This Saturday Lincoln Choral Society is putting on a concert in the beautiful setting of Lincoln Cathedral to commemorate the Centenary of The First World War. The choir will be accompanied by The Lincolnshire Chamber Orchestra, of which I am a member, conducted by Neville Turner.
The main work in the programme is The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace by the Welsh composer Karl Jenkins. Premiered in 2000 the work is extremely popular (currently number 12 in Classic FM’s Hall of Fame) and is made up of words from the sixteenth-century ‘L’Homme armé‘ Mass tradition, the Muslim call to prayer and other ancient religious texts. One highlight is the soulful cello solo in the Benedictus which inspires a feeling of calm after the dramatic sounds in Charge! and Torches.
The concert also includes Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, Elgar’s For the Fallen from The Spirit of England and George Butterworth’s The Banks of Green Willow. The latter is particularly appropriate for the theme, as Butterworth, one of the most promising composers of his time, was sadly killed in August 1916 during the Battle of the Somme.
Tickets for the concert will be available on the door. For more information visit Lincoln Cathedral’s website.
As the leaves are falling and the nights are drawing in David Hammond and I are preparing to join forces with the Sheffield-based clarinet quartet Black Velvet for a lovely autumn concert on Saturday 11th October at 8pm. Once again the venue will be St Andrew’s Church on Psalter Lane with its warm and inviting atmosphere.
The programme is extremely diverse: among other things David and I will perform a movement of Grieg’s Violin Sonata in G major and Massenet’s Meditation, while Black Velvet’s contribution includes works by Giles Farnaby and Johann Kasper Kerll.
A particular highlight will be the Suite for Violin, Clarinet and Piano by Darius Milhaud which David and I will perform with Steve Dumpleton, bass clarinettist in the quartet and also a member of Sheffield Chamber Orchestra. The four-movement work was composed in 1936 and is great fun to play. It is a reworking of music written for a play by Jean Anhoilh called Voyageur sans bagages (The Traveller Without Luggage) and it could be performed by either clarinet or viola with violin and piano. Milhaud’s style of composition is influenced by jazz, which he heard on his travels to the United States in the 1920s, and also makes use of polytonality (where the parts are in different keys simultaneously).
As the new series of Strictly Come Dancing is now underway we are also including some dance music including tangos by Piazzolla, Brazilian Dances by Milhaud and a selection of old-time waltzes.
Tickets are available to book in advance by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Full price: £10 Concessions: £5
Please note that the start time is 8pm.
On Saturday the second of my two charity concerts this year took place in St Andrew’s Church in Sheffield and I’m delighted to announce that £714.58 was raised for Marie Curie Cancer Care.
The concert opened with Boyce’s Symphony no. 1 and a joyous sound from the string orchestra under the baton of Robin McEwan. I then performed Mendelssohn’s Concerto for Violin and Piano with the wonderful Tim Horton (pianist in Ensemble 360 and the Leonore Piano Trio). This work, composed when Mendelssohn was only 14, was new to many members of the audience, but several commented that it ought to be better known.
After the interval and a chance to enjoy some delicious cupcakes the fabulous Abbeydale Singers took to the stage and treated us to some more Mendelssohn in the form of his Four Sacred Part Songs. It is always a pleasure to hear the choir perform, especially in such a beautiful acoustic.
The orchestra then concluded the concert with Dvorak’s wonderfully atmospheric Nocturne for Strings and the rousing Capriol Suite by Peter Warlock.
This is the largest event I have organised to date and, although there were stressful moments along the way, it was all worth it for the amazing experience and to be able to give so much money to such a great cause. Many thanks to all the performers and those who helped behind the scenes and of course to the audience for supporting the event.
One of the things I love about my performing is the variety of both the repertoire and the ensembles I play in. This week I will be joining the award-winning tribute band The ELO Experience in two of their shows: on Thursday in Swansea’s Grand Theatre and on Friday in the Watford Collosseum. The group recreates the sounds of the 1970s band the Electric Light Orchestra.
In 1971 musicians Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne teamed up in order to write rock and pop songs with a classical feel. The Electric Light Orchestra evolved from Wood’s group The Move and its first single was 10538 Overture, released in 1972. The debut concert that year featured a violin, three cellos and bass, creating the band’s signature string sound. Shortly after this Roy Wood left the group and went on to form Wizzard. In the mid-70s the group’s line-up stabilised, the string section now consisting of one violin and two cellos.
