Music festivals of international importance are all here to stay
THIS is my last chance to tell you about Cornwall's International Male Voice Choral Festival.
As it will begin tomorrow and as I have already written extensively about it, this is just a summary.
Outside Truro there is a chance of finding seats even at this late hour, but to make sure check by ringing 01872 262466. Here are the dates and places:
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Thursday, May 2 – Falmouth University Performance Centre, 12.30pm; Truro Methodist Church, 7pm; 7.30pm concerts at Chapel Street Chapel, Penzance; Saltash Methodist Church, and St Petroc's Church, Hayle.
Friday, May 3 – Truro Cathedral lunchtime concert, 1pm; gala concert in the cathedral, 7.30pm; other 7.30pm concerts are at Falmouth Methodist Church, Porthleven Chapel, St Andrew's Church, Redruth, and Liskeard Wesley Chapel.
Saturday, May 4 – Singing competitions in Hall for Cornwall from 9am; 7.30pm concerts in St John's Methodist Church, St Austell, St Neot's Church, Launceston Central Methodist Church; St Petroc's Church, Padstow; St Paul de Leon Church, Paul; Stoke Climsland Parish Church; and at 8pm at the Hall for Cornwall.
Sunday, May 5 – 7.30pm concerts in All Saints' Church, Falmouth; Bude Central Methodist Church; Camborne Centenary Chapel; Fowey Parish Church; St Elwyn's Church, Hayle; St Just Methodist Chapel; Helston Methodist Church; St Michael's Church, Newquay.
Monday, May 6 – lunchtime concert at Truro Cathedral at 12.30pm; Final International Gala Concert at the Hall for Cornwall.
Ring 01872 262466 or visit www.hallforcornwall.org
Daytime singing will take place on:
Saturday, May 4 – St Clement Flower Festival, 11.45am and 3.30pm; Heartlands, Pool, at 1.30pm and 2.30pm; and Trebah Gardens, 10am to 3.30pm.
Sunday, May 5 – The Eden Project 10am to 3.30pm; Lost Gardens of Heligan, 11.30am to 3pm; Minack Theatre, 11.30am to 3pm; National Maritime Museum, Falmouth, 2pm and 3pm.
Monday, May 6 – The Eden Project, 10am to 3.30pm; Tate Gallery, St Ives, 1.45pm and 2.30pm; St Ives waterfront, 3.15pm and 4pm, and Pendennis Castle, 11.30am to 3.30pm.
ANY comment about St Endellion and its twice-yearly music festivals seems superfluous. When knowledgeable music lovers from far (some very far) and wide come to enjoy the unique experience of the fine quality of the music in such a unique place in ever-growing numbers, who am I to disagree with them?
As far as this year is concerned, the audience and the musicians have gone home well satisfied. They will be back later this year, next year and, no doubt, well into the future.
It seems to get better all the time.The variety gets even wider. As well as the chamber and orchestral concerts this year, there were the late-night recitals of songs and jazz, the involvement in the services at the church.
There was Elgar's Dream Of Gerontius, the culmination of the festival, which consisted of two cracking performances.
How the church reverberated with the best of Elgar, James Burton at the helm, an orchestra and choir that seems to get better year on year and the inspired voices of Mark Padmore and Pamela Helen Stephen.
Both these singers were involved in one of the late-night candlelit concerts. Pamela (Richard Hickox's widow) continues to support the festival and to inspire it.
Once upon a time it would have been easy to get into concerts on the night. Now this is a rarity. That says it all.
For your diary, this year's 55th Summer Festival takes place between July 30 and August 9; next year's 41st Easter Festival goes from April 12 to 20.
For those of us who live in Cornwall, music from St Endellion is leaping ahead. Under the title Endelienta, music will be with us throughout the year, as concerts, workshops, courses and much more will be presented in the converted farm buildings just along from the church.
