On the Thursday evening before half-term, a sizeable party of Shrewsbury Musicians set off to the west to give another of the now annual recitals by pupils of the school at The Tabernacle, Machynlleth by kind invitation of Hugh Ramsbotham, former colleague at Shrewsbury School, and a dear friend and supporter of Shrewsbury’s music. The Tabernacle is a former Chapel which now forms part of a lovely arts complex in the town, and is where the annual music festival is also based. It has been well converted for purpose, with a fine grand piano, lighting and excellent acoustics for chamber music.
The programme was simply a joy from start to finish, commencing with a wonderful performance of Schubert’s Shepherd on the Rock sung by Sienna Holmes, (on home territory), accompanied by Dorit Hasselberg on clarinet and Alan Yu on piano. This is one of Schubert’s greatest chamber compositions, and it received a wonderfully empathetic and sensitive performance from these talented young performers.
Henry Kennedy, one of our busiest and most talented lower sixth musicians, gave a sparkling performance of the Vth movement of Tableaux de Provence by the French female composer, Paule Maurice, a work which he is performing all of, with orchestra, in the County Concerto Finals in March, along with Dorit Hasselberg, also a finalist. Henry has also just been performing with the CBSO Youth Orchestra as second clarinet in a performance of Mahler’s Vth Symphony in Symphony Hall.
The Chamber Choir under the direction of Dympna Nightingale then gave beautifully turned performances of five part songs, the highlight of which for me was My Lagan Love, haunting in its texture and very sensitively realised by this talented group of singers.
The concert also featured some wonderful Chamber performances, notably Rimsky-Korsakov’s Quintet for Piano and Winds played by Imogen Richardson, Henry Kennedy, Laurence Jeffcoate, Fiona Lau and Joshua Wong. The first movement of Brahms’ Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano received a detailed and spirited account from Dorit Hasselberg, Alan Yu and Awen Blandford, all three relishing the complex textures of this often complex but beautiful work.
Galin Ganchev’s performances on the piano have rightly drawn much critical acclaim since he arrived at the school only just over two years ago. His accounts on this occasion of Two Rachmaninoff preludes, were again performances of real maturity and poetic expression, coupled with technical assuredness and a wonderful sense of the musical drama and shape of each piece. We eagerly await his solo recital in April, at which he will perform Liszt’s towering masterpiece, the B Minor Sonata amongst other works.
The rest of this wonderful evening of music consisted of some terrific solo song performances, which clearly demonstrated the ever-increasing interest in singing at the school, and also the professional ease with which so many young singers now regularly present themselves in concert and competition.
Widmung, sung by Laurence Jeffcoate was so true to Schumann’s intentions and flawlessly executed. Jonty Binns showed what a fine Counter-Tenor voice he has in If Music be the Food of Love by Henry Purcell, and George Fowler gave a wonderfully detailed and sympathetic account of Les Roses d’Ispahan by Fauré. Meredith Lloyd captured the landscape of Schubert’s An die Nachtigall beautifully, and Ed Carroll gave yet again his wonderful interpretation of the Erie Canal. Dan Powell’s ability at such a young age to hold an audience in the palm of his hand was ably demonstrated in his performance of Memory from Cats, as did Harry Al Adwani in his impassioned account of Close Every Door also by Andrew Lloyd-Webber. Rob Shone never disappoints in performance, and sang beautifully as ever, as did Nick Entwisle in a Loener and Loewe classic, and Will Heyes and Ali Webb rounded off the evening with Flanders and Swann and Gershwin respectively. Both Will and Ali are great entertainers as well as fine singers, and they communicated every nuance of their respective songs wonderfully well.
But the highlight of this epic evening of entertainment was probably Quintessential, a student run a capella ensemble, whose technical flair, tonal integrity and in Fly me to the Moon, arranged by Ali Webb, showed that they can deliver contemporary jazz arrangements in a manner reminiscent of the great Manhattan Transfer and others. They also performed Hide and Seek by Imogen Heep, a quite stunning arrangement, and Randy Newman’s When Somebody Loved Me, bringing both to life with real sensitivity and unanimity of tone and style. Please see Andrew Spicer's video clips of Quintessential below.
So a great evening, hugely appreciated by those who came to listen, with also some fine accompaniments from Alex Mason, and only a matter of days after a wonderful performance in London by some of the same musicians and more. Shrewsbury’s musicians are generous of their talents and their time, and I hope they realise just how much admired they currently are by all lucky enough to hear them in concert.
Huge thanks as ever also to Hugh Ramsbotham, who sent us off into the night happily full of pizza, and who yet again made our visit to the Tabernacle such a pleasure. Here’s to the next one!
Links to Andrew Spicer's clips of Quintessential on YouTube: