Sunday, September 14, 2008


Danbury Parish Church


The accessible music of local composer Armstrong Gibbs is undergoing something of a revival, almost fifty years after he died.

This very first Festival included four concerts as well as a special Evensong, a walk, a lunch and a supper.

At the heart of the weekend was the concert given by the Lingwood Consort, featuring Gibbs' choral cantata The Turning Year. Setting four seasonal poems, the music ranges from the sensuous scents and sounds of summer to the hard northern winter. The last movement, the most effective in performance, was reminiscent of a traditional folk song, a lusty paean to the spring. The atmospheric accompaniment was by the Festival Strings, led by Artistic Director Robert Atchinson, and pianist Olga Dudnik. The conductor was Christopher Kingsley.

The piece really needed stronger forces vocally. And I couldn't help wondering what the Secondary Schools of Carlisle would be commissioning today. Assuming they could raise a choir at all. The Gibbs is such an old-fashioned piece, nostalgic for a rural England that had already begun to disappear before the war.

Like The Turning Year, Vivaldi's Gloria was originally written for young performers. And I learn from the programme notes that it was published in its present form within a year of the Gibbs. Vivaldi, so ubiquitous now, from ringtones to commercials, was only really re-discovered in the twentieth century. The Lingwood Consort were on excellent form here, with meticulous phrasing, and the accompaniment [ with Paul Hagger at the organ ] blending happily with the voices, notably in the Propter Magnam Gloriam.

The concert began with two curtain raisers – Vivaldi's lively Alla Rustica concerto, a pleasingly intimate performance from the five string players, and a Handel Organ Concerto from Paul Hagger, the strings, and Festival Chairman Christopher Kingsley on continuo.

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