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After the interval, a surprise awaited us: Mateusz had added to his programme the unpublished 1st sonata by Grazyna Bacewicz, which was something of a delight, with unexpected echoes of Ravel as well as Bartok.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 (reeds), 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.