This month there are two concerts: on Saturday, May 4, at 7.30pm, the renowned chamber choir, The Joyful Company of Singers, will be presenting some choral works from the late 19th and the 20th century, with music by Poulenc, Saint-Saëns, Ravel and Debussy. This will be repeated the next day in St Mary's Church, Penzance.
On Saturday, May 25, at 7.30pm, and at the same time in St Mary's, Penzance, on Sunday 26, the prize-winning early music ensemble, The K'antu Ensemble, present Sounds And Songs Of Renaissence Europe.
Just into June (Monday 3 in Penzance, Tuesday 4 at St Endellion) violinist Thomas Bowes will take us on a Bach pilgrimage, sonatas and partitas for solo violin interwoven with readings by local poets.
For tickets at St Endellion, priced at £10, and more details e-mail www.endelienta.org.uk or ring Sue Foster on 01208 880008.
Thank you, volunteers
THIS time of year involves three major music festivals: The International Musicians' Seminar in West Cornwall, the St Endellion Easter Festival and the Cornwall International Male Voice Choral Festival, which spreads itself throughout Cornwall every other year.
These are all festivals of great importance which have grown over the years to international importance, to international standards. They clearly are all here to stay.
I cannot honestly contemplate the complexity of any of these undertakings, getting musicians (not all highly organised once away from the performing platform) from many parts of the world not only to sing and play, but to find them places to stay, to eat, to relax (and I nearly forgot – to drink).
Volunteers, on which all this, and the rest, utterly rely, willingly come forward year after year to sell tickets, to put numbers on seats, open up fields which they man as car parks, cut sandwiches, make pasties and splits, make and pour an infinite number of cups of tea, and clean up afterwards.
This year, for example, a bitter chill wind was blowing across the St Endellion field car park. Up there you could almost see Russia, let alone feel its wind.
Last year, welly boots were the order of the day. If you have been a volunteer you will know just what I mean, and could tell me about all the other jobs you get to do.
A huge thank you for all of you largely forgotten army of men and women. Without you these huge musical events just couldn't take place. Now we don't want that, do we?
Truro Three Arts
THIS 2011-12 series of concerts is now over. It finished on March 15 at its usual Truro College venue with a quite stunning evening, given by The Schubert Ensemble. This brilliant group of musicians, now 30 years old, is a world leader in music for piano and strings.
It travels the world playing to packed audiences and has picked up numerous accolades, like the Royal Philharmonic Society's recognition of its contribution to British musical life, the award, no less, of the Best Chamber Ensemble.
The players are Simon Blendis and Marije Ploemacher, violins, Jane Salmon, cello, and William Howard, piano.
The capacity audience at Truro College were to hear a concert of wonderful music, played by musicians who were clearly inspired and inspiring.
First came a delightful piano quartet by Mozart. Up to the time of this composition audiences would have expected a type of chamber concerto for piano and strings. For the first time they heard a work where all instruments played an equal part – and didn't they just.
Then came a short quartet with some intriguing harmonic progressions by Huw Watkins, specially written for The Schubert Ensemble in 1912.
Finally came the genius of Elgar at his best, his piano quintet in A minor. I have heard this work many times, none nearly so good as at Truro College.
You always know when a performance has taken off. At the end of each piece there is silence as the audience controls its breath, then there is an explosion of applause. It was one of those evenings.
The 2013-14 programme starts on September 24 with the increasingly popular commentary by Paul Drayton (complete with piano and recordings).
On October 18, Red Priest will be a reverent and sometimes irreverent exploration of Vivaldi and some others.
On Friday, December 3, Truro Three Arts will be making a visit to the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, to hear The Glyndebourne Touring Opera's exploration of the magical world of Humperdink's Hansel And Gretel.
This is all well ahead. Keep in contact through www.truro3arts.co.uk
So – to something different
MY LOVE of traditional jazz stems from the days when I was at school with one John Bennett.
