This year's London Song Festival, takes place between 1st and 30th of November, with 5 concerts and 2 masterclasses at St. George's Church, Hanover Square. The theme of this years festival is English Song with programmes themed around English Romantic Poets, settings of Hardy and AE Housman, Jacobean Poets, settings of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Mary Elizabeth Coleridge and an evening of comedy songs. The performers are Louise Winter, Anna Leese, Benedict Nelson, Roderick Williams, Iestyn Morris, Marcus Farnsworth, Laura Casey and David Stout, with Nigel Foster on piano.
Last night we heard a most tempting preview of the concert. Baritone Marcus Farnsworth performed a group of settings Jacobean poets including the well known Sleep by Ivor Gurney as well as the lesser known Herrick settings by Geoffrey Bush. He finished with a hauntingly beautiful rendition of Finzi's Fear No More. This was followed by Louise Winter sing Parry's settings of Mary Coleridge, Granville Bantock's Now (setting Robert Browning) and Ned Rorem's How do I love thee? I have to confess that though I love Bantock's work, this song didn't grab me, but Rorem's setting of Elizabeth Barrett Browning made me want to hear more. Winter finished her group with a bravura account of Frank Bridge's Love went a-riding.
Soprano Laura Casey then finished the first half wit two of Britten and Auden's Cabaret Songs; a bravura account of Johnny and a deeply moving performance of Funeral Blues.
Baritone Roderick Williams opened the 2nd half with a group of settings of Hardy and Housman by Ireland, Bax and Finzi, singing with his customary commitment and beauty of tone. He included one of his own Housman settings, Eight O Clock which piqued my curiosity to hear more.
Further Jacobean poets, set by Tippett, Parry and Bush, were sung by counter-tenor Iestyn Morris; he was particularly striking in Tippett's Thee Songs for Ariel.
Finally a group of comic songs; David Stout's account of Flanders and Swann's Ill Wind was simply virtuosic and had everyone in stitches. Follow that you thought, but Laura Casey did, bringing the house down with Flanders and Swann's A Word on my Ear.
With a talented group of singers, fine accompaniment from Nigel Foster and a programme which mixed the well known with the lesser known, the preview was a fine evening in its own right as well as being an irresistible taster for the full festival. Further details here.