Felixstowe Recorded Music Society: Philip Jordan

Philip Jordan                              7th December 2016


This was actually a selection of pieces by members of the Society, but Philip had put them together into a complete programme and also announced them.

First out of the hat was a composer unfamiliar to just about all of us and this was Rosalie’s choice – the Hungarian Eugene Zador, and A Christmas Overture, which although only eight minutes or so was in four segments: The Joy of Christmas – Sleigh Ride – Nativity –Adoration. It was played by the Budapest Symphony Orchestra. Eugene Zador (also known as Jeno Zador) was an Americanised Hungarian composer, born 1894, died 1977. He studied in Vienna and also with Max Reger in Leipzig. Thanks to Rosalie to introducing him to us.

This was followed by Alan Barnes: A Jazz Christmas Carol. Barnes, Jazz Saxophonist, Clarinettist, Composer, Arranger and Educator, as his web site has it, was born in 1959. He has played with many famous bands, including the Pasadena Roof Orchestra and Humphrey Lyttelton’s Band and also toured with Bryan Ferry. In the piece we heard Bah Humbug, a gruff baritone sax representing Scrooge.

Helen’s selection followed. These were three readings of poems:
Christmas by John Betjeman, read by Hermione Norris,
Mistletoe by Walter de la Mare, read by Joanna Lumley, and
Snowflakes by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, also read by Hermione Norris.
The last was an addition by Philip after listening to the CD, which was entitled Christmas Words for You.

Mistletoe may not be all that familiar, and as it’s quite short here it is:

Sitting under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
One last candle burning low,
All the sleepy dancers gone,
Just one candle burning on,
Shadows lurking everywhere:
Someone came, and kissed me there.

Tired I was; my head would go
Nodding under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
No footsteps came, no voice, but only,
Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,
Stooped in the still and shadowy air
Lips unseen—and kissed me there.
Next came Sheila’s suggestion, a CD by The Watersons. They were an English folk group from Hull. They performed mainly traditional folk music with little or no accompaniment. The three songs we heard came from an early 1966 album called simply The Watersons. The line-up changed over the years and Lal (Elaine) died in 1998 and Mike in 2011.

We heard: God Bless the Master.
While Shepherds watched their flocks by night.
And an additional one added by Philip – Heavenly Aeroplane.
Philip said that this last made him think of his son who would be flying back from Brazil next week, a flight involving a helicopter transfer, which always made him a little uneasy.

At this point Philip interposed an additional short song submitted by Ann. Earlier he had said that when the CDs were set out on the table a “foreigner” had appeared amongst them. A mystery! So when he called out to Ivan “Mystery!” it would be the cue to play this additional CD. It was Riu, Riu, Chiu – Ann said she had no idea how to pronounce it but husband Paul will be taking part in a concert by the Ipswich Choral Society on 20th December, when it will be performed. It’s a traditional Spanish carol, which now appears in Christmas collections, and was even performed by The Monkees. “And I like it”, said Ann.

Norma’s choice – The Shepherds’ Farewell from L’Enfance du Christ by Berlioz came next. It was performed by the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra of L’Opera conducted by John Elliot Gardiner. An always popular choice with a delightful accompaniment.

Mike Fowle had chosen Tom Lehrer, and his Christmas Carol. No sentiment here – Tom Lehrer providing the ultimate take down of Christmas, Mike had said.

To take us to the interval, Heather gave us a few tunes on the piano. She explained that when Mike had sent her a message asking whether she would be willing to do so she had been rather grumpy (not really) because she didn’t like to be reminded of Christmas too soon – as is well known in her family. She said she didn’t want to play anything Christmassy but she hoped her choices would be relaxing.

She played four pieces, and first came Pamela Wedgewood. Did any of us play the piano or have children who were learning? If so, we would surely have come across Pam Wedgewood, whose instruction books are universal. This was a piece composed by her called Charlie, included in a book called After Hours Jazz.

Heather then played George Gershwin – Love is Here to Stay. Her next piece won the Grammy Award for Best Song for 1966. Anybody recognise it? Yes, indeed, it was The Shadow of Your Smile, also known as the Love Theme from the film The Sandpiper, composed by Johnny Mandel. He also wrote the theme tune to MASH, Heather informed us.

Finally, Cole Porter’s Night and Day.

Interval (With special thanks to Hilary, Rosalie and Norman for the mince pies and other goodies – and apologies to anyone overlooked.)

We resumed with Mike Stephenson’s choice – The Assault on Beautiful Gorky by Shostakovich (“Hooray!” said Ann). This came to mind for Mike through seeing the reports of the appalling tragedy of Aleppo. The music comes from a film called The Unforgettable Year 1919, although the film is – notwithstanding its title – generally forgotten.

Philip noted that the recording was made at St John’s in the heart of Westminster, where he would be in a week’s time.

Two selections from Ivan came next – from a recording made in Stockholm in 1976, called Cantate Domino, which seems to have made quite a stir in Hi Fi circles for its superb quality, Adolphe Adam’s Julsang or Christmas Song (or carol). The Oscar Motet Choir, director Torsten Nilsson, organist Alf Linder, brass ensemble and Marianne Mellnas soprano. Sung in Swedish, this was serenely beautiful.

From the same disc came Stille Nacht (Silent Night) sung in German. Most people will know this and many may well know that it was composed by Franz Gruber but how many know that it was originally written for guitar accompaniment as the organ had broken down? (So Ivan informs us.)

Norman had volunteered a CD which also been played the previous year – On Christmas Night, a collection of beautiful carols sung by the choir of Merton College, Oxford. Norman had not specified any particular track so Philip had chosen two not played the previous year. (Philip had said he was quite surprised to find that this was the fourth year he had put together a Christmas collection.)

From Norman’s disc we heard the eponymous The Sussex Carol – On Christmas Night, arranged by Philip Ledger. The musical director was Benjamin Nicholas and the organist Peter Shepherd.

Then Holst’s In the Bleak Midwinter. The solo tenor part was sung by Oliver Kelham. Beautiful singing, said Philip, and it reminded him of the terrible winters of years ago, not just snow and ice but killer smogs. But very slippery roads were a hazard, when not having a car they cycled to members of their family. On the other hand, he had spent two seasons in New Zealand with quite the opposite weather, when he could think of the poor souls back home in the cold.

As for his own selection, Philip said that a few years ago he travelled from Massachusetts to Toronto in severe weather conditions with three feet of snow. And in Ontario he had heard the Elora Festival Singers. This was a CD he had played last year but this time he chose What Sweeter Music by John Rutter. The musical director was Noel Edison and the organist Michael Bloss.

Then from a two CD set of Welsh Male Voice Choirs – A Welsh Male Voice Christmas – we heard first Joy to the World, by the Cwmbach Male Choir, and then Song of Hope by the Cor Meibion Llanelli. We need a lot of hope these days, said Philip.

Well, he added, he seemed to have concluded with a lot of choral singing, but it was absolutely magnificent. He thanked all who had contributed their suggestions and Heather for her musical interlude – which was great. This would be the last Christmas programme he would put together (because he was moving away).

Norman said that Philip had thanked most people but he added his thanks to Philip for all his efforts. And wished everybody a very happy Christmas

Felixstowe Recorded Music Society: Carole Shafto

Andre RieuCarole Shafto 18th May 2016


Carole had promised us a trip to the continent, and we enjoyed a rather different evening. We saw two films, both about Andre Rieu (how do you pronounce his name?). The first one, shown complete, was called “A Dream Come True” and was a biographical portrait. For those of us who might have dismissed Rieu as a lightweight this film made interesting viewing, showing that he was a proper musician, thoroughly trained and with boundless energy and an infectious enthusiasm. There were clips of him performing in various continental venues, which also gave some idea of the enormous amount of preparation involved and the vast audiences he attracts. It also depicted the happy atmosphere in the orchestra and some lovely scenes of Maastricht, his home, in particular. Made in 2000, there were also delightful photos from his childhood, shot by his father.

Sincere thanks to Ken and Elizabeth Slater who lent us this film.

The other film, of which we saw the last half hour or so, was of a live concert in Vrijthof Square in Maastricht in 2009, with again a vast audience.

