompanied the various soloists impeccably, while clarinetist Poppy Bedoe played the most beautiful long melodic lines in pieces including Brahms' Gestillte Sehnsucht.
The singers - all from the Royal College - delighted the audience. Thomas Scott-Cowell's countertenor was nothing less than astonishing, while sopranos Fiona Haynes and Sarah Lenney sparkled in Mozart's Sull'aria, to the great delight of the audience. Among the less common pieces, Poppy and Lydia joined Daniel to play Schumann's late Maerchenerzaehlungen, and Prokofiev's Overture on Hebrew Themes, with which the concert opened, was a real joy with its kletzmer-style clarinet part.
May 2015 - 6 concerts making up the Marlow Festival of Wind and Brass
By far our most ambitious project: three concerts, a jazz night and two workshops spread over three weeks of May 2015.
From top to bottom the pictures show:
Alastair Penman and Edward Liddall perform "The Classical Sax", including Bozza's Aria, Jean Matitia's Devil's Rag, Lou Cabridan (the Bumblebee) from Paule Maurice's Tableaux de Provence, Debussy's Rapsodie, some of the Childrens' Songs by Chick Corea and cthe Pequena Czarda by Pedro Itturalde.
The Best Bands in the Land, featuring Bisham Concert Band, Chiltern Hills Brass, Maidenhead Concert Band and the HWMC Big Band.
The Chiltern Brass Quintet, whose very creative mix included Victor Ewald's Quintet No 3 , Lauridsen's O Magnum Mysterium, played from the balcony of a darkened church, and Alan Fernie's complex arrangement of Send in the Clowns. Setting off these slower numbers were a rumbustious American Carnival and a barnstorming Stars and Stripes Forever, both from the arranging pen of Stephen Roberts.
An Amateur Wind Workshop, with 21 local players enjoying playing in a range of ensembles of different sizes.
A jazz Double Header, in association with Marlow Jazz Club, featuring Derek Nash (saxes) and Martin Shaw (tpt) with the Frank Toms Trio. Big thanks to Michael Eagleton for this one.
And a jazz impro workshop led by Jon Woodhouse, giving amateur players the chance to pretend they are Charlie Parker and with a live band to accompany them in the closing concert.
10th March - Harry Allen 4tet
To those of us who "blow a bit" as amateur players, Harry Allen's technique was inspirational. He has such economy of movement, his fingers barely rippling as he plays with high-speed precision. And if you want to know what "lip out" technique means, take a look at some of the pictures. Except that what it really meant in this case was a sound to die for and a great flexibility and range of tone.
Harry Allen was backed by a first-rate trio of Andrea Pozza (piano), Steve Brown (drums) and Simon Woolf (bass). They seemed to be enjoying themselves - and the audience certainly was! In the second half of the programme Andrea treated us to his solo version of Lush Life on our 1901 Bechstein, an utterly baroque cascade of notes played with studied nonchalance. Another master at work!
For their finale, and at the request of two long-standing fans in the audience, the band launched into a version of Body and Soul that started with slow smoochiness, launched off into double-time variations and eventually put the brakes on again to end as it began. A fine conclusion to the evening.
7th Feb - Philip Garson piano recital
A bit of an experiment to start the 2015 season: a short (1 hour) recital at 4pm, with tea and cakes. I thought we might get an audience of 40, in fact we had a really good near-full house with over 80 in attendance, and STILL there was enough cake for all! Hopefully everyone found it a very enjoyable afternoon outing.
Philip opened with Beethoven's sonata in Eb, Op 27 No 1: not one with which I was familiar, but the last movement in particular showed the composer in quite experimental mood and it made for interesting listening. Debussy followed, "Reflets dans l'eau" and "Les collines d'Anacapri" showing off the tone of the Bechstein very nicely. Then came the showstopper: a terrific performance of Chopin's huge Fantaisie in F min, Op 49, which I really enjoyed. And more Chopin for an encore.
15th Nov - Berkshire Brass
A great finale to our concert year, with some beautiful playing by the brass and virtuoso work on the piano by Ken Harratt. And a world premiere performance (that's a first for us, in all senses!) of Dave Richards' arrangement of the second movement from Gershwin's Concerto in F. Fabulous stuff.
