Sunday, 21 April 2013

London English Song Festival

Royal Hospital Chelsea on  Stanford's Map of 1897
Royal Hospital Chelsea on
Stanford's Map of 1897
The London English Song Festival encompasses song in all its variety, with choral concert at the chapel of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea which celebrates the English part-song and madrigal, plus three song recitals at the Forge in Camden given by a whole selection of young British singers (including Rupert Charlesworth, the winner of the London Handel Song Competition) accompanied by William Vann. Repertoire includes an emphasis on Britten, plus songs by Lennox Berkeley, William Alwyn and many more including some interesting rarities such as songs by Matyas Seiber.  In addition there are two 'bring a song' sessions, allowing amateur singers the spotlight for once. The festival runs from 2 to 12 May with all events at the Forge, Camden apart from the opening choral concert.


William Vann conducts the Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in Flower Songs on May 2, a programme of English part-songs centred on Benjamin Britten's Five Flower Songs. The rest of the programme includes Charles Villiers Stanford's The Blue Bird and Orlando Gibbons' The Silver Swan plus music by 16th and 17th century composers Thomas Morley, John Bennet, John Dowland and John Wilbye, as well as by the 19th and 20th English school who were inspired by them including RVW and Gerald Finzi. The concert is followed by drinks in the cloister walk and what the organisers hope will be a lovely spring evening.

Songs of the Half Light, at the Forge in Camden on 5 May sees mezzo-soprano Katie Bray, tenor Rupert Charlesworth (who recently won the London Handel Singing Competition), guitarist Ahmed Dickinson-Cardenas and pianist William Vann performing music for voice and piano and for voice and guitar with a group of songs by Lennox Berkeley including Three Greek Songs and the Sonatina for Guitar, plus songs by Britten and by Matyas Seiber, a Hungarian who settled in England in 1955. The programme includes Seiber's Four Greek Folk Songs.

May 9 sees Caroline McPhie (soprano), Jonathan Sells (baritone), Timothy Orpen (clarinet) and William Vann (piano) at the Forge, performing folk-song arrangements by Britten, RVW, Percy Grainger, John McCabe, Cecil Sharp and Herbert Howells, along with Gerald Finzi's Five Bagatelles for clarinet and piano. The concert is preceded by a pre-concert talk which will explore the overlap between folk-song performance and art song.

The final concert is Songs of the Night on 12 May with mezzo-soprano Kate-Joy Simmonds, baritone Jonathan McGovern again with William Vann at the piano performing Britten's Charm of Lullabyes,  and songs of sleep and night by Purcell, Peter Warlock, Herbert Howells, Frank Bridge, Edward Elgar, Ivor Gurney, William Alwyn, RVW, Hubert Parry and Arthur Somervell.

There are two bring a song sessions, fifteen minute slots offering a chance to sing on the stage of The Forge. William Vann will be at the piano and there will be time to run through the song more than once and also work on details in a mini-masterclass style. There are only sixteen slots in total, places can be reserved via the contact form on the festival website.

The festival was founded in 2011 by pianist William Vann, in order to promote the wide repertoire of English song.  Further information from the London English Song Festival website.

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