Andre Rieu – A Dream Come True (Marzenie się spełniło)

More of Andre Rieu

Felixstowe Recorded Music Society: members choice

MEMBERS’ CHOICE 4th May 2016

Norman had volunteered to collate the various selections and put them into a sequence which he hoped we would enjoy. We began with Eileen’s choices which were two extracts from Bizet’s Carmen. First the Entr’acte to Act III: the scene is a wild place in the mountains, the smugglers’ hideaway where barrels of contraband lie about. Then the Entr’acte to Act IV: A square in Seville, at the back the walls of an ancient amphitheatre. Bizet had never visited Spain but he utilised various folk melodies and works by Spanish composers in the score. Carmen was the world’s most performed opera for many years added Norman, now it is probably La Traviata. The orchestra here was Czechoslovak Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Alexander Rahbari.

John and Hilary had kindly selected pieces even though they would be away for this evening. John had Borodin’s In the Steppes of Central Asia with the Suisse Romande Orchestra under Ernest Ansermet.

Hilary had an unusual number – from a disc by Aled Jones, a traditional song called The Rowan Tree. Thanks to modern technology (or perhaps not so modern now) we heard Aled as he is now and as a boy singer, with the New Zealand Sinfonietta.

The Rowan Tree was written by Lady Caroline Nairne (1766 to 1845) who penned such classic Scotch songs as “Will Ye No Come Back Again” and “Charlie is my Darling”. Her family were staunch supporters of the Jacobite cause and she was named after the Young Pretender. Her poems and songs were originally published under the pseudonym Mrs Bogan of Bogan.

Now, said Norman, a chance to hear the wonderful voices of Jussi Bjoerling and Robert Merrill. It was the classic recording of the Pearl Fishers’ Duet Au Fond du Temple Saint. Recorded in 1950 it is still the benchmark against which all other versions are measured. [The RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Renato Cellini.] This had been Sheila’s selection.

Norma had suggested two possible pieces and there was scope to include both. First was the slow movement (Adagio) from Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A. The soloist was Michael Whight, principal clarinettist with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, whom we heard here, conducted by Nicholas Cleobury. “What an absolutely beautiful piece that is”, said Norman.

Norma’s second choice was The Swan from Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals. It was played by Guber and Suber Pekinel (pianos) with the Orchestra Philharmonique de Radio France, conducted by Mark Janowsky. More lovely soft tuneful music.

Ivan (as so often) came up with something rather less well known: Arensky’s Piano Trio Opus 32. The CD coupled this with Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio Opus 50. The notes explained that Tchaikovsky’s trio was written following the death of Nicolai Rubinstein, with whom he had a love-hate relationship, whereas Arensky’s was written following the death of the cellist Karl Davidoff. Arensky, (1861 to 1906), had a close relationship with Tchaikovsky, who was 21 years older. Tchaikovsky even forfeited performances of his own works so that his younger colleague’s could be included. In Tchaikovsky’s Trio the piano dominates but in Arensky’s (appropriately) the cello.

Ivan had suggested either the first or final (fourth) movement, but we had time to hear both. They were played by the Ashkenazy Piano Trio – Vovka Ashkenazy (piano), Richard Stamper (violin) and Christine Jackson (cello).

To take us to the interval, as there had not been enough selections, Norman gave us another chance to hear Jussi Bjoerling, in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut and Tu, Tu, Amore? Tu? Also singing was Renato Tebaldi and the orchestra was the Rome Opera conducted by Erich Leinsdorf.


We began with another version of The Swan, this time played by Jacqueline Du Pre (cello) and Osian Ellis (harp). In fact, Norman invited us beforehand to work out if we could who was playing. It made an interesting comparison. (The CD also noted that the recording was made on 21st July 1962 at No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road, Norman told us!)

Rosalie’s selection was also probably unfamiliar to most of us: Wolf-Ferrari’s Violin Concerto opus 26. We heard the first movement (Fantasia) and second (Romanza).

Wolf-Ferrari (1876 to 1948) was born in Venice of an Italian mother and a German father. Initially he studied to be a painter only later changing to music. Before the First World War he had been dividing his time between Munich and Venice, now he found those two countries at war. He moved to Zurich and composed much less. After the war his music was darker and more melancholic. There is probably a case to hear more of his compositions. The violinist here was Ulf Hoelscher with the Radio-Sinfonie Orchestra of Frankfurt under the baton of Alun Francis.
“We can never have enough music for violin”, said Norman.

Mike’s choice came from a CD entitled “Liszt at the Opera”. It consists of piano transcriptions from operas – in Liszt’s time this was one of the few ways that many people could get to hear the music from famous operas. This particular one was the Pope’s Benediction and Cellini’s Oath from Berlioz’s opera Benvenuto Cellini (Benediction et Serment). Norman said he knew nothing about this opera but he could say it was an astounding piece of piano playing. The pianist was the great Liszt specialist, Leslie Howard.

To complete the evening, Norman chose another piece from that same disc – coincidentally it was one that Mike had considered as an alternative to the Berlioz – it was the Reminiscences de Lucia di Lammermoor, by Donizetti. It takes the sextet from Act II – something which Norman had played to us before in its original version.

Mike thanked Norman for collating all the music and giving us such an enjoyable evening.

Mike Fowle

Felixstowe Recorded Music Society: Janet Donn

Janet Dann 20th April 2016


Janet was playing a welcome return visit to us. She went straight into her first selection: Duo Seraphim by Francisco Guerrero sung by The Sixteen with Harry Christophers. It is 1547, late summer in Alcala de Herares, a city dating back to Roman times, some two dozen miles north east of Madrid. A group of people are making their way back home for a family fiesta, following the christening of their son, in the church of Santa Maria.

The little boy has been named Miguel, and 400 years after his death we recognise him as a writer of novels and poetry, a primary influence on the writing of fiction and author of the world’s first ever best-seller, “Don Quixote”.

Composer Francisco Guerrero was in his early 20s, in the employ of Seville cathedral as an assistant director of music.

Our lives run on stories, said Janet. We watch them played out on film, in the theatre and on television. We read them, we tell them to each other when at the simplest level we recount the events of our week to our friends or family. And this year we celebrate the lives of two of the world’s greatest story-tellers, Cervantes and Shakespeare. Born 17 years apart they died on the same day, April 23rd 1616. (There is debate about this as with many things to do with these two giants, but in the absence of concrete evidence….)

Back to 1547 – the same year in which Henry VIII dies plunging England into instability between the rival Protestant and Catholic faiths. In both Spain and England books and pamphlets were subject by law to strict review before they could be published. Books dealing with geography and astronomy would be destroyed for fear of corruption by magic. Theatre censorship would shortly follow.

But in the Cervantes household: it’s party time and in Spain, party time means music and dancing. The seguidilla has its origins in Andalusia and perhaps the most famous seguidilla is the seductive song from Bizet’s Carmen. Incidentally, said Janet, it was quite a shock to round a corner in Seville and see a grand, imposing building with the engraved legend “Royal Tobacco Factory”! However, the seguidilla we were going to hear came from the ballet Don Quixote by Ludwig Minkus. Born in 1826 in Vienna, Minkus learned the violin and at the age of 27, with his career going nowhere, he emigrated to Russia, where he became principal violin with the Moscow Imperial Bolshoi Theatre. By degrees further success came as a composer and he was appointed composer of ballet music to the St Petersburg Imperial Theatres.

Don Quixote was the result of a collaboration with the great choreographer, Marius Petipa. We heard the Seguidilla, Street Dancer and Toreador, performed by the Sofia National Opera Orchestra, conducted by Nayden Todorov.

When Miguel was six years old it was time for a new start, and so the family travelled south, to the city of Cordoba. Cordoba was an ancient Roman city built on a river; under the Moors it became a centre for education with extensive libraries, medical schools and universities, and here young Cervantes began his education and acquired a love of the magic of the theatre, learning for its own sake and a lifelong fascination with folk stories.

But the family was poor and constantly seeking work, so the next move was some 140 km west to Seville. It too had grown up on the same river, the Guadalquivir. It was a city that was expanding rapidly and the teenaged Miguel watched the galleons leaving for Mexico and Peru, and returning laden with looted precious metals, especially silver.

Guadalquivir – the great wash in Arabic – was the route to the Spanish interior from the Americas via the Gulf of Cadiz. Seville was the economic centre of the Spanish empire.

The Spanish composer Joaquin Turina was born in Seville late in the 19th century. Despite spending nine years living and studying in Paris with Vincent D’Indy, his work which included operas, chamber music, songs and suites for solo piano and guitar, was always influenced by Seville and Andalusia. His Sinfonia Sevillana won the Gran Casino de San Sebastian Prize in 1920. Here is his impression of the Guadalquivir, played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of the Mexican conductor, Enrique Batiz.

