A group of adventurous and big-hearted locals, Robert Bennett, Andy Connor, Iain McArthur and Pete Swatton, have dusted off their hiking boots to take on Oxfam Trailwalker, a fundraising event on South Downs Way, where teams of four walk 100 kilometres in less than 30 hours to challenge themselves and challenge poverty.
Local team, Strolling Under the Influence, has already started training for the walk and raising funds to support Oxfam and The Gurkha Welfare Trust. The team has organised a family fun day on the June 24 at the Apple Tree in Haslemere to give fundraising a boost and would encourage everyone to come along and join us.
“We decided to enter Trailwalker in January,” said team member Andy. “None of us have done anything like this but somehow Robert managed to persuade us and now we’re really looking forward to it.”
“The family fun day at the Apple Tree will be a great day,” said Pete. “There will be a BBQ, a bouncy castle, face painting and some spectacular music from Martin Harley, Ukejam, Slack Maverick and more.”
Oxfam Trailwalker will take place on July 29 and 30, starting at Queen Elizabeth Country Park near Petersfield. While physically challenging, you don’t have to be ultra-fit to enter.
“Our training routine involves lots of walking but like many of the other participants we’re not athletes – we’re out to have fun, challenge ourselves and raise money for Oxfam’s work while we’re at it,” said Iain.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the four of us to do this together” agreed Robert. “We’ve all had to take time away from our families, work and commitments to train for this so we’ll be giving it our best shot.”
To support the team head along to the Apple Tree on June 24 from 1pm or visit their fundraising page on https://www.justgiving.com/companyteams/strollingundertheinfluence . You can also donate using your phone by texting SUTI65 £10 to 70070 to donate £10.
On Friday, April 28, Birdworld near Farnham officially celebrated Sir Terry Pratchett’s 69th birthday with the official opening of its brand-new exhibit, the Terry Pratchett Owl Parliament with the assistance of Discworld dignitaries, Rob Wilkins and Stephen Briggs.
The beautifully crafted exhibit has been created in collaboration with the World Owl Trust (WOT) and has been named in honour of the award-winning author, Sir Terry Pratchett due to his well-known love of wildlife and in particular, all species of owl.
As well as showcasing a wonderment and diversity of owls from the magical snowy owl to the reputedly wise long-eared owl, the Terry Pratchett Owl Parliament will aim to educate and raise awareness of these amazing birds. The display will also provide an interactive space for visitors to learn fascinating facts about Strigiformes – the order in which owls belong.
The Owl Parliament has been created both as a satellite of the WOT’s collection and to recognise Sir Terry’s passion for these mysterious birds of prey. Visitors familiar with the popular Discworld novels will be able to easily recognise a number of the references but with the unique stylizing of these aviaries, everyone exploring the exhibit will be drawn into the mythical and wonderful world of Sir Terry Pratchett.
To celebrate the day, visitors attended the official opening ceremony in their finest Discworld-themed costume before Rob Wilkins cut the red ribbon and christened the Owl Parliament with a bottle of champagne.
After the official opening ceremony Discworld Auctioneer, Dr Pat Harkin led a prize-packed auction that featured prizes from rare signed books, Paul Kidby artwork and the star prize of feeding Birdworld’s African Penguins alongside Rob Wilkins that very afternoon.
As a result of the Discworld Auction and Raffle, the day raised over £1,400 for the Birdworld Conservation Fund which will in turn be donated to the World Owl Trust to support the fantastic work they do on both a National and International Scale.
Pratchett fans were also treated to a special Q&A session with both Rob Wilkins and Stephen Briggs which included time for personal book signings and photos as a reminder of the day.
Elsewhere in the park, the Birdworld Keepers were delighted to welcome into the world a Humboldt Penguin chick and as a fitting tribute to both the author and the day itself, it was decided the only appropriate name for the hatching was Terry!
Mark Anderson, Birdworld General Manager, commented: “We were extremely proud to host Discworld Day to celebrate the official opening of The Terry Pratchett Owl Parliament.
“We would like to thank all the fans who attended the day and of course, Discworld dignitaries, Rob Wilkins and Stephen Briggs for helping to make the day such a special one. The hatching of another Humboldt Penguin chick was a pleasure for all of us to hear and it was only apt for the chick to be named in honour of Sir Terry himself.
“We are looking forward to continue showcasing such an extraordinary selection of owl species, many of which are threatened with the loss of habitat in the wild and for visitors of all ages to immerse themselves in the mysterious world of Sir Terry Pratchett in the process.”
Already one of the largest bird parks in the country, the 26 acres of landscaped park and gardens at Birdworld are home to over 800 birds and 180 species from around the world. The park also is home to the Underwater World aquarium and the Jenny Wren Farm.
