Thursday, September 17, 2009


Chelmsford Cathedral
Choral Foundation Concert


The gentle Walking Tune made a theatrical introduction to the “simple, joyous” world of Percy Grainger. First, Peter Nardone unseen on the offstage piano, then Tom Wilkinson took up the tune, and narrator Kit Hesketh-Harvey strolled on in a vaguely pre-Raphaelite ensemble.

And we were off on a selective tour of Grainger's life and his work, “dished up” for four hands or two. Handel in the Strand, of course, Shepherd's Hey from his “song-seeking” period, Country Gardens, but also some less familiar, less showy works, like the Bridal Lullaby written in 1916 for the marriage of his lost love Karen Holten.

The “gaiety and exuberance” of Grainger's music was well expressed by the two musicians: Molly on the Shore, with its frenetic finale, the whistling to accompany Bonnie Doon, the Immovable Doh, with the one note in the top part played by Nardone with consummate style and a little help from Mr Hesketh-Harvey [who presumably would have included The Widow's Party March in his Percy picks].

Percy Grainger is remembered now for his “tremendous trifles”, and although he made a fortune from piano arrangements and his own performances, he remained sceptical about the “box full of hammers and strings”. But this entertaining presentation gave us a rounded picture of the man and his music – from the charming Eastern Intermezzo to the nostalgic Colonial Song, written in 1911 at outset of his composing career.

Kit and the Widow's Party March

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