By the age of 20 Cervantes was in Madrid where he had some poems published but soon he was on the run following a duel, for which if he had been caught he would be punished by having his right hand cut off and being exiled for ten years. He decided to lose himself by enlisting in the army and soon found himself in the heat of the battle. Turkish rule in the Barbary states of North Africa was a constant threat to Spain and Portugal; Calvinists, Catholics and Lutherans fostered rebellion in Flanders and elsewhere, the Ottoman empire was expanding. Philip II had need of soldiers.

The King’s half-brother, Don John of Austria, would emerge as the great soldier of the age, immortalised in G K Chesterton’s poem “Lepanto”. Perhaps we had had to memorise this at school.

“White founts falling in the courts of the sun,
And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run;
There is laughter like the fountains in that face of all men feared,
It stirs the forest of darkness, the darkness of his beard…”

And ends:

Vivat Hispania!
Domino Gloria
Don John of Austria
Has set his people free!

Cervantes on his galley sets the sword back in the sheath
(Don John of Austria rides homeward with a wreath.)
And he sees across a weary land a straggling road in Spain,
Up which a lean and foolish knight forever rides in vain,
And he smiles, but not as Sultans smile, and settles back the blade…
(But Don John of Austria rides home from the Crusade.)

Cervantes distinguished himself by taking his place in the prow of a skiff and then boarding a Turkish warship. He received three deep bullet wounds and ironically suffered permanent loss of the use of his left arm. Further distinguished action in Sicily and Naples led to an appointment as an official to the court of Philip II where one of his subsequent tasks entailed fitting out the Armada. All this time he continued to write and in 1605 the first part of Don Quixote was published.

Richard Strauss was a master of the musical genre the tone poem and in 1897 he wrote Don Quixote: Fantastic Variations on a Theme of Knightly Character. From the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, conducted by Gerhard Markson, we heard the opening theme in which the Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance is represented by the cello and Sancho Panza by the viola.

The novel is a warning to us all that books can turn your head! The old man has so immersed himself in the world of chivalry that he comes to truly believe he is an heroic knight on a quest to prove his worth and the sincerity of his love for his imagined mistress, Dulcinea.

The success of the book was immediate and a second edition was ordered. The licence only covered Castile so now official permission was sought for distribution through Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia and Portugal. Copies even found their way to Peru and Mexico, and yet not one of those first editions has ever been found.

Why is it so important? It’s weighty, long and at times almost unintelligible. How many of us have actually read it?

But this book was a new concept. Fiction. Poetry was an extension of thought and reasoning, history supposedly a record of fact, but vernacular prose, used as a vehicle for imaginative literature swept aside convention and provoked unprecedented consequences. Where did truth lie now? Cervantes wanted to show that in literature, truth is what an audience can be persuaded to believe.

From Don Quixote:

“Just then they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills that rise from that plain, and no sooner did Don Quixote see them than he said to his quire: “Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich, for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the earth is a service God will bless.”
“What giants?” asked Sancho Panza.
“Those you see over there,” replied his master, “with their long arms; some of them well-nigh two leagues in length.”
“Take care, sir,” cried Sancho. “Those over there are not giants but windmills, and those things that seem to be arms are their sails, which when they are whirled around by the wind turn the millstone.”
“It is clear,” replied Don Quixote, “that you are not experienced in adventures. Those are giants, and if you are afraid, turn aside and pray whilst I enter into fierce and unequal battle with them.””

The Don Quixote Suite by Georg Philip Telemann is one of the earliest, if not the first, musical tribute to Cervantes’ genius. It’s a great example of partly serious, partly entertaining secular music of the early 18th century. It is subtitled “A Burlesque” and falls into the category of “Tafelmusik” – music intended to accompany dining. We heard the movement which represents the incident with the windmills, played by the Leningrad Chamber Orchestra.

Cervantes, married and with a daughter, moved to Madrid where the court was now established. His writing continued and he published several other works as Don Quixote became ever more popular, including plays and dramatic interludes. Finally in 1614 the second part of his great novel was published and he lived long enough to see its popularity spreading across Europe. In April 1616 he died, probably of diabetes – an untreatable disease at that time. There is no account of his funeral and no stone or cross was set to mark his grave. Indeed it was only last year that his remains were finally discovered and identified in Madrid, in the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians.

Janet’s final Spanish selection took us back to Andalusia where Cervantes grew up and where the composer, Manuel de Falla, was born. For his pantomime – ballet, The Three Corned Hat, he went to one of those old stories, rather like the Canterbury Tales.

It is a story of jealousy, possessiveness, deception and mistaken identity. It takes place in a small town and tells of a miller and the local magistrate who has an eye for the miller’s wife. It had a famous first production by Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes, choreographed and danced by Leonid Massine and Tamara Karsavina with design by Pablo Picasso. The Grand Finale is a celebratory dance when all rivalries are set aside and because in Spain, any excuse will do for fiesta.

Manuel de Falla – The Three Cornered Hat, final movement. BBC Philharmonic conducted by Juanjo Mena.

We leave the warmth and sunshine of Spain and come back to our own shores. Janet knows that some of us are going to be sick to death of hearing about Shakespeare in the next few weeks – so she thought she’d get in early!

We begin the second half in 2013. There is a buzz of more than the usual anticipation in the new auditorium at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-on-Avon. It is the opening night of the first play in Artistic Director Greg Doran’s project to present all Shakespeare’s plays over a six year period that includes the 450th anniversary of his birth and the 400th anniversary of his death.

We are here to see Richard II. Not just that we are here to see David Tennant (lately Dr Who) as Richard II. We know how it opens – a confrontational scene in the court between two dukes who accuse each other of treason, one of whom will have deposed Richard by the end of the play.
The lights go down, really to nothing, total blackout, only the exit lights showing. We are waiting for the opening fanfare but instead we hear Lacrimosa – Richard II by Paul Englishby. (It’s not really possible to get the full effect of this, said Janet – you have to imagine total darkness.) Light slowly reveals the stage, empty but for a black coffin, with a woman collapsed and weeping across it, confounding all our expectations.

Such is the nature of the work of William Shakespeare, constantly re-invented (sometimes brilliantly, sometimes incomprehensibly) but always with something relevant to say about our own times.

Before going further, we were reminded of the complete works by the witty and amusing The Compleat Works by John Dankworth and Cleo Laine.

The life of an actor/playwright is precarious, often itinerant and concerned with the ephemeral – now as then in 1564 when Shakespeare was born. He is famous as much for how little we know about him as he is for the work he left behind him. And let’s get the identity question out of the way: whoever he was, rich or poor, titled or peasant, he goes by the name of Shakespeare and the plays he wrote are extraordinary.

Every little scrap of new information – they’ve just x-rayed his will and surveyed his tomb with ground penetrating radar (which suggested his skull may have been taken!) – is seized on by academics as the basis for new theories and speculations. It is the work, the plays that matter and they are there to be seen, rather than read. Good – that’s that out of the way!

For every opinion expressed in the plays you can find the counter argument so it’s no good trying to draw conclusions about the man from the work. However, in the plays, as in Elizabethan life, music was everywhere – more than 100 songs are included to say nothing of indications for “background” music, and over the last 400 years a whole industry has evolved around music inspired by the plays.

Janet played an overture intended for Measure for Measure. It was an early work by the composer, not typical, although the orchestration probably gave the identity away. It was the overture Liebesverbot (Forbidden Love) by Richard Wagner. Played by the Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Wolfgang Sawallisch.

Janet remarked that it is a rather lively response to Measure for Measure which is actually a pretty dark, late play, albeit frequently categorised as a comedy. It deals with deception, lust and corruption. An everyday story of Viennese folk: “Some rise by sin and some by virtue fall”. Something to discuss over a cup of tea!

There are over 200 operas based on the plays, many of which are unperformably dreadful and have passed from memory. There are innumerable songs and song cycles, suites and ballet scores, to say nothing of the vast wealth of incidental music expressly written for productions. Rather than rehearse the story of Shakespeare’s life, with which most of us are fairly familiar, Janet had included as many varieties as she could.