Thanks too for playing my request of Derek Bourgeois' Serenade, a tricky bit of counting for the last number of the evening!
25th Oct - Cameo Opera by candlelight
I feel I may have a credibility problem, if I say once again that this was a fabulous evening and hugely enjoyed by the audience... But how can I not tell what is the simple truth?! The church looked lovely, flooded with candlelight. The singers looked lovely, alternating evening dress and costumes. And the singing was always good and, at best, superb. It was a truly lush evening of some of the very best tunes that opera has to offer, and at times there were genuine tears of emotion in the audience.
When Matthew Craven, Judith Buckle and Sophie Pullen all performed so well it seems invidious to pick out one singer in particular, but I know that the audience was absolutely blown away by Richard Owen's wonderful tenor voice. His Pearl Fishers' duet with Matthew was a peach, topped only by his Nessun Dorma. And a very big round of applause too for Peter Bailey, who accompanied magnificently throughout.
13th Sept - Marlow's last night of the Proms
We came, we sang and we partied! This was a real fun evening, with a capacity crowd enjoying performances from the Marlow Music Makers and the Marlow Ukelele Group before we all joined in with those traditional Last Night anthems, Rule Britannia, Land of Hope and Glory and Jerusalem. And a right rousing singalong it was too! So huge thanks to both groups, to Barbara Whitehead, James Church and Brian Ward who led them, and to everyone who contributed to the success of the evening.
28th June - Cristofori Trio
Carlina Carr, Warren Zielinski and Ian Burdge had played for us before, but not previously as a trio. They gave us a programme of great variety, with piano trios by Haydn, Brahms and Ravel, quite different in style and each making its particular demands on the players.
Haydn's Trio in C was more than just the warm-up for what followed: as the programme notes said, the late trios are "regarded as masterpieces of the genre". Brahms' second Trio, also in C maj, has a muscular quality that quite belies the (unfounded) image of chamber music as genteel easy-listening. The players seemed really to enjoy bringing out the romantic contrasts, from "mutterings" in the minor key to soaring melodies. The Finale was a triumphant conclusion to the first half of our concert.
After the interval the single work was Ravel's Trio in A minor, written on the eve of the first world war. Ravel pushed the sound of the piano trio in all sorts of innovative directions, with each movement bringing new surprises: the opening of the passacaglia right in the depths of the piano's range, or the use of harmonics on both string instruments, being just two examples. The audience loved every moment of this performance and gave the players a well-deserved ovation at the end.
11th May - Taplow Girls' Choir
The concert included a mix of full-choir works, smaller ensembles and solos. When it comes to solos, no girl of this age (9 to 15 years) is going to have a fully-developed voice and there were inevitably a few nerves and shaky phrases. But to be able to perform in this way in public is an achievement in itself, and some of the voices showed huge promise for the future. I particularly liked Josephine's alto voice in Wishing you were somehow here again and Amelia's Under the Greenwood Tree projected real depth and emotion.
It was the full choir pieces that gave the girls and their Director the best opportunity to shine, and shine they did, in a variety of styles. Purcell's Sound the Trumpet may be a standard but how it soared! By way of complete contrast, Irving Berlin's How deep is the Ocean was delightful, with an excellent flute obligato by Becky. Among the other modern works, Douglas Coombes' The Song Makers was sheer pleasure, Bob Chilcott's arrangement of poems Like a singing bird was very lovely indeed, while Don Besig's Chariot's comin' would have brought any house down.
29th Mar - Fiona Haynes and Robert Cheung
Fiona Haynes attended both Wycombe High School and Sir William Borlase Grammar before moving on to the B.Mus programme at the Royal College of Music under teacher Amanda Roocroft. She performed two very varied sets of songs, ranging from Purcell through Fauré and Wolf to Britten and Hageman. Fiona has a wonderfully sweet voice that seems to soar effortlessly to the top notes. I feel she's still working on developing the full operatic richness of tone, but her performances of Mozart's "In uomini in soldati" and of Micaela's aria from Carmen showed off her vocal flexibility and I loved her beautiful performance of Quilter's "Weep you no more, sad fountains".
