Shrewsbury School

Shrewsbury Music Scholars Shine at Manchester Coffee Concert

Tuesday 25 January 2022

The Didsbury Coffee Concerts have been a shining star in Manchester’s concert scene for decades.

Set in the lovely surroundings of Emmanuel Church the concerts are most often reserved for students from the Royal Northern College of Music and Chetham’s School of Music. It is a tremendous tribute to the strength of Shrewsbury’s Music that we are invited to take part every year, and in this case, at their 701st concert. 

Our Didsbury performers-posse rose at the un-musicianly hour of 06:30 for a silent Kingsland Hall breakfast. With the coach all set to leave at 7:00am two performers had to be retrieved from the Maidment where they were merrily warming-up amidst the frosty darkness. To a soundtrack of the coach driver’s favourite 90s hits the 20 musicians studied their scores and caught up with sleep until Manchester greeted us with a golden sunrise, an omen of the good things to come. 

The Didsbury concerts attract a large, friendly and knowledgeable audience. The performers quickly sensed that they were surrounded by a supportive crowd and that, along with their many hours of practice and preparation, elicited a series of wonderfully communicative performances.  

Arthur H-B (I, LVI) began the concert with enormous authority playing one of Scriabin’s most intense and demanding Etudes for piano. What a tour de force this was, both commanding and dramatic. A beautifully realised Hofmeister Viola Concerto from Jay W (SH, LVI) showcased playing of real eloquence and bravery. Max H (Rt, LVI) then presented one of the mainstays of the string repertory, Mendelssohn’s gorgeous Violin Concerto. It was remarkable to witness a seventeen-year-old interpret this music with such unashamed emotion and quality of tone. Representing the school’s many singers was Charlotte H (M, UVI). She thrilled the audience in Puccini’s O Mio Babbino Caro and Fauré’s Apres Un Rêve. Her determination to convey the texts was clear to everyone via her committed and energetic presentation. This is a voice of such great beauty and promise. 

In Ireland by Hamilton Harty is a rare gem of the flute repertoire. It paints an intricate picture of the Irish landscape and of wistful and whimsical rural happenings. In Joyce L’s (M, LVI) performance there was no stone left unturned and no musical path untrod. This was a stunning and masterful performance worthy of any Conservatoire.  

Fresh from a week of mock exams Tom K (Ph, V) gave a compelling pianistic rendition of Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu in C# minor. Fearless and beautifully paced this was a keynote performance from one of tomorrow’s emerging stars. Natalia T (EDH, V) comes from the same talented Fifth Form cohort. Her bravura and virtuosic Pequenza Csardas by Iterrulde threatened to bring the roof down; rarely does one hear Saxophone playing of such great colour and character. 

 

Natalia was soon to appear again as part of our team of talented chamber ensembles. She joined the Saxophone Quartet (alongside Elliot I (Rb, LVI), Hal C (Rt, V) and Melissa R (G, UVI)) in the Andante et Scherzo by Eugene Bozza. This was teamwork of the highest order, showing off immaculately co-ordinated breathing and shapely and sensitive phrasing.  

Natalia wasn’t quite finished yet though! Her third and final appearance was as 25% of the Flute Quartet. The French-Italian composer Bozza was making his second visit to Didsbury. Bozza is rightly beloved of wind players. We greatly enjoyed his Jour d’ete a la montagne, the Flute Quartet successfully portraying those sunny uplands. Yet again this was a performance of fine co-ordination and character. Natalia’s fellow mountaineers were Joyce L, Isobel H (MSH, UVI) and Melissa R. 

The third quartet of the morning took the shape of a traditional string quartet comprising Max H, Rosa L (M, UVI), Bubbles W (MSH, UVI) and, Janet L (M, UVI). Beethoven’s Quartet Op.18 no.6 sets numerous challenges for young performers. They magnificently rose to the occasion navigating their way with aplomb through the eccentricities and challenges of this work.  

 

Darius Milhaud was a prolific - and much undervalued – composer and his subtle French stylings always come with a keen sense of atmospherics. Ben O’S (Ph, IV), Harry P (Ph, III) and Cecilia L (G, LVI) presented the rare gem that is his Suite for Violin, Clarinet and Piano. Here the audience were treated to gorgeous sounds from the violin and clarinet and a sympathetically driving motor energy from the piano. As the youngest group in the concert, they thrilled us with their potential. 

The grand finish was one of the cornerstones of the Trio repertoire, Schubert’s Trio No.2 in Eb major Op.100. Luke W (SH, V), Ethan P (I, LVI) and Jia Q (Rt, LVI) brought vigour, colour and life to this epic trio. Such a pivotal Chamber work surely formed a fitting end to this truly superb concert. This was a day when Salopian Scholars shone ever so brightly in the heart of Manchester’s musical firmament. 

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