The first is a bargain: two for one – a ballet inside an opera. Macbeth would seem an unlikely subject for a ballet, but within his opera Verdi saw fit to place the emphasis on the witches. It is they who rule the drama in his eyes, and for the scene where Macbeth revisits the weird sisters for more predictions, he constructed a ballet. He was fascinated by the supernatural, the power of curses and prophecies and he saw several productions of the play from which he took precise notes of staging and positioning of the players, transferring all this to his revised version of the opera in 1865. He wanted to be vulgar, bizarre and original.

Giuseppe Verdi: Macbeth ballet – the Witches. Berlin Philharmonic with Claudio Abbado. (Macbeth was written for King James. We think of Shakespeare as an Elizabethan but this was for James, a very superstitious monarch.)

Macbeth was Verdi’s 10th opera and of course along with it, Otello and Falstaff are three of the great operatic works.

In the same year – 1865 – a young man who had just completed his musical studies in Leipzig came to London for a performance of his prize-winning work, The Tempest, a suite of incidental music. It was his first orchestral work. In Paris, Arthur Sullivan had met and become friends with Charles Dickens, who, having heard the work at a concert, used his contacts and influence to organise a performance in London. Its favourable reception launched Sullivan’s career as a serious composer, a career which was hijacked by Gilbert and D’Oyley Carte.

This suite was written when Sullivan was 19 years old. We heard the Dance of Nymphs and Reapers, the Prelude to Act V, and the Epilogue. The BBC Philharmonic with Richard Hickox.

There are over 500 references to music in the plays; one of the best is found in the Merchant of Venice. In a harsh and difficult play there is a beautiful scene in a garden, between two young lovers which is accompanied by distant melody within the house before the musicians are summoned forth to play for the arrival of their mistress. The words at this point include these lines:

The man that hath no music in himself
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night,
And his affections dark as Erebus.
Let no such man be trusted.
At the time Shakespeare began writing, musicians were to be found in every theatre and tavern, at markets and fairs and for dancing at every opportunity. The use of song and dance in the theatre was greatly increased under his influence. Caliban the ugliest and most misshapen creation in The Tempest and perhaps in all the plays has some of the most beautiful lines:

Be not afear’d. The isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs that give delight, and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voices
That, if I then had waked after a long sleep,
Will make me sleep again.

Bob Chilcott sang for 12 years with the Kings Singers and brings a wealth of understanding to his original choral writing and vocal arrangements. We heard his setting for four part choir of those lines from The Tempest. Bob Chilcott: Be not Afear’d

If that was a setting for a play which stands alone, our next piece was written for a specific production. Howard Blake, another contemporary composer, worked closely with Adrian Noble during his time as Artistic Director of the RSC. He wrote the music for the original stage version of Henry V which launched Kenneth Branagh’s career and of course he is forever shackled (as is Aled Jones) to The Snowman and “Walking in the Air”. Janet played his setting of It was a Lover and His Lass from “As You Like It”.

When Kenneth Branagh began to direct films and stage plays, he formed a partnership with the composer Patrick Doyle and between them they devised a fresh context for the opening of “Much Ado about Nothing”, adding to the enormous and expanding repertoire of incidental music. Taking the text of “Sigh no more ladies”, instead of singing it, we were to hear Emma Thompson reading the words to the accompaniment of a sweeping melody on cello and guitar which is then taken up by romantic strings.

Patrick Doyle: Much Ado about Nothing – The Picnic

By now, Janet said, we would have realised her enthusiasm for William Shakespeare. He infiltrates his way into our everyday lives and language. About three years ago there was a TV promotion for a summer of high drama in the soaps. Actors from Eastenders, Coronation Street and Emmerdale shared out the lines of the great sonnet: “Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day” and millions of people heard and saw it, completely unaware that they were listening to Shakespeare. Without him what would our mongrel language have become? He wrote his poetry in the rhythm of everyday speech. Try it if you don’t believe it:
“How now you black and midnight hags”
“I bought a paper on my way to work”
It’s what we do each time we start to speak.

Many expressions and phrases that we use today were first recorded as used or invented by Shakespeare. Such as:
Dead as a doornail
Neither here nor there
What’s done is done
Foregone conclusion
Good riddance
Knock, knock who’s there?
What the dickens

As for the music which has flowed from generations of composers inspired by his work, they and he are immortalised by such as this (and we heard the Montagues and Capulets from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, played by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Yevgeny Mravinsky.

We knew where we were with that, didn’t we? All those hopeful apprentices marching over the Millenium Bridge to meet Lord Sugar.

That one play, Romeo and Juliet, is the archetypal narrative for every story of star-crossed love. Shakespeare’s influence is so far-reaching it finds its way into every corner of our lives, from the words and phrases we use to the entertainment we enjoy, whether it’s West Side Story or The Lion King (which is a version of Hamlet in case you were wondering).


Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

But before we do, added Janet, after those lines from The Tempest, let us in this celebratory year take the advice given in Kiss me Kate (from The Taming of the Shrew) and Brush up your Shakespeare, as written by Cole Porter and sung by Jonathan Freeman, Harry Groener and Guy Haines. Bringing her supremely well-crafted and thoroughly engrossing programme to a close.

What a brilliant evening, said Norman, and he could only admire the effort that must have gone into it.

Mike Fowle

Felixstowe Recorded Music Society: Heather Farthing

Heather Farthing 30th March 2016


You will know the old mnemonic Spring Forward, Fall Back to remind us whether we put our clocks forward or back when they change. It had obviously worked, said Heather, as we were all present. That had been the jumping off place for her programme, as the clocks had gone forward the previous weekend. The trouble was having to think of the title well in advance and then having to decide what to put in her programme.

So she started with Louis Armstrong and All the Time in the World, composed by John Barry, as we had all the time offered by the evening, blank before us.

But from a straightforward linking of the evening’s theme to the change of the clocks, and movement towards Spring, the theme began to develop as Heather thought more about it.

What was our favourite season? On a show of hands, Winter got no votes (unsurprisingly), Autumn and Summer did, but Spring was the clear favourite. As it is for Heather. With its hope and reflection of the natural order, seasons ever turning with everything in its rightful place. Which seemed to become more important as the years passed. It includes the aging process and new life, passing of one generation to the next. So there is movement and hope springs for the future.

For the first part of her presentation, Heather told us a story. A story which therefore included the passing of time, the turning of the years. 10 tracks (or extracts) from one of her favourite CDs, which had never fitted into any previous presentation. It was called Winter’s Crossing, released in 1998 by James Galway and Phil Coulter. Sir James Galway is a familiar name but Phil Coulter less so. He is an Irish pianist. Heather finds his music rewarding to play (not too difficult but sounds good).

The CD tells the story of the crossing in winter of a group of Irish emigrants to America. They have a rough crossing but arrive in America full of hope for a new life. Heather linked each track with the words from the booklet accompanying the CD without further comment, in the hope that we would feel that turning from darkness to light, so hope springs forth as dark and rough winter passes.

Are you sitting comfortably? Time to engage your powers of imagination.

A story of making a new beginning, of joy and sadness, hope and despair, of tragedies suffered and dreams fulfilled. The story is set in the late 1800s when well over two million men, women and children, over a quarter of the population, left the shores of Ireland to seek a new life in North America. It concerns one group of emigrants who sailed from Derry, Phil Coulter’s home town in the north of Ireland, in the winter of 1866 headed for Pennsylvania. They were a mixed bunch. There were Gaelic speaking peasants from Donegal, fleeing from hunger, Catholics from County Derry and County Tyrone driven out by discrimination and Scots Presbyterians from County Antrim leaving to seek prosperity. They had precious few possessions – maybe a battered old fiddle – and no photographs to remind them of their home and loved ones. Just their music, songs and stories. A mixed bunch indeed. Thrown together by fate and the shared dream of beginning again in the new world.

Our story begins in the mountains of Tyrone, in the half light of dawn, 10 families recently evicted from their lands set off to walk the 50 miles to Derry to catch the emigrant ship. The odd sad song is sung on their journey, for their hearts are heavy as they say goodbye for ever.

Slieve Gallion Braes and Steal Away

In their research for the CD, Galway and Coulter turned up a contemporary account of heart-breaking departure. It was read by Liam Neeson.

Thousands are Sailing

On the quayside in Derry, the Gaelic speakers from Donegal, even more intimidated than the others, camp for the night a little distance away. As the heavy rain begins to fall, a young girl sings in the darkness of the love she will never set eyes on again.