Robert Cheung is being schooled at home and studies piano with Dr Nigel Wilkinson. He gave us a quite outstanding performance of both great precision and musicality, played entirely from memory. Beethoven's sonata No 27 was played with wonderful evenness as well as feeling, and the concert ended with a bravura interpretation of Chopin's Scherzo Op 20 No 1.
4th Mar - Dave O'Higgins 4tet
We were tickled pink by the gig list that appeared on the Quartet's own poster for their 2014 tour. Eleven performances were listed on it: there was Christ Church Marlow, and there too were Ronnie Scott's and the Wigmore Hall. Does that mean we've made it into the big time? Well, maybe not, but - hey - why trek into London for a gig when you can listen to music of this quality in Marlow?!
It was a terrific evening. What really struck me was just how intimate our lovely venue feels when you have a band that is happy to play acoustically this close to the audience. Dave O'Higgins took much care in testing out the acoustic of the room and in "tweaking" things until he got just the sound he wanted.
Dave and the band (Geoff Gascoyne, Graham Harvey and Sebastiaan de Krom) were on fine form. They opened with a track that is a ghastly pun - "Autopsy", based on that old standard Topsy, and ran through a sequence of contrafacts (new tunes on old chord structures) written either by Dave or by Geoff Gascoyne, suitably leavened with a few standards, and culminating in a tune I had personally requested - the "Devil's Interval". Seb gave us the longest drum solo yet heard at Christ Church, on another Dave contrafact "You're Nicked", and of course Dave O'Higgins himself was consistently superb.
23rd Nov - Autumn Serenade
We had a few sleepless nights in the run-up to this concert (performers having to pull out, that sort of thing...) but the final result was a great success.
German organist Marco Lemme got the evening off to a flying start with a transcription of the Festmusik from Wagner's Meistersinger, returning later to give us more Wagner (a lovely Lohengrin) and a Bach Prelude and Fugue in G.
Claire Haynes played magnificently on concert harp, stepping in for her sister who was indisposed. I particularly enjoyed Rousseau's sumptuous "Variations Pastorales sur un Vieux Noel", which was followed by Andres' atmospheric "Elegie pour la Mort d'un Berger". Then we had a complete change of gear, as local sisters Phoebe and Issy Mansell delighted the audience with half a dozen duets for voice and ukelele - see the first picture below.
We originally scheduled members of the Lea Barn Divertimenti to play a wind quintet but on the night this turned into a wind trio by Vivaldi with piano continuo! The cracks didn't show, honest!
Claire then tackled the technical challenges of Spohr's Fantasie for harp, before Marco Lemme returned to the organ to sign off with a rousing Fanfare by Lemmens.
12th Nov - return of Lillian Boutté
We had a wonderful concert in 2012 by diminutive New Orleans legend Lillian Boutté, so we knew what to expect - and I need hardly say more than "she was every bit as good as last time"!
Not just Lillian, of course, but also her fabulous band. Denny Ilet Jnr (guitar), Dan Moore (piano), Andy Crowdy (bass) and Daisy Palmer (drums) are not just terrific musicians but quite clearly enjoy playing for Lillian as well, which makes a real difference to the audience experience too.
This was a performance full of life and joy, thoroughly enjoyed by a capacity crowd in the church. Some of the set was the same as last year, featuring numbers that for me are now just so associated with Lillian - "If we ever needed the Lord before" and "He touched me" being two examples. But the beautiful ballad "He saw my need" was new to me and very moving, and by the time Lillian wound up the evening with "I'll fly away" the audience was well and truly in the palm of her hand and clapping along.
6th Oct - Soundforce Big Band
Soundforce swung their stuff in fine style at Christ Church, with a programme largely although not exclusively from the classic repertoire of the golden era of swing.
From the first notes of Strike up the Band to a brilliant close with Jools Holland's arrangement of Tuxedo Junction, the 17-piece ensemble was directed by Keith Pocock and delivered the even blend of sound so characteristic of the style. There were some fine solos too, among which Carolynn's clarinet interventions were notable, although a greater willingness from some of the soloists to really stand out would bring their performances more to life.
No shyness problem with the singers, with Lea delivering her diva best on several numbers and Mick doing it his way with a fair impression of Sinatra on others. MC for the evening was Trevor, whose cheesy jokes hopefully hit the spot with the large audience!
