Monday, 6 May 2019

In focus indeed: Hugill premieres at Conway Hall

Robert Hugill (Photo Robert Piwko)
Robert Hugill (Photo Robert Piwko)
Last night (Sunday 5 May 2019) we had a superb evening of song and chamber music at Conway Hall, with Anna Huntley (mezzo-soprano), James Newby (baritone), Rosalind Ventris (viola) and William Vann (piano), as part of the Robert Hugill in Focus event at the Conway Hall Sunday Concerts. The programme combined my own pieces with those of George Butterworth, Frank Bridge and York Bowen. In the first half,  James Newby gave a moving performance of George Butterworth's A Shropshire Lad accompanied by William Vann. Then Anna Huntley, Rosalind Ventris and William Vann gave us a powerful account of Frank Bridge's striking Three Songs for mezzo-soprano, viola and piano. The first half ended with a lovely discovery, York Bowen's Phantasy for viola and piano.

York Bowen's Phantasy won the Cobbett Prize in 1918, and in fact Frank Bridge won a special prize in the first Cobbett competition in 1906, and would write other works inspired by the competition's requirement to produce music in the Phantasy mould. Chatting in the interval I discovered that Walter Willson Cobbett had also endowed the Cobbett Medal, which is still given by The Musicians' Company for services to chamber music (the most recent recipient was John Gilhooly, director of the Wigmore Hall).

For the second half of the concert we turned to my own music, a lovely opportunity to hear music from the disc Quickening in concert for the first time. James Newby and William Vann gave the first public performance of my song cyle Winter Journey setting the poetry of Rowan Williams, then Rosalind Ventris and William Vann performed my Three Pieces from the Book of Common Prayer, then Anna Huntley, Rosalind Ventris and William Vann performed my Christina Rosetti cycle, Quickening (the first time the cycle has been performed publicly in the original keys).  To round off the evening all the performers joined together to perform Summer Rain, a new arrangement for mezzo-soprano, baritone, viola and piano of one of my cabaret songs from the 1990s!

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