Throughout the 1970s there were three different violinists in ELO. Steve Woolam played on the first album and then he was replaced by Wilfred Gibson, who always wore a cape while playing. Mik Kaminski joined in 1973 and stayed with the group until the end of the decade. His trademark was that he had a blue violin. Several of the songs feature prominent violin solos including the cover of the Chuck Berry song Roll Over Beethoven and the top-ten hit Livin’ Thing.
I am really looking forward to joining The ELO Experience this week and performing these great songs.
The school year is almost at an end, but although I’m winding down my teaching for the summer I’m also busy planning and preparing for a couple of concerts in the autumn. On 11th October David Hammond and I will be sharing a concert with Sheffield-based clarinet quartet Black Velvet. It will include Milhaud’s Suite for Violin, Clarinet and Piano, which Steve Dumpleton will perform with us, but the rest of the programme is a work in progress, so more on that another time!
On Saturday 20th September I am putting on a very exciting concert in St Andrew’s Church, Sheffield, in aid of Marie Curie Cancer Care UK. Tim Horton, pianist in Ensemble 360 and the Leonore Piano Trio, will join me to perform Mendelssohn’s Concerto for Violin and Piano. This work is one of Mendelssohn’s earliest concertos, written when he was only 14 and given its first performance by the composer himself on piano and his violin teacher of the time Eduard Rietz. It is scored for string orchestra, although in large sections of the piece the soloists are left without accompaniment, which at times almost gives it the feel of a sonata.
The concert will also include Symphony no. 1 by William Boyce, Dvorak’s beautiful Nocturne for Strings and Warlock’s Capriol Suite, all conducted by Robin McEwan. As if that weren’t enough there will also be a guest appearance by the fabulous Abbeydale Singers.
Tickets are now available, priced £12 and £8 for concessions; contact me for information on how to purchase them.
This year I am putting on two concerts in Sheffield, on 14th June and 20th September, to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care. Both events will take place in St Andrew’s Church, Psalter Lane, and tickets for the June concert are now on sale.
Marie Curie Cancer Care, originally known as Marie Curie Memorial Foundation, has been an official charity in the UK since 1952 and is dedicated to alleviating the suffering of terminally ill patients and supporting their families. It provides hospices and nursing for patients in their own homes and is committed to research into the best possible care and how to provide it. It is named after the scientist Marie Curie (1867-1934) who carried out pioneering research into radioactivity and was the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize.
The concert on June 14th will be a violin and piano recital and I will be joined by York-based pianist David Hammond. The programme for the evening is as follows:
Brahms – Sonata movement in C minor
Saint-Saëns – Havanaise
Debussy – Violin Sonata
Mozart – Sonata in G, K301
Mendelssohn – Sonata in F
Please use the contact page to purchase tickets (£10/£5 concessions) and support this worthy cause.
Saturday 14th June 2014, 7.30pm
St Andrew’s Church, Psalter Lane, Sheffield S11 8YL
This week it’s school half term and I’m immersing myself in Beethoven’s music in preparation for next weekend’s Sheffield Chamber Orchestra concert (Saturday 1st March, Firth Hall, Sheffield). There are a few tickets left, so visit the orchestra’s website if you want one!
Our programme begins with the overture to Il matrimonio segreto (The Secret Marriage) by the Italian composer Domenico Cimarosa; it’s very fast and good fun to play! We will then be joined by the wonderful violinist Ben Nabarro for Beethoven’s Violin Concerto.
In the second half of the concert we will perform Beethoven’s third symphony, the ‘Eroica’. This work was premiered in 1805, just a year before the violin concerto, and initially was not well received by the critics who found it too long. Beethoven himself later suggested that it be performed near the beginning of a concert while the audience was still alert!! It is much grander in scale than his first two symphonies and the first movement is uncharacteristically long for the time (691 bars). The second movement is a sombre, evocative funeral march and this is followed by the light Scherzo and Trio and the Finale, a theme and variations.
Initial sketches for a third symphony date back to 1802, but during the years Beethoven was composing it he took a break to work on several other projects, including the ‘Waldstein’ Piano Sonata op. 53. A few months ago I heard the latter performed by the pianist Tim Horton, who is currently part-way through a cycle of all Beethoven’s piano sonatas. The next installment will also be next weekend (Friday 28th February at Emmanuel Church, Barnsley) and includes Op.26 in Ab, Op. 22 in Bb, Op. 90 in E minor and Op. 101 in A. Fabulous playing not to be missed! (For ticket information visit Music in the Round)
If you are a Beethoven fan then South Yorkshire is definitely the place to be next weekend!