21st Sept - Mary Daniels and Clare Mayo
A very appreciative audience enjoyed a nicely varied mix of composers and styles from both pianists. They opened and closed with "piano four hands" duets, always a crowd-pleaser, and in between alternated at the keyboard to give us Beethoven, Grieg, Haydn and more - with my own favourite being Mary's lovely performance of Handel's Suite in G Minor.
Thanks to a very good turn-out and the generosity of the audience, a cheque for £350 was sent from this concert to Myeloma UK, the cause which Mary and Clare were supporting. And there was also a significant contribution to the church's piano fund, for which we are very grateful.
15th June - Ian Burdge with Carlina Carr
Carlina Carr made a return visit to Christ Church, this time with cellist Ian Burdge. And a first class return it certainly was, hugely appreciated by our audience.
The programme comprised sonatas by Beethoven, Debussy and Brahms. The Beethoven was played with great delicacy and precision, bringing out beautifully the character of a work which at times seems to look back to the earlier classical age of Mozart and Haydn while yet being unmistakably romantic in character. The Brahms sonata with which the evening finished is much lusher in texture and here the tone of Ian's late 18th century cello was simply delicious!
In between came Debussy's sonata from 1915, for me the highlight of the evening. It is one of his last works, written as he was dying from cancer and against the backdrop of the First World War. Again it nods to the past, in this case the French school of Rameau and his contemporaries. But the soundscape is very modern indeed, showing Debussy even at the end of his life pushing tonality to the very limit and striving for a new form of expression. Astonishing music!
12th May - Robin Ward (harp)
Robin Ward's recital gave us the triple pleasure of hearing not just one but three harps, all made by Robin himself. His speciality is the triple harp (so named as it has three banks of strings but no pedals). But at times he switched also to the lever harp and to a metal-stringed instrument, explaining the features of each and demonstrating their varying sounds.
As a fan of Spanish music, I much enjoyed Robin's "borrowing" of guitar and piano works by Tarrega and Albeniz, but there was plenty too for lovers of earlier periods, including arrangements of John Dowland, and of course for connoisseurs of "real" harp music by Turlough O'Carolan and others. The name Sophia Corri (or Sophia Dussek) was a new one to me, and there cannot have been many Italian-Scottish women harpists in any period, but Robin's combination of three movements by her into a "Sonata Bastarda" was a delight. As was the whole afternoon, including the interval cakes - so many thanks to Robin, our audience, and of course the cooks!
26th April - Lenore Raphael trio
Lenore Raphael played just five gigs on her UK tour, which put our concert at Christ Church right up there with the Bull's Head at Barnes and Steinway Hall in London.
In Jeremy Clarkson style: "if this gig was a cake..." it would have to be the perfect American cupcake: beautifully textured, melt-in-the-mouth, and with the sort of icing keeps you coming back for more. Yum!
The tunes were mainly of the kind which those of us of a certain age call "familiar". Gershwin got a look-in, as did Jerome Kern, Rodgers & Hammerstein - and Duke Ellington, of course. For Michael Eagleton of the Marlow Jazz Club there was an extra cherry in the shape of Charlie Parker's "Confirmation". And the evening was rounded off, as Lenore's performances always are, with her own "Blues for O.P."
Terrific stuff, all of it. But perhaps best were a delightful version of "It might as well be spring" and a peachy "Georgia on my Mind", both of which showed off to perfection Lenore's gentle delicacy of touch, well suited by our Bechstein piano.
23rd March - Borlase Gospel Choir
Having announced that our "spring season" would start with a short set by the Borlase Gospel Choir on 23rd March, the music lived up to expectations even though the weather refused to play ball! Never mind: spring or not, the girls were lovely and got our new season off to a fine start.
Unfortunately, we have only this one fuzzy mobile phone photo as a record of their visit!
9th Feb - Philip Garson
In his recital, Philip Garson set out to scale some major peaks of the Romantic piano repertoire.
Robert Schumann, composer of Kreisleriana, wrote to Clara that he was "overflowing with music and beautiful melodies", describing his own work as "eloquent and from the heart". Philip's performance of the fourth section struck me as particularly moving, the music taking us to the very edge of the abyss (where it comes to a complete stop for what feels an age) before the sweetest of melodies pulls us back to a temporary refuge.
