Rosanna Rolton Concert 19 November 2019

An evening to banish all ills we are currently facing at home and abroad as Rosanna Rolton captivated us with her enthusiasm for the harp. Now several harpists have played for Boston Concert Club over the years, including Osian Ellis, famous in his time. As I recollect, they all did introduce us to the history of this unique stringed instrument, and usually took trouble to explain the use of its pedals. Rosanna outdid them all, for she is as skilled in words as in playing her instrument. Surely, it’s rare for a musician to make sure their audience can hear properly and invite questions! She made us laugh, especially with telling the story behind de Falla’s opera La Vida Breve. By midway through the second half I was so well prepared and engaged that I could listen intently to a piece by Berio composed in 1963 that demands not only stroking the strings but smacking the frame.

A group of members spent the interval clustered round Rosanna clearly enjoying a chat with her during the interval and everyone I encountered over coffee was full of praise and admiration. It came as no surprise to hear how successful her school visit had been earlier in the day.

So clever to begin with a Scarlatti transcription to harp from harpsichord to show how both have a percussive quality because in both the strings are plucked. Then after a taste of some virtuoso harpists of the nineteenth century and more recent pieces, it was an arrangement from Smetana’s Ma Vlast, The Moldau, all life is there as the river flows from source to be finally lost in the sea – a wonderful choice to end a most splendid evening.

Brenda Lane

REVIEW OF ENGLISH PIANO TRIO CONCERT On 15th October 2019

What a treat it was to hear not one but two Beethoven piano trios in the opening concert of Boston Concert Club’s 70th season – that anniversary, itself a cause for celebration, happens also to include the 250th since the birth of Beethoven. The well-established English Piano Trio were to play his masterpiece, op.97, known as the Archduke Trio, in the second half , but prepared us for that with earlier Beethoven and Haydn trios, pretty well contemporaneous, in the first. There was a somewhat uneasy friendship between these two. The much older Haydn labeled him a lazy student! What struck me particularly, listening to the set of nine short variations that complete the Beethoven op.11, were those characteristic uses of extreme dynamic contrast, sforzando and quirky rhythms. Its jolly, jaunty theme made me want to skip happily off at the interval (if only I could). Then to the Archduke! Such an advance. A glance at the score shows just how formidable a work it is. Gone the relative simplicity and compact nature of op.11. In op.97 the development of thematic material is taken to extremes , with mounting excitement!

That the English Piano Trio, Jane Faulkner violin, Timothy Ravenscroft piano and Pal Banda ‘cello are not given to extravagant body language I find admirable. Rather they play with the ease of the established and accomplished group they are and let the music speak for itself. There were occasions when I felt I would have liked more emphatic entries from the ‘cello, though it may be that this has more to do with the surroundings. The high raised but shallow stage at the Grammar School allows us see well but the performers and their sound seemed a little remote. Was it floating over our heads? A larger audience would surely improve the acoustic. Perhaps push the seating a little further back? The musician’s introductions were clearly enjoyed. Especially interesting was the story of the ‘cellist’s instrument with its possible link to Haydn. A serene encore, well deserved, finished our evening – well judged.

So let’s rejoice in the club reaching 70 years of concerts, enjoy the concerts to come and encourage others to join us. Thanks to the committee for giving us such a fine start to the season.

Brenda Lane

REVIEW OF SCHOOL VISITS 2018-2019

Now that Gravity have brought to a spectacular close to our season of concerts for 2018-19 it’s time to look back on another successful programme of school visits this year. With the administrative and financial help of Lincolnshire Music Service (LMS), who provide a grant of £1,500 annually, via Arts Council Funding, to facilitate the programme, we have taken five of our visiting artists into 16 primary schools in and around Boston this season, playing to just over 2,100 children, mostly of ages 5 to 11. In fact, at Stickney, the nursery class also attended the performance, so 3+ in age, and they were thoroughly captivated by the antics of Peter Mitchell and Anthony Mann, the talented percussionist who make up Gravity. The largest audience we played to was 296 or thereabouts, the smallest was just 38. But for the half term holiday in February, Laurence Perkins would have done some school visits, as he did when he came here three years ago with Cuillin Sound.

In addition to re-visiting many local schools with whom we have developed a good relationship over the last seven years, we have visited five new schools this year – those at Bucknall, Walcott, Martin and Tattershall (all near Woodhall Spa) and William Stukeley at Holbeach. Many schools are involved with programmes inspired, set up and/or organised by LMS, giving their children access to making music, whether it be singing in choirs or starting to p[lay an instrument, and the heads and classroom teachers are pleased to expand the experiences of their children with our visits. This year children have seen and heard the Duo of 19th century oboe and harp in October, the classical guitar duo from the RNCM in November (who performed in the three small schools near Woodhall Spa), the Passacaglia Trio in December, Lewis Banks and his accompanist, Marianna Abrahamyan in January before Gravity did the honours in March.

Members of the Committee always accompany the musicians as they go into schools, and I am extremely grateful for the assistance of the two Jenny, Dumat and Oughton, and Keith Osborne in helping to attend these events with me. Lest it be thought that all we do is turn up up and have a free concert, I should let you into one or two secrets from the season! For example I learnt how to assemble and dismantle Passacaglia’s harpsichord and to carry it to/from their transport, testing muscles I’d forgotten about, not least when taking them to Gosberton Clough and Risegate, then Holbeach, on a very wet Wednesday morning following the Tuesday evening concert, before we rushed back to Boston for a quick lunch at Downtown; the musicians were staggered by the range of furniture and goods for sale in the store and would have stayed longer but for the afternoon performance at Boston West!

Likewise, the visit of Gravity, where we became experts at setting up, then breaking down and packing away, their vast array of musical instruments, including the marimba and the vibraphone; once again, the Wednesday morning was somewhat fraught given the rapid transition required between the schools in Stickney and New Leake, thankfully only five miles apart.

Lewis and Marianna performed in three schools when they were here but only on the Wednesday though, as they were flying down to East Midlands Airport from Glasgow where they are based, on the Tuesday of the evening concert. They displayed their musical pedigree with verve to 600 children in all. However, the performance at Spalding St John’s after lunch almost never happened when we discovered to everyone’s horror, once we arrived at the school, that Lewis had forgotten to transfer his rucksack from Jenny Dumat’s car to mine in the Downtown car park (in the pouring rain, let it be said), inside which he had put his reeds….no reeds, no performance, and not much of a spectacle for the children, although I’m sure that Marianna would have done her best to hold the fort! Fortunately Jenny had realised Lewis’ error almost as soon as I had driven away, so cue phone messages and texts, then one rapid journey from Spalding to the Sutterton roundabout and back to collect said bag. The concert then went ahead, albeit a bit late, but nonetheless well received by the children.

Here’s to another interesting year of school performances next season, but perhaps without so much drama.

Stephen Boycott

April 2019