Friday 6 May 2016

An evening of English song - Looking forward to the London English Song Festival's summer programme

London English Song Festival
Last year, pianist William Vann and the London English Song Festival gave us RVW's complete songs (see my review of the final concert), and this year they plan to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme with Songs of the Somme combining song, film and spoken text. To help launch the 2016 concerts and give us a little taster of what was to come, William Vann accompanied singers Katie Bray and Nicky Spence in a programme of English song from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries at a private recital on 5 May 2016.

An evening of English song encompassed Walton's A song for the Lord Mayor's table, Madeleine Dring's Business Girls, Judith Weir's Sweet little red feet, Jonathan Dove's Song of the dry organge tree, RVW's When I am dead, my dearest and Parry's My heart is like a singing bird all sung by Katie Bray, and Thomas Dunhill's The cloth of heaven, Roger Quilter's O Mistress Mine, Gustav Holst's The heart worships, Ian Venables' Flying Crooked, Ivor Gurney's In Flanders, Haydn Wood's Roses of Picardy sung by Nicky Spence. The two singers came together at the end in RVW's Dirge for Fidele and as an encore gave us a delightful rendition of Lisa Lehmann's setting of Hillare Belloc's Rebecca - Who Slammed Doors for Fun and Perished Miserably

To give us a taster of their summer concert, the Ivor Gurney and the Haydn Wood were complemented with a reading from Siegfried Sassoon's diary, the entry for 1 July 1911 (the first day of the Battle of the Somme), and a poem by Ivor Gurney. The London English Song Festival will be giving their programme Songs of the Somme at Wilton's Music Hall on 11 to 13 July 2016. William Vann will be joined by mezzo-soprano Katie Bray, tenor Nicky Spence and baritone Nicholas Merryweather for a programme which will include songs by Ivor Gurney (several of whose songs were written on active service, George Butterworth and Frederick Kelly (both of whom were killed at the Somme) as well as popular songs by Haydn Wood, plus readings from Siegfried Sassoon's war diary and poetry by Ivor Gurney. These will be complemented by films from the Imperial War Museum including footage from the film of the Battle of the Somme. As well as the three performances, the London English Song Festival has an associated education programme in association with Wilton's including a performance of Songs of the Somme for local school children, when an interactive element will include a Q&A with the performers.

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