After the interval we continued our mountain journey via Beethoven to Albeniz. Evocacion and El puerto were beautifully delivered but with Triana the technical challenges did start to intrude on the fluency of Philip's playing and it was a slight relief to reach the downhill slopes of Chopin's ballades. Philip is a lifelong fan of Chopin's music and his deep understanding of it shone through in the cascading notes of the 4th Ballade which brought the scheduled programme to an end. Philip then returned to the piano to leave us with a dance by Granados, putting a cherry atop the icing!
20th Nov - Lillian Boutté and her band
With Dan Moore (piano), Denny Ilet jnr (guitar),
Andy Crowdy (bass) and Daisy Palmer (drums)
Our first venture into jazz, with thanks to Michael Eagleton who guided and advised us on that.
Strictly speaking, it was mainly an evening of gospel music. From “Joshua fit the battle of Jericho” to Curtis Mayfield's "People get ready" and Bill Gaither’s “He touched me”, the songs certainly touched an enthusiastic audience. And during “What a wonderful world” the singer literally touched us all, making her way around the audience exchanging handshakes and hugs with the whole crowd!
Among the audience were 8 members of the Borlase school gospel choir who were pulled onstage to perform with Lillian and the band. Their efforts brought the audience to its feet and won them the biggest cheer of the night, which is saying something.
The band was just terrific. When you see the musicians grinning at each other you know that something special is going on - and Daisy spent most of the gig with a grin on her face. Matched only, of course, by an enthusiastic capacity audience.
22nd Sept - Ashford family and friends
Just a fun event for us and some of our pals... A very informal concert for friends and family, with Jean Ashford at the piano, Heather Ashford singing and the Saxidentally Quartet blowing its horns like crazy! Thanks to the Hunt family too for organising tea and cakes.
1st June - Warren Zielinski with Carlina Carr
We billed this concert as "Violin Masterworks" and so it proved. Three wonderful concerti, played with consummate skill by Carlina Carr and Warren Zielinski.
It was a full programme (made even more so by the encore) and how very generous it was of these musicians to come and perform for what, sadly, was a tiny audience. Our first experience of how difficult it can be to fill a hall for chamber and instrumental music, even when the works and the performance are masterly!
The programme was;
- Beethoven Sonata in A, Op 5 No. 2
- Mozart Sonata in B flat, K484
- Prokofiev Sonata in D, Op 94
13th May - Taplow Youth Choir
Christ Church was filled to capacity for this one. An audience of over 100 people was treated to a fine programme not just of choral music but also works for soloists and small ensembles, organ and even solo cello.
The repertoire ranged from the traditional and serious (canticles by Thomas Attwood Walmsley) through the modern and challenging (Britten's "Rejoice in the Lamb") to some pieces at the lighter end of the range. For Eric Whitacre's "This Marriage" the choir dispersed itself around the gangways so that the audience was treated to a very close-up performance. And "Hamba Lulu" (a traditional African wedding song) had the boys in the choir beating their chests rhythmically like a band of waistcoated gorillas. For your reviewer, the highlight of the evening was perhaps the beautiful trio version of the Welsh "Watching the wheat", sung meltingly by Freya and Lauren Cox with Berenice Cunningham-Walker.
Huge thanks to the choir, organist Robert Jones and most of all to Gillian Dibden who trains and inspires these young musicians to such a high standard.
16th Mar - Louise Herrington with James Church
This wonderful evening was not the first concert at Christ Church, we had long held occasional events in the church, but it was the first to feature the on-loan 1901 Bechstein grand piano and it marked the start of a regular concert programme and of fundraising to buy the piano.
We were entertained with much vim and verve by the combined talents of Louise Herrington and James Church. Louise worked her way from classic opera to contemporary cabaret, the versatility of her voice being put to fine use. At the piano, James did much more than simply accompany the songs, giving us several Earl Wild solo arrangements of huge technical complexity. His bravura interpretation of Wild's reworkings of Gershwin songs earned him one of the biggest rounds of applause of the night.
But it was left to Louise to round off the evening with a hilarious rendition of the "Alto's Lament" and to send us all home humming "You'll never walk alone".