Cailin Na Gruaige Baine

Finally underway the ship pulls clear of Lough Foyle heading for the open sea. The emigrants crowd the open decks looking longingly ashore, straining for one final glimpse of the hills of their homeland. All are heartbroken. Some are terrified of what lies ahead, others are excited at the adventure of this Winter’s Crossing.

Winter’s Crossing

Two weeks at sea and the crossing has been very rough. Deep in the bowels of the ship, down in the misery of steerage, they are disorientated, they are damp, they are cold and they are hungry.

Six weeks at sea. An icy dawn breaks to find the ship moving slowly through dense fog. The sound of seagulls tells them they are getting close to the first landfall, and the high swell and rolling sea are warning that they are over the treacherous

Grand Banks Newfoundland.

It is days before the fog lifts and they get their first distant view of the east coast of America. When the initial excitement and deep sense of relief subsides, reality dawns. They will shortly set foot in a strange land where they have no family, no friends, no roots – and no idea what will become of them. As the enormity of their situation dawns, their thoughts turn to family and loved ones left behind.

The Shores of Amerikay

In years to come hundreds of immigrants would feel their hearts soar and their spirits rise as they first caught sight of the city of New York. The euphoria would be short lived. They would be set ashore at Ellis Island, the notorious quarantine station through which all immigrants had to pass. If they were deemed to be ill, infirm, aged or unsuitable for entry, they would be sent back on board ship, to relive the hell of another Atlantic crossing. The gateway to a dream or the gateway to a nightmare.

Christmas Eve, Ellis Island

The Irish were never sad for long. They were country folk, so from New York they pressed westward to the farmland and hills of Pennsylvania. As they made new friends and met new neighbours, one of the means of communication was to trade tunes. Here the Belfast Polka is traded with the Pennsylvania Railroad.

The Belfast Polka – Pennsylvania Railroad

Time passes slowly in their new land, and they gradually acclimatise to their new surroundings, new people and the vastness of this new country of seemingly endless horizons. They immerse themselves in their work and these new surroundings of the new people, and seemingly endless horizons. But their thoughts are never far away from their homeland. They gather to pray, to celebrate, to draw strength from shared experience and to remember the old country.

Hymn for the Heartland

Years pass with births marriages and deaths. The immigrants are growing older in this new land. But they never forgot their homeland. Never forgot their music, and sure as hell, never forgot how to party. The final track is Appalachian Round Up! a celebration of their new homeland and an affirmation of the human spirit.

Appalachian Round Up!

After this new to most of us and thought provoking music, Heather took us to the break with two lighter pieces by Leroy Anderson: The Syncopated Clock and (quite irrelevant and almost extinct but enjoyable – we were probably the last generation to know what a typewriter is) The Typewriter (where the sound of typing complete with bell is part of the music). Richard Hayman and his Orchestra.


If we were wondering where was the classical music, said Heather, there is a saying attributed to Confucius but according to Wikipedia, belonging to Chinese Philosopher Lao Tzu, that the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. So returning to the classical genre, we heard Chopin’s offering on the subject, the Minute Waltz Opus 64 No. 1, which to emphasise the elastic nature of time and our perception of it, lasts almost two minutes! It was played by Vladimir Ashkenazy.

When Heather was putting together her first programme, some years ago, the much missed Gillian Bishop advised her just to include what she enjoyed. Appropriately (as Haydn was Gillian’s favourite composer) Heather next played the Clock Symphony by Haydn, No. 101 in D, the second movement which gives the symphony its nickname. Played by the Dresdner Philharmonie conducted by Gunther Herbig.

Then we had another story. This time it was Wintersmith. Heather came to this by way of the music. She heard Steeleye Span at the Corn Exchange and thought they were pretty good. The story here comes from Terry Pratchett and his Discworld series. This was the third in the series, published in 2006. The collaboration with Steeleye Span arose in 2013, with Terry Pratchett being a long-time admirer of Span. Outlining the plot makes it sound operatic, and as she said, sometimes hearing Norman outlining the more convoluted plots of some operas, her reaction has been: “For goodness sake….”

The Wintersmith is the personification of winter, not a real human being, who meets the heroine of the book, who delights in the name of Tiffany Aching. The Wintersmith mistakes her for the Summer Lady, the personification of Summer. He is infatuated and enchanted by Tiffany, mystified by her presence and he subsequently tracks her (stalking really).

Tiffany does have some of the Summer Lady’s powers – plants start to grow where she walks barefoot. (“That sounds fabulous”, said Heather, “wished that happened in my garden.”) The Wintersmith decides that the reason Tiffany will not be his is that he is not human. Learning a simply rhyme from some children about what basic elements comprise a human body he gathers the correct ingredients, makes himself a body out of these elements and pursues Tiffany but without truly understanding what it is to be human. The Secret is that:
A man has strength enough to build a home
Time enough to hold a child and
Love enough to break a heart.

Meanwhile the Wintersmith continues to cover the land with snow. The harsh prolonged winter starts burying houses, blocking roads and killing off animals. Tiffany hides but the Wintersmith discovers where she is, and he takes her to his palace, where she ultimately manages to stop him, melting him with a kiss.

So the dance of seasons in which Summer and Winter die and are reborn in turn is restored.

Let the seasons turn
Let the rivers start a flowing
Let the hot sun burn
And melt our frozen hearts
Let the warm winds blow
Send the North Wind on his journey
Sweep away the snow
The Summer Lady’s here.

The tracks we heard were:
1 – Overture
4 – You
10 – The Making of a Man
12 – First Dance
14 – The Summer Lady

Like Winter’s Crossing, this was new to most (if not all) of us. It is always interesting to broaden one’s horizons.

Part of Heather’s theme this evening had been balance and place in the great scheme of things, so we could not leave without a track from Karl Jenkins, The Peacemakers. The texts for this project come from Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, and the Bible and Qu’ran. Something from which she had previously chosen a track. The news these days tends to be pretty depressing, but if we could embrace the words of Nelson Mandela on this track, Let there be Justice for All, then maybe we could spring forward in hope. The seasonal round is a round of hope, of everything where it should be.

Time has gone by and Heather ended with Bryan Ferry, and the Herman Hupfeld classic As Time Goes By. Heather’s first choice came from a film, the James Bond movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, and her last choice also came from another film, “Casablanca”.
In thanking Heather, Norman said he had been profoundly moved by Winter’s Crossing, not so sure about Wintersmith – he would probably need to hear that a bit more.

Mike Fowle

Felixstowe Recorded Music Society: Ivan Ross

Ivan Ross                                     16th March 2016


For once Ivan emerged from behind the amplifier where he so reliably produces the music chosen by the presenters to give us his own selection. Ivan told us that the first programme he had presented to the Society about 20 years ago was called Musical Schizophrenia. He had hoped to repeat it but had been unable to find the original details.

What did he mean by Musical Schizophrenia? Musicians and performers who live on both sides of a musical divide: Jazz/Swing/Popular (not Pop – which Ivan can’t stand) and what is commonly known as classical music.

So for this evening he had chosen a selection of composers and performers who have produced both classical and popular CDs.

Ivan started with an overture by Mozart but that was all he told us about it until we had heard it. “Notice anything odd about that?” he asked. It was the Overture to The Marriage of Figaro but played by a rock band called Sky accompanied by the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields conducted by Sir Neville Mariner. (It sounded like a conventional performance to start with but differences seemed to become more noticeable when there were percussion passages.)

Next came a Sonata for Trumpet and Piano, by Halsey Stevens. Ivan said that he had not been familiar with this composer but when he looked him up there were a couple of pages of compositions. Born in New York on 3rd December 1908 and died at Long Beach, California on 20th January 1989 after a long battle with Parkinson’s. The three movement sonata is quite a demanding piece for the performer and is used as a test piece for trumpet students. Here we heard it played by Wynton Marsalis (trumpet) and Judith Lynn Stillman (piano).

Ivan then played for us something he had recorded from a broadcast of the Proms a few years earlier. It was a piece called Big Train and it was played by the Wynton Marsalis Big Band. Ivan usually plays us something different and this was certainly that. The musicians produced the sound of the train by shuffling their feet and at the end the brass opened all their valves to reproduce the sound of steam escaping.

Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony followed. This was the classical piece (an expression which Ivan dislikes – for him all music can be classical or better still classic) to be followed by the popular piece the Jazz Suite. Specifically, the fourth and last movement of the Shostakovich symphony played by the West German Radio Orchestra conducted by Rudolf Barshai (Ivan has a complete set of the Shostakovich symphonies performed by that orchestra and conductor), and the Jazz Suite No. 1 played by the Russian State Symphony Orchestra under Dimitri Yablonsky.

