Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Lunchtime concert at Chelmsford Cathedral


“I wouldn't trouble, not just for one singer ...”
Overheard on the Colchester bus last week.

Well, madam, you missed a gem. Not for the first time, Kate Woolf and her pianist Paul Bryan enraptured the Cathedral audience with an imaginative thematic programme, beautifully delivered.

This was their eightieth recital together, marking ten years of musical collaboration.

The theme this time was night and sleep. After Purcell's Evening Hymn, we heard substantial song settings from Delius, including the Lied-like Hidden Love, and the folksy Young Venevil.

Ivor Gurney's Sleep showed off Kate's pure, open tone to perfection, Fauré's Après un Rêve was gloriously phrased, and the sequence ended with Barber's setting of a James Agee poem, Sure on this shining night.

But my favourite was the Charm of Lullabies, written by Benjamin Britten in 1948. There is a dark undertow, here, and certainly Sephestia's Lullaby and A Charm both foreshadow his Turn of the Screw, with its ambivalent attitude towards innocence, written a few years later.

We demanded an encore, of course, and got a delightful Delius Ibsen setting – Now chimney tops and gables...

Sure on this shining night
Of star made shadows round,
Kindness must watch for me
This side the ground.
The late year lies down the north.
All is healed, all is health.
High summer holds the earth.
Hearts all whole.
Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder wand'ring far
Of shadows on the stars. 

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