For more information about the Terry Pratchett Owl Parliament and Birdworld’s other attractions or experiences visit: www.birdworld.co.uk or call 01420 22992.
TIME OF MY LIFE (Winton Players)
Festival Hall, Petersfield
Friday, April 28
Set in an Italian restaurant, with three strands of timeline: present – the family dinner to celebrate mum Laura’s birthday; future – son Glyn and wife Steph meeting after the dinner and beyond; and past – son Adam and new flame Maureen meeting and getting to know each other leading up to the family dinner.
The marvellous Dil Peeling played five characters – restaurant owner and all four waiters – to great comic effect – a standout performance.
Eileen Riddiford also gave a masterly performance as Laura, the bitter , sniping wife of businessman Gerry, drinking her way to revealing ugly truths about her past.
As Gerry, Nick Witney was rather too kindly, his outrage at his wife’s infidelity with his own brother not quite believable. Nick seems altogether too lovely a person to hit anyone, especially a woman! But his was an intelligent performance, with great clarity.
Lawrence Cook came across well as the pathetic elder son Glyn, the philanderer, disliked by his own mother for being weak. His other half Steph was played by Anne-Lise Kadri, showing a nice arc from mousy downtrodden wife to smart, no-nonsense businesswoman, still kindly towards Glyn but strong enough to say goodbye at the end.
As Maureen (an odd name for a young girl in the nineties), young Monika Jankowska was sassy and bright, funny and beautiful, and it was easy to see why Adam, the adored younger son, would fall in love with her. I’m not sure what the accent was, but it was charming.
Finally, I was sad to see that Charlie Essex, who had been rehearsing for months for the role of Adam, was struck down with illness just before the dress rehearsal. He was back to play the Saturday performances which I would love to have seen, as he is a very talented young actor. However, the last-minute stand in, Joe Dove, script in hand, in his stage debut no less, picked up the role and did so magnificently. Well done, young man!
Directed by Brenda Adams, with an attractive set designed by John Chapman, Time of My Life was written in 1992 but feels somewhat older. I felt that some of the darker undercurrents – about enjoying what we have rather than looking for better or mourning a past which seems happier – were a little lost. However, the packed Festival Hall audience very much enjoyed this production, and it was good to see experienced and new actors onstage together giving polished performances.
A fashion and clothes swap evening to raise money for the mayor’s charities will be held in Haslemere Hall on Sunday, April 30, 4-7pm.
Switchange is an evening of fashion and fun – you can take your clothing along and swap it for something equally lovely to revamp your wardrobe.
Linnet Bird from The Silkroad explained: “Upon arrival, if you wish to bring items to swap, they will be exchanged for tokens, which act as currency for you to spend on preloved and new items.
“Items in good, new or never-worn condition such as clothes, shoes and accessories are welcomed.
“if you don’t have anything to swap, but still want to join in the fun, you can simply buy tokens on the night.
“While you sit back and enjoy the showcase of preloved and new items available to exchange your tokens for, the rest of the items accumulated on the night will be sorted onto clothing rails, which each have a different token value.
“then the fun begins, as you decide which treasures you want to take home with you!”
Tickets priced £10, which include a glass of fizz and the fashion show, are available from Haslemere Hall or The Silkroad. Call 01428 288313 for more information.
All the profits will go the mayor’s charities.
PETERSFIELD MUSICAL FESTIVAL – REVIEWS
The Edward Thomas Centenary Concert
Festival Hall, Petersfield
Friday, March 17, 2017
The Petersfield Musical Festival opened with an Edward Thomas centenary concert, to mark the 100th anniversary of the poet’s death at the Battle of Arras on Easter Monday 1917.
Edward Thomas once famously remarked in his 1909 book The South Country: “I prefer All round my hat and Sumer is icumen in to Beethoven”. His youngest daughter, Myfanwy, recalls sitting on her father’s knee wrapped in a blanket, whilst he sang her favourite song O father, father, come build me a boat, and the sea shanties he had learnt from one of the crew of Shackleton’s Polar expedition. When compiling The Pocket Book of Poems and Songs for the Open Air, in 1907, he sought out the most authentic words and tunes from folk song collectors like Cecil Sharp, and supplied musical notation for lesser known songs.
This presents a challenge for a musical festival, steeped in the classical and choral tradition, on how to commemorate a poet with a passion for folk music? Any concert in his honour would need to take account of his musical preferences and this is precisely what the organisers of the Petersfield Musical Festival have done. By taking the folk tunes Thomas sang to his children and choosing arrangements for choir, piano, harp and flute, they remained true to festival tradition, whilst acknowledging Thomas’s folk roots.
Choral and solo settings of poems by Thomas’s contemporaries (Walter de la Mare, Eleanor Farjeon, Robert Frost and W.H. Davies) comprised the first half of the concert. Three poems from The Nursery Rhymes of London Town, by Eleanor Farjeon – set to music by Mervyn Horder – were particularly pleasing. These were interspersed with choral arrangements of traditional folk songs Thomas would have known and loved, such as The Minstrel Boy and The True Lover’s Farewell. The Musical Director and Festival Chair, Philip Young, introduced the pieces with an insightful script and masterly oration.
During the interval there was an opportunity to view photographs, inspired by the life and works of Edward Thomas, taken by members of the Petersfield Photographic Society. Books and documents relating to Edward Thomas, from the recently acquired collection at the Petersfield Museum, were also on display.
The second half of the concert was given over to musical arrangements of Thomas’s own poetry by of Ivor Gurney, Michael Hurd, Tarik O’Regan, William Agnew and others. These were mainly choral arrangements by 20th century classical composers. One of the standout songs was Agnew’s Thaw, sung by the Bedales Cecilia Consort, directed by Nicholas Gleed. The avant-garde musical arrangement – with brooding cellos, and voices that seemed to hang endlessly in the air – appeared to suit the mood of the poem. Another highlight, The Great Silence, by Tarik O’Regan, saw the Vox Cantab choir, conducted by Jonathan Willcocks, deliver some haunting harmonies .
There were readings of Thomas’s own poetry by Piers Burton-Page, a former BBC radio 3, producer, presenter and editor. Someone commented that his rendition of As the Team’s Head-Brass was “one of the finest they had ever heard”.
The question we are left with is – what would Edward Thomas have made of it all? Unlike Frost, who rarely allowed any musical arrangements of his work, Thomas would probably not have minded either way. It seems from his writings that he never expected to be remembered at all. In one of his poems, he remarked: “What will they do when I am gone? It is plain that they can do without me, as the rain can do without the flowers and the grass”. How the passage of a 100 years has proved him wrong! His poetry had barely got going when he was killed in action on the Western Front on Easter Monday 1917. This commemorative concert was a wonderful idea and a fitting memorial to the Steep poet who became one of the founding fathers of contemporary British poetry.
ELIJAH – Mendelssohn
Saturday March 18, 2017
Mendelsohn’s ever popular Elijah was given was given a vibrant performance at the Festival Hall last Saturday by the combined Festival Chorus, soloists and Southern Pro Musica under the baton of maestro Paul Spicer. Elijah is an interesting work in that each half could almost stand on its own with two separate story lines. The libretto is austerely Lutheran and gloomily Old Testament and it is the genius of Mendelssohn’s writing that lifts this into the front rank of the oratorio genre.
The Festival chorus gave it their all; splitting into double choir mode on occasions, there was some excellent ensemble singing. I particularly liked the “yet doth the Lord see it not” chorus with a splendid climax and a beautiful Grave section, “For he, the Lord our God, he is a jealous God” and the Classic FM favourite, “He that shall endure to the end” given a gentle and beautifully phrased performance. The “big” choral numbers were tackled with confidence and aplomb and came over forcefully but were on occasion overcome by the big battalions of the brass department. This is not a criticism of either the singers or the brass, more a failing of the Festival Hall itself.
Of the four soloists, Gary Griffiths was outstanding. His bearded, physical stature was just right for Elijah and he has a magnificent voice to go with this. From the opening flourish, “As God the Lord of Israel liveth”, via the glorious “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel” through to his final “For the mountains shall depart,” Griffiths was in complete control and command.
The soprano, Abigail Broughton, has a lyrical voice, well-suited to this work; her duet with Elijah, and backed by the chorus, “O Lord Thou hast overthrown” was particularly accomplished as was her aria opening part two, “ Hear O Israel” (though, as in several of the solos, the word ‘Israel’ sounded affected in the Latinate pronunciation ‘Is-rah-el’; the English version ‘Is-ray-el’ would have been preferable). In passing I wondered what the Victorian burghers of Birmingham would have made of a woman singing, “I am thy God”!
The other two soloists, Louise Mott, mezzo, and Edward Hughes, tenor, had much less to do – but what they did do was fine. They came together in the penultimate number, the quartet, “O come everyone that thirsteth” and blended beautifully in a lovely quiet concluding moment.
And over all, Paul Spicer presided with his accustomed quiet charm; always in control, one knew that ‘all manner of thing shall be well. ‘
It was an excellent evening.