The last pairing in this first half were two songs sung by Kiri Te Kanawa: first Vissi D’Arte from Puccini’s Tosca; then a song to remind all us sports people (!) of the Rugby World Cup: The World in Union. Kiri first sang this in 1991.


Ivan started the second half of his programme with a piece of guitar music played by John Williams: Asturias by Albeniz. A piece he likes and also admires the virtuosity – does John Williams really only have two hands?

Then something by the Rock Band set up by Williams: Sky and a piece called Moonroof, written by Kevin Peek, (an Australian guitarist, 1946 to 2013, who played with Sky). (Moonroof seems to be similar to a car sunroof but with a transparent cover such as Perspex. Ivan said that in the Toyota Corolla he once owned the instructions said not to have the moonroof open with the air conditioning on.)

Ivan now moved on to one of his favourite musicians: Benny Goodman. His selection came from a famous concert given by Goodman at the Carnegie Hall on the night of 16th January 1938. The concert was relayed from a single microphone over the stage by a pair of copper telephone wires to the CBS Studios. One take and no repeats. There are even breaks in the recording when the master disc on the recording lathe had to be changed.

This was an historic concert. The first non-classical concert at the Carnegie Hall and the band were concerned that the regular concertgoers might not approve. However it was a rousing success, and by the time the number that Ivan played for us came along close to the end, Sing, Sing, Sing, the performers are clearly having the time of their lives. There are solos by Harry James (trumpet), Jess Stacey (piano) and Gene Krupa (drums – Ivan pointed out that Krupa had been playing for nearly two hours by then but still maintaining an almost metronomic accuracy.) And by Goodman himself who includes a top A followed by a barely audible high C – a feat which Ivan has been assured by a friend who plays the B flat clarinet is almost impossible.

To finish, Ivan played Goodman in a classical role, playing the last movement of the Mozart Clarinet Quintet in A, K581, with the Budapest String Quartet. It is an Allegretto with Variations. Goodman displays his mastery in the classical genre as in jazz.

Ivan hoped that he had not offended too many ears with his choices this evening! In thanking Ivan, Norman noted the wide range of music enjoyed. Schizophrenia he had read is characterised by inconsistent and contradictory behaviour, but the music played had shown an immense capacity for the composers and musicians to display their great talents.

(Incidentally, it should be added that Ivan had thoughtfully pre-recorded his selections onto two CDs so that his replacement at the equipment simply had to play and pause each track rather than load individual CDs. Thanks, Ivan.)


Mike Fowle

Felixstowe Recorded Music Society: Tony Coles


This was Tony’s second presentation to us. Previously (on 20th May 2015 – A Life of Song) he had given us some fascinating insights into singing, whether in a choir or as an individual. This was to be more general programme – a lighter gallimaufry.

He began as he had done last time with something that always took him back to his childhood – The Teddy Bears’ Picnic. (Correctly identified by us as by Henry Hall and his Orchestra.)

Next Mozart’s Grand Partita, the Serenade No. 10, for 12 wind instruments and double bass. We heard the finale – Allegro Molto. Tony described this as a cheerful rondo, with all the brilliance of an operatic finale in which the soloists have their own characteristic comments to make.

Then the superb clarinettist, Sabine Meyer, played the Mozart Clarinet Concerto on the Basset Clarinet, a variant that has not been heard since Mozart’s time. We heard the middle movement – Adagio. The Dresden Staatskapelle was conducted by Hans Vonk. The basset instrument does justice to the lower register. “Isn’t that a lovely tone?”

Tony’s next choice he considered as possibly the highlight of the first half: Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte – Thus do they all. A brief synopsis: Two officers, Ferrando and Guglielmo are certain that their fiancees, Dorabella and Fiordiligi, will be faithful. Don   Alfonso is cynical and lays a bet that within a day he can prove them unfaithful. He arranges a sham military posting and the men “sail away to war”. Dorabella and Fiordiligi bemoan the torment of having been left alone and the maid, Despina, mocks them, and urges them to take new lovers while they are away. “Do you hope for faithfulness in men and soldiers? In uomini, in soldati, sperare fedelta? The leaves, furniture and fickle breezes are more reliable than men! False tears, deceptive looks and charming lies are their primary qualities. Let us females pay them back in kind. Let’s love for convenience, for vanity!”

We were privileged to hear a recording where Tony’s eldest daughter Susan (now known as Priti) sang the part of Despina. A recording made with the Slovak Philharmonia Chorus and the Capella Istropolitana conducted by Johannes Wildner. Susan teaches these days in Vienna.
Next was a sublime discovery by Tony about 60 years ago, Schubert’s Impromptu No. 2 in E flat, Opus 90, D899. It was played by Alfred Brendel. Tony remembered when there were records in the library (now the shop kept by Dick Moffat – Poor Richard’s Books), and when Stan Butcher used to make recommendations. (There was a picture of Stan Butcher in the previous newsletter, where Bob Meadows had an interesting story about him.)

Schubert’s song Heidenroslein defies translation. It is usually rendered as Heath Rose (anybody ever seen one?) The crux of the story (it is a poem by Goethe) is simple enough. A boy says to a rose: “I’m going to pick you” and the rose replies: “If you do I will prick you”. But to no avail. The boy picks the rose and the rose has to suffer.

Another beautiful work for clarinet followed: Brahms’ famous Clarinet Quintet. The penultimate movement marked Andantino.

Then for a musical change a lovely Victorian song: Tom Bowling. It’s not strictly Victorian, as it was written by Charles Dibdin (1740 to 1814) and first appeared in 1789. Thomas Dibdin, Charles’ brother, was 29 years older than him, a captain of a ship in the East India trade who died at sea. But as Tony said it was much loved by the Victorians and again now. It was performed by Robert Tear and Mr Preview (Andre Previn for those who did not see the Morecambe and Wise sketch). Tony had brought along an album of Victorian Songs and Ballads by Tear with the words and music in it.

Next Klever Kaff. Who was that? It was her sister’s nickname for Kathleen Ferrier. Tony just mentioned that he had once sat immediately behind her as a chorus member at Glyndebourne in one of Reginald Jaques’ annual performances of the St Matthew Passion, when she swept in with her fur stole. Tony played: Blow the Wind Southerly and Schubert’s An die Musik. The second extract was from a radio tribute celebrating her art following her death: “The Incomparable Kathleen Ferrier”.

Anthony Rolfe-Johnson CBE, the tenor, who died in 2010, is still much missed. Tony was a member of the Britten Pears Chamber Choir, with a miserable choir master, but it was a joy to perform Bach’s B minor Mass under Tony Rolfe Johnson at Lavenham. We heard him in a Shakespearean song, O Mistress Mine.

To take us up to the interval, Tony played part of Sir Thomas Beecham in Rehearsal. He had promised to play something that we had never heard before and he was right.  “Tommy” Beecham’s rather unusual singing voice was certainly different! Tony told us how he had happened to be in the right place at the right time when Sir Thomas placed an ad in the Daily Telegraph inviting singers to join a new choir, as he wished to make some definitive recordings before he died. Tony remembered vividly rehearsing and then performing at the Royal Festival Hall, and especially recording at the famous Abbey Road Studios. The piece Beecham was rehearsing was the Chorus of the Janissaries, from Mozart’s Il Seraglio, The Abduction from the Harem.


Tony had intended to start the second half with a recording of Peter Crompton playing Widor and Satie on the magnificent organ at the Royal Hospital School, but time was against him, so we moved to his next selection which was Benjamin Luxon singing The Foggy Foggy Dew. This was a rather folksy interpretation whereas Tony would have preferred the Britten and Pears version, but this was the one that came to hand. As he said, it was rather hard to believe that it was actually Luxon.

One of Tony’s favourite genres is French song. By way of contrast he played the same song by two different French singers: the song was Apres un Reve (After a Dream). First we heard Gerard Souzay and then Pierre Bernac. On a show of hands, Bernac’s interpretation was preferred to Souzay’s. Bernac, Tony informed us, published a book “The Interpretation of French Song” which became quite a bible for students.

