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:
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.