Sunday, March 19
There were plenty of animals in the Petersfield Festival Hall on Sunday as the Petersfield Musical Festival reached out to a couple of hundred children of all ages in its Family Concert. Keeping so many children entertained and interested for a solid hour of music is a tall order but the expert playing of the SouthDowns Camerata, pianists Mark Dancer and Emilie Capulet, and percussionists Nik Knight and Liz Barker, all supported by the crafted and erudite narration of John Whittaker, was very successful.
The programme began with a demonstration of the various instruments on hand and delved immediately into the ‘quality’ end of the repertoire, with a bright Mozart divertimento for strings and Bach’s brief and famous Badinerie for flute, played with great agility by Helen Walton.
Plink, Plank, Plunk, in which all the stringed instruments were plucked instead of bowed, was a welcome contrast, in Leroy Anderson’s unmistakeable 1950s style. This was followed by Sally Cartwright’s rendition of three Jungle Book songs, each on a different type of saxophone – such a happy moment that I Wanna Be Like You elicited spontaneous off-beat clapping, so rare amongst audiences.
A selection from Pirates of the Caribbean was greeted with much applause, as the young audience enjoyed something very familiar and the Flanders and Swann Hippopotamus song gave everyone the chance to join in with the mud-wallowing chorus.
Then came the serious business of Saint-Seans’ Carnival of the Animals. We were treated to all fourteen movements, each depicting a different animal and performed with a great mix of professionalism and humour. Sadly, the one hour allotted for the concert (and the children’s attention span) was fast running out, and it might have been better to run only the best-loved movements like the Swan, the Elephant, the Aquarium and the Fossils. A short over-run is the price we pay for the performers’ enthusiasm to include as much as possible in the programme.
And there is yet more to come: the printed programme alerted us to the rich and varied menu in the forthcoming Spirit of Music Festival, another splendidly inclusive intiative of the SouthDowns Camerata and their many friends. How fortunate we are to have so many professional musicians living in our midst, giving freely of their talents and enthusiasm in this annual festival held in Liss and Petersfield. It’s something not to be missed at the end of April.
March 20 and 22
I had the pleasure of being able to observe the high standard of young musical talent in the Petersfield area at the Youth Concerts, where over 140 singers and 180 instrumentalists performed professionally in front of sell-out audience.
The programme started with Songs and Drumming from Africa. The rhythms were catchy and the audience were warmed up and encouraged to join in ‘Oleo’ by the dynamic conductor Ben Harlen. A small group of the choir were selected to sing, with their friends and audience responding with an answering call. The Combined Schools Drumming Group directed by Kristian Bediiako accompanied the choir with a rousing beat.
Highlights from Mary Poppins by the Combined Schools Wind Band delighted the younger members of the audience and the adults were astounded by the powerful voices of Kirsty Foreman and Adele Adkins in Skyfall.
The Festival is keen to encourage young composers, and three took on Wednesday night, all playing in their own pieces on a variety of instrumentation. Katie Evan’s song, with guitar, violin and cello, was thoughtful, with imaginative lyrics whilst Molly Moran’s song she accompanied on the piano was highly emotional, with a powerful climactic section sung by Iona Meechan. Ella-Louise Green’s instrumental piece Into the Storm for piano, two violins and flute built up the texture from a quiet beginning, with piano arpeggios and effective string pizzicato.
PASSO performed on Monday evening and many of the audience remarked on how young some of its members were. This year’s members come from 12 different schools and aged seven to 16. They presented a varied group of pieces ranging from Handel’s ‘Menuet’ from ‘Music for the Royal Fireworks’ to the contrasting pieces from Day of The Dolphin by Edward Huws Jones. The audience were guided through these pieces effectively by Peter Thompson and relaxed as PASSO painted a picture of a calm sea, with dolphins leaping. The more menacing, faster paced piece Clear Water…Sharks! needed no introduction as the violins clearly described the fear as sharks circled.
There was a clear change in scene as Hamish Newport conducted the Combined Schools Choir and Instrumental Ensemble for Opera from around the world. The brass section were impressive in their rendition of Verdi’s Triumphal Scene from Aida and the audience enthused about the professional sounding voices of Antonia Richards, Izzy Adams and Isabella Herraman-Stowers.
The Combined Schools Jazz Band directed by Helen Purchase and Natalie Voller gave a powerful performance of Blues Brothers Revue with some inspirational solo performances and I Want You Back got the audience and the children in the choir moving enthusiastically to the music.
The evenings ended with the Combined School Choir singing a selection of songs including a charming performance of Puppet On a String with clear diction and a real sense of fun. The highlight of the evening for the audience was the obvious enthusiasm of the bank of children in the choir wearing a variety of school uniforms from seven local schools coming together to make music. When interviewed the children described how they had relished the opportunity to “work as a team with children from other schools”, “to learn a range of music and perform to the public”, and “to have fun!”
