Saturday 13 October 2012

To Bristol - Evensong and Judging

Bristol Cathedral
To Bristol yesterday for a concert at Colston Hall. As we made good time travelling from London, we took advantage to catch Evensong at Bristol Cathedral sung by the lay clerks under Mark Lee. The Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis were by Humphrey Clucas (born 1941), whose music I had not come across before. He seems to have been a lay vicar at Westminster Abbey. The setting was unaccompanied and written with a nice practicality, suitable for an ensemble of just 7 men; though perhaps it did sound as if the composer had rather OD'd on Vaughan Williams before writing it. The anthem was In Manus Tuas by John Sheppard, a perfect piece of early Tudor polyphony, beautifully sung as the sun was setting.

The evening concert was Diamond Songs at Colston Hall, the English Poetry and Song Society's recital celebrating the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. We arrived early, and had the delight of standing in the impressive new foyer space at Colston Hall, watching the audience for the Neil Sedaka arrive and try and guess who was going to Sedaka and who going to Diamond Songs. For the first half of the recital, Sarah Leonard and Stephen Varcoe gave us an interesting trawl through music by Masters of the King's Music, starting at Greene and Boyce, with an emphasis on the 20th century with Bax, Walford Davies and Elgar (including his re-use of one of his early salon pieces as the song Pansies).

The second half opened with performances of the four finalists (me, Janet Oates, Bryan Daubney and Jolyon Lacock) in the EPSS competition and it was fascinating to hear the other songs, all very very different. Heartening to hear that the song writing tradition is still thriving. This was something picked up on by Professor Raymond Warren in his address; Warren had been on the judging panel and also said a few words about what he liked in each song. All rather scary, having someone discussing your music in public, even though what he said was entirely complimentary and in fact gave me on of those 'did  I do that?' moments.

Two of Warren's songs were included in the second half, including one premiered earlier this year. But the second half concluded with a delightful selection of lighter songs, including Leonard singing Madeleine Dring's Nightclub proprietress and Varcoe at Coward's Marvellous Party. They concluded with a lovely Ivor Novello duet.

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