Tony followed this with another comparison and contrast between Jake Thackray and Georges Brassens. Jake spent some years teaching in France and was much influenced by Brassens, although he did not merely copy him. His distinctive voice and literate, witty lyrics displaying a wide range of moods and emotions were often to be heard on television programmes such as The Braden Beat, the Frost Report and That’s Life. Tony remembered him at the Spa Pavilion and later saw him at Snape – not in the concert hall but in the café, with his guitar and just bass and drums. Which was typical Jake and his preferred style of performing.

Jake’s decline was sad. He retired to his home in Monmouth in the 1990s, where he restricted his appearances to performing the Angelus at his local church; he became an alcoholic and was declared bankrupt, dying in 2002. Such a sad end to such a stunning career.

Tony played The Blacksmith and the Toffee Maker and The Gorilla, and then again for contrast, Le Gorille, sung by Brassens. (Jake sang in English, Brassens in French.) The Blacksmith and the Toffee Maker song was new to all of us. Tony noted particularly Thackray’s wonderful articulation.

The sisters Katia and Marielle Labeque are the internationally renowned French Piano Duo. Tony saw them play at Snape on two pianos. We heard a recording of Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag. “All the right notes in the right order” said Tony (another reference to the Morecambe and Wise Andre Previn sketch. For those who did not see it, Eric attempted Grieg’s Piano Concerto at which Andre expostulated: “You’re playing all the wrong notes!” Eric replied that he was playing all the right notes – not necessarily in the right order!)

Less turbo charged playing of Joplin by Joshua Rifkin, the concert waltz Bethena, followed. Rifkin found fame through the film “The Sting” with Paul Newman and Robert Redford, where Joplin’s music provides a brilliant sound track, but he was already a leading academic, particularly in the field of Renaissance and Baroque music. Tony saw him play at Nottingham University, sitting very close to one end of his grand piano and will always remember the beatific expression on his face!

On a music holiday in Austria in the 1980s, Tony heard Sarah Watts play. She is an exponent of the jazz bassoon. We heard an extract from ‘Watts with the Jazz Bassoon’, a piece called Hoy by Mike Hatchard. Hatchard played the piano with the Cleo Laine Quintet, and on the recording Alec Dankworth, Cleo and John’s son, was playing double bass. Tony said it was recorded at the Dankworths’ studio in Wavendon.

Tony ended his programme with The King’s Singers and Blackbird, from their 20th  anniversary recording. Blackbird was written by Lennon and McCartney. As Tony had explained to us in his previous presentation, ‘Mr Carrington’ had been a master at his school, who had arrived with a young son, Simon, who went on to be one of the founders of The King’s Singers.

It had been a highly enjoyable evening. Mike who was standing in for Norman, thanked Tony but time was getting on and there wasn’t really enough time to do justice to such a varied programme, spiced with Tony’s personal reminiscences. It was certainly something special to have a recording of an opera made by one’s daughter.

Mike Fowle

FelixstoweRecorded Music Society: Ann Kearney

Ann KearneyAnn Kearney                             3rd February 2016


As Norman said when opening the evening, Ann is not a guest presenter, but an old friend. She had been our secretary for a while and we were most grateful that she had taken time out of her busy schedule and commitments with Felixstowe Radio to entertain us. And what a delicious title.
She opened with one piece of contemporary music – so that, as she put it, we can tell our grandchildren we had heard of them – in this case Morrisey and the Smiths. And: We hate it when Our Friends become Successful.

Ann explained that her programme would be along the lines of something she used to do on her classical music radio slot. Nothing, she had read, was as entertaining as one composer’s opinion of another and she had collected some of these gems. Usually they told us more about the perpetrator than the subject of them. She was expanding that to look at what some musicians and people in the music world had said or written about each other – allegedly – and then listen to their music.
Ann started with Bach. Pablo Casals said  “I need Bach at the beginning of the day almost more than food and water”. Sir Thomas Beecham was apparently not over keen on the Brandenburg Concertos and this appeared in the 1884 in the Musical Herald:

Though full of great musical lore
Old Bach is a terrible bore
A fugue without a tune,
He thought was a boon,
So he wrote seventeen thousand or more.

Although Ann was sure she had played this piece before it was her favourite Brandenburg Concerto. No. 2 in F, the first movement. It was played by the Mainz Chamber Orchestra conducted by Gunter Kehr.

As many of us would know, Ann continued, she loved Vaughan Williams. Aaron Copland was perhaps less than enamoured. He said or wrote: “Listening to the Fifth Symphony of Vaughan Williams is like staring at a cow for 45 minutes. Vaughan Williams’ music is the music of a gentleman farmer, noble in inspiration but dull.” Vaughan Williams was 70 when he finished it and he dedicated it to Sibelius. We heard the Scherzo, the second movement of the Fifth Symphony. It was played by the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Andrew Davis.

Incidentally, going back to Sir Thomas Beecham, he was once conducting a Vaughan Williams symphony during a rehearsal and he looked as if he were miles away. Suddenly he was aware that the orchestra had stopped. He asked the leader “Why aren’t you playing?” The leader replied that it had finished. Beecham looked down at the score, turned the page, and finding it finished said: “So it is……….Thank God!”

Ann thought we might be pleased that she wasn’t going to play the Sixth Symphony. RVW himself once said to the London Symphony Orchestra: “It must be hell to play it for three hours. I know it’s been hell to listen to!”

Richard Wagner: Love him or loathe him. Bizet had something to say about Wagner: “Wagner is no friend of mine and I am totally indifferent to him, yet I cannot forget the immense enjoyment which I owe to that original genius. The charm of his music is inexpressible. Here are voluptuousness, tenderness and love.” But also: “He is endowed with a temper so insolent that criticism cannot touch his heart – even admitting he has a heart, which I doubt”.

We heard the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Alfred Scholz play Bizet’s Symphony in C, the final movement. (Incidentally, Scholz was probably the most prolific conductor of budget recordings – some under his own name and some under pseudonyms, such as Alberto Lizzio.)

So Bizet wasn’t all that keen on Wagner but liked his music. Brahms also had something to say about Wagner: “I once told Wagner himself that I was the best Wagnerian of our time”. We heard the final Rondo from his Serenade in D. The BRT (Belgian Radio and Television) Orchestra conducted by Alexander Rahbari.
Ann said she was starting to feel a bit sorry for Wagner. Debussy described him as a “poisoner” and Schumann said “Wagner is impossible: he talks all the time without stopping – one can’t just talk all the time!”

Schumann’s Spring Symphony (which coincidentally, Rosalie had also played at the previous meeting, although she played the second movement, Larghetto) and Ann played the third movement, Scherzo. After playing this, Ann said that Schumann had commented that “The music is not intended to describe or paint anything definite but I believe the season did much to shape the particular form it took”.

Let’s turn the tables slightly: Schumann criticised Wagner for talking too much; well, Wagner said of Schumann that it was impossible to communicate with him: “The man is hopeless, he doesn’t talk at all”.

So, about time for some Wagner. Oscar Wilde apparently said: “I like Wagner’s music better than anybody’s – it is so loud that one can talk the whole time without other people hearing what one says”.  Ann said that surprisingly she had never really listened to the next piece before preparing for tonight – it was the Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin played by the Russian State Symphony Orchestra.

Reverting to teacher mode briefly, Ann gave us something to ponder and discuss with our tea or coffee and biscuits. If you were a dictator, which composer would you make compulsory listening? Sir Thomas Beecham famously said it would be Mozart between the ages of four and 80 for at least a quarter of an hour daily for the coming five years. Ann’s own choice would probably be Purcell. (Ann may share the same birthday – not the year!) Holst said that “In one way Purcell is a finer stage composer than Wagner. His music is full of movement, of dance. His is the easiest music in all the world to act.” We heard a little from Act Four of the Fairy Queen.


Whom had we nominated? Chopin and Mozart had been mentioned. “Wagner!” cried Norman, pointing out the bad press he was getting. What had Debussy called Wagner earlier? (Shuffling of feet and downward gazes.) A poisoner! Ann had mentioned Debussy earlier without playing him. Now we would hear something by Debussy. Apparently, he was quite irritable and quarrelsome. Really? You would not think so listening to his music. Debussy once met Bartok. Allegedly (Ann not being one to gossip), Bartok who was young at the time particularly wanted to meet Debussy, but his friends said would he not rather meet with Saint-Saens or Widor. “No”, Bartok said, “I want to meet Debussy”. He’s a dreadful man, said his friends, he’ll be rude and insult you, surely you don’t want that? But Bartok insisted. Quite what happened when they met Ann has not been able to find out. Anybody know?