Many congratulations to all our young musicians and their teachers for two splendid evenings.
St Peter’s Church
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Ensemble Reza is a flexible group of very accomplished musicians. When I last heard them in Petersfield it consisted of piano, clarinet and cello. Tonight we heard a double string quartet, essential for their performance of the Mendelssohn Octet which was the highlight of the evening. The eight players stood while playing this magnificent work, written when the composer was 16. The performance was fresh and buoyant with moments of great sonority.
Haydn’s Emperor String Quartet was played with warmth and affection, but the first violin lacked a little bloom.
The first movement of Beethoven’s Kreutzer sonata was performed in an arrangement for string quintet. This arrangement was published anonymously, but it worked well. The texture was rich and vibrant.
The concert opened with Bach’s famous Chaconne from his D minor Partita. It is one of the longest and most challenging pieces for solo violin. Lucy Jeal’s performance was somewhat wayward and began tentatively with insecure intonation. It needed a firmer structural grip. The counterpoint was not always clearly defined and the build up was somewhat laboured. For this reviewer, it was not the best work with which to start a concert.
Overall, the concert was too long – it finished at 9.50 – and the pauses between each piece were excessive. The performers seemed rather self – indulgent and certainly should not have ended the concert with a light hearted piece, whose title I did not hear. The excellent performance of the Mendelssohn Octet did not need an encore!
The Michael Hurd Memorial Fund Award Holders Lunchtime Recital
St. Peter’s Church, Petersfield
Tuesday, March 21
There was a palpable air of anticipation in the almost capacity audience as Philip Young welcomed the three young artists who played in the fourth Michael Hurd Memorial Fund award holders lunch time recital in St. Peter’s Church. The church is an ideal venue for recitals (apart from the pillars) and the acoustic is good. Mark Dancer, resident organist at St. Peter’s Church is also a superb accompanist as we all discovered during the course of this recital.
Trumpet player Jonathan Mitra began with the sparkling Alexander Arutunian concerto, written in 1950. The declamatory opening phrase immediately grabbed the attention of the audience, then followed alternate bursts of pyrotechnics and calm passages, influenced by the Russian/Armenian folk idiom. The second movement introduces a wistful theme for muted trumpet, however towards the end of the movement, the lively first theme is re-introduced and the trumpet resumes the theme unmuted once more with a cadenza which ends with a flourish. Mark Dancer provided a secure anchor in this showy concerto, arranged for piano and trumpet. Jonathan’s second piece Aria was written by the same composer. It contrasts well with the concerto and there are long phrases in this plaintive and largely introspective work, requiring sustained phrasing which he managed well. Jonathan played confidently throughout with great panache,
Rosalind Sheppard then played three well known piano solos, beginning with Franz Schubert’s lyrical Impromptu in G flat, opus 90 no 3. This was played with great assurance, despite a few fudged notes and she maintained the tranquil surface whilst managing the swirling bass undercurrent with aplomb. She followed this with a Nocturne by Chopin (no. 20 in C sharp minor). Chopin dedicated this nocturne to his elder sister Ludwika. Contemplative in mood, it was played a little too robustly – for me at least. Rosalind’s final choice was the first movement of Beethoven’s piano sonata in C minor (the Pathetique).Beethoven wrote this sonata in 1798, hoping that it would enhance his reputation as a composer and she made a brave attempt, capturing some of the fire and intensity of this multifaceted sonata.
The third young artist was the saxophonist Victoria Puttock. Equally at home in classical, jazz and contemporary performance, Victoria chose a challenging piece written for alto saxophone in 1970 by Polish/American composer Robert Muczynski to begin her programme. The sonata consists of two contrasting movements and the andante maestoso begins with a haunting theme sensitively phrased. Arguably, Muczynski was influenced by Bernstein and Gershwin in this sonata. The second movement is lively (allegro energico) and contains a driving rhythmic figure which is peppered with bursts of staccato and much syncopation, all achieved brilliantly by Victoria and Mark as they vied with each other throughout the movement. Darius Milhaud’s Scaramouche, written in 1939, was Victoria’s final choice. This suite in three movements captures the character of the clown who originates in the Italian Commedia dell’ Arte. The first movement Vif is in perpetual motion, playful in mood, full of virtuosic writing and the second Modere begins with a contrasting sober theme which morphs into a deceptively simple tune. The suite ends with the exhilarating Brazileira written in samba form, played with infectious joie de vivre, sending the audience home with a spring in the step.
Petersfield Orchestra concert
Thursday, March 23
In the space of just a few short months, Christopher Braime, the second of the Petersfield Orchestra’s three guest conductors this season, succeeded in imposing his own stamp on the orchestra, in the course of preparing a varied and alluring programme. That the orchestra grew apace under his leadership was evident from its manifest unity: the clarity of the various voices, the equilibrium of the dynamics and the rapport with the evening’s soloist.