This week I braved Snake Pass for the first time and travelled to Rochdale, where, fuelled by some delicious cheese and onion pie provided by the church, David and I performed sonatas by Franck and Mendelssohn to an appreciative audience in St Mary in the Baum.
As the saying goes, there’s no rest for the wicked, and I am straight on to preparing for my next performance in a couple of weeks. The programme will be Haydn’s Trio in G major ‘Gypsy Rondo’, Giordani’s Duetto I, Grieg Andante con moto and Revolucionario by Astor Piazzolla. I will be joined by Catherine Strachan (cello) and David Hammond (piano) both of whom studied at the University of York at the same time as me.
The Grieg is a particularly interesting piece. Composed in 1878, the same year as the G minor string quartet, it is a single-movement work, probably the beginnings of a complete piano trio. It was discovered after his death by his friend and colleague Julius Rontgen, but, like the Mendelssohn sonata I performed this week, it was not published until more recently, in the complete Grieg edition of 1978. The whole movement is constructed from a single theme which uses just 6 notes, but at the same time includes a huge amount of variety in its tonality, texture, use of instruments and tempo. Rontgen wrote: “What a solemnity it conveys! How he can’t get enough of that single theme, that even in the major mode retains its mourning character, and then develops so beautifully its full power”.
Grieg is one of my favourite composers and in the past I have performed two of his violin sonatas (G major and C minor), so I am very much looking forward to presenting this trio in Chesterfield Library. The concert begins at 11.45am and entry is free.
Happy New Year to you all! As 2014 begins there are a number of exciting projects on the horizon for me.
Over the next few weeks I will be giving two lunchtime concerts, the first in the church of St Mary in the Baum in Rochdale on Wednesday 22nd. This will be my first appearance in their regular concert series and, together with my pianist David Hammond, I will perform two great 19th-century sonatas by Franck and Mendelssohn.
Franck’s only sonata for violin and piano was written in 1886 and is in cyclic form; this means that the same themes are used in different movements to unify the work’s structure. It was first performed by the violinist Ysaye, to whom it is dedicated. Vincent d’Indy, a pupil of Franck, described it as ‘the first and purist model of the cyclic treatment of themes in the form of the instrumental sonata’.
The second work in our programme is Mendelssohn’s third Violin Sonata in F major. His first two were written during the early 1820s shortly after he began to learn the violin and he may well have composed them in order to aid his development as a player. The third dates from 1838, at which time Mendelssohn was working in Leipzig and presiding over the concert life of the city. He was not happy with the work, describing it as a ‘wretched sonata’ and in 1839 he began a revision of the first movement. It remained unknown until 1953 when Yehudi Menuhin obtained and published it. It is full of drama and beautiful melodies and, in my opinion, deserves to be better known.
On 8th February I will give another lunchtime recital in Chesterfield Library, where David and I will be joined by cellist Catherine Strachan in a varied piano trio programme. Later in the Spring I have been invited once again to take part in the York Schubert Day, organised by the Schubert Institute UK. On this occasion my colleagues and I will perform the String Quintet in C major. Later in the year I will be putting on two concerts in Sheffield (in June and September) to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care. Keep visiting my site for regular updates about all these events.
Christmas is finally here and my festive performances are over for another year. December started well, with our charity concert in York raising over £500 for St Nicks; the money will be used to help fund the children’s play area. Photo: http://djb-photography.com/
In the same weekend I took part in the Christmas Musical Cavalcade in Sheffield. These annual performances, organised by Keith Roe and featuring soloists from around the North of England, the Fellowship Choir and Orchestra and the Abbeydale Singers, raise thousands of pounds for charity each year and are a delight to play in. The programme this time included popular Christmas songs, including Winter Wonderland and Silver Bells, songs from West End shows and the beautiful Marietta’s Lied by Korngold. The finale was Auld Lang Syne and it was wonderful to see everyone in the packed City Hall linking arms and singing together.
Last week I performed as part of Castle Howard’s Christmas event for the 7th year running. I was lucky to be joined by a different accompanist each day: Laura Jones, Catherine Shackell and David Hammond. Our music was very popular with the visitors and as always it was a pleasure to have the opportunity to perform in the Long Gallery.
I always enjoy playing Christmas music, from traditional carols to pop songs and classical works such as Corelli’s Christmas Concerto. For me Christmas wouldn’t be complete without the music of John Rutter and my favourite carol is his Star Carol. It brings back happy memories of my childhood, as the choir in the local church used to sing it every year accompanied by my dad on the organ.
Merry Christmas to you all!