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".