This much was apparent from the Schubert’s Overture in the Italian Style, where the voices of clarinets and flutes in particular were allowed to expand in a manner reminiscent of Italian Bel Canto – the work being, as we could not help but be reminded, one result of Vienna’s new-found enthusiasm for all things Rossinian.
In the First Horn Concerto of Richard Strauss, soloist and orchestra were as one, helped by the talented Richard Stegall who combined sonorous projection with elegant musical articulations. The result was a genuine dialogue, with splendid moments when the orchestra rang out subtly, like a non-brassy fanfare.
In the Suite from ‘Le roi s’amuse’ by Delibes, Christopher Braime had evidently worked hard to underline the individual character of these six short pieces – their French titles evoking the song and dance of the 17th century, and slightly reminiscent also of the mazurkas of Chopin in the varied contours of their contrasting rhythms and timbres.
Delius’s exquisite miniature On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring saw the conductor in a more relaxed mode: Christopher Braime underscored Delius’ fascination for Norway and that country’s bucolic allure. Perhaps he was guided by the well-known links between Delius and Edvard Grieg.
Perhaps only the final work in the concert did not come up to expectation, or maybe I am influenced by Otto Klemperer’s interpretation of Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony with the Philharmonia Orchestra. In spite of Christopher Braime’s rhythmic strictness, the dynamic balance between piano and forte, and the calmness and precision of his direction – yet with no lack of overall bonhomie – for me, an element of fervour seemed lacking.
What a concert! Bravo to all concerned!
Jonny Mansfield’s Elftet
Friday, March 24
The annual Petersfield music Festival usually includes a “jazz-based” evening for one of its concerts. This year they presented a group of students from the Royal Academy of Music conceived and led by the precociously talented Jonny Mansfield. His group, understandably, named The Jonny Mansfield Elftet, is comprised of 11 gifted players.
They presented a programme of original compositions – apart from one written by American vocalist Norah Jones – written and arranged by 20-year-old Jonny Mansfield. A near capacity crowd, not all jazz fans but fans of good music, were with the orchestra from the opening number. It was nice to see the members of the Elftet dressed for the occasion unlike so many of their contemporaries.
The band’s line up: vibes, trombone, trumpet / flugel, two saxes, cello, violin, bass, guitar, drums, vocals/flute, offered many options for Jonny’s compositions.
They opened with a piece called Flying Kites, a quiet opening with an oriental feel, developed rhythmically and harmonically into a multi-layered musical cake, topped off by sympathetic solos from violinist Dom Ingham and guitarist Oliver Mason. The feel of the piece was reminiscent of the work of Maria Schneider. The soloists revived memories (for me) of Al Di Meola and Jean Luc Ponty.
This was followed by the Norah Jones composition Painter’s Song. A more conventional arrangement with echoes of the orchestras of the ‘swing era’, vocalist Ella Hohnen Ford sang it beautifully. M & M came next and this was the first of the split tempo pieces, bouncing between three and four beats in a 12-note theme. The chord structure was subtle and straightforward, leaving plenty of room for the front line to develop layers of harmonies, culminating in fine trumpet solo by James Davison. The voice was used as an additional instrument, adding more colour to the piece. Much in the same way Kenny Wheeler and Colin Towns used the great Norma Winstone. In Chorale, the band showed their classical leanings with a free form approach to the melody. Not an easy listen, but a good example of the abilities of this very talented ensemble. The first half closed with Sailing, NOT Rod Stewart’s big hit but another original from Jonny, featuring a vocal from Ella. Once again the band ventured into a mixture of time signatures. It was full of dynamics and harmonies again but, sadly, the vocal was lost in the mix. That apart, the first half was outstanding. Throughout the presentation Jonny explained what was being played and how the pieces came together, in a very informative and personable way.
Silhouette opened the second half; a more avant garde composition but with an underlying structure that one could follow. Solos came from Oliver Mason, guitar, and Tom Smith, alto sax, and Ella using the voice in unison with the horn section. The next piece was dedicated to Jonny’s one time baby sitter and next door neighbour Rita. An ‘old’ lady remembered with affection by Johnny. The tune, No Change At 48 was a duet with Jonny on vibes and Dom Ingham on amplified violin. One of the highlights of the evening, a poignant melody, it echoed Victorian parlour, folk and other genres of English music; a joy to listen to! Back to the Elftet for Wings, with a slow foxtrot feel and a feature for bassist Daisy George who played the theme. A real ensemble piece, beautifully arranged and a fine solo from saxophonist George Millard. Falling was a slow melodic piece and another vocal feature for Ella. The band segued into the samba – like For You. This was the penultimate number and provided features for violin, trombone, bass, tenor and punchy ensemble playing. I haven’t mentioned the outstanding contribution made by (local) drummer Boz Martin-Jones. He didn’t play a featured solo in any of the pieces, but sustained an impeccable level; of accompaniment for the orchestra to play on with total confidence. It was an object lesson in control and concentration.
And so to the last tune: Present, a “funky” composition in the style of Jaco Pastorious and other 70s orchestras, an exciting piece the whole band played with relish and enthusiasm – not surprising as they are ALL around 20 years of age! Rapturous applause saw the band take a well deserved curtain call. I think it’s safe to say that the Jonny Mansfield Elftet has added a number of new admirers to their fan club! Remember these names; I am sure you’ll be hearing a lot more of them in the near future: Ella Hohnen Ford – Vocals & Flute, James Davison – Trumpet and Flugel, Tom Smith – Alto,Tenor Sax and Flute, George Millard – Tenor Sax and Bass Clarinet, Rory Ingham – Trombone, Dom Ingham – Violin, vocals, Laura Armstrong – Cello, Oliver Mason – Guitar, Jonny Mansfield – Vibraphone, Daisy George – Bass, Boz Martin-Jones – Drums.
STABAT MATER – Dvořák
Festival Hall, Petersfield
Saturday, March 25, 2017
I had wondered about the wisdom of programming two large scale romantic choral pieces, scored for nigh-on identical forces, at the beginning and the end of this year’s Petersfield Musical Festival, but the splendid performance of Dvořák’s opus 58 Stabat Mater at the final concert proved me wrong.
The fifty strong Basingstoke Symphony Orchestra opened the work with a long introduction and I was struck with how well they followed the composer’s dynamics, from a hushed pp to a rousing ff and back, heralding in an excellent quiet entry by the tenors. The rest of the chorus followed and produced some very good four part singing, a trait which was continued throughout the work. The tenor soloist, Hiroshi Amako made a dramatic entrance and was shortly followed by the other soloists, Carrie-Ann Williams, Marvic Monreal and Michael Mofidian and the long, twenty minute, first section ended a well-rounded and exciting opening.
The second section, Quis est homo…. is handed to the four, well matched soloists. If I have a quibble here, the composer marks the first few pages piano, which the quartet, in the main, ignored. This was a pity because it left them nowhere to go and the bass’s climactic plunge from a high F sharp to a low C on For the sins of His own nation…..(Pro peccatis suae gentis..) didn’t have quite the thrill one would have liked.
Section three, Eia mater, belonged to the bases, telling the story with a rising five note motif and the rest commenting as a backing group. This produced some excellent singing from the large choir.
After the interval we heard the splendid bass soloist, Michael Mofidian, in a deeply felt, Make me feel as thou hast felt…. (Fac ut ardeat cor meum…..) accompanied by angelic sounding upper voices. This was followed by a 6/8 number for chorus and orchestra which positively danced along. Section six has a Dvořákian “big tune” given to the tenor, Hiroshi Amako, again with choral backing. Amako has a big operatic voice which, in the unforgiving Festival Hall acoustic, was occasionally a little harsh.
Section seven, Virgin, of all virgins, blest…… gave the chorus a chance to shine, as much of the writing is unaccompanied, and shine they did. Here was some warm, well balanced, chorale-like singing which was a joy to hear. Sections eight and nine were given over to the soloists. Soprano Carrie-Ann Williams joining tenor Amako for a touching Let me, to my latest breath…..Carrie-Ann has a lovely, warm rounded voice and this duet was nicely sung. Dvořák doesn’t give the mezzo-soprano much to do until the penultimate number, Be to me, O Virgin, nigh…… and Marvic Monreal took her opportunity with both hands and gave a big performance climaxing in the declamatory, Let the cross then be my guard….
Finally the works rounds off with a blaze of glory, with all forces going at it hammer and tongs and ending with a thrilling D major Amen – the key, as Piers Burton-Page’s excellent programme notes pointed out, beloved by Beethoven and Bach to depict Heaven.
As always, Paul Spicer’s calm, detailed direction ensured a splendid evening’s music.
The Wizard of Oz (Haslemere Players)
Wednesday, March 22 2017
Yes, we were off to see the Wizard, and I’m very glad I joined the audience for this show by Haslemere Players.
Directed by Vicki Gavin, with musical direction by Lizzie Hales and Alan Drake, choreography by Debra Allen, and starring a host of young performers, the family-friendly show was perfectly pitched for all ages to enjoy.
Abi Rogers gave a lovely expressive performance as Dorothy, her enthusiasm and winsomeness shining through (a super accent too).
Toto her “little dog” a cavapoo by the name of Benji, was very cute – tail going the whole time, and having fun whether playing tug of war with a flying monkey or stealing a sausage from Prof Marvel. He looks like a pro already.
One of the highlights of the show for me was the performance by Chloe Johnson-Jones as the Wicked Witch of the West, all snarls and shrieks and boo-worthy evilness. Her melting scene was great – well done for the visual effects, Players!
Carolyn Beaumont as Glinda was another standout performance – I loved her gorgeous dress and hair – she twinkled and glittered as she floated across the stage, hands twirling and eyes smiling.
Another performer to catch my eye was young Louie Loveland as Nikko, leader of the flying monkeys. Despite having no words, he managed to convey everything that was needed with some chattering and movement – good work!
Howard Bicknell as Tinman, Peter Coxon as Scarecrow and Mike Byrne as Cowardly Lion did well as Dorothy’s companions – they made a good team and gave the parts plenty of physicality which brought them to life.
Good support came from James Woodley as the great Oz, and Peter Lucas as Uncle Henry/guard.
The various ensembles, from Munchkins to Winkies, Emerald City dwellers to apple trees and poppies, were lively and there was some great dancing, particularly from the smallest children. Well done to all!
Effects were clever – the screen was used well for filmed sequences (loved the flying cow!) and the set was simple but very effective. Costumes were excellent – the emerald clothing was wonderful to see. Seeing all that green, especially the sparkly curtain hiding Oz, I was transported back to childhood Christmas-time, watching the film version.
The orchestra was superb – tying the scenes together seamlessly. The sound was just the right level, too. So often the band drowns out the performers but this was perfect; I could hear every word, sung or spoken.
Thank you Players for a very enjoyable evening.
This year’s 75th Members’ Meeting, taking place at the Goodwood Motor Circuit on March 18-19, will celebrate some of the most competitive and exciting touring cars ever to race, 30 years since the inaugural World Touring Car Championship took place in 1987.
Running for a single year in 1987, the WTCC was open to cars complying with the FIA’s Group A regulations. The championship featured legendary names such as Roberto Ravaglia, Emanuele Pirro and Johnny Cecotto in BMW M3s battling with the Ford Sierra RS500s of German aces Klaus Ludwig and Klaus Niedzwiedz and British Touring Car Championship frontrunners Steve Soper and Andy Rouse. The Group A regulations helped spawn numerous unlikely, but superb, racers, and the demonstrations will highlight the diversity of the era, with Rover SD1s, Jaguar XJSs, Ford Mustangs and Volvo 240 Turbos sharing the Goodwood asphalt alongside the M3s and RS500s.
Goodwood Road Racing Club Members and racegoers will witness two batches of Group A greats, with the early Group A machines, including BMW 635s, Jaguar XJSs, Rover SD1s and Volvo 240 Turbos, in one and the younger RS500s, M3s and Alfa Romeo 75s on track in a later demo.
Watch Goodwood’s official track tester, 2013 BTCC Champion and Members’ Meeting and Revival race winner Andrew Jordan, test-driving a BMW 528 at the Motor Circuit on Goodwood Road and Racing this Thursday on www.goodwood.com/grrc.
A limited number of public tickets for the 75th Members’ Meeting are available and likely to be sold out within the month. Tickets are on sale at www.goodwood.com and at the Goodwood Ticket Office on 01243 755 055.
Work has finally started on the renovation of the Roman villa at Butser Ancient Farm in Chalton, near Petersfield, as the £2,000 raised from its crowdfunding campaign last year has been used to sandblast the heavy wooden beams this half term.
Local workman John Grant and his assistant Toby Hoff from Airstrip will be working on the villa all week, sanding off the old beams to remove flaking paint and dirt, and reveal the beautiful grain of the timbers beneath.
Built in 2003, the villa starred in the famous ‘Rebuilding the Past’ documentary on the Discovery Channel, a show that was watched by thousands of people across the country.
Thirteen years later, the farm now welcomes 30,000 schoolchildren and 20,000 visitors every year – and the heavy footfall is starting to show.
The building is used for teaching children, special interest lectures, cookery workshops, archaeological research and as the headquarters of Butser’s own Roman re-enactment group.
The Butser team is now raising money to renovate the villa and bring it back to its former glory as the home of a wealthy Roman Briton and his family.
The rest of the work will follow throughout the year, and while the villa is closed for renovations, there will be a special Roman Summer event throughout August to celebrate all things Roman. This will include Toga Tuesdays and a special Games Day with real fighting gladiators!
See www.butserancientfarm.co.uk to find out more.