THE ALKYONA STRING QUARTET

REVIEW OF CONCERT GIVEN ON 15th MARCH 2022

The concert given by the Alkyona String Quartet was a wonderful end to this season. The quartet line up was Emma Purslow, violin; Marike Kruup, violin; Claire Newton, viola and Jobine Siekman, cello. This concert was generously sponsored by Steve Boycott.

The concert began with Beethoven’s String Quartet Opus 18 No 3 in D major. What a wonderful mellow sound from the cello in the first movement. All the players showed great musicality and what lyrical playing. In the final movement there was such a rich sound – it was like bathing in music.

Then we heard the String Quartet No 7 Opus 108 by Shostakovich, this was composed in 1960 and dedicated to his first wife who had died in 1954. Their marriage, I understand was volatile. The piece has humorous passages and in part an insistent beat. Was she nagging him I wondered, then there was a dissonance on all instruments and it all sounded like a monstrous quarrel; I felt some relief when that was over! This was a piece excitingly played and very colourful.

After the interval came the highlight of the evening; Schubert’s String Quartet D810 “Death and the Maiden”. This was played by the Quartet for the first time in concert and I understand from Steve Boycott that it had been learned specifically for this concert; it was an opportunity to learn it and play it for real and it’s now gone into their repertoire for the future (Emma Purslow). Death and the Maiden is a very dark subject, written in minor keys. Nevertheless it is quite lively in places, a dance of death and finally the maiden succumbs. The second movement shows Schubert’s genius in writing variations and the final movement asks who can stand against death?

The Quartet has a bright sound and the rapport and communication between the players was very evident throughout. The comments from members of the audience after the concert was very positive and it was felt that the players deserved the sustained applause they received at the end. It is hoped that they will make a return visit to us in another season.

CM

REVIEW OF ANTOINE PRÉAT CONCERT

15 FEBRUARY 2022

Antoine Prēat the Franco-Belgian pianist is a Winner of the Philip and Dorothy Green Award 2020 and the Concert Club was delighted to welcome him as the soloist in the fifth concert of our Series on 15 February. This Young Musician shows great musicality in his playing and this was greatly enjoyed by the audience.

This concert was dedicated to the memory of a much loved member of the Club and Committee member, Susan Jennifer Oughton (Jenny) who sadly died last year. Jenny would have loved this concert.

Antoine began with Bach’s Partita No 4 in D major and he coaxed some wonderful sounds from the Grammar School piano and he played with great feeling. Next, he played the dramatic Aprés une Lecture du Dante and what an exciting piece this is and played with such expressive lyricism.

After the interval Antoine played that magical Sonata in A major by Schubert. In Keith Osborne’s splendid Programme Notes, Keith quoted from a letter that Schubert wrote to his parents, “Several people assured me that under my hands the keys become singing voices, which if it is true, pleases me very much.” Under Antoine’s hands in this and indeed in every piece the keys became singing voices.

The concert ended with Albèniz Iberia Primo Cuaderno which is wonderfully evocative of Spain this was beautifully played with sensitivity and colour.

REVIEW OF “IDESTA” SAXOPHONE DUO Concert on 18 January 2022

Kezia Lovick-Jones amd Martha Cullen are both recent graduates of The Royal Northern College of Music and what talented musicians they are.They began the concert with Sonata No 2 from Telemann’s Six Canonic Sonatas. What a lovely sprightly round it was the music danced along, the soprano saxophones speaking to one another beautifully.

The concert continued with Gregory Wanamaker’s “Zippy!” In the introduction I thought I heard the word “chipmunk”, well that did it! Two chipmunks were chittering and chasing each other throughout the music with Martha on soprano sax and Kezia on Alto sax. It was great fun. What next? It was Marc Mellit’s “Black” played by Kezia and Martha on tenor saxophones; the imagination went off again and there was Pieter Bruegel’s Hunters in the Snow, then there was the sound of sawing wood on the saxophones and the hunters all went home.

Next the girls played their soprano saxophones in Matthew Brown’s “A cottage on fire”. Did I hear screams, the fire engines? Then the roof fell in…

Kezia played a solo on her soprano saxophone and this time it was Graham Fitkin’s “Braemar”. That was a lovely piece of music and I’m sure I heard a hunting horn, the call of a stag and was that stag hounds giving tongue? It ended with what may have been an elegy for the stag.

Then we tangoed our way to the interval with three tangos by Piazzola as arranged by Kezia, played on the tenor saxophones with Kezia playing the Allegro Tangabile as a solo.

After the interval we had Handel’s Passacaglia as arranged first by Johan Halvorsen and then by the Idesta Duo, this was played on the soprano saxophones. This has two meanings and old Italian or Spanish dance tune or an instrumental musical composition consisting of variations usually on a ground bass in moderately slow triple time. This was a happy dance to the sound of bells, and let’s face it, Handel never disappoints and the arrangement was delightful.

Martha had arranged the next piece of music, which was by Bartok and was a selection from his 44 Duos for two violins, again played on the soprano saxophones.

Next, Martha played on her alto saxophone a Caprice en Forme de Valse by Paul Bonneau. I think you would have had difficulty in actually waltzing to this, I think that Bonneau had his tongue firmly in his cheek as he went off on a frolic of his own.

Rob Buckland the next composer is, according to the biographies in the Programme, one of the girls’ Professors of saxohone at the Royal Northern. It was a splendid choice and I particularly loved Fjord. Off I went to the fjords and mountains Norway with the music which was very atmospheric. I’m almost certain there was a sea eagle overhead and most definitely the hound music of a skein of wild geese. This was played on the alto saxophones as was Buckland’s next piece Mojito.

The concert ended with Roshanne Etezady’s “Glint” again played on the alto saxophones. In this music I heard a hurrying stream, a glint of fog was seen and surely that was a foghorn and the scream of gulls.

Kezia and Martha are clearly musicians of the highest order given the technique they displayed, not least in the rapid (and apparently accurate) fingering in the fast sections of the pieces they played. Plus their breath control was impressive and the sound they produced was clear and melodic, with no hints of breathiness (which can be a trait in some jazz saxophonists – I don’t dislike that breathiness, depending on the piece, but it’s more appropriate in jazz than in classical pieces, I think). They came to us with an impressive CV and were/are clearly highly thought of at RNCM.

This was an unusual and happy programme of music and everyone I spoke to said how much they had enjoyed the music and the evening.

CM and SB

REVIEW OF CONCERT on 21 December 2021 HEXACHORDIA Early Music Trio

The Club was delighted to welcome back Hexachordia, the Early Music Group who visited us last in March 2018. A concert is a giving and a receiving of pleasure arising from the music played and December’s concert was a good example of this. There was quite a good turnout considering the present climate with Covid still rife, but we were all socially distanced and wearing our face masks.

The concert began with Sarah Doig and Jane Scheuregger singing, in Latin, Veni Veni Emmanuel, a capella as they processed down the hall at the Grammar School. Diction was clear and the singing tuneful, giving a sense of anticipation of what was to come. The music was interspersed with readings of poetry and prose. I particularly liked the reading of ‘Blow, blow thou winter winds’ from As You Like It which followed ‘On the Cold Ground’ by John Playford, ‘Jolly Shepherd’ by Thomas Ravenscroft and ‘In the Fields in Frost and Snow’ by John Playford.

I very much liked the bagpipes played by Jane; they were very festive being festooned with fairy lights. Mention must also be made of Tony Scheuregger who played the lute, renaissance guitar, gittern, recorders, tabor and pellet bells. He also sang, and very well too. The English traditional song “King Herod and the Cock” was great fun.

What a multi-talented ensemble this is. I have mentioned the instruments that Tony plays, but Jane and Sarah are equally talented, Jane playing recorders, crumhorn (what a lovely sound that makes) bagpipes, shaker, gittern and shawm, and Sarah playing viols, vielle and recorder.

The musicians did praise the acoustic of the hall and certainly their voices rang out and filled the space. Sarah had a minor problem in the second to last music of the first half when one of her viol strings broke, but that was taken care of during the interval.

Mince pies and wine were enjoyed during the interval and the audience was ready to enjoy the second half of a wonderful evening’s entertainment.

REVIEW OF CONCERT ON 21 JANUARY 2020 AMY ROBERTS, oboe and GAMAL KHAMIS, piano

Amy Roberts, oboe and Gamal Khamis, gave a fine performance for our January concert. It was clear by the end of the opening Telemann sonata that Amy Roberts plays with great subtlety, with a real will to communicate her own obvious enthusiasm to an audience.

How clever was the programming! By the end of the first half we had been transported across three centuries of music. The collection of little pieces by Schubert and Schumann worked well and with Schumann’s Traumerei gave us a chance to hear solo piano. The notes may be simple enough for children to learn but it needs the care and delicacy that Gamal Khamis gave it to do it justice. As a duo their ensemble seemed faultless and they had set us up well for a second half devoted to twentieth century works. In this half the solo pieces for each instrument were particularly attractive. I was intrigued by the quirky oboe piece Arachnid, by contemporary Helen Grime and Gamal was impressive in Faure’s second nocturne. I applaud their introductions were often not merely anecdotal but with hints about what to listen out for.

Arrangements for our 70th anniversary lunch are finalised. The date is 24th March and it will be held at the Boston & County Club, Park Gate, Boston PE21 6RL 12 noon for 12.30pm. The last date for booking is at the February concert on 18 February.

Brenda Lane

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