While at school he joined the school orchestra but never took it seriously. What I didn't know then was that he had joined a group of amateurs who hammered out basic jazz in a back room somewhere. John took up the trombone since there was one to hand and nobody to play it.
When he left school the group assembled under Terry Lightfoot and began to attract attention in jazz circles. They were in need of a trumpeter at one point and a young Kenny Ball filled the gap.
The rest is history. Kenny Ball's Jazzmen soon became well established and have been together for nearly 60 years. They were a very energetic ensemble, their enthusiasm gripped any audience they played to.
I have kept in touch with them, and John, over the years and am saddened that Kenny died last month at the surprisingly old age of 82. I say surprisingly since I always felt his enthusiasm, his smoking and drinking made him a heart attack about to happen.
The group he built up with John by his side, was happy on and offstage. It was interesting that Kenny could read music only sparingly (as he put it to me, not nearly good enough for an orchestral player) but none of the rest of the band did.
What was so wonderful about The Kenny Ball Jazzmen was that their music was instinctive, it came from the heart, not the sheet of music.
THERE were a lot of red faces in St John's Church, St Austell, last April. Was it something I'd said? No, it was, at that time, a new phenomenon. A large white sun had risen in the morning, the sky was radiantly blue – and it was hot.
No such gimmick was needed on Saturday, April 20. The St Austell Choral Society was presenting its spring concert, called Elizabethan Serenade. The happy audience were treated to a delightful programme devised by Paul Drayton, the society's musical director (how lucky) of Elizabethan 'pop' music, though not then known by that name.
Composers like Thomas Morley and John Rowland were around during Elizabeth I's time, what we called 'light' music (on the Light Programme, radio then), serious composers like Elgar, Ireland, Vaughan Williams and Roger Quilter could earn a bob or two producing something lighter during the early part of our own Queen's reign.
For the evening, the chorus was in excellent form, the orchestra just about the best I have heard them play and the soloists were clearly enjoying their part in it.
Paul had clearly found solos ideal to their voices. Cheryl's high voice was ideal for Dowland's music, Shirley Tyack gave a beautiful rendering of Elgar's Where Corals Lie, Nick Beever made fun of the House of Lords in Sullivan's Iolanthe and Benjamin Hoadley's clear, easy-to-listen-to voice brought out the beauty of Edward German's English Rose, in Merrie England.
Simon Dunbavand excelled at the organ in Elgar's Coronation Ode and Walton's Coronation March, Orb And Sceptre.
While we were being entranced inside St John's Church, the golden sun was setting outside, leaving us a clear bright moon by the time we came out. A perfect day.
May in the cathedral
THERE is a large work at the end of May, on Thursday 30, when English Touring Opera presents Simon Boccanegra, by Verdi. Tickets are available on 01872 262466.
Truro Choral Society present The Armed Man, a Mass for peace, by Karl Jenkins on Saturday 18. Visit www.trurochoralsociety. co.uk for tickets.
On Saturday, May 4, at 1pm, Inchoir will be giving a free concert.
Free 1.10pm organ recitals planned for the month are – Friday 10, Ben Horden, of Sheffield Cathedral; Friday 17, Clive Ellison, of St Agnes; Friday 24, Peter Heginbotham, of Sheffield and Friday 31, John Hosking, of St Asaph Cathedral.
The Hall in May
AS WELL as our very own International Male Voice Festival (May 4 to 6), my eye found two other brilliant musical events.
On Sunday, May 12, the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Pavel Kogan, brings with them music by Tchaikovsky (the Polonaise from Eugene Onegin and Pathetique symphony) and Rachmaninov's second piano concerto.
On Friday and Saturday, May 17 and 18, Birmingham Royal Ballet will be presenting Lyric Pieces, music by Grieg, and Pineapple Poll, music by Arthur Sullivan.
Ring 01872 262466 or www.hallforcornwall.co.uk
Raise your glasses to Champagne Ladies
DISTINCTION all round for these brilliant ladies; more details next month.