However, before playing any Debussy, Ann played some Bartok: the Bear Dance and Swineherd’s Dance from the Hungarian Sketches.
Rimsky-Korsakov said better not listen to Debussy’s music – you risk getting used to it. And then you might end up liking it. Ann also unearthed a quote from the Musical Courier of 27th October 1897: “Rimsky-Korsakov – what a name! It suggests fierce whiskers stained with vodka.” Ann played the First Movement, allegro moderato, from his Fantasy on Russian Themes. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra was conducted by Neeme Jarvi.

Incidentally, Debussy said of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scherezade – “It reminds me more of a bazaar than the orient”.

Next we (finally) had a piece of Debussy – the reflective Claire de Lune. Chosen by a colleague of Ann’s who liked listening to his sister play it when they were growing up. (It is also something that Steve Harley of Cockney Rebel would take to a Desert Island.) It was played by Philippe Entremot.

No presentation by Ann is complete without some Shostakovich. Ann wanted to play a particular piece but strangely enough she had problems tracking it down. Perhaps someone was trying to tell her something. However daughter number two came to the rescue almost at the 11th hour. Shostakovich once wrote that “A great piece of music is beautiful regardless of how it is performed. Any prelude or fugue of Bach can be played at any tempo with or without rhythmic nuances and will still be great music. That is how music should be written so that no one, no matter how philistine can ruin it.” He also said “Play it so that flies drop dead in mid-air and the audience starts leaving the hall from sheer boredom”. It is not certain whether he said that of his Violin Sonata or the 15th String Quartet. Ann was going to play both but only the first three minutes of the String Quartet and the Allegretto from the Sonata (with the Brodsky Quartet and Shlomo Mintz violin and Viktoria Postnikova piano).

Finally, Ann ended the evening as she had started – with Bach. The Prelude from his Suite in C minor, BWV 997. But unusually it was played on the lute by Andreas Martin.
One final quote: Debussy on Bach (not that Ann is one to gossip, as you know), “When that old Saxon Cantor has no ideas he sets off on anything and is truly merciless – in short, he is unbearable, except when he is admirable. However, had he a friend, an editor perhaps, who would have gently advised him not to write on one day a week, for example, we might have been spared several hundred pages in which we must wander through a thicket of joyless measures which unwind pitilessly with ever the same little rascals of subject, counter subject etc.” In this year of mercy of the Catholic Church, said Ann, I hope you will be kind and merciful regarding my presentation.

Thanking Ann for such an ingenious theme and entertaining evening, Norman commented what a hateful lot these composers are! He had to admit that despite trying very hard – there had been a series of Shostakovich’s music on TV which he had persevered with – he had not been able to find anything he really liked. But we all have different tastes.

Script by Mike Fowle

Production: Trevor Lockwood


Felixstowe Recorded Music Society Christmas selection

CHRISTMAS CHOICE 2nd December 2015

(Final Selection and Coordination by Philip Jordan)

The choice was opened up more widely this year as our committee is smaller and it is difficult to find specifically Christmas pieces that are not too familiar. In the past, as Rosalie wrote in the free papers, the choice has ranged from Enya and Pink Martini to Tchaikovsky and Bach – something for every mood and taste. Rosalie put together a complete evening a couple of years ago, setting a high standard for variety. (Her work in providing the information for the free sheets and putting up posters should also be mentioned with thanks.)

This year Philip kindly coordinated the music. He gave us a brief summary of what we would be hearing then we started appropriately enough with Rosalie’s choices. First from Bob Chilcott and Everyone Sang, a CD Rosalie had acquired for her presentation: All That Jazz, when she played the Little Jazz Mass. Now we heard Mid-Winter (1994/1995). She had been rather desperately searching for some Christmas music that hadn’t been used before and out of the three tracks she suggested as possible, Philip had chosen this one.

Next came Enya – And Winter Came. Rosalie had used this for her complete Christmas evening, and again she had suggested three possible tracks from which Philip had selected White is in the Winter Night. A very Rosalie piece of music. It carried on the opening them of December and winter. Philip particularly liked the concluding lines:

Have you heard the bells are ringing
Ringing out their story?
Have you heard the bells are ringing?
Glory! Glory! Glory!

Finally, a lighter piece, Clare Teal’s Jing a Ling from which we heard the title track.

Next came Eileen’s suggestion – a CD (which she had had some difficulty in tracking down) made by Les Sirenes, a female chamber choir, a Glasgow based choir consisting of 25 vocalists, all students or graduates from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Eileen first heard them on the BBC and fell in love with their voices. They were choir of the year in 2012.

Some quotes from then: “The best legato singing of full-toned piano I have ever heard. It was fantastic” (Mary King); “Your legato is sumptuous. I love this choir” (Greg Beardsell).

We heard several numbers from Britten’s “A Ceremony of Carols”.

1 Procession,
2 Wolcum Yole
3 There is No Rose (the title of the CD)
4 That Yonge Child
5 Balulalow*
6 As Dew in Aprille
7 This Little Babe
8 Recession
*Balulalow is an old Scottish word for lullaby and the scene depicted is Mary with the baby Jesus.
Helen had proposed the Christmas Concerto by Corelli. She said that she liked this concerto from a CD called Baroque Masterpieces which seemed a very good reason to share it. We heard all six short movements:
1 Vivace-Grave
2 Allegro
3 Adagio-Allegro-Adagio
4 Vivace
5 Allegro
6 Pastorale ad libitum : Largo

Then to take us to the interval (and mince pies and other seasonal treats), Heather played for us three pieces on the piano:

1 Silver Bells
2 Rocking Around the Christmas Tree
3 Jingle Bell Rock

And as the piano had been a bit of an unknown quality before she came to use it, Heather had also brought along an accordion and was prevailed upon to play it (in fact, the piano was reasonable), and she played:

1 In the Bleak Midwinter
2 Once in Royal David’s City
3 O Come All Ye Faithful
4 We Wish You a Merry Christmas

We hummed rather than sang along to these. It made a very pleasant change. (That is deliberately ambiguous!)


After the break, we resumed with Norman’s suggestions. These came from a CD entitled On Christmas Night. Philip described this as a selection of beautiful carols sung by the choir of Merton College, Oxford. They range from J S Bach to the present day. Philip had chosen four, slipping in an additional one to Norman’s suggestions, the song from Appalachia. Rather appropriately as our globe-trotting member had been in America the previous week.

1 John Rutter – All Bells in Paradise
2 Traditional, arranged by Richard Lloyd – I Saw Three Ships
3 Appalachian folk carol, arranged by Andrew Carter – I Wonder as I Wander
4 Traditional , arranged by Arthur Sullivan – It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

Mike had suggested two short pieces. First was something he had heard at one of the St Mary le Tower lunchtime recitals. The theme during the summer had been Music in the Time of War. This is a short piece for flute and piano, by the French Jewish composer, Fernand Halphen, called Noel, which he had written for the troops at the front during the Great War. Although Halphen was really too old to volunteer, he had gone to the front and sadly was killed in 1917.

His other selection was a work for guitar by the Paraguayan composer, Agustin Barrios Mangore, entitled Villancico de Navidad, or Christmas Carol. It was played by John Williams.

Finally Philip introduced his own choices. As he said, he likes to read the information in the CDs and listening to other pieces on them as well as the choice, when suddenly realising that he needed to make his choices. Firstly, another piece by John Rutter, Aled Jones singing a Gaelic Blessing, Deep Peace. This lived up to its name, he thought, bringing a peaceful mood.

In the 1950s the evangelist Billy Graham was attracting massive attendances at his conventions. Philip did attend in London and was very impressed by the singing of George Beverley Shea, the Canadian born American Gospel Singer. His clear pronunciation and timbre of his voice made a marvellous contribution to the crusades at Wembley in 1956 and Auckland in 1959, as was demonstrated by his singing of Once in Royal David’s City. Shea died in 2013 at the ripe old age of 104.

About this time a year ago, Phil was returning from Canada with a CD of the Elora Festival Singers, whom he had heard performing in Toronto. From their CD, the Mystery of Christmas, we heard God is With Us: a Christmas Proclamation, by Sir John Tavener.

Thanking the members for their contribution to this interesting and varied programme, Norman also thanked Philip for again putting it together. The sad news he added was that we would not be meeting again until the 20th January.

Mike Fowle