“… your weekends really are the most perfect experiences”…
A quote from one of the letters we received after this, our second annual festival, voted even better than last year’s by participants and audiences. Once again the weather gods were soothed by the prospect of mellifluous music into behaving impeccably, and the sunshine and warmth enhanced our theme of Travel, Holidays and Adventures. Eight students of singing spent all day Saturday, and Sunday morning, in intensive masterclasses with Stephen and accompanist Susi Morrow; then in the evening everyone relaxed, and members of the public joined us to enjoy picnics in the summery garden before two wonderful concerts, given by distinguished guest musicians.
Friday night’s concert, a complete sell-out, was a wonderful treat. Renowned actress Prunella Scales joined Stephen in a programme entitled ‘Travelling Hopefully’, an anthology of words and music from exotic travellers’ tales to hilarious holiday experiences, with songs to match.
On Saturday, brilliant young husband and wife duo Marcus Barcham-Stevens and Christina Lawrie took us (and their violin and piano) round Europe on a musical adventure, and Stephen joined Marcus as narrator for a performance of Alan Ridout’s delightful ‘Ferdinand the Bull’.
The final concert on Sunday afternoon saw our eight singing-workshop participants presenting a varied programme of songs to an enthusiastic audience, followed by tea and homemade cakes in the garden.
It’s clear that we’ve started a new Alphamstone tradition, and we’re already planning for next year’s festival, when we hope to equal (or even exceed?) this year’s triumph – dates to be announced later!
JAMES GILCHRIST – tenor
STEPHEN VARCOE – baritone
PENELOPE THWAITES – piano
WEDNESDAY 22 OCTOBER 2008 7.30PM Youth & Love
WEDNESDAY 29 OCTOBER 2008 7.30PM Let us Garlands Bring
ST JOHN’S, SMITH SQUARE
Box Office: 020 7222 1061
Stephen Varcoe, who is widely admired as an exponent of English song, has devised two programmes based around VW’s long and fascinating life. He is joined by James Gilchrist, one of England’s leading tenors, and by pianist and Grainger expert, Penelope Thwaites. They will include songs by some composers seldom heard – Max Bruch, for instance; Michael Mullinar, Gordon Jacob, Elizabeth Maconchy, Denis Browne, Charles Wood, Thomas Dunhill – as well as those great figures of English music, Parry, Stanford and Elgar, and not forgetting Ravel and VW’s great friend Holst. Armstrong Gibbs, Butterworth, Finzi, Ireland and Grainger will also feature.
As for VW himself : there are the two great works On Wenlock Edge and Songs of Travel which form the major focus of the two programmes. There will be folksong settings, some of The House of Life, and songs from the operas. All of this will be knitted together with a narrative about aspects of the great man, and anecdotes from him and his friends. A highly entertaining pair of evenings, giving a picture of the variety